Friday, February 26, 2016

Random Part Two

Whew! I made it. I was on a deadline (well, I don't like to use that word, so let's just say a tight timeline). I had promised two quilts to an organization by March and thought I had plenty of time to make them. I finished one in January (you can see it here), but then suddenly my time at home in February was very short. 

Let me first of all say thank you to everyone who expressed sympathy after my tribute post to my sister-in-law, who passed away at the beginning of this month. Last week we traveled to Colorado to be with family and celebrate her life at a memorial service. We had a wonderful time. It might warm your heart to know that the quilt she used is on its way to the cancer center where she was treated so someone else can enjoy its hug during treatment.

I had finished the top of the quilt that needed to be completed this month before we left on our trip. You can see it in my Random Experiment post here. We got back Sunday night, and I knew that I had to get right to work on the quilting on Monday with a design that could be completed in two days. (I even went on an internet fast so I wouldn't be distracted.) I had thought of just meandering on the quilt, but I wanted a little something more. I settled on meandering on the colorful patches in the main part of the quilt, but I changed to a back-and-forth line in the background patches. This didn't really take any longer, and it added some texture to the background. I could just keep treadling and treadling until I ran out of bobbin thread. 

But then, what should I do with those wide borders? I decided to continue the "random" theme. I used some masking tape and my hera marker to make a simple grid to help with spacing and then FMQ'd half-flowers connected with a wavy line all the way around the quilt. They worked out well. I intended to make another pass and quilt a couple more petals to complete each flower, but I kind of got carried away with a sort of scallop and pretty much forgot about making the scallops actually look like petals when I got to the flowers. I completed the design with a couple more rows of scallops until the flowers were pretty much unrecognizable unless you know where to look. Then, around all that randomness, I did more back-and-forth lines as filler. No real planning, just treadle, treadle, treadle until the bobbin thread ran out. Done in two days. Yippee!

On Wednesday I sewed the binding on, first by machine and then by hand as I caught up on TV shows. And yesterday I washed and dried the quilt. Twice, because there was a little bit of color run the first time through.

And here's how it all came out (lots of pictures):

On our bed--more about that ivory quilt another time.
After washing--more texture-y

As I said in the last post on this quilt, the pattern is Now and Later from American Patchwork and Quilting. It's made from 2 by 4 inch rectangles and 2 inch squares (plus seam allowances for all patches). When I first attached the borders, they were about 7 1/2 inches wide, but I trimmed them to 6 3/4 inches as I neared the end of the quilting. The total size was 56 by 43 1/4 inches before washing and approximately 53 1/2 by 41 inches after washing. 

The colorful fabrics are a variety of half-yard cuts I ordered from the Fat Quarter Shop with a gift certificate I won in the Art Quilt category of the Fall 2014 Blogger's Quilt Festival put on by Amy's Creative Side. I've lost track of the exact fabric names. The background fabric is Moda Bella Solids in Feather. I had ordered it (and then rejected it) for another project. It's a very pale gray, sort of like the color of recycled paper. 

I used Hobbs 80/20 batting and Superior King Tut Cotton quilting thread in Temple. As usual, I pieced the quilt on my Singer Featherweight and FMQ'd it on my Singer 115 Treadle. I also attached the binding with the treadle--so much easier!

Well, you know me. I always try to record what I've learned on a quilt. For this one, it was all about the randomness. I absolutely loved doing the random placement of the colorful patches. It was good for me to let go of a lot of planning.

I also enjoyed the randomness of the FMQ. What I found out with the FMQ is that when you plan to wash a quilt, a carefully planned, neat design isn't always that important. It all turns crinkly and you do lose some of the design anyway. I guess if I had made my flower designs more simple with wider spacing between the lines of quilting, they might have shown up more as flowers. The way I did them, they pretty much just look crinkly and--well--random. Also, the back-and-forth lines--because they were so close together--turned into texture. It really didn't matter if they were neat or not. They don't look like lines, just texture that allows the flower areas to stand out. That means that when I do this kind of quilting, I definitely don't need to stress about how neat my work is. But I will remember that if I do want an element to really stand out, I probably need to plan a little bit more and quilt more sparsely--something that I find hard to do. I just naturally quilt densely. 

Another thing I learned is that my favorite width for cutting binding is 2 3/8 inches. I've tried 2 1/4 and have had trouble with miters, and I've tried 2 1/2 inches, which seems cumbersome. Using 2 3/8 inches and using the edge of my walking foot as a guide for the seam allowance works just right for me. I've also learned that it works best for me to stitch off the edge on a diagonal at the corners when I attach the binding and then start my next stitching line right at the point where I turned the binding rather than at the edge of the quilt. I know everyone has their favorite technique but this is now mine and I'm putting it in writing so I remember it. 

Overall, I'm really pleased with this quilt and with the little time it took to make it. I do think, though, that with the fabrics I chose, it is best viewed close up. Some of the patterns are small and from far they tend to look solid. Nothing wrong with that, but they are more interesting close up--especially on the back. Of course, this quilt will mostly be viewed close up as someone snuggles up in it. 

Oh, and one more thing I learned? When I have nearly half a year to meet a timeline, it's probably best to start earlier rather than later. I can't believe I almost didn't make it.

I wish I could have done some outdoor pictures of this quilt, but while I was working on it this week, this was happening outside:
So much for our ornamental grasses

I had no desire to go out there. Not a huge, huge storm, but big enough, and a bit shocking after unseasonably warm weather (temps in the 70's) when we were in Colorado. We ended up with a little over a foot of the kind of wet, heavy snow that lets you know that spring is on the way. Pretty much everything was closed yesterday, and the schools are ending up with 2 1/2 snow days this week. 

I'm linking up this week with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It up FridayConfessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop WhoopLisa in Port Hope for TGIFF, and Lizzie Lenard Vintage Sewing for Free Motion Mavericks because I need to celebrate a second finish in 2016!!

Have a great weekend, whether you're way ahead of your goal, a little behind, or just making your timeline. Or even if you don't care about timelines. (I usually don't.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Time Out...For Bibs and a Pressing Board

We have a drooler. Yes, at three and half months old, our grandson can soak through several onesies a day. So over the past few weeks, I've been working on a remedy. More drooly bibs! I've made him (as well as his cousins) little flannel bibs like the ones in this post as part of their first wardrobes. They are fun to make, but I wanted to try something that would be a little softer. So I bought some tee-shirts in size 2T to 3T and set out to make bibs around them so that the neckline of the shirts became the neckline of the bibs. Each week I tweaked the design a bit until I had one I liked. When I work on a quilt, I usually have a pretty specific plan in place before I begin, but when I make little items for the babies in my life, I tend to just wing it--improvise. This can be a problem because I don't bother to take pictures and can't always explain how I made things. Oh, well. I'll show you a picture of what I made with a few notes copious drivel of how I tweaked the design, and then you can improvise to find what works for you if you are inspired to make bibs for a little one in your life. 

I forgot to take a picture of the very first bib I made. (It's already been used and covered with drool). The first picture is pretty close in style. For that bib, I cut some bib shaped pieces for a front and a back. 
I turned the neck edges and shoulders under and then layered them with a piece of batting and a tee-shirt that I had cut to fit the same contour.  I left a little of the back of the tee-shirt in place. On the first bib, I put the top and back fabrics right sides together on top of the tee-shirt and put the batting on top of those and then sewed around the outside edge (leaving the neck/shoulder open). Then I turned them right side out so that the order was top fabric, batting, tee-shirt, back, and I topstitched around the neck edge and finished with more topstitching around all edges. (On the second bib, I got the order "wrong" so that the back fabric was inside the bib layers and the tee-shirt was on the back. But no matter. Both ways work. You just have to fiddle with it.) I hemmed the back edge of the bib and sewed a little fabric "badge" on the back to weigh it down a bit.

The first bibs turned out a little loose around the neck and some drool still escaped. Also I didn't like the look of the floppy tee-shirt back, so for the second pictured bib I cut a slit in the back of the tee-shirt and added extensions to the bib parts (more like typical baby bibs). Because I was winging it, I cut these pieces separately from the bib fronts and ended up with kind of bulky shoulder seams. But the construction was basically the same, with the addition of velcro closures. 

For the third pictured bib, I made the pieces of the bibs continuous, eliminating the shoulder seams. I liked that one the best, so I made the fourth one the same. 

These bibs all work pretty well, but my daughter-in-law had mentioned bandana style bibs, so of course I had to try one of those. I found a pattern I liked here on Project Nursery.

This made up in a snap. I used flannel for the front and back and batting as a filler (the size of the back, not the front) and used velcro for a closure. It was adorable on baby E, so I made a couple more...

These are cotton on top with both flannel and batting layers inside (size of the back) and a soft jersey knit back (recycled tee-shirt material from the rag bag). 

Even though I had fun making the tee-shirt neck bibs, the bandana bibs win hands down for the cool factor. And I like the last ones best.   

Just have to share one more project--not baby related, but it does relate to quilt-making. Years ago, the quilt guild I belonged to at the time had a workshop for making mini pressing boards out of cutting boards. We were supplied with the board, several pieces of batting and muslin to layer on it, a piece of ticking, and some feet. As I recall, all we had to supply was a staple gun and staples to put it together. That board has been a great tool even though it has looked pretty grim for awhile now. And then a few weeks ago, the point of my iron went right through the ticking.

Something had to be done. I bought some fresh new ticking--blue this time. I took the old ticking off and used it as a pattern, then wrapped the board again sort of like a present (I reused all the old layers of batting and muslin and added one more extra layer of ticking), made a new handle, stapled it all back together and reattached the feet. 

 Here's the back:

The ticking isn't quite as hefty as the old ticking, so it might not last as long, but I have enough left over to redo it again if I need to. I can't wait to put it to work.

Okay, enough about side projects. Time to get back to quilting. Hopefully I'll have a finish to show you next week. 

I'm linking up today with Freemotion by the River for Linky Tuesday. Have fun quilting and making those projects on the side!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Random Experiment

Back in September, I pledged to give two quilts to an organization. I could pick the month that I would deliver them, and because I have an aversion to timelines, I chose March (the last month on the schedule for the quilt collection). I figured that would give me plenty of time without feeling too much pressure to get done. I didn't start the quilts until January but still thought I had plenty of time. I did finish one of the quilts by the end of January, but then life happened, and suddenly there wasn't as much time as I thought there would be. Because of other commitments, I knew that there would be a lot fewer days to make the other one during February. So, what to do? I needed a quilt I could make really fast.

I decided to try something that I had often thought about but had never had the nerve to let go and just do. You know how when you make a quilt that you want to look like the fabric placement is random, and then it takes forever to make it look that way? Well, I challenged myself to make a quilt that actually DID have really randomly placed fabric. I chose a simple pattern that I had received as a freebie in the mail from American Patchwork and Quilting along with an invitation to subscribe to their magazine. It's called Now and Later by Kathie Holland and is made from squares and rectangles. 

I had seven 1/2-yard cuts of colorful fabric and some yardage of a pale gray background fabric. I cut 110 rectangles (2 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches) from the colors and 110 squares (2 1/2 inches) from the background. Then I chain pieced all the rectangles with the squares. 

I cut the units apart, dropped them into a punch bowl, and WITHOUT LOOKING, pulled out 22 pairs of units and sewed each pair together in the order I pulled them. My rule for myself was to not reject any pair, even if the colors were the same. (Yup, living on the edge, my style.) I threw the sewn pairs into a tote bag.

I took those 22 units (pulled randomly from the tote bag) and added another unit the same way, grabbing the additional units from the punch bowl without looking. I repeated this until I had 22 strips of 5 units each. 

I threw all of the strips into the bag, then pulled them out one at a time and sewed them together. Same rule: no changes no matter what colors were together. It was really hard not to reject a strip sometimes when the same fabric kept showing up. But I persevered. (Sometimes I have to work hard at letting go.)

After they were all sewn together, I added 7 1/2 inch borders. (Borders? Me? Well, yeah, for this one. It reduced the amount of piecing I needed to do, and it makes the design float, which I rather like.) I'll probably trim them down a bit before I finish the quilt. This is how it turned out:

Sure, there's more of one color in one place, but that's balanced out by more of another in another place. And you know what? I like it. A lot. And I saved so much time. No agonizing at the design wall. No running up and down stairs between my living room, where I sew, and the guest bedroom, where I have my design wall. 

After I finished the top, I cut additional rectangles and sewed them together--again randomly, but this time my rule was that there couldn't be two identical fabrics right next to each other. Any other sequence was fine. I reserved this long strip for my binding:

(Finally found a use for a leftover thread cone.)
Without too much thought, I trimmed down the leftover fabrics and strip-pieced them to make a backing. 

What a super-fast quilt! I cut the shapes one evening, and it took only parts of two days to sew and baste it. Now I need to let it sit for a bit while I think about how to quilt it (any ideas??), but next time you see this, it should be done, and I will have made good on my pledge. Yea!

I think my random experiment worked out fine. I will definitely do random--really random--again. 

I'm linking up this week with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social and My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday. The buttons are on the right. 

Have a good quilty week--random or not.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Choose Your Illusion Finish

I love when I can celebrate a finish. And the cool thing about this one is that I started AND finished this quilt well after the beginning of January! Hurray! To recap, I used Cheryl's pattern Use Your Illusion from Meadow Mist Designs, but I made it in rainbow colors instead of black and white, and I made 3/4 of it, skipping the first two columns. So I changed the name of the quilt a bit. With the dark, windy winter weather this week, I had to take pictures indoors, which isn't ideal (my flash isn't really strong enough to get sharp pictures), so if the weather clears up before I have to ship this off, I'm going to try some outdoor pictures and post them later. 

Here are some pictures before washing: 

If you look closely at the the wide white strip in the bottom right corner, you can see my initials and the date. 

I was planning to shuffle the blocks, but when I looked closely at Cheryl's pattern, I knew that I wanted to keep the alternating rows of white squares and colored squares marching across the quilt where the blocks come together. So I kept the layout intact, and I really like how it all came out. 

I had thought of using a rainbow variegated thread for the quilting, but I would have had to order it, and I had the white thread on hand, so white thread it was. I was on a mission to finish!

I also decided to use a scrappy binding with width-of-fabric strips. As I said in my last post, I left out the purple fabric from the binding (and the wide strip down the back) because there wasn't any purple in my main backing fabric, and the purple looked out of place with it. Using long strips instead of shorter pieces was more in the interest of time than a design decision, but I like it. The only thing I might have done differently was switching the red and orange strip so that the red part of the binding wasn't against the red patch on the back, but I think that's being too picky, don't you? 

Now, it's always a little scary to wash a quilt with bright colors and white, and when I washed the quilt, there was just a tiny amount of color transfer, mostly along the edges of some patches where seam allowances are on top of each other. (I did trim them so they wouldn't peek through on the white fabric.) It wasn't enough for me to freak out and doesn't show that much in most light, but I would hate to have that continue when it's washed in the future. I might just wash the quilt again with more color catchers and laundry detergent. Or I might try soaking it overnight in hot water with Dawn Ultra dishwashing liquid as described by Vicki Welsh on Field Trips in Fiber. I'll see if I can get my courage up. We'll see. Any suggestions?

Here's what the staining looks like. (Hard to detect, but it's there.) 
Here you can see it mostly in the upper left between the orange and red.
And here, there's a bit of turquoise between the green and turquoise strips.
I thoroughly enjoyed making this quilt. And I could not have done it without the wonderful online quilting community. Most of the fabric as well as the pattern were from giveaways. The colorful fabrics are from a Shabby Fabrics coupon through Lee at Freshly Pieced. I'll list them at the end of this post. The white fabric is from a coupon to Fat Quarter Shop through Soma at Whims and Fancies. And the pattern is from Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs (link is above), also through Soma's giveaway. A big thank you to everyone. You have made it possible for me to make a quilt that I'll be donating to Margaret's Hope Chest for the Postpartum Depression Mother-Baby Treatment Program. 

So, here are the stats:
Quilt Size:  56 1/2 inches by 42 1/2 inches before washing
                   55 1/2 by 42 after quilting
                   52 by 39 1/4 after first washing (cold water) and drying in the dryer (medium)

Sewn on Singer Featherweight
Quilted in meandering design on Singer 115 treadle with Superior King Tut thread in White Linen

Batting: Warm and Natural

Fabrics: Simply Colorful Yellow by V and Co for Moda 
              Color Theory Lime by V and Co for Moda
              Soul Blossom Lace Flower Blue by Cherry Guidry for Contempo Studio
              Veranda by Michael Miller Fabrics (the purple fabric)
              Spectrum Chamomile Leopard by Camelot Design Studio for Camelot Fabrics
              Simply Colorful Red by V and Co for Moda
              Moda Bella Solids White
              Colors and Count by Jill McDonald for Windham Fabric (backing)

With careful fabric use, I had plenty of fabric using 1/2 yard cuts of the colorful fabrics. If you make this quilt, your usage might be different from mine. The white fabric was 108" wide, and I'm not sure how much I used, but I started with 1 1/2 yards and had a piece about 56 by 32 inches left. 

If you'd like to see my other posts about this quilt (only two, I think), click on the Choose Your Illusion Quilt label at the bottom of this post. 

I'm linking up this week with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It up Friday, Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop, Devoted Quilter for TGIFF, and Lizzie Lenard Vintage Sewing  for Free Motion Mavericks--Yes ALL of them, because a finish doesn't come along that often, and I need to celebrate!!

Have a great weekend, and keep on quilting (and entering those wonderful giveaways that make quilts like this possible)!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Tribute

For my February Throwback Thursday post and in celebration of the upcoming Valentine's Day, I was planning to show some red and white quilts from over the years. But something happened this week that made me change my mind. My sister-in-law J passed away after a 7-year fight against breast cancer. She faced down cancer with the tenacious resolve to have the highest quality of life possible. The first thing I remember her saying when she was diagnosed was that she didn't want anything to do with "that pink ribbon stuff." (Probably not the exact words she used. She was a practical, no-nonsense person.) She endured all the indignities that breast cancer presents, and after a year of treatments seemed to be cancer-free, but after a few years the cancer returned. She continued to live her life to the fullest through multiple changes in treatments. In fact, during 2014, she and my brother-in-law M took a trip each month between treatment sessions, traveling throughout the US to spend time with family or friends and to visit places of great scenic beauty. 

J was a remarkable woman, and there are so many things I could share about her interests, her talents, her generous nature, and her devotion to her family and church, but I want to share just one thing that was particularly special to me. The summer after my husband and I were married, we took a road trip out west to visit J and M, and J introduced me to patchwork. At that time, she was making a quilt--I think it was a Rail Fence, but I'm not sure because I knew nothing about pattern names back then. She showed me how to cut some coordinating fabrics into simple shapes and sew them together to make some blocks by hand. I worked on those blocks during our trip back home. A little later, my sister-in-law gave me a subscription to Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, and you know the rest of the story. 

Between the time of J's initial diagnosis/surgeries and her first round of chemo, I decided to make her a quilt. Foremost in my mind was that it could not have pink in it. I was a hand quilter at the time, but there was no time for that. So I made a simple strip quilt in colors that I thought would appeal to her. (I don't recall if the pattern was mine or if I was inspired by a picture in a magazine. I do have a graph paper drawing of it that I made while I was planning it.) I sewed that quilt like a woman possessed during my spring break in April 2009 and tied it with perle cotton and some iridescent buttons that I found that mimicked the colors in the quilt. Until then, my gift quilts were in celebration of births, marriages and anniversaries. This was the first quilt I made for someone who was suffering, and it was an emotionally draining task. I spent the time focused on my feelings for J, and the quilt became a prayer for strength, comfort and hope--but there was also a lot of anger there for the cancer and what she had to go through. 

Thanks to J I have had a love affair with quilting for more than 36 1/2 years. Quilting has given me so much joy and has been therapeutic and meditative as well. Quilting for me is prayer, and I don’t think I could do without it. I have difficulty expressing myself well in words—and quilting has given me a way to express what I can’t put into words. I don't think J knew that she would change my life so much when she started me on those little patchwork blocks that long ago summer, but I will be forever grateful to her.

J did not lose her fight with cancer. She triumphed over it by living her life to the utmost to the end and showing us all how to do that with grace and dignity. She passed away peacefully in the wee hours of Monday morning with her husband at her side.

I'm linking up today with Jenn at A Quarter Inch from the Edge for Throwback Thursday.