Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Quilts and Vacation

I got back to the Big Quilt this past week. I figure it's now about a third of the way quilted. Here's a quick picture:

I also got my grandbaby quilt all basted and ready to quilt, so I'll have to take another break on the Big Quilt. Baby's due in 3 to 4 weeks.

On Sunday, we left for a few days of vacation "Up North" in Michigan. I even did some quilting there--hand quilting on my Fall Maple Quilt. I did some of the work on the balcony of our hotel room, but yesterday it was a little too cool and windy, so I positioned my easy chair in front of the door so I could still enjoy the bay through the window. 

Now, on to the vacation part of this post. If you visited just to see quilt pictures/progress, you can stop reading here. But we had a great time, and I'm going to post some lots of pictures, not only because I like to share my beautiful state, but because what we saw was amazing and inspiring. Quilt-spiration?

We planned this trip earlier this summer and were eager to bike ride the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, which runs about 18 miles through forests and along dunes by Lake Michigan between Empire and Port Oneida. Seven new miles have been added since we rode the trail a year ago. 

The area is incredibly beautiful, but about two months ago, a devastating storm passed through, destroying large areas of forest. (Even the hotel we stayed at 25 miles away did not escape damage, with sections of siding torn off.) For a little while we were afraid that the trail would not be open for our vacation. It is on National Park land, and the general policy is to let nature take its course rather than clearing away damage after a natural event. However, volunteer crews were allowed to move trees that were obstructing the trail, and they worked quickly to clear them despite many of the workers being without power in their own homes for a week.

Monday, a gorgeous day with temperatures in the 70s F, we rode the trail, not knowing what we would find. This is what most of the trail looked like when we rode it a year ago:

Now, although much of the trail is still beautiful, miles of it are heavily damaged. On our ride, we first came upon this:

And then, later, this: 

The destruction went on for miles. In Glen Arbor, a resort town along the way, cottages that were hidden in the forest are now exposed with acres of stumps around them. As we rode through the town, we could hear chain saws and heavy equipment removing toppled trees--and this was nearly two months after the storm. It was heartbreaking to see such a loss of beauty, but at the same time, we were amazed at the small amount of damage to buildings. And, as far as I know, no human life was lost. The area is changed forever, but tourists have returned, and the communities that were affected are once again in business getting ready for the fall color season. The trail is still beautiful, hauntingly so now, and I know that over time, nature will grow up and cover the scars. It will be beautiful in a different way, and I look forward to visiting often to see how it changes.

Here are a few other scenes along the way:

Color is just beginning Up North, but we came upon this little area of marsala-colored trees. The colors in this remind me of my coleus--I still think there is a quilt calling to me in this color scheme.

This is a restored fruit cannery building in a little "ghost" town along Lake Michigan. I never get tired of looking at it against the brilliant blue water. Definitely more inspiration for a quilt. I have a zillion pictures of it, but am restraining myself and only showing one. 

Yesterday, a cold front came through with some rain and a 20 degree drop in temperatures. We spent the day antiquing. Then, this morning, more sunshine and a feeling of fall in the air, so we took a hike at Empire Bluff on Lake Michigan before heading home. 

The sky and water were so many shades of turquoise and blue--I kept trying to assign Kona color names to them. Always the quilter!

If you're still with me, I hope you enjoyed my little travelogue. Thanks to my husband for taking the pictures. (We have a LOT--thanks to the digital age!)

I'm hurrying to link up today with Freshly Pieced and with Sew Fresh Quilts. Buttons are on the right.

I hope you're having a great week and finding quilty inspiration in whatever you do.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy Equinox!

I know that for many of you today is the first day of spring, but where I live it is the first day of fall (or maybe I should say autumn--a more elegant word, perhaps). And we've had a glorious day: clear blue skies, temperature in the 60's F in the shade but warmer in the sun, and just a hint of color in the tops of some of the trees. 

To celebrate, here's the beginning of my quilting on the Fall Maple Quilt:

I'm hand quilting the leaves, stitching first along the edges and then putting in some veins. I know that using perle cotton is common in today's quilts, but I'm using threads from my stash that are probably about #30 weight. I really do enjoy quilting with them. I'm still considering quilting the background by machine with tiny stipples to really make the leaves stand out if my machine likes quilting through the batting. I'm using Mountain Mist polyester batting, regular loft. It's a little thicker than I've used on wall hangings, but it's what I had on hand left over from another project. I forgot how easy it is to hand quilt polyester! 

Here's a close up of the leaf:

And from the back:

I'm using some fabric that I ordered for another project awhile back. It's a very light gray, but tends to look like recycled white paper, and I decided that I wouldn't care for it on the front of a quilt--it tends to look dingy. But it's perfect for a back, right?

I'm using several colors of thread, with no real plan for what goes where. (So freeing.) One more picture, just because. The light was perfect for showing off quilting. 

And then, I walked around to check out the late summer flowers. Oh, my.

No quilting to show on the Big Quilt this week, but I got a lot done on the baby quilt I can't show you yet. The back is all pieced. This is a bit of a problem. I now have three quilts at the quilting stage. I ran out of basting pins, so I had to buy some more. So much for multi-quilting. Does this mean I have to start a fourth project?? Oh, no...

I'm linking up this week with Freemotion by the River, Freshly Pieced, Sew Fresh Quilts and My Quilt Infatuation for their linky parties. Buttons are on the right.

I hope the new season brings you lots of good quilty fun. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Still Life...with Freezer Paper

Not much quilting going on here this week. And despite the title of this post, life was anything but still. My daughter and grandkiddies came for the weekend. We had a baby shower for my daughter-in-law, celebrated a birthday (mine!) and generally enjoyed ourselves with play. Our granddaughter entertained us with her imaginative stories (one was about Alissica from the Northwest) and helped my husband make my birthday cake. Our grandson showed off his unique crawling ability (if he was swimming, it would be the butterfly stroke.) He can really move, and everything goes in his mouth, so we were on our toes all weekend keeping him safe. For my birthday, my granddaughter gave me a zippered pouch. I told her that I would use it for a coin purse, but she was pretty firm that it was to hold things by my sewing machine. (Aw, isn't that sweet?)

She and her brother also gave me flowers (and chocolate!)

On Monday, my husband and I celebrated the spectacular weather on my birthday with a walk along a path by a river and sandstone ledges in a town near us. The ledges cut right through the middle of town, and you'd never know that the town is right above them. (These ledges are a unique geographical feature for our part of the U.S.. Most of the land around us is gently rolling farmland.) 

What? Oh, you came here to see quilts? Oh, yeah. I did do a little work. Last Wednesday, as I said I would, I finished piecing the Fall Maple Quilt, and last night, I tore off the freezer paper. I always make such a mess when I do that, but this time I used an old plastic punch bowl and it worked well to keep the mess under control. (Also, the papers were pretty big, so the mess wasn't as bad as sometimes. Hence, the title of this post: Still Life...with Freezer Paper.

I think I'll keep the bowl just for that purpose. It wasn't doing anything useful stored in the basement.

I did do some planning for the back of the grandbaby quilt I can't show you yet, and I'm excited to get going on it. I'm also ready to baste the Fall Maple Quilt and do some hand quilting. And I really need to get back to quilting the Big Quilt now that I am pulling my sewing stuff out again after the weekend.

I hope you are enjoying your week whether your life is still or moving at top speed. 

I'm linking up today with Freshly Pieced and Sew Fresh Quilts for their weekly parties. Buttons are on the right.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

On the Grid--and Off!

I spent most of the week working on my grandbaby quilt that I can't share yet. In fact, I finished the top last night. Yea! Now to plan the back.

I didn't spend much time on the Big Quilt. It's been really hot and humid here this week and even though we have air conditioning, the room I quilt in is the farthest from the source, and it just wasn't comfortable most of the time. We did have a rain storm the other evening that knocked our power out for awhile. I couldn't resist treadling just to be able to say that I quilted "off the grid." (We treadlers are smug that way.) I only got a little bit done. The sky got darker and darker, and my little LED barbeque light that sticks on my machine with a magnet started dimming, so I couldn't see what I was doing. So this is all I got done:

Oh well. It is fun to treadle when the power's out. I've done it in the winter before, and it's a great way to stay warm. I do need to get a more powerful magnetic light, though.

I also got a bit done on my Fall Maple Quilt. A few days ago, Bernie from Needle and Foot asked me about the quilt construction, so I took a few pictures. The quilt is made with freezer paper templates. First, the design is drawn on the freezer paper, and registration marks are drawn across seam lines with colored pencils to help with piecing accuracy. The templates are cut apart and ironed on the wrong side of the fabric pieces, which are then cut out with 1/4 inch seam allowance. Then the pieces are joined puzzle style, matching up the registration marks. I learned this method from Ruth B. McDowell, and this quilt is one of her patterns. You can get more detailed instructions in her books. Here's how it looks in action:

Can you see the registration marks? Each piece is also marked with the section number and color.

Here are the same pieces from the front:

And joined together, back side. Seams are pressed toward the leaf parts to make the leaves stand out from the background.

And from the front:

Then they're added to other sections:

This is how much I got done this week--upper right corner with the red leaf and half a yellow one. 
You can see the pieces that aren't sewn yet curling in the humidity!
I've left a generous amount of fabric along the edges to trim when the top is done. 

This is such a satisfying away to piece. I love paper foundation piecing, but this way is just as accurate, and it's easy to tear off the paper, so for some types of quilts it's my preference for paper piecing. If you loved doing puzzles as a kid--or still do as an adult, I think you'd really enjoy this method. 

I'm hoping that by the end of the day, I will have this top pieced or nearly pieced. (The sewing goes really fast because the whole quilt is already laid out.) Then I need to clean up my sewing areas and put things away. The grand kiddies are coming this weekend and I need the guest room and living room for sleep and play. Yippee!! 

I'm linking up this week with Freemotion by the River, Freshly Pieced, Sew Fresh Quilts and My Quilt Infatuation. The buttons are on the right. 

Have a great week everyone! And keep quilting--on the grid, or off.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Throwback Thursday Quilt Edition--My First Quilts

Now that it's September, I've decided to get back into my Throwback Thursday posts, where I share quilts that I made in my pre-blogging days. Since I'm linking these up with Jenn at A Quarter Inch from the Edge now (the button's on the right), I thought it would be appropriate to share my very first quilts. I started quilting in 1979 when my sister-in-law introduced me to piecing. Although I had been sewing my own clothing since I was in middle school, I knew next to nothing about making quilts. But I was hooked right away. I had a couple of books to get me started--Ruby Mc Kim's 101 Patchwork Patterns and Quilting and Patchwork by the editors of Sunset Books (now that's a real 70's book for you--could be right in style now). Mostly I just dove in. 

One of my friends was expecting a baby so I decided to make her my first quilt. I found the Monkey Wrench pattern in Ruby Mc Kim's book and made a sketch of my plan:
36 by 48 inches

(I don't know why I drew it reversed.) Back then, we didn't know the gender before a baby was born, so I made it gender neutral in colors sure to keep a baby awake!! 

Here's how it turned out:

The picture's pretty poor in quality. This was from the days when you took one or two shots (because film and developing were expensive) and hoped the picture would turn out as you waited several days to get it back from the developer. Anyway, the yellow's about right; the green was a little brighter (YIKES). These were calicoes.The green had little starburst yellow flowers and the yellow had red, blue and green flowers. I might even have some leftover bits in my stash, but I can't get to it right now. I did find a cute coordinating stripe for the back. My piecing was pretty precise, but in my lack of knowledge about quilting, I quilted this in a big grid pattern on my Singer Featherweight without any kind of special foot. Oh, the tension issues!!! Pulled fabric, skipped stitches, thread nests. Not to mention the wrestling of the quilt in the tiny space under the arm. It wasn't pretty. But I was so proud of myself! And the binding--I didn't know anything about mitering, but I did do a pretty good job of a two-color binding. I don't even know where I got that idea.  I proudly gave that quilt to my friend and knew I would be making quilts for a very long time. 

I don't have a picture of my next attempt, a quilt for my brother and sister-in law's first baby. (She's going to be 35 in a few weeks). I used this 6-inch block pattern for a 36- by 48-inch quilt:

This time, I did a better job with the colors: a pretty burgundy with tiny blue flowers and a coordinating cream with burgundy and blue flowers. (Yup, still have scraps.) I did the double binding again and the same disastrous quilting. 

And finally, my third quilt. This one was very special because it was a baby quilt for my own daughter. Here's my quilt plan:
36 by 48 inches

I decided to branch out and use several fabrics for this one (I even used flannel for the beige fabric and back), but knew nothing about contrast or value, so it didn't turn out quite the way I envisioned it. 

I used the same binding technique:

and had the same tension issues:

But here's the thing: This quilt has been used and loved until it is just the softest thing. In fact, I wrap it around some foam for an impromptu changing pad (so soft!) when the grandkids come. No one cares that the colors lack contrast and the quilting stitches are wonky. It's just a quilt full of memories--and making more. (No, my daughter doesn't have it at her house. She has lots of my other quilts.)

I knew my quilting was a problem, so after these three quilts, I learned how to quilt by hand. I'll share those first quilts another time. 

Thanks for listening to me reminisce. (I can't believe I still have those scraps of paper with the plans.)

If you'd like to see some other quilts from my pre-blogging days, click on "throwback thursday" under "labels" at the end of this post.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


It is certainly an interesting challenge to try making a quilt with limited access to fabric. Last week I had laid out some fall leaves and thought I was well on my way. But this week I started adding the blue background pieces. No matter what I did, I just couldn't get the green leaf to look right. It would get swallowed up in the quilt whether I used darker or lighter blues and looked like a muddy mess. I took numerous pictures so I could see it from afar, and after looking at it in grayscale, I finally decided that most of my fabrics that surrounded the green were too close in value to the green. There are probably other factors, too, such as scale of the prints. But since I don't have a lot of variety to work with here. I ended up cutting more orange fabric and making one more orange leaf. I really hated giving up the green one, but there is a tiny bit of green in two of the orange patches. And I haven't completely given up on green yet. I'm thinking I might be able to work it into the border, where differences in value won't make as much difference. (The border is integrated into the rest of the quilt.) I still have to add some blues, and I know I'll be making numerous changes, especially as I begin to add the border pieces. I've pinned some up just to get an idea of how they might look. Here's what I've got so far: 

I'll continue to work with value as I go--something I tend to ignore when I make quilts. Now I know why it's important to lay out the whole quilt before starting to sew when using this technique. The colors really change a lot depending on what's next to them, and it's much easier to cut more fabric than to rip and resew. 

Meanwhile, on the Big Quilt, here's my favorite patch this week:

I'm really free-forming these flowers. They look nothing like the pencil sketch I made before starting the quilting. I sort of sketch a bit of a plan, but I find I do better if I just quilt whatever feels right at the moment. This is based loosely on Flower Power,  a design by Lori Kennedy from The Inbox Jaunt. I hope she doesn't cringe. But I think I'm getting better as I go. (Practice makes Good Enough, right?) 

Remember last week I said that I wasn't sure I liked quilting with a thinner thread in the bobbin, but that I was planning to continue? Well, this week when I ran out of bobbin thread, without even thinking, I loaded my bobbins with the lighter color King Tut thread that I'm using in the top and didn't notice the change until I was half way through sewing with the first bobbin. I checked the back and it looks no different than with the first thread I was using, so I decided to keep using the King Tut in the bobbin. It is just so much easier for me to work with when pulling the thread to the surface of the quilt. I might run out of the King Tut now, but I can just order more. I've been using the lighter weight thread for piecing, and I really like it for that. So win-win all the way around.

Here's how the edges of the quilt look with straight line quilting in the light gray patches:

This whole quilt is on the bias, but stay-stitching the edge before basting it has really worked well to keep everything lying flat. 

And the quilt I can't show you is still going well (just about half way with the top). I may have spent a little too much time contemplating fabric for the Fall Maple Leaf quilt this week, though. 

I'm finding that with working three projects at once, I'm not spending as much time looking at your blogs. (And there are LOTS of neat blog posts and hops going on right now!!) I need to balance that out a bit. Thank you for the wonderful comments last week. I love the encouragement. I try to respond to everyone, but sometimes I get really neat comments from no-reply bloggers, and I have trouble tracking them down. If this is you, please consider leaving an e-mail address so I can get back to you. Otherwise, just know I really appreciate what you've had to say. 

I'm linking up this week with Freemotion by the River and Sew Fresh Quilts for their linky parties. I hope you're having a great week and finding time to check out all the quilty goodness going on in blogland.