Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Got Your Back

Wow, I'm zooming right along on this quilt! I finished the front, and yesterday I pieced the back AND quilted the whole thing. The. Whole.Thing. (A major accomplishment for me. Can you tell?) It's amazing how quickly I can finish something by just meandering. This quilt is almost exactly 1/6 the size of the Big Quilt. So why am I not near finished with that one after quilting for more than half a year?? Just think, I could have meandered that one, and it would be a (good) distant memory. 

Here's the back (along with some strips for the binding):

The backing was just a smidge too narrow, so I added in some leftovers from the front. I left out the purple fabric, because there isn't purple in the backing, and it looked odd. I've decided to leave out the purple on the binding for the same reason. In a weird way, that will probably make it stand out on the front, but that's okay. 

Now I have to trim and get to that binding. I'm trying to decide between long strips of each color or shorter ones. Stay tuned. Maybe a finish this week? We'll see. I'm going to hand sew the binding to the back, so it will depend on how long that takes. 

I've also got my next project at the ready, but the planning is all in my mind, so no pictures yet. 

I'm linking up today with Freshly Pieced and Sew Fresh Quilts for their Wednesday parties. Buttons are on the side. Now, back to work fun. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Minor Milestones

Another fun week! I did the best thing you can do when the temperatures are playing in the single digits in January. I sewed and quilted like crazy. 

I'm alternating right now between two projects, and it's working out well. I usually spend a little time in the morning and evening piecing blocks for my Choose Your Illusion quilt. It's a pattern by Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs. Her title is Use Your Illusion, but I mistakenly thought it was Choose, and that's stuck as the name for my quilt. I love working on this one. The seams nest so nicely. I always say that I love every aspect of making a quilt, but if I'm honest, I'm not that excited about sewing rows together, so for this quilt, I'm sewing the rows together as I go. That way I won't have a daunting task when I'm finished with the blocks. I'll just be done! It also keeps me from mixing blocks up as I'm working. I'm sewing in my living room, so I'm using my design couch instead of my design wall, and that's not ideal for keeping things straight. So, sewing blocks and rows together as I go is a win all the way around. I reached the halfway milestone yesterday, and since taking this picture, I've made the next row of blocks already.

In the afternoon, when the sun on the snow makes perfect lighting in my quilting room, I've been quilting on the Big Quilt. (If you want to see lots and lots of other posts about this quilt, just click on the label Big Quilt at the bottom of this post.) Another milestone!! I have officially quilted 2/3 of the top (and really more, because some of the already-quilted patches reach into that final third). I am picking up speed, and now that I'm waiting to bury threads until evening when I'm watching TV, it's going much faster. And all this quilting has made me so comfortable with my treadle--working with it daily reduces user error and seems to make the machine run smoother and smoother. This project was what I needed to master working with a treadle. 

Here's my favorite patch this week:
No more sketching--I just get in the zone and let it happen, irregular or not. And that's OK.
I usually sign my initials and the year in the bottom right corner of the quilt. That's where I was quilting this week, so I went ahead and signed it. Now it HAS to be done in 2016. I'm committed!

Even though this was a fun week there was one sad spot. The little quilt shop near my home closed last Friday. The owner decided to retire from retail. She had been thinking of retiring for a couple of years, and I think she's still planning to do longarm quilting, but I'll miss her store. It was close enough to ride my bike to and was always the first one I went to when I needed something or started a new project. I went on Thursday and bought enough batting for four small quilts and a piece of fabric that I might use on the back of Choose Your Illusion. 

So, that's it for the past week. Winter is definitely good for my productivity. And for a bonus, let me share with you my winter quilting "uniform." When my daughter was in middle school (or maybe early high school), she came across a fair isle sweater when we were shopping. The sweater was a men's medium. (She was tiny). This was in the era when biggest was best. The sales clerk said it was a classic design and a great buy because even though it cost a small fortune for a young teenager, it "would never go out of style." Now I knew that my daughter's love affair with the sweater would last only a season (or less), but I loved the sweater (more) and told her that she could get it if I could have it when she got tired of it. (I really hoped she'd tire of it quickly). Well, here I am at least 20 years later, and you know we've reached the deep freeze when I pull it out for a few weeks in January or February. 

Yup, it's still huge, even considering it's a men's medium. The shoulders fall about 5 inches down my arms and I have to fold the cuffs back, but it's roomy and cottony and warm, and I still love it. It's my favorite thing to wear in the house when I'm quilting at this time of year.

I'm linking up this week with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday and with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social. Buttons are on the right.

I hope you're having a fun quilting week and that you're wearing your most comfortable quilting clothes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New project!

What a fun week it has been! We spent a day taking care of our littlest grandkiddie E last Friday, and then on Saturday, we took the train to Chicago to party all weekend for grandson C's first birthday. It was a blast! We took the train back on Monday evening through frigid temperatures and snow--it was like riding the Polar Express, but we didn't have the hot chocolate. Now it's finally really winter here--cold and snowy (there was even a snow day for lots of schools yesterday) and the perfect time to quilt. 

Even though we were busy this past week, I did get a good start on my new project: The Use Your Illusion quilt from Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs. Funny, in my mind I've been calling it Choose Your Illusion, and I just noticed that wasn't right. Oh, well. I am choosing my illusion--I'm doing this quilt in color. (And I just noticed on her blog, that someone else has beaten me to that idea.) I really like the black and white of the original quilt, but the organization I'm making this for would like colorful quilts. 

I had to include my "Muppet" feet--they match the quilt!
I'm doing 6 different modern prints with planned random color placement. My rule for myself is to kind of evenly distribute the colors but sometimes continue a stripe around a corner. All of the fabric (as well as Cheryl's pattern) is from giveaways. I'll include the specific info about the fabric in a later post. To get the size I want, I'm making 3/4 of the pattern (skipping the first two columns of blocks). I hesitated to do that because it changes the overall design, but I think it will look good anyway. Oh, and here's a question for you. I'm going to do meander quilting. What do you think about using Superior King Tut in Cleopatra? It has all of the colors except the yellow. Otherwise, I'll do a white. 

This quilt will be my January project when I'm not doing FMQ on the Big Quilt. I'm kind of working on a deadline, because I promised to send it (and a not-yet-started quilt) in March. So I guess my quilts are making a list for goals for me, even though I usually avoid that practice. 

I'm linking up this week with Freemotion by the River for Linky Tuesday, Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday, Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social and My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday. Buttons for all are on the right side of this page. 

Okay, back to work. Have a good week, and if you live anywhere near me, stay warm!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Pantone and Me

I've always loved looking at crayons, paint chips and fabric swatches and seeing what names have been attached to each color by a designer somewhere and then thinking about how those colors and names relate to my own experiences. And I recently was thrilled when my granddaughter asked me to read the color names on some old crayons while she colored. Until my daughter started working as a graphic designer, I wasn't aware of Pantone, but now I pay careful attention each year as the color of the year is announced. Sometimes I like it; sometimes not so much, but it's always interesting to see what the name is and how the color plays out in fashion, interior design, and quilting. 

So according to the Pantone site here, there are two colors for 2016: Rose Quartz and Serenity, which at first glance struck me as baby pink/baby blue and then, "Oh no, those are country pink and blue." Now I understand why those colors were picked and also the idea that they can be blended in a modern way. And to be fair, they really are the colors of what I often said was my favorite color when I was a kid--Sky Blue Pink: that indefinable color of a great sunset. So maybe they are growing on me. Not that I would decorate with them or buy clothing with those colors. Or would I?

I started looking around my house at things that are just "there." So much so that I don't really see them anymore. Until now. Here's what I found:

This quilt has hung on my living room wall for almost as long as we've lived in this house (20+ years). It's based, I think, on a design by Alex Anderson from back in the days when I watched her show Simply Quilts. The blocks are 11 1/2 inches and 5 3/4 inches. I'm not sure how I got to those measurements--maybe they were 12 and 6 inches before quilting? It's got lots of stipple quilting in the background of the blocks--all by hand. The fabric and thread are cotton; the batting is most likely polyester. I forgot to take a picture of the back for this post, but it's a small floral print with the same colors as the front, with four-inch strips of the goldish fabric along two sides to make it big enough. The blue and green have held up pretty well, but the pinks and goldish colors have faded a bit. The whole quilt is 46 by 46 inches. It was made to match our couch:

Well, look at that--more pink and blue (I mean, Rose Quartz and Serenity). And then we move on to the family room, where this quilt has been on one chair or another for almost as long.

Really, I haven't decorated in country colors. At least I don't think so. (Gulp) This quilt is a great snuggle quilt. In fact, I'm under it right now. This is about 53 inches square, with squares a little over 2 inches. I quilted it with outlining and my own vine design. 

And here is part of my floral pottery collection in the family room:

Hmmm, pinks and blue there, too. And that pillow in the living room? That gingham looking fabric also appears as curtains in my daughter's old room, aka guest room, aka treadle quilting room. And look what colors are there in the very outdated wallpaper border that I can't bring myself to take down. 

After my little tour around the house, I went through some old photos to see what else I've made with Rose Quartz and Serenity over the years. I already showed some quilts in my last TBT post. I think I even made a kind of snarky comment about "country colors." But here are some more I found.

Just blue

I made this quilt in November 1986 (and a duplicate in January or February 1987). I think I sold the first one on consignment and the second one to a client. It is 19 1/2 inches by 15 inches. At that time I was keeping track of quilting thread used as one measure of pricing. This one took 20 yards, 9 inches. I also noted that it took 14 hours to make. 

And here's a pink quilt:
Oh, and look what color I'm wearing in the picture!

What a cute photo bomber. My son. He's 32 years old now.
This quilt is about 13 inches square. The design is based on some textured Hallmark wrapping paper I hoarded had for while. I made it in the spring of 1988, and sold it to a client. (Hand quilted with 18 1/2 yards of thread, for anyone who cares.)

Here's a quilt with a little darker version of the colors:

I made this Ohio Star with mini Churn Dashes in July 1987. It's about 10 3/4 by 13 inches overall. (9 1/2 yards of quilting thread). I sold it to a client.

And one more:

(Either crooked photography or crooked scanning--there really is binding on the other end.)

More pink and blue!

This quilt was commissioned by a neighbor for her dining room. I finished it in March 1989. It measures 20 1/4 by 33 1/2 inches. (63 3/4 yards of quilting thread if anyone cares. Ha!) 

So that's my take on the Pantone colors of the year. I've made my peace with them. And with the fact that there are still a lot of bits of country colors Rose Quartz and Serenity in my home even though it's not country. Really! (I hope.) I'm really looking forward to what quilters are going to do with Rose Quartz and Serenity. But I don't think it will be me. I have enough. Maybe.

I'm linking up with Jenn at Quarter Inch from the Edge for Throwback Thursday. The button is on the right. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How I Spent My Blogcation

Whew. I just finished putting the last of the Christmas decorations away (except for a couple of things I'll keep out through January). And my blogcation is over. 

So now it's time for my essay--you know kind of like the one kids have to write in school at the end of their summer break. How did I spend my blogcation? Let's see. (If you want to, grab a cuppa something. This is long!)

We waited a long time for our family Christmas celebration this year. My dad's birthday is on December 31, and when we found that we could get 19 out of 21 members of his family together (including all 6 of his great grandkiddies) at my brother's home to celebrate his 92 years, we decided to delay our Christmas celebration so that our kids could participate without having to travel twice. All of this meant that we were alone on Christmas. And the weather was unseasonably warm--in the low to mid 40s F. And sunny. With no wind. So we did something we've never done before on Christmas. Bike ride! Our favorite trail was blocked by some flooding so we took to the country roads. I just have to show a few pictures because who knows if this will ever happen again. What a beautiful day! (By comparison, today is in the 20s with snow on the ground.)

Christmas tree farm--all was calm

Wheat in winter

We had a great time with extended family at Dad's birthday party--and then with our own family (9 people and a granddoggy) back at home for our Christmas on New Year's Eve. Our kids had to share bedrooms with their littlest ones (sorry, kids), but it was fun having a full house. And our granddaughter had to wait hours to open presents because first C needed to be changed and then E needed to be fed and then E needed to be changed and then C needed to be fed and then C needed to be changed...well, you get the picture. But L was very patient, and I think it was worth the wait. 

So how else did I spend my blogcation? In addition to the holidays, we had four birthdays to get ready for (My daughter, granddaughter, a brother-in-law, and my dad)--actually, six if you count that I always get a present for my dad in memory of my mother's December birthday and that we have one more birthday to get ready for this week (C is turning 1 year old! I know. I can't believe that's happening already.) So there was a lot of shopping for presents. Some travel for birthday parties. Some cookie baking. Some cake making. (I can't take credit for that--that's my husband's talent.) Decorating (of course). Some mending of two princess dresses at the request of my granddaughter. (She was very specific about what needed to be done--I felt like the royal seamstress!) 

And just a little secret sewing. 

First of all, I needed to make some more Christmas stockings. L was born 4 years ago on Dec 2. I stayed with her family to help out for about 2 weeks and then went home to get ready for Christmas. So her stocking that year was hurriedly made with scraps I had on hand. I was going to do something different for E's stocking this year (he was born at the end of October), and then I suddenly remembered that C needed a stocking, too, because he was born in early January. I rummaged in the scrap bins and realized that I had most of what I needed to make two more stockings like L's. I bought one little piece of fabric for the cuffs, and a strip of twill tape for the cords to hang the light "bulbs." I couldn't get the ecru color I wanted for the twill, so I bought white and tea dyed it with a leftover tea bag. 

Here they all are. I like that I used the same hurried style--hardly any measuring, bits and pieces of leftover fabrics, scrap batting, an old cut-up sheet for the back--and that they all go together. They hold a lot, too. (The names are hand embroidered--covered up with a bit of batting for this picture.)

Every year I make ornaments to put in the kids' stockings. Now that they are both married I give one ornament to each couple (and make one for our tree) and then one for each grandkiddie. For some reason, when L was a year old, I started making her ornament to reference whatever costume I had made for her for Halloween (So far she has a penguin, an owl, and Dash from the Incredibles). This year, she wanted to be Skye from the cartoon Paw Patrol for Halloween. It was a pretty complicated outfit, and because we were waiting for E's birth at the time, it seemed like too much work. Also, the outfit was available for much less money in the stores. So her costume was purchased. But I was able to make an ornament that looks like Skye's badge. I built up the design using felt applique. A fun project for evenings watching bad Christmas movies on TV. In the cartoon, Skye flies an airplane to make her rescues, so her badge has propellers on it. I based the design on various pictures of her badge that I found online.

For the boys' first Christmas ornaments, I decided to make presents since they were our presents this year. I did improv piecing--no pattern, although I started with a drawing on graph paper so that I'd know where I was going with the design. It probably would have been easier in some ways to do a paper pieced design, but I just started sewing bits of cloth together to make a bow until it looked right to me, and then I used a ruler minimally as I added the pieces for the gift boxes and ribbons. It took FOR. EV. ER. I spent a couple of days on each ornament, but it was worth it and so much fun to see the design emerge. They turned out exactly as I pictured they would. I added a little frame for a faux binding and then sandwiched the tops with batting and backing and did a bit of quilting around the presents. I used a permanent marker for the boys' names (blurred out in the pictures) and the date. They are about 4 inches square (and really are square, even though C's looks wonky in the picture).


For the adults' ornaments this year, I made stars based on this Pentagon Folded Star pattern from Love Quilting. I made my pattern about 3/4 inch smaller on each side, and I stuffed a small piece of batting inside to puff it out a bit before quilting. 

Here's the finished version of our ornament:

I followed all of the steps from the pattern, but here's the little extra step I took to stuff the batting in. After I folded each point of the pentagon in and pressed it, I unfolded one point and cut a little slit on the fold line in the yellow fabric. I cut a little piece of batting the size of the folded pentagon.

I took the clips off the folds, unfolded the star, and placed straight pins along the fold lines. Then I used a knitting needle to push the batting though the slit and smooth it down inside up against the pins. It worked best to roll up the batting and then fold it over the end of the knitting needle.

I took the straight pins out and then refolded the star and quilted it with my walking foot.

Here are the ones I made for the kids. The star quilting ended up a little wonky by the time I got to the center, but I like it that way. 

Instead of using a ribbon, I just sewed some embroidery thread through a point for a hanger. 

Now, I know this post is getting really long--but I have a couple more things to share before I go. (When you haven't blogged for awhile, you have lots of things to share!) First, right after I went on Blogcation, I found out that I had won a package of goodies from Soma at Whims and Fancies. Remember her Trunk Full of Quilts online show? Yup, a prize from the giveway on that one. It included thread, a voucher for an online class, patterns from several people, fabric and a gift certificate. (Thanks, Soma, and everyone else who contributed!) What a bundle of quilting joy! I will share some of the prizes as I use them, but here's one: 

Yes, you're seeing that right. I used a gift certificate from Fat Quarter Shop to buy (drum roll, please) a big piece of Moda Bella Solids white fabric!!! Wow! Isn't that exciting?? Who uses a certificate to buy plain white fabric?! I'll be cutting up most of it to make a quilt top with some rainbow colors to make this pattern from Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs (another goodie in the prize package--thanks Cheryl!) You will see this project in action very soon.

The other really fun thing that happened was this adorable gift that came in the mail from Bernie at Needle and Foot--a little zippered pouch and two tubes of rich, heavenly smelling hand cream. 

If you follow Bernie's blog, you will know that she's a prolific quilter and tells fantastic stories about her quilting journey. She also made a ton of these pouches, and each one is amazing. I'm really tickled that mine is an orphan block. Her work is superb. If you haven't read her blog before, drop everything and go read. You'll be glad you did. 

So that's it for catching up. I think. If I think of anything later I'll let you know. I did work on some treadle and hand quilting over the holidays here and there, but mostly I just enjoyed the season and looking at what other bloggers were working on. What I found, though, was that a vacation from blogging also meant a vacation from commenting. Just know I was looking, and I enjoyed everything I saw. And thanks to you if you commented on my blog. I appreciate it. I didn't keep up with responses as well as I'd like, but I just really needed to be away from the computer for awhile. Now I'm ready to jump back in. 

I'm linking this post with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social and with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday (because, hey, there are actually some finishes here). The buttons are on the right side of the page. And watch this space Thursday for some Throwback fun.  

Happy New Year, everyone!