Saturday, May 27, 2017

Another Squirrel!

If you read my blog regularly, you'll know that I have been slowly, slowly working on a challenging (to me, anyway) improv quilt. I'm having fun with it, but this week a little squirrel kept jumping up for attention, and I couldn't resist it. It was time to take a break from the quilt and make something quick. I had some Moda Grunge and grunge-like fabrics left over from other projects and a block in my mind that wouldn't let me go: Blackford's Beauty. 

Here's what happened:

A little mug rug. I think it's about 6 1/2 inches square, but I forgot to measure it before popping it in the mail to a friend. (More about in a later post.) It was so satisfying to use these little scraps and another on the back:

After zipping around back and forth with my walking foot, I found that my tension wasn't perfect on the back, but I think it will be okay. I put little triangle hangers in the corners so it can be hung up, but I really picture it more with a glass of icy lemonade on it on a hot summer's day. 

I made this same block in giant size (I think about 36 or 40 inches square) years ago. I enjoyed the challenge, but it was dark and fussy cut with striped fabrics. I came across a photo of that quilt a few weeks ago while cleaning out a drawer. It was a happy surprise, as I didn't realize I had any photos of that quilt. But now I've misplaced the photo. How did that happen? If I find it again, I'll post it sometime. It's probably what prompted me to make this pattern as a mini. This one was much more relaxing to make, and a really good break from my current project. I'll go back to that project, but this weekend another squirrel has popped up, so...well, you know how it goes. 

I'm linking up today with Sandra at mmm! quilts for her DrEAMi linky party (I blame Sandra for getting me into this squirrelly quilting habit). And Crazy Mom Quilts, too, for Finish it up Friday, because it's tiny, but it's a finish and it was done by Friday.

Have a great weekend (holiday weekend if you're in the US), and watch out for squirrels! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sashing Progress

Oh my, it's time for the link-up for the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters. How did that happen? These months go so fast!! I did a post last week about my Deconstructed Coins quilt. I was dithering about how to go about making the sashings. Yes, I'm still working on the first challenge quilt for this year. But maybe I can squeak in on the second challenge, too--the two-block challenge--because I am making my sashings distinctly different from the rows of vertical coins. (Maybe they aren't sashings after all, but alternate rows?)

This week I cut some long wide strips of most of the quilt's solid colors and threw them up on the design wall without much thought. Then I started chopping them up adding narrower strips here and there as well as some squares/rectangles. 

My main objective is to introduce long horizontal lines to contrast with the short vertical lines of the rows of printed coins without overpowering the printed rows. I'm taking a lesson from Kaja's style of piecing by making small sections without joining them all together at once. For example, the row I chopped up has 7 sections. I'll wait to join them until I have the other rows laid out so that I can tweak placement if I need to. I'm a little uncertain about that area with the pink/salmon strip and curry square. I might lengthen the pink/salmon strip and put the curry square somewhere else (or maybe reverse them), but we'll see how they look after I get a few more rows made. I think the dark brown will play just a small role--a tiny square/rectangle here and there. It is so much darker than the other fabrics that it tends to want to take over when it's cut bigger, but I do like how it keeps my eye moving around. 

Meanwhile, I'll keep putting this puzzle together without a guide, or maybe I should say, model. I do have a guide in my general objective. I'm using a ruler and keeping those little inserted strips about the same width, but otherwise my ruler is merely a straight-edge, not a strict measuring tool. It's really quite fun! 

I still want to make a few changes to the outer edges of some of the printed rows to balance them out a bit, but I'll wait until I have more of the sashing done before I do that.

I'm linking up with Kaja at Sew Slowly and Ann at Fret Not Yourself. Either link will take you to the party. Go check them out, and see what fun other quilters are having with improv. I'm going to do the same, even though there are two squirrels of the quilty variety jumping up and down in front of me. I doubt I'll resist them for much longer. More on those later...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mulling it Over

I've spent the last few days walking past the design wall. I don't have much to show, but I'll show it anyway while I mull over the sashes for the Deconstructed Coin Quilt. I started out with bits and pieces (leftover from cuttings) divided by skinny strips and squares.

Here's how they look from far:

Thinking that was maybe a little too choppy, I subbed in longer pieces

and added skinny pieces to those

plus the little squares.

I tried fragmenting things a bit

and then a bit more.

Here's a close up:

This is a little closer to what I was imagining. I think maybe a combination of longer and shorter pieces, some of those skinny strips with little squares and some other bigger squares. Maybe a few more longer pieces than what are here. We'll see. I'm thinking it's starting to have just the barest hint of Piet Mondrian--even some of his early colors, which is fine with me. I have lots more playing around to go. I think my next step is to cut some long pieces of each color and lay those out and start whittling them down a bit from there. My goal is to have something interesting without overwhelming the printed coins. 

In the meantime, I've been working on the Painted Daisy Quilt. Since my last post about it, I tried out various threads for Big Stitch quilting. 

I was hoping to use Perle Cotton #8, but I couldn't find any locally. Well I finally did, and it was beautiful, but an expensive brand and not in the colors I wanted. I didn't want to order any, so I tried out some threads I had on hand. The yellow line of stitches above is Perle Cotton #5. I liked how it looked, but it was a lot of work to pull through the fabric (especially the knots). The next line (dark green) is four strands of embroidery thread, and the rest are various greens done with three strands. I decided that doing Big Stitch with four strands of thread and a big embroidery needle was good enough for me for this project. I bought a few more skeins of thread and did another sample to try them out on the various fabrics of the quilt. 

I tried out four shades of green and then one row of stitches with all four shades (one strand of each).Then two shades each of pink and red and one row of stitches with all four of those shades (one strand of each) on the pink and red fabrics. This little test showed me that there's not a lot of difference between different shades and that there really needs to be a lot of contrast (either much lighter or much darker) for a thread to really show up. Oh well, embroidery thread is cheap so it was an inexpensive lesson. 

After I made my little samples, we took off to my daughter and son-in-law for a week to do daycare while their usual daycare provider was on vacation. We had a blast!! Spending extended time, both day and night, with the Grands is such a treat. They were so sweet to take care of and play with. I took my little quilt along to work on in the evenings, but didn't really expect to spend much time with it. I did do a little outlining on the flower, and I have finished that part since I've come back home. 

This piece is so small that I've found it's easiest to do without a hoop. I used threads that matched the fabrics most closely to do the outlining. I also did some cross hatching in the center. I think next I'll add some veins in the petals, maybe with more contrasting thread, and then I'll have to figure out the rest of the background. I'm enjoying it well enough, and it will be a nice little diversion when I need some handwork, but so far I'm not enjoying it as much as my usual hand quilting with regular quilting thread. It's hard for me to think of it as quilting and not embroidery. Maybe I'd enjoy it more with Perle cotton #8. 

Here's a close-up:

The temperatures are in the 80s this week, so I've been sidetracked from quilting to plant flowers. Two weeks earlier than I usually do!! The "rule" where I live is no planting until Memorial Day to ensure no danger from frost, but it's just too nice out to wait. Here are some pansies and violas I planted just before we left to do daycare:
Blue flowers make me swoon!
There was frost predicted for while we were gone, but my husband moved the pots up against the house and the flowers came through just fine. Not much else is blooming in the perennial garden, except the candy tuft

and some of the columbine.

We also have iris ready to pop. Eventually the other flowers will find their way into this blog. For now, I'll keep walking past that design wall and experimenting with fabric pieces for my sashings. And maybe I'll also sit out on the deck with my hand quilting so I can enjoy my fabric flower and my real flowers at the same time. 

I'm linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social this week. I hope you are having a beautiful spring/fall. Keep quilting!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Evening Up

I've made slow, almost undetectable progress on the Deconstructed Coins quilt this week--but it is progress, and it took a surprising amount of time. I finished the fifth--and last--row of coins. Then I measured to see how the lengths of the rows compared to each other. They ranged from 51 3/4 to 55 inches. This was pretty good, considering that I did not measure the rows as I sewed them together. The little coin blocks varied in width, and my only rule when sewing them together was to use 19 per row to use up as many as I could of the 96 available coins. I had one skinny coin leftover, so I sewed it to the shortest row, bringing that one up to 53 3/4 inches. Since that was the last of my coins, I added some solid scraps (plus navy edging) to three of the rows and trimmed the longest row back to make them all 54 3/4 inches. 
An added solid is on the left.
The other thing I did was even up the edges of the rows by trimming back the navy pieces. (If you saw my last post about this quilt, you'll see how uneven they were.) That took a long time. I marked the approximate mid-point of each coin from top to bottom, then figured out the narrowest width I could use that would work for all of the rows: 7 inches. So I marked a chalk line 3 1/2 inches in each direction from the midpoint before trimming. Marking before cutting seemed less risky than just eyeballing and cutting. I had to unsew one tiny bit of navy and attach a new piece to make it the right width, but I was pretty pleased that it all worked out.

Here's a portion of a trimmed row.

And here they all are together. The edges are straighter than they look with the rows slapped up and spilling off the wobbly design wall curtain.

I'm a tiny bit bothered by the more regular right edge of the rows, with their even solid strips. The left side has a mix of solids and prints. I have some ideas for changing things up a bit, but I'm going to let it all be for now and see how things look after I figure out the sashing rows. 

I'm really glad I slowed down on this project. Now that I've relaxed about it, I'm having more fun. 

I'm linking up today with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social. Have a great quilty week, quick progress or slow. It's all fun.