Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Three Kinds of Progress

Last week on Instagram I noticed some neat blocks being made by quilters for Leanne of Devoted Quilter. She had reported that the senior citizen residence across the street from her home had burned down resulting in the loss of everything for 21 people. You can read her post about it here. Wanting to make a quilt for each of the residents, she put a call out for donations of the 882 blocks she needed. That's a lot of blocks! I figured it would take her awhile to collect that many. I made up my mind to make some and planned to start working on them the day after Easter. They seemed like a perfect DrEAMi project. 

After rummaging in my fabrics Monday morning, I decided to check with her about what types of blocks she still needed. I had some gender-neutral fabrics, but also some that might be more appealing to men or to women. Imagine my surprise when I went to her blog and found that she had updated it to say that except for some backing and batting, all she needed had been pledged!!! I was bummed! My little contribution wouldn't be needed after all. I spent the next hour at loose ends. What would I do that day? Then it came to me. I shouldn't be disappointed at all. In just a few days' time, quilters from all over had responded to reach what seemed like a daunting goal. Isn't that awesome? 

So now I'm back working on my Deconstructed Coins quilt aka my improv quilt. You can read more about it here and here. Since my last post, I added some little vertical strips along the right side of each little block. I needed to do something to increase the total width of the quilt, and that seemed like a fun solution. In a comment to my last post, Louise from My Quilt Odyssey suggested trying some navy blue to set off the prints. I just happened to have a good-sized piece of Kona Prussian, so I started playing with it. Well, first I played with my Quiltography app.
Then I tried a version with my fabrics. 

I like it. I'll wait to figure out exactly how to do the solid bits between the print rows, but I've been sewing navy pieces on to each of the printed bits. Here's how they look so far:

I've got the third row almost done. There will be five print rows in all. The quilt will actually be a rectangle--wider than it is long as it is meant to be a sort of shawl worn during therapy sessions at a counseling center. 

This quilt may look more planned than improv, but I'm not using a pattern. I have used a ruler to cut the thin solid strips (1 inch unfinished), but placement of the strips in the middle of the blocks and the distance of displacement of the blocks to make the jagged navy edge is random. To add the navy, I lined up and sewed the top and bottom edges of printed blocks along width-of-fabric navy strips, and then cut them apart and staggered them when I sewed them back together. Sorry, no picture of that. Maybe I can include one in the next post. 

Thanks to Louise for the idea of using navy to calm down the "mess" I was working with when I last posted. I liked the pastel nature of what I had been working with, but it was too muddled, and the navy brings some order to it all. The virtual layout really helped me visualize how this might look, even though the actual quilt won't be as uniform in design. 

So that is the progress I've made in quilting this week. But here's some other progress that I'm excited to share:

After 7 1/2 months of recovery and rehab for my broken shoulder, I'm back on my bike!! I had to buy a new bike because during a spring tune-up, our bike mechanic discovered a crack in the frame of my old one that happened during the accident. It couldn't be fixed. I decided to get a "step through" bike. (I'm not getting any younger, and this makes me feel a little more secure.) I'm still working on rotator cuff issues in therapy, but I can ride again. (Rotator doesn't seem to be much required for bike riding--at least I hope so.) So far, I've just been riding around the neighborhood building up stamina and confidence, but it's going well. And I'm being very careful to not ride distracted. 

And one more sign of progress--spring! Here are some quick photos around the yard this week:
"Nature's first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold..." One of my favorite poems by Robert Frost. Our trees are waking up.

There is some de-grassing to be done...but the flowers are so cute!!

I'm linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts this week for Let's Bee Social. And I'm going to keep my eye on Devoted Quilter over the next few weeks to see all of those wonderful donated blocks come together for her special quilt project. She may still need some backing and batting, but you might want to contact her to be sure if you're thinking you might like to contribute.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

K's Quilt

You may have noticed I've been sort of absent on social media lately. When that happens, it usually means that I'm so wrapped up in a project that I just can't tear myself away. A couple of weeks ago I had a sudden need to make a quilt. My daughter sent me a heartbreaking message that a friend of hers (one of the first people she met when she started college) had been diagnosed with cancer and was anticipating chemotherapy after surgery. My daughter wondered whether I was up for making a quilt. I didn't need even a split second to answer that question and immediately went into overdrive to make it as quickly as possible.

About three years ago I had made another suddenly-needed quilt for someone. That quilt was much smaller to be used with a wheelchair, but I remembered that it only took a few days to make. I decided to make that pattern--All in a Row by Leni Levenson Wiener from her book 3-Fabric Quilts. I liked the modern simplicity of the design. Here's what that quilt looked like:

This quilt needed to be bigger--I thought roughly 60 inches square would work nicely. My daughter's only instruction was to make it pretty--cheerful. I spent a lot of time at a local fabric store taking pictures of fabric and consulting with my daughter by message (what did I ever do before I had a smartphone?!!) before settling on these two fabrics for the main part of the quilt:

I'm not sure what drew me to these, but I thought they had kind of a folkloric vibe. And later while I was sewing, I discovered that the brighter fabric actually has ghost images of the circles in the lighter fabric. Do you see them? (Look above the butterfly.) And they are from two different designers and fabric companies. 

That decision was pretty easy, but I got stuck when picking the accent fabric for the squares. I thought I wanted some kind of orange print but never found exactly what I was looking for. I ended up buying several orange and reddish fabrics as well as some yellow and then tried out lots of variations. None of the arrangements of orange alone, yellow alone, or a combination of the two seemed right. Finally after lots of experimenting with my Quiltography app (LOVE that app) I decided to combine the yellow and orange into a bordered square. Before cutting fabric I "made" the block with my app. (The yellow here is not what I ended up with, but it was what I had in my "stash" on my app at the time.)

I actually tried several widths of the border and laid them out as whole quilts on the app and then sent the various versions in a message to my daughter to see what she liked best. We settled on 2 1/2 inch yellow squares with 3/4 inch borders (finished). 

Did I say I LOVE this app? Oh, I did? Yes, I do. I could waste a lot of time just making virtual quilts. 

It took me a long time to settle on those squares, but once I did, sewing the quilt top was a snap. And then the back... I tried out several backs on my Quiltography app based on the amount of fabric I had left.

I settled on the third one, with some added orange borders on the yellow strip. The scale of the fabrics isn't right, but it did help me choose how I wanted to make the back. 

Inspired by the luscious wavy quilting that Lorna over at Sew Fresh Quilts does, I tried my own wavy quilting. Well maybe I should call mine wobble quilting. I have a long way to go to master the smooth curves of the technique, but it was fun and added a wonderful puffy texture. I decided to do a matched binding--well not matched. Maybe reverse matched? Fun! I'm pretty sure I'll make this quilt again someday. I keep thinking of different ways to do the fabric combinations--but I would also like to try the wavy quilting in the same direction as the strips instead of across them. In fact, I had second thoughts about doing the lines crosswise when I was halfway done, but it would have been REALLY dumb to pick out what I had done and start over!

Okay, how about some pictures? Of the real quilt.  A lot of pictures. It was raining all day yesterday and now there are big puddles at the base of the fence I usually use for photo shoots. So my husband came to the rescue with his long arms and held up the quilt on the front porch. Today is delightfully sunny with almost no breeze!! Yippee!

I also tried some photos in our crabapple tree sans leaves.

Some breeze back there and dappled sunlight, but still fun.

How about some close ups?

Did you catch that reverse-matched binding?

Super close-up. Do you see my initials and date in teeny tiny stitches?

Oh, why not a few more?

Here are the stats:
Design: Variation of All In A Row by Leni Levenson Wiener
Fabric: Faithfully Yours by Barb Tourtillotte for Clothworks; Roman Glass in Pastel by Kaffe Fassett for Free Spirit; Timeless Treasures of SoHo Studio C 3096 in Citrus (the yellow); Wild by Nature by Kathy Deggendorfer for Maywood Studio (orange). Plus two reddish orange fabrics that I don't have records of. 
Binding: Reverse matched to main fabrics on front. Cut 2 1/4 inches wide and folded for 3/8 inch width. 
Threads: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing. Superior King Tut in Mint Julep for the quilting on the front and in Temple in the bobbin. (Same combination I used on the last quilt I made. I thought I would use up the Mint Julep, but it looks like there's enough for another quilt. Neverending thread cone!!) Superior Treasure Hand Quilting in Old Lace for the hand part of the binding. 
Batting: Hobbs Heirloom Premium 80/20 Bleached Cotton
Size: 61 by 61 inches after piecing; 60 1/4 by 59 3/4 inches after quilting and binding; 58 inches square after machine washing on cold and drying on low.

I pieced K's Quilt on my Singer Featherweight and quilted it with a walking foot on my Singer 115 treadle. 

With the two-colored squares, the quilt has lost the graphic punch of the original design, and maybe it's a little more traditional than folkloric, but I like it. I love the pretty prints and cheerful colors.

One more picture of the yummy texture after washing:

It was fun sharing this quilt with you. But I haven't lost site of the serious need to make it. K's Quilt will soon be on it's way to her with hopes that it will be a comforting hug during therapy and with prayers for healing. God knows she's been on my mind throughout this whole project.

Because I made this quilt feverishly on the spur of the moment, I'm linking to mmm! quilts for the DrEAMi party, even though it's not the kind of DrEAMi project we should ever have to make. Isn't that the way it is so often with quilts that suddenly need to be made? I'm glad I could do it, though. I'm also linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Sew Fresh Quilts for their next weekly linky parties. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Fine Mess

Last month I shared a post about my Deconstructed Coins project, which was prompted by an Ad Hoc Improv Quilters challenge from Ann of Fret Not Yourself and Kaja from Sew Slowly. In that post, I said I would be taking my time with the project. Well, it seems I'm taking a lot more time than I thought I would. This project was sidelined for the past two weeks by a sudden need to make a different quilt. I'll share that project in a few days. 

Meanwhile, I'll share what I did get done earlier in the month. I added a few more sliced coins and then put them up on the wall pretty randomly. I also cut a few coin shaped pieces from some coordinating solids to try out an idea that kept going through my mind. I put them up on the wall as you see here:

My thought was to place the printed coins vertically in rows and then use solids horizontally in columns so that the printed and solid coins would sort of "weave" through each other. I added some more of the printed coins (without the slices of solids in them) and more of the solids to try to get better idea. Here is the result after it hung on the wall the last couple of weeks. Notice there are lots of holes where I ran out of cut solids. Some pieces also fell off as I brushed against them while working on my other project. I just kind of threw them back on the wall, and some ended up in a bowl somewhere. 

Every time I walk by I think, "well there's another fine mess I've gotten myself into." When I stand back from the wall, it all just looks muddy and choppy, and the solids start to take over as the dominant feature, which is not what I intended. I finished my other project today, so now I'll get back to playing with this one. I need to intersperse more coins without the little slice in them, and maybe try some other options for the solids. Perhaps put some of them vertically along with the prints or use some longer strips to make sashing instead of columns, or maybe include some white sashes to help the prints stand out more. 

Who knows where this will end up? I sure don't. But I'm going to keep at it. I'm sure it will continue to be a slow project. Stay tuned. Hopefully things will sort themselves out over time. 

I'm linking up with the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters because even though I haven't made much progress, I'm keeping it real and making myself accountable to follow through on this project. Feel free to comment away with your two cents worth of ideas. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Hexie Finish

Oh, goody, I have another finish to share this week. My Hexie Quilt! I had set it aside recently to finish some other projects and chase some squirrels (and to procrastinate in picking a quilting design), but this week it all came together pretty quickly. This morning I ran out to take pictures (in my pajamas!) because the light was right--even overcast--and the wind was calm. Quite a contrast to our bright blue, sunny skies of yesterday and wind gusts as high as 60-some miles per hour. Cuh-ray-zy!! As a result of the wind, there are lots of places without electricity around here today, but we were lucky. Oh, guess I'm off-topic, but the point is that I could get some pictures (that showed the quilting) this morning without blowing away. 

You can see how I made this quilt here, here and here. There are also a few pictures on my Instagram site. If you compare some of those other pictures to the above picture, you can see that I did a little quilt surgery in the improv part of the back to balance colors out a little more after I had the back together. 

For the quilting, I decided on a walking foot design. Due to my shoulder injury, I haven't quilted a biggish quilt since last August, and large-scale FMQ still seems a little too demanding. I was going to divide the quilt diagonally and do four fairly equal quadrants of wavy lines, but then thought it might be more fun to put the diagonals off center. 

I started by using an old tool I haven't had out in awhile--my flexible curve. 

I could have drawn the lines freehand but this helped me visualize what I wanted to do. I used my Chakoner to draw light chalk lines along the flexible curve for my main lines. My walking foot has a guide with it so I used that to space the quilting. 

I did find that doing concave curves (that's the name for the ones that curve in like the bottom of a bowl, right?) with the guide was not real accurate because the guide is somewhat behind the needle instead of next to it. I don't know why that is--maybe because it's meant just for straight lines? Anyway, I learned to mostly eyeball my lines and use the guide as just a guide. Huh, maybe because it is a guide?? They're a little wonky here and there, but I decided from the outset that I would not pick them out if they wobbled. The lines are about 1 inch apart. I had to really restrain myself to not fill in with more lines to make them 1/2 inch apart. I love dense quilting, but I wanted this quilt to be a fast finish and really soft. I had a love/hate relationship with the mint thread I used throughout the quilting--I thought it was too prominent and taking too much attention from the hexies--but in the end, I loved it. I was just viewing it from way too close while sewing. 

I'm really pleased that I didn't have any pulling/distortion with the walking foot. I had really pinned this quilt a lot when I basted it because I didn't know at the time how I was going to quilt it. As I did each line, I moved pins as needed, making a row about 2 inches away from the previous stitching line. This took a bit of time, but it gave my arm a rest so that I could keep working (reaching to the left to rearrange the quilt as I sew is still difficult to do and fatiguing). The pins made a nice tight channel for the quilting. 

I ordered some extra navy print fabric for the binding. I like that it has a diagonal print that looks like bias binding with a little extra interest because of the variations in the print. I'm still working to improve my binding skills. Working on the theory that I tend to stretch my bindings as I attach them (so that the quilt ripples on the edge), I took extra care to make sure that the measurement of the binding matched the length of each side of the quilt. After turning a corner, I measured, then pinned the binding at the next corner and few places along the way.
I stitched it by machine to the front and then whipped it down to the back by hand. 

Here are a few close-ups:

Extreme close-up of my initials and date

And the quilt after washing (sorry, low evening light):

And now for the details about the quilt:
Design: Hexies from a plastic template made to my specifications by a local glass cutter. Longer diameter is about 9 1/4 inches and shorter diameter is a little over 8 inches.
Fabric: Paperie by Amy Sinibaldi for Art Gallery Fabric (mostly won in a giveaway from Hawthorne Threads), plus two aqua prints (one from Hazel line by Cluck Cluck Sew for Windham and the other an unknown to me). Backing is Jules and Coco Flower Garden from Joann.
Binding: Cut 2 inches wide and folded; 1/4 inch wide on front
Threads: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing. Superior King Tut in Mint Julip for the quilting on the front and in Temple in the bobbin. (I considered switching the colors around, but now I'm glad I didn't.) Superior Treasure Hand Quilting in Old Lace for the hand part of the binding. 
Batting: Hobbs Heirloom Premium 80/20 Bleached Cotton
Size: 43 1/2 by 53 inches before washing. 41 1/2 by 50 1/4 inches after machine washing on cold, drying on low.

Pieced on my Singer Featherweight; Quilted on my Singer 115 Treadle with a walking foot.

So what did I learn from making this quilt?
1. Sewing large hexies by machine is a blast!! And much easier than you might think.
2. It's ridiculous for me to agonize so much over the color of quilt thread. In the end it all works out.
3. Over-pin-basting a quilt takes time, but it's worth it.
4. A walking foot guide is really just a "guide" if I'm doing curves. 
5. It's very freeing to not worry about whether quilting lines are accurate and well-spaced.
6 .I can restrain myself from quilting every last half inch of a quilt and still be happy with the result. 
7. Taking time to measure the binding as I attach it seems to help me get a smoother edge.
8. My husband thought the quilting looked like the Piedmont. He remembered seeing pictures in his elementary geography book of the Piedmont area in the southeastern United States. When I looked up images online, I thought the quilting looked more like the Piedmont in Italy. But he's right. It does look like the Piedmont, wherever it is. If I were keeping the quilt, maybe I'd rename it Piedmont.  
8. I am so glad I can quilt again!!

I plan to donate this quilt to Margaret's Hope Chest for the Mother and Baby program at Pine Rest Hospital. It will serve as a hug during therapy for a mother recovering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. 

Time to get back to other quilt projects. The only outstanding WIPs I have are both Improvs. Hmmm. I wonder why they are always the last I work on. Lack confidence much?

I'm linking up over the next few days with linky parties at Crazy Mom Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, My Quilt Infatuation,  Quilt Moderne (TGIFF) and Sew Fresh Quilts. I hope you have had a great quilty week. If you live in my part of the US, I hope the wind didn't blow you away! (And that you still have electricity.)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Deconstructing Coins

I've had some fabric panels for awhile (I think a year!) that Hawthorne Threads sent me along with a giveaway. They are samples of some of their digitally printed collections. They seem to coordinate quite well with each other, and I thought it might be fun to use them together in a quilt. 
Then in the last few weeks, the leaders of the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters, Ann and Kaja of Fret Not Yourself and Sew Slowly introduced the idea of making improv quilts with a Chinese Coins theme. If you look at my panels, you see ready-made coins. I could have just cut them apart and sewed them back together with some sashing, but I decided that it was time to challenge myself to go a little further with some improv piecing. 

The extent of my improv up until now has been mainly to hastily combine leftover quilt top fabric pieces with some yardage to make backs of quilts. And I've always thought of it as a relaxed way to just play with fabric. But I look at the process of other improv quilters and I see a slowly unfolding design with lots of consideration, challenge, and discovery along the way. And I have a feeling that most of these quilts end up very different from what their makers initially envisioned, even when the vision was hazy. So with these fabrics, I'm going to try to slow down and let them take me on what I hope is an new improv adventure. 

I searched my stash of solid fabrics and found quite a few colors that work with the prints.

I supplemented with the new blue fabric you see at the left end (from a local fabric shop) and a new piece of coordinating fabric (smoke--the second solid from the left) from Hawthorne Threads. 

I spent yesterday afternoon "deconstructing" the coins in the panels. They are approximately 5 1/4 inches long by 2 to 3 inches wide. 

Then I slashed some of them and inserted solid strips 1 inch wide (1/2 inch finished).

Notice I have the coins placed vertically for a possible horizontal line of coins. There are quite a few with directional prints, so this makes sense to me right now. I'm trying not to make any hard and fast rules here, though, so we'll see what happens. My first thought was to slash every coin, but then I realized I don't have to do that, at least not yet. (See the third coin in the bottom row--I like it the way it is.) I'm going to do a few more with slashes like this (trying to vary the location of the slash a little more) and then think about what variations I might do and how else I can work in the solids. 

This project has been muddling around in my mind for awhile, but now that I've started sewing, I'm going to try to do a little at a time and stay open to new directions. 

Meanwhile, I'm going to focus on quilting my hexie quilt. I've chosen the quilting thread (leftover from another project) and have narrowed the quilting to two different ideas. I know it will be quilted with my walking foot as FMQ on anything bigger than a mini isn't going to work for me right now. Oh, and I also bought an extra little length of the navy fabric that's in the quilt top to use for binding. I like that it's printed diagonally. I love the look of bias binding, and faux-bias is so much easier for me than the real thing.

Ha, I pin-basted this quilt to the extreme, I guess because I wasn't sure how I was going to quilt it. 

I'm linking up today with Ad Hoc Improv Quilters. You can reach them at either site that I marked above or through the AHIQ button on the right. 

Have a good week, wherever your quilting takes you. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Seasonal Mash-up

My calendar says it's winter, the temperatures outside say it's spring--trending toward summer (very strange in my part of the world; we had our bedroom window open last night)--and my quilting life has definitely been autumn this week. But that's okay. I've seen a lot of holiday quilting (looking at you, Lorna, and anyone quilting along with you) and summer quilting (at least for where I live--looking at you again, Lorna). Anyway, I have an autumn quilt finish!!

I started this quilt in late August 2015. I pieced it in just a few weeks but then decided to hand quilt it. It became my travel project, taking much longer than it needed to--and in recent weeks, my evening obsession.

I think I've done about 10 posts on this one in addition to some Instagrams. If you'd like to see the posts, click on the Fall Maple Quilt label on the right sidebar. 

This quilt has seen a lot. It's traveled to northern Michigan at least once, maybe two or three times. It's been to daycare at the Grands (for naptime when I didn't fall asleep myself) and on several train trips, one to Colorado. It has a small smudge on the back from one of those train trips and has a tiny repair where I had to patch in a piece of fabric with some fusible web where fabric along a seam started to shred while I was quilting (but with the busy fabric and dense quilting, no one will know it's there except me--and even I have trouble finding it). Most glaring to me is the wonkiness of the quilting in the border. I started out with parallel lines about 1/4 inch apart. By the time I got to the end, the lines were 3/8 inch apart and nowhere near parallel to the edge. But I don't mind. The texture looks fine. And this quilt border represents a triumph for me since I worked on it while I was pretty much incapacitated in other ways with a broken shoulder. 

The best thing I learned making this quilt is that if it's too hard to see what you are doing when you're quilting, you can quilt from the backside instead. I did that on all of the blue parts of the quilt. I was using a variegated blue thread (and often poor lighting in hotels or on the train), and quilting from the back just made more sense. This worked because I had already quilted around the leaves and borders so I could see exactly what needed to be filled in. 

Here are a few close ups, then I'll give you the details. 

Here are the details:
Pattern: From Ruth B. McDowell in her book Piecing Workshop
Technique: Freezer paper piecing, which I learned from Ruth's book, not to be confused with foundation paper piecing
Front Fabrics: All scraps from my stash. 
Batting: Mountain Mist polyester 
Backing: Moda Bella Solids in Feather
Quilting thread: Blue variegated (#570, Little Prince) Treasure Cotton Hand Quilting thread from Superior Threads; other various colors of random hand quilting threads from my stash
Binding: 1/4 inch batik (cut 2 inches wide) from my stash. I usually use 3/8 inch binding, but I didn't want this one to show much. I thought of using colorful scraps, but decided that I wanted the leaves to stay in the spotlight. My quilt edges are often just a bit ripply even though I really try to keep everything straight. This time I measured my binding each time I turned a corner and made sure that it matched the measurement for the length of the quilt side as determined by the diameter through the center of the quilt. I think I did better, and blocking may take out any irregularity that remains. 
Embellishment: 5 ceramic buttons from a collection I bought a few years ago from Sandra Lance, a ceramic artist who was living in Vermont at the time. I love how they blend in with the fabrics but shine like little gems.
Size: 28 1/4 inches by 36 1/2 inches. I don't plan to wash this, so that's the finished size.

I'm looking forward to hanging this quilt next fall. Not that I want that time to come any time soon. I want to enjoy each day until then just as it comes. No wishing time away.

Oh no, I just realized that I have no hand project to work on now. I may need to do something about that. I do have 2 WIPs to finish--my hexies quilt and the ever-with-me Lake Michigan quilt. That lake quilt always gets pushed to the bottom of the WIPs for some reason--maybe it's a confidence problem? It's near the top now. No where else to go! I do have another quilt that's been muddling around in my mind. I suppose I should also call that a WIP because now there are fabric bits scattered all over the guest bed, too. The muddling is not just in my mind anymore. More on that next week. 

Have a lovely weekend, no matter what season or pseudo-season you are in right now in this wonderful seasonal mash-up!

I'm linking up this week with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social, Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop? and Quilting is More Fun Than Housework for Oh Scrap