Friday, December 22, 2017

Quilt for California

I've been on a quilting mission over the past few weeks. If you peek at my Instagram posts, you'll will have already seen bits and pieces. Given that I've been working on this while also preparing for the holidays, blog posting sort of got tossed aside. But the quilt is done, so I'm ready to share. Here's a peek before the rest of the photo session:

One of my favorite quilt stores had a sale a few weeks ago--even on sale fabric. It's a gift store with a small modern fabric department and tiny sale fabric department. But I decided to challenge myself to find fabric for a twin size quilt using only the sale fabric. I wanted to make a quilt to donate to California fire victims. My donation quilts are usually throw quilts, and I've often made them with bits of fabric from giveaways. But this quilt needs to be bed size, so I needed more fabric without breaking the budget. I had a vague idea of a design in mind. There were several fabrics that grabbed my attention but only a few that "went together." Here's what I found: 

The Mini Pearl Bracelet fabrics were 1-yard cuts in two packages. (The green was also in one of the packages--I'll use it in something else eventually.) The white print was the only fabric in the sale area that I liked with them as a background fabric. There was only a little bit over two yards of it, but I knew I had some Kona Snow at home that I could add to it. Now that I think about it, I hope the house print will be okay for people who have lost their home, not reminding them of what they have lost, but helping them focus on what's ahead and on the strength of community support. 

The next step was to settle on a design. I thought I'd do a variation of either Falling Charms or Falling Triangles (I think it's called Triangle Tango in their patterns, but I saw their video online under Falling Triangles) from the Missouri Star Quilt Company. I took photos of my fabrics and made some mock-ups in my Quiltography app. (I'm not an affiliate for companies--just telling you what I used.) These are the four designs I was considering:

I wasn't sure about using squares with the Mini Pearl Bracelets fabric. It is printed on a slant, which bothers me just a bit for some reason. I made some paper cut-outs to help me make up my mind about squares or triangles. 
It probably wouldn't matter either way, but I decided to go with the triangles. I liked the only-triangles version, but I chose the design in the lower right corner of my options for a couple of different reasons even though it also had some squares (that were small enough not to look distorted with the print). First, I had more of the bright colored fabrics than the whites, and second, I intended the quilt for possibly a child, so I thought more color would be more practical and more fun for a little kid.

As I got started, I realized that it has been awhile since I made half-square triangles. I fell back on a technique I learned a long time ago. I know there are lots of tutorials and size charts online for figuring how to do these, but my go-to source is The Quick Quiltmaking Handbook by Barbara Johannah from 1979. ( I think it's still available used.) When I used to make miniatures, I would crank out a few dozen sets of teeny tiny HSTs at a time. For this quilt, I would be making them big, so I stuck to eight at a time, which was also a good idea since I had to mix up three colors with two background fabrics. My plan was for HSTs that finished at 5 1/2 inches square, so I used fabric squares of 12 3/4 inches. 

Here's how one looked (drawn lines and stitching). Notice I waited to trim the colored fabric until I did the stitching. That seemed easier to me than to try to make sure two fabric squares stayed in place while I worked with them.
After trimming, I cut the horizontal and vertical lines first because those need to be the most precise. (I know. I had already drawn the lines, but I needed extra assurance since it had been awhile since I had done this.)
Then I cut the diagonals. Easy peasy. Most of you probably know this. But I was quilte excited by my  success so I had to share.

After cutting the triangle parts I cut the rest of the squares and rectangles. I could have worked with long strips, but this seemed to work better for me to get a scrappy look.
I chained pieced all the parts and laid out the blocks following my Quiltography plan. When I had placed the blocks in the plan, I just clicked randomly, placing each color 40 times for each element in the grid without worrying about distribution of the colors. It worked out fine. I think I made one switch when I did the actual sewing but then just left everything else as it was. The white print is a directional fabric. I didn't pay much attention to it, but did make sure the stacks had prints facing both directions. I was mainly using the fabric as a bit of color in the background. 

For the back, I took a super-duper coupon to a big box fabric store and picked the first fabric I saw. Or maybe it picked me. (I had my husband with me, so I made sure I didn't dawdle.) 

I layered everything with Hobbs Premium Cotton 80/20 batting.

For quilting, I chose to do loop-de-loops. I had done these in miniature on my last quilt (Tree Quilt) and enjoyed them so much, I wanted to do more. I really had to work to keep them bigger. I aimed for dime to quarter size, but smaller ones did sneak in there. As I worked, I challenged myself to focus on making my loops as round as I could. I must say, the design lost it's charm for me for awhile about half way through. I think I remember advising another quilter to choose a design she liked for a quilt because she would be doing it a lot. Ha! This showed me that even if you enjoy something, it just might get monotonous after awhile. I tried listening to Christmas music to keep me going, but that was a bit distracting. When a fast song came on, I would speed up and when a slow song came on...well, you get the picture. I don't usually listen to music when I quilt. I know that may seem weird to a lot of quilters. But I treadle, and I get into a rhythm, and the music just messes me up. It's better for me to just stay quiet with my thoughts. And there were lots of thoughts while I was quilting. First, the victims of the Santa Rosa fires were on my mind. I can't imagine what it is like to have to flee such devastation and to lose absolutely everything. Then, while I was quilting, the Ventura fires were raging. My grand-niece was evacuated from her college and sent home before exams (which were cancelled). We were monitoring the news to see what would happen, and I feared that this quilt might need to go to her if she lost everything in her dorm. Thankfully that hasn't happened, and the campus seems out of danger now. All of those thoughts and the need for comfort for others were what kept me going when the loop-de-loops got to be a little much. By and by, it was finished. And by the end, I had gotten pretty good at truly round circles--not ones with little points--so maybe now I'm ready to try pebbles.

I wish I could say that when I finished, the sun was shining brightly, but no, it was already dark, and today it is still dark--from clouds, not sunset. The snow has mostly melted, so everything is soggy, and the quilt is too big to hang on my neighbor's fence (which also has soggy grass at the base). And it's too cold to get myself to search out a statue or two for display. So my photos aren't great. But here they are--the driveway was the best I could do:

Helpful hubby

I added some of the bright fabric to the back to use up as much as I could. Most of the rest was pieced scrappy style for the binding.

Do you see the initials and date?

A note about the binding: I used my own method to machine sew it on. There is a little tutorial here. I like this because I can put the binding on without cutting (well, intentionally cutting) any triangle points. The stitching shows on both sides of the binding, which some quilters might not prefer, but I think of it as a design element. It's strong for lots of washings, too. For this one I used about an eighth inch from the edge for my topstitching--a little wider than it needs to be, but I think it looks fine.
Front (sorry about bad light--post washing indoors) Ha! that's not one of my best point examples. The rest are pretty good, though!

And back
On a guest bed after washing:

Here are the stats:
Date constructed: December 2017
Pattern: Variation of Falling Triangles by MIssouri Star Quilt Company
Fabrics: Mini Pearl Bracelets by Lizzy House (Andover) in (I'm guessing) Tomato, Watermelon and Apricot; Abacus Village by Allison Glass (Andover) in Mustard; Kona Snow (Robert Kaufman) and Aztec Woodland (Keepsake Calico) 
Batting: Hobbs Premium 80/20 Cotton  (I found this batting in a thrift store awhile back. ($2.00 for a king size batt plus most of a crib sized one, so I figure this batting cost maybe $1.25!)
Thread: Superior Masterpiece cotton in Granite for piecing; Superior King Tut cotton in White Linen for quilting; Aurifil 40 wt cotton in 1154 (Dusty Orange) for the topstitching on the binding
Binding: Cut 2 1/2 inches wide and folded in half, pieced from scraps of front. Quilt back and batting were trimmed 1/4 inch beyond the front. Binding was sewn to the front with 1/4 inch seam, turned and pressed to the seam line on the back and then topstitched for stitching to show on front and back.
Size: Blocks: 7 1/2 inches finished (5 1/2 inch finished HST patch and 2 inch finished strips and squares. Quilt: 75 by 90 inches pieced. About 75 1/2 by 90 1/2 inches with binding (I forgot to measure after quilting). About  72 by 86 5/8 inches after machine washing on cold and machine drying on medium. Slightly shorter than I was aiming for, but it fits well on a twin bed. Layout is 10 by 12 blocks.

Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 Treadle for free-motion quilting.

My quilt will be headed to Happiness is a Warm Quilt, a group of quilters in Sonoma County that is coordinating donations for residents who have lost their homes and/or belongings. If you are interested in helping, they have a Facebook page with information. The need is still great. 

So, that's it for quilting for this year. I think. I just saw a pattern and a call for quilt block donations for victims of the Thomas Fire in Southern California on the website for Ventura Modern Quilt Guild.  I'm sure I'll make some blocks--if not in the next few days, in the new year. (Or maybe a quilt?) I think last time I made a big quilt, I said something about limiting myself to no bigger than throw size in the future. But now the needs for larger quilts are great. So scratch that comment. I also have a "commission" quilt to start for my daughter. All kinds of quilting to look forward to.

This has been a tough year for our country--for our world. But I do wish you hope and joy during the holidays and in the coming year. And peace. We need these in so many ways.  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tree Quilt

Sandra over at mmm!quilts told me this was a squirrel. I didn't think of it while I was making it, but she's right!

It all started with this doodle I made while watching TV (yes a "bad" Christmas movie) a few evenings ago.
The next morning, I grabbed some newsprint and drew a rectangle on it using an old cutting mat as a template. Eyeballing proportions, I drew some wonky-ish horizontal lines and then diagonals, pretty much like my doodle. I had decided to paper foundation piece (or I guess you could say string piece) the quilt, not for precision, but to keep the size contained so that the quilt would fit on my front door. I taped the drawing to my patio door window and traced it in reverse onto another piece of newsprint. That way I could save the pattern in case I ever want to make another similar quilt. Here's my "lightbox" window. A bit dark here. I think it was raining--or even snowing a bit outside. There are lots of scribbles, as I kept changing my mind about the order of piecing while I made notations. Yup, a squirrel. No time for neatness.
I cut my pattern into five horizontal rows. Then I dug into my drawerful of greens, thinking I'd use up some of my ancient stash. (Yeah, right. I barely made a dent.) For each section of the quilt I quickly laid out some fabrics. The only thing I really paid attention to was making sure there was a sprinkling of white in each section--sort of like snow on the branches.
I chose three blues in graduated tints (or is it values) for the sky. That was easy because I have my fabric colors arranged by value. I just grabbed three that were next to each other--and luckily there was enough of each for three rows. And for the white fabric, I chose Kona Snow. Of course!
Sorry, bad lighting and focus here. 
I stitched my five strips, roughly following the lines I had drawn.

Then joined them--and that was that! 

I found a piece of blue print for the back--it's the leftover of a quilt I made many years ago and has some mystery stains, so it works well to cut up for small quilt backs. I quilted abstract bough shapes in each green strip of the tree, wavy "drifts" in the snow and tiny circular loops in the sky to mimic blowing snowflakes. Then I dug into my drawer once more for some red for the binding. I was tempted to add a star or some button ornaments, but in the end I decided to leave it simple so that I can display it throughout the winter.

Here it is on the door again.

And the back, that no one will see. Except here.

And on the driveway in the sun to show the quilting texture. (I love doing dense quilting on tiny projects!)

I tried to get a picture of the front of the house with the quilt on the door, but the time of day wasn't right. I'll try to get one later after I decorate outside.

This was such a fun little project. And I am thrilled that no shopping trip was involved in the making. I was going to treat it with anti-UV spray to resist fading but decided not to. Some of the fabrics are very old (like from the '80s!) and brittle, with very unstable dye. I didn't want to risk bleeding from the greens and red into the light fabrics. So I'll just cross my fingers and hope that I'll get a couple of seasons out of it before it fades too much. I can do that with a no-cost project, I think. And then I can make another. 

Here are some quick stats:
Pattern: My own doodle
Size: 18 1/2 by 24 1/2 inches. I started with an 18 by 24 cutting mat for the pattern, but left extra fabric when sewing so I could add binding width to the size. 
Fabrics: All scraps
Batting: Hobbs Premium 80/20 scrap.
Thread: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; Aurifil 40 wt. in Pewter (2630) for quilting in tree (seems finer than what I usually use for quilting, but it's what I had available for quilting dark fabrics.); Superior King Tut in White Linen for quilting snow and sky. 
Quilting: Treadle Free-motion
Binding: Cut 2 1/2 inches for about a 3/8 inch width.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 treadle for quilting and binding. 

Okay, one more photo--close up on the driveway:
Forgot to quilt my initials and date, so I embroidered them after it was done.
I'm linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social, Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it Up Friday, Lizzie Lenard Vintage Sewing for Free Motion MavericksQuilting is More Fun than Housework for Oh, Scrap and with mmm!quilts for DrEAMi because this is definitely a Drop Everything And Make it quilt. Yup, a squirrel. I'll link up with the parties as they go live. You might have noticed that I have removed the linky buttons from the sidebar on the right. I discovered that a certain photo storage company has defaced my blog with ugly icons covering up some of the link buttons. So I've decided to just remove them all. I'll still be sure to provide links in my posts. That's probably easier for people who link up from apps anyway, but it was fun to promote my favorite linky parties with those buttons. Sigh. Such is digital life.

Have a good week, everybody, and if you live in the US, Happy Thanksgiving! (This quilt won't go up on my door until the day after!)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Quilt for Vegas

I've been away from social media more than I've been on it recently, but a few weeks ago I noticed that the Las Vegas Modern Quilt Guild was collecting quilts to give to first responders and families of victims of the mass shooting there on October 1. They were asking for quilts (as well as quilt components and financial support) made from Grayscale blocks and heart blocks from patterns by Cluck Cluck Sew. The recommendation was for each block to be made from white fabric and a cheerful color. So while I was on vacation in East Tawas a couple of weeks ago, I selected some bright prints in rainbow colors at the Ben Franklin store for my contribution. I'm not sure why I chose those colors--probably because that was the range of colors of the sample quilt the guild shared and I liked the look. Certainly cheerful! I already had some white fabric, so I figured I was all set, and on October 31, I got started. 

Okay, first a teaser. Then the story of how this came to be. Then some photos and stats--

My first decision was to make just Block A of the Grayscale blocks and place them in a zig zag like in the sample quilt. And I thought I might mix things up and make the colored parts of the block scrappy. I also thought I would make the quilt from 42 blocks (41 Grayscale blocks plus 1 heart block). While cutting strips, I realized that I did not have enough white fabric, so I made a quick run to the closest fabric store for some Kona White. When I got home, I noticed that the fabric didn't look and feel quite like the white I already had. Perhaps that first white wasn't Kona after all. No problem. I cut the rest of my pieces and then stacked the two sets of white randomly so that if they looked or felt different from each other, it would look like I planned it that way. 

Before I started chain piecing everything, I decided to make a test block. Here's what that looked like: one pieced, one laid out.

I have to say, it just wasn't grabbing me. Since then, I have seen other quilts made with scrappy colored blocks, and I like them a lot, but I just couldn't picture the end result. I stopped sewing long enough to color some ideas on graph paper.

Somewhere along the line, I knew that what I really wanted to do was make each block with white and just one color. I colored 7 blocks of each color, cut them out and then just played with different arrangements of the 42 blocks. As I messed around with them, I discovered that the arrangements I liked best were actually square quilts made with 36 blocks.

I kept arranging and came up with this:
It looks like it, but no wine was involved.
And finally, this:
The blank spot is for the heart
So much easier than making a bunch of blocks and then arranging them on a design wall. Since I had cut enough material for 42 blocks, I decided to make them all and put leftovers on the back. Once all those decisions were made, piecing was a piece of cake and the top was done in no time. I made one more trip to the store for backing fabric and batting (no wait, it was two trips; on the first trip, the store was closed due to a power outage--that's a whole other story I won't go into here).

I really wanted to do something special with the quilting, but my time was limited. My plan was to quilt straight lines (or something like that) in the colored parts and meanders in the background. I pin basted carefully (I thought) and then did the background quilting first. Not the best idea I've had. After the background was done, I could tell that the colored strips were too puckery on the front--and especially on the back--to do straight lines without problems with pleating. I ended up doing meanders in the colored parts, too. During that time, I had all manner of problems with my presser bar adjustment, needles breaking, and tension problems, and I spent a couple of frustrating hours cleaning, oiling, adjusting and doing whatever else I could to get things back on track. The quilting on the front didn't look like I had envisioned it, and it looked worse on the back with lots of bunching. I was so bummed. 

I pressed on. I had enough fabric to make a scrappy binding. I placed the colors pretty much randomly but made sure that I did not use the color of whatever block was next to the binding. It went together without issue, and I spent Thursday evening and Friday hand stitching it to the back while watching Christmas movies (really, already!) on TV.

As soon as the quilt was done, I ran outside to photograph it on our neighbor's fence. The light was terrible, so I'm not going to show you those photos. It was also freezing--literally. Temps in the 20's (F). Cold for this time of year, and especially after having ridiculously warm weather this autumn. Here are the bits of snow that stayed on the ground ALL DAY because it was so cold. Thanks, Canada. I'm assuming this is a gift from you.

I ran back in the house and threw the quilt in the washer and then the dryer, drying it on medium instead of low to work as many crinkles into the back as possible. And you know what? It worked. It came out cozy and just crinkly enough to hide the problems. This is the second quilt I've made this year that gave me fits on the back. Both quilts were made in haste, so maybe that's part of the problem. I may not have been careful enough to pull the backing taut. But I'm thinking now that some adjustment problems with my presser bar might have been putting too much drag on the quilt, so before I do the next one, I'll have to do a little more fiddling. But I sure am glad that a good wash and drying cover up the problems. I took more pictures this morning, with decent light in our living room and on the driveway, and now I'm pleased to share what I made. 

This next one is actually from the evening photos, but I wanted to record my initials/date. See the blue cast? Thanks, Eastern Standard Time change.

Still cold (below freezing), but sunny.

And a bit windy.


Self-portrait--the challenge of sunny.

I had to restrain myself from grabbing fabric markers and coloring in the backing.

I have two leftover blocks, which I'll send along with the quilt for other quilts.

How about some stats?
Dates constructed: October 31 to November 10, 2017
Pattern: Grayscale Block A  and Heart Block from Cluck Cluck Sew
Fabrics: Kona White and possibly other white (who knows); Polynesian Waters by Liora Manne for EBI fabrics (turquoise); Greta Lynn's Boo Basics Baby Zebra in Orange for KANVAS Benartex; KANVAS Studio's Zoo Baby Plaid Yellow, Benartex; mystery green, red and purple fabrics (no info on selvage, and no bolt info because they were flat folds), Coloring Book Floral in Black and White Keepsake Cotton (Joann)

Batting: Warm and White
Thread: Superior Masterpiece cotton in Granite for piecing; Superior King Tut cotton in White Linen for quilting and machine binding, Superior Treasure cotton in Old Lace for Hand stitching binding.
Binding: cut 2 1/4 inch wide, pieced from scraps of front
Size: Blocks: 10 1/2 inches unfinished, Quilt: 60 1/4 inches square pieced; 59 1/4 inches square quilted; 56 1/4 inches square after machine washing on cold and machine drying on medium.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 Treadle for free-motion quilting.

This quilt was a bit more of a challenge than I expected due to traffic/power outage problems, machine issues and quilt bunching, but it's really an easy, versatile pattern, and I have a feeling I'll make it again someday. 

The greatest challenge was trying to make something to cheer victims and responders of one horrific event while hearing the news of other unimaginable, devastating events. When will the madness end? I won't say anything further about it here, but you know how I feel. 

I'm linking up today with Lizzie Lenard Vintage Sewing for Free Motion Mavericks (because this is the first quilt I've been able to totally FMQ in more than a year since my accident), Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop? and Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it Up Friday (yes, this is Saturday, but it was finished on Friday).

Keep quilting comfort!