Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hot Weather Equals Quilt Top

Do you know what the best thing is about a week full of hot weather? I got a quilt top finished! There was nothing to do but crank up the air and stay inside, so I settled in with my blocks and sewed and sewed. 

If you read my post from last week, you'll know that I wasn't thrilled with some of my blocks. I set them aside and made the 15 basic blocks for the quilt, and that gave me the renewed energy to tackle the parts I wanted to change. I remade half of one block, fixed parts of two blocks and then redrew lines on my paper foundations to adjust the pattern on the five remaining heart blocks. I had thought of totally changing how I pieced the broken hearts, but after fixing the two blocks I gained the confidence I needed to sew the tricky seam down the middle and sail through those last seams. Then I drafted some letters. After a little experimenting, I decided to go with simple foundation paper pieced block letters. They were the easiest to draft, and I felt they were a good fit for the rest of the quilt. 

So here are some pictures. I'll show the whole quilt after it's quilted. 

I'll share more about this quilt when it's all done. Next step is finding an appropriate backing.

Oh, here's one more little picture. I had a volunteer snapdragon come up in the garden again this year. And in honor of the Kona Color of the Year, it's Highlighter. How cool is that?

I'm linking up this week with Sew Fresh Quilts and My Quilt Infatuation for their linky parties. Buttons for the parties are on the sidebar. 

See you next week. Until then, have fun quilting!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Back to the Drawing Board

I've been working with hearts this week. I'm including three different versions on my current quilt project, and I decided to make what I thought were the most time-consuming ones first: three "slice-and-insert" blocks. I think I first heard of the technique from reading Jacquie Gering's blog. I'm not sure if she's the first to use/teach it, but she's the one I'm crediting. I have not taken a class to learn the technique, so there are probably tips and tricks I don't know, but I just did whatever worked (or didn't work so well) for me. I think she probably uses various widths of strips to insert, but I figured that if I used 1-inch wide strips my ending block would be the same size as the block I started with. 

The basic heart shape I'm using in the quilt is the large one from this tutorial at Cluck Cluck Sew, so I made the slice-and-insert blocks from two 10 1/2 inch by 5 1/2 inch rectangles. For the first block I made a small sketch to help me figure out approximately where I wanted to make the cuts. After completing the technique, I added the sew-and-flip corners to make the heart shapes and joined the two halves together. Here's how the first heart turned out:

Well, that was fun! (What you can't see is that when I first planned the quilt, I erroneously thought that the squares used to make the upper background corner triangles were 2 1/2 inches. During a quick check of the tutorial while I was sewing, I realized that they were actually 2 inches. (Much better proportion.) No problem. I made the change easily. Hold onto that little piece of info--it came back to bite me.) 

Emboldened by my success with the first block, I went on to the second one without making a rough sketch. Improv, you say? Sure. I can do that.

Or maybe not. Some of my design got cut off by the lower triangles. Looks kind of clunky to me, and I'm not sure I like the two more vertical inserts so close to each other on the left side. I have enough leftover material, so there might be a repeat of this block later.

I went back to using a little sketch and made this third block:

Ah, much better. Still improvish (no measuring), but at least I had an idea of where everything would end up. And I love how the back looks. The one-inch strips make the back look almost like the solid pieces of fabric I started with. :

I've pressed some of the outer seams toward the heart and some away to make it easy to nest and join them all later. 

The next section of the quilt is seven paper pieced broken heart blocks. I drafted the pattern for these before I started sewing the quilt. (I think you know where this is going.)
This block turned out to be more time consuming than the slice-and-insert blocks even though I'm a paper piecer from way back. Hmmm. So much for doing the most complex work first. I prepped my foundation papers and got down to business. As I was finishing up the first block, I suddenly realized that the 2-inch blocks that I had just cut for the corners weren't matching the lines on the pattern. Uh oh. I had forgotten to modify the paper pattern when I discovered my mistake. Oh well. I had enough fabric overlapping the lines that the 2-inch squares worked, and I finished the block up.

But something was wrong. See that part at the top of the crack? It's supposed to go into the background. Now I suppose I could be satisfied with this unexpected design variation. But it bothers me. I laid out some fabric pieces on top of it to show how it could look.

I like this much better, and by taking apart a few seams, I could fix it. But here's the kicker. I did not notice the problem until I was finishing a second broken heart block. So I will have two to fix. And then I have a decision to make. I can either fix the pattern so that the other 5 blocks go together as I intended. Or I could go back to the drawing board (you knew that post title had to make it in here somehow) and redraft the pattern because I realized something else. It would be MUCH easier to piece this block variation if I eliminated that tough-to-align center seam. I only included it to make it consistent with the other hearts in the basic pattern. 

And here's my question: If I change the pattern for the five remaining blocks, do I still include the first two "fixed" blocks in the quilt, or do I replace them with the new pattern (that would required finding some replacement fabric)? This all makes my head hurt. So I think for now I'm going to move on to the remaining 15 simple blocks. What could go wrong? (No, don't answer that.) 

If you have any thoughts on this, please share!

The temps are heating up here (supposed to be near 100 degrees F by the end of the week), and the humidity's rising, so it's time to put on the AC and sew something a little less challenging.

I'm linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts (button for the linky party is on the sidebar). I hope your quilting week is less challenging (unless you like that sort of thing). Stay cool if you're in a heat zone this week!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Bit of Progress

This post should be called "A Whole Lot of Fun and a Bit of Progress." Right after I finished my last post, I found out that two of my grandkiddies (and their mommy) were coming for the weekend and into this week. Yippee!! We had a blast playing with balls, books and Barbies, taking walks, and playing in our backyard water park aka the sprinkler. That sprinkler hasn't been out in years--we don't water our lawn--but it was perfect for a fun evening of cooling off, and I think our poor dry grass appreciated it, too. Our grandson's favorite word right now is "basketball," and we discovered on our walks that there are LOTS of basketball hoops in our neighborhood. Our granddaughter learned how to play "Sorry," and of course, won her first game. (It sure was fun to send Mommy and Gramma back to "start.")

That was the fun part. Now they've gone back home, and it's kind of quiet here. But here's the progress part (also fun, but I do miss those little kids). While I was waiting for the grandkids to arrive on Saturday, I pulled out my Fall Maple quilt to work on. It's usually my travel project, but we haven't been travelling lately, so I think it should be my "sit on the deck in the evenings" project. Anyway, I got quite a bit done. 

(Remember, I'm quilting this one from the back so I can see what I'm doing. If you want to see the front, click on the Fall Maple Quilt label in the column on the right.)

Today, I'm cutting out blocks for a rainbow colored Quilt for Pulse (Orlando Modern Quilt Guild). I've got the biggest block parts and some of the background cut:

Some of the blocks are paper pieced, some will be a slice and insert technique and the rest will be the large heart blocks from Cluck Cluck Sew. I'm also making some words. I was just going to make the big blocks, but a variation on the design came to me as I started thinking about making the quilt. Here's the paper pieced pattern:

I'm almost done with my wedding gift quilt--just need to hand stitch the binding to the last two sides. Woohoo! And I've put the Lake Michigan quilt back up on the design wall. 

Looks like I might be working on three quilts at once for a little while. So maybe a little bit of progress will turn into a lot of progress one of these days.

I'm linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts and My Quilt Infatuation for their linky parties this week. Click on the buttons on the sidebar to see lots of awesome quilt projects. 

I hope you're having a whole lot of fun and making a little bit (or a lot) of quilt progress this week.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Throwback Thursday Quilt Edition: Kiddie Quilt

AACCK!! I just realized that it's Thursday. And not just any Thursday. It's Throwback Thursday over at A Quarter Inch from the Edge. Quick, what can I write about? 

I know. It's my son's birthday this month, so to celebrate, I'll show you a quilt I made for him in the summer of 1984 right around his first birthday. Now that I think about it, this was actually his baby quilt. He had a hand-me-down baby quilt from his sister when he was born (poor second kids just don't get the same hoopla as firsts, do they?), but since he was already a year old, we'll just call it his kiddie quilt. 

We had just moved to a new-to-us house. He had his own bedroom (Yay! No more sharing with his sister). It had bright red shag carpet. In fact, that carpet was nearly everywhere--even in the dining area and living room. We had plans to get new carpet for the living areas, but didn't have it in the budget to change it in our kids' rooms. Instead, we decorated around it. Our daughter got a rainbow theme, and we decided to go nautical in our son's room. His room had paneling in it that had been painted white, so I found a cute wide wallpaper border with a sailboat print in red, white and blue. 

I traced the sailboat design and then cut stencils from template plastic and used  Accent Country Colors Fabric Painting Dyes to reproduce it. (I don't know if they're still available for sale. I just found the leftovers in my art box in the basement.) It was pretty easy--the dye is a lot thinner than fabric paint and penetrates the fabric. All I had to do was let it dry for an hour and then heat set it by pressing between paper towels.I set the blocks together with sashing and corner stones, then hand quilted around each section of the designs, added some free form quilted clouds and stitched a quarter inch away from the seams in the sashing. The batting is a thin polyester, so the quilt is really soft and cuddly. I folded the backing over to the front for a thick binding, and did some kind of strange miters--two in each corner with a diagonal section across the corner. I have no idea why. Oh, well. The quilt has held up well through lots of washings. I don't know how big it was when I made it, but it's about 36 1/2 inches by 47 inches now. When my son was old enough for a bed, it became a topper on his blue spread until we moved to a different house in the mid-90's. 

Close up to show the quilting and those odd corners:

Obviously, I still have this quilt. I suppose I should have given it to my son when he left home. Nah, I still have LOTS of his stuff here. And now his little son can use it when he visits. 

My son will be 33 in less than two weeks. I don't think he'll mind if I show you one of my favorite pictures of him. (He doesn't read this blog anyway, so we'll just keep it our little secret, okay?) He was about 5 years old then, and yes, he was a Walking Talking VIP.

Click the link at the top of this post to see more posts about oldies but goodies (quilts, not kids) from everyone else. Enjoy! And thanks, Jenn, for letting us revisit our old projects and share them each month. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Well, Hello Again!

Oh, my, how did almost a month slip away? From the looks of this blog, I've given up quilting and writing about it all together. I really didn't mean to take a time away, but if you are a reader of this little blog, you'll know that I've been working on a project that I've decided not to share until the recipients have it in their hands. I thought it would be a quick project, but it turns out that although there are few blocks in the quilt, they have LOTS of little pieces that could be chained pieced but (for design reasons) not mass cut. So the only way to get the top pieced in a (somewhat) timely way was to cut myself off from most social media. I'm happy to say the top is pieced now. And the back is pieced. In fact, as of this afternoon, the quilt is also about 1/4 of the way quilted. So I think it's time to get back in a routine again. And I've missed blogs (and some pretty neat blog hops) for sure. 

So, lets see. What can I show you? Oh yes. Because my quilt blocks were big and had lots of pieces, I needed a way to transfer them from my design wall to my sewing machine (downstairs). I came up with an impromptu mini design wall. In my basement I found an old poster frame with a hardboard (masonite?) back. I laid some old strips of batting over the board and clipped the plastic frame parts around hold the batting in place. It's not pretty, but it worked great. Sometime I'll either sew those batting strips together or find a bigger single batting scrap to use instead. 
What else? Oh, the closet. I think I have a finish I can show you. I know, I know. A closet--or a whole sewing space--is a work in progress. But I'm happy with how the closet is working for me now, so I'm calling it a finish. To refresh your memory, here's what it looked like Before:
Besides the mess, notice the blue contact paper covered bookcase and the sponge painted chest.

And here are some Afters:
I'm so happy with how this looks, I leave the doors open all the time. I think it gives me incentive to keep things neat. The yellow fabric bins are working out really well for keeping smaller bits of fabric. I have them divided by color, although two bins are reserved for my solids collection and solids scraps. I love how clean the bookcase looks with its fresh coat of paint. My binoculars are close at hand for reducing the view of quilt projects when they're up on the design wall. There are an organizer for scissors and other frequently used items, a bowl of fabrics for the current project, and small yellow plastic bins of markers, lights and other tools. I do have other fabric, but it's kept in a six-drawer dresser in the main part of the room. 
The left side of the closet has a wall with rulers hung on it and my ironing board. The top shelf has a tote of totes--not really sewing stuff, but some things just needed to stay from pre-cleaning. The laundry basket has yarn-related stuff in it. The bookcase has what's left of my magazine and book collection after a huge cleanout.
Here's the right side of the closet. Look how cute that old chest looks with the paint. No more sponge paint. The drawers hold ribbons, knitting needles, my button collection, and other crafty things/sewing notions.The bin on top of the chest holds my batting. Next to it is my sewing lamp. Hangers hold some Works-In-Progress, and in the dead spot in the corner are a few little-used items such as rolled patterns from large art quilts.  And on the top shelf is a bin with my old dolls and one with special baby clothes. I don't mind having these in there because I did part with several bins of other toys and baby items.

I also cleaned up a bookcase in the main part of the room. It used to look like this: 
Here's the After:
I removed most of the old birdhouses.The bottom two shelves still hold random books, but I've reserved the top three shelves for mostly sentimental things. The black-framed pictures are free-form designs I made in the Paint program on my computer. I think they bring a nice zing of color to the back of the shelves. They used to hang in my office at work after the town Fire Marshall ruled that fabric items (like my awesome quilt) couldn't be hung in school buildings. On the top shelf is an autograph book from the 1930's that belonged to my aunt. The middle shelf holds my old name badge (with a little house) from back when I was active in the town quilt guild. My mom's picture is on the third shelf. She taught me to sew my own clothing on her sewing machine (now mine) when I was in junior high. I'm sure these shelves will change frequently depending on my whims. In fact, I just added something I found last week: 
A puzzle box. It was sitting on a shelf at an antique mall. Here's what it looks like open:
Some of the old sewing machine attachments are missing, and the velvet lining has a little tear, but I don't mind. I'm not planning to use the attachments anyway. I just like the old box and how it folds up. Oh, except that stiletto. I'm thrilled to finally have one of those. I've already used it to pull my bobbin thread up when I'm quilting. There was another box at the antique mall that was maybe a little more complete, but it cost nearly 10 times as much as this one, so I'm happy with my little purchase. And now it has a special spot on my shelf.

Now I have other projects in the works (in my mind). I have some rainbow colored fabric that's calling to me for a donation quilt. There's a timeline attached, so I have to consider carefully if I can get this done over what remains of the summer and still keep some balance in my life. 
The top row is fabric I won long ago in a giveaway. It seems like it was just waiting for this. The bottom row is a mix of leftovers from other quilts (including some from another giveaway). I feel like I really need to make this quilt, even if it means shifting some priorities. I'll mull it over for the next day or so while I quilt. 

When I wasn't sewing this past month, I was playing with grands and bike riding. We've had really variable temperatures this summer (like 90 degrees F one day followed by low 60's another). We've taken advantage of the cool days to ride parts of a new-to-us bike trail as well as other trails close to home. We also spent a day with my Dad going on a boat ride on a river on the west side of the state and out into Lake Michigan. I'll finish this post with pictures from those mini-vacations (day-cations?). Lots of pictures--if you're interested. But if you don't want to stick around, that's okay, too. 
Bike trail from St Johns to Ovid, Michigan. Straight, straight trail, but so pretty. 

Fowler to Pewamo to Muir, Michigan. Bridge over an old railroad trestle. A cloudier day, but pretty in its own way, and so comfortable.

Isn't this just the cutest bike trail rest stop? It's a mini replica of the rail station that used to be here, put up by this tiny town just for people using the trail. There are artifacts of the old railroad in shadowbox-like windows on the sides of the building. 
And there's even a mini lending library, top shelf for children, bottom shelf for adults. Best bike rest stop I've ever seen.
Saugatuck, Michigan on the Kalamazoo River.
Enjoying the river on a paddle boat.
The weather was calm enough to take the boat into Lake Michigan. Such a lovely day.
Independance Day bike ride to a local park. We are in a drought, so there was a ban on fireworks. That made it a rather quiet, but beautiful, day.
I'm linking up today with Freemotion by the River and Sew Fresh Quilts for their weekly linky parties. Click on the links or on the buttons on the right. See you soon. I hope.