Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Summertime Potpourri

Summertime seems to be a time for bits and pieces. And that's fine with me. So this post will be a potpourri of what's keeping me occupied these days. Some things related to quilting, but also a little travelogue of a bike ride--but I promise that even that has some relevance to needlework.

So here goes. First up--I've finished my improved fabric storage organization. If you've been following, you'll know that I've been folding my fabric onto comic book boards to store (mostly) in drawers and (a little) on a shelf. I ended up buying 4 (yes, 4!!) packages of 100 boards each. I used a few of the boards as they were to fold larger pieces of fabric, but I cut nearly all of the boards in half to fit in the drawers. That's nearly 800 different pieces of fabric. Wow! It's a bit hard to show all of the drawers, but here they are:

Some of the drawers are no longer full (especially the black/gray/white drawer), but I'll keep them as they are for now. This was a good exercise in getting to know my fabrics all over again and seeing what I'm lacking. I tried to group the colors by value. (That's why most of the ones showing look lighter.) It will be so much easier to audition fabric without making a big mess on the bed. (I hope.) The few pieces that were big enough for the full size boards are now on a shelf in the closet, folded horizontally so they fit the space.

My yellow scrap bins are a bit more full now because anything that didn't fit on a board got tossed in, but those bins will take a lot before they overflow. Hopefully, I'll make a scrap quilt before that happens. The only fabric that did not end up on a board was my collection of Kona solids and any fabric that I win in giveaways for donation quilts. (They have their own yellow bins.) I have a few boards left. I'm sure they'll get used eventually.

Speaking of fabric, in the past week or so, I've received two happy quilty mail packages!! Yippee!
The first was this bundle:
This is from Paintbrush Studio fabrics through Jayne at Twiggy and Opal. It was a giveaway during the Patriotic Palette Blog Hop. I love me some solids and have used the Painter's Palette line before and really like it. I have some plans for these, but they will have to wait awhile. Thanks so much to both Twiggy and Opal and Paintbrush Studios!!

Then I got this fun package from Louise at My Quilt Odyssey in a giveaway to celebrate her recent windfall of fabric. Read the story about the windfall here. It will warm your heart.

In addition to fun fabric (purples to boost my stash, umbrellas, and snowmen--Christmas in July!), there's a "Quilting Hottie" magnet. That made me laugh because I had just finished pressing a quilt top and backing in the basement, trying to stay cool during some really hot weather. I didn't want my iron to heat up the house and fight with the AC. And then, the Hera marker. I got a Hera marker in a swag bag at a quilt conference years ago, and it was getting really dull. I had thought of buying a new one, but never got around to it. Imagine my surprise to get the Hera marker from Louise and find out that the one I was using all these years was a miniature one. I love how the new one feels in my hand, and I know I'll use it a lot. So thanks to Louise, too!! All of these new fabrics will go into the bin for donation quilts.

Let's see. What else?
I treated my Painted Daisy Quilt with UV fabric protection spray this week.
I found two types online. One was a solvent-based spray and one was water-based. Both got mixed reviews. I decided to go with the water-based one. I'll let you know at the end of the summer how it's doing. Hopefully, it will slow down any fading. The early morning sun is harsh on my front door. But if the quilt fades, I'll just have to make another one, I guess. Sometimes, it's just so hard being a quilter. Ha!

I basted my Deconstructed Coins quilt over the weekend and did quite a bit of the quilting on Monday using my walking foot--straight lines in the dark blue areas and wavy lines in the rest of it. I'm still working on smooth waves. 
I think after spending all that time making the top, I could have come up with a more imaginative quilting plan, but it's time to wrap this up and get on to other things. The curves and widely spaced lines will make it a soft quilt, though, and that's important for this one. Hopefully, by the end of next week I'll have a finish to share. 

Meanwhile, I've started planning a new quilt so that I have something to hand quilt in the evenings or when I'm on vacation. I love cottage gardens (even though my own gardening is hit and mostly miss) and the old-fashioned look of hollyhocks. So I'm planning to make the Hollyhock pattern from Ruth McDowell's Pieced Flowers book. I spent way more time than I should have scanning the patterns from the book and then fiddling with them to get the percentage of enlargement right (it would have been easier to go to the library and copy them, I was too lazy to get in the car and it was too hot to walk), but the fiddling paid off, and now I have the master pattern to piece the parts with freezer paper piecing.

I'm hoping to use my newly organized stash for this, but we'll see what happens as I get into it. I know I have another WIP to finish (Lake Michigan quilt), but I think this project will mesh well with that one.

Summer isn't all sewing. Sometimes we go for long bike rides on the rail-trails in our state. 
Yesterday was a gorgeous day for a ride. The scenery was lovely, as always.
But this time, I was interested in details in three towns along the way. For example, here is what I found in the restroom at the trailhead where we started our ride.

Isn't it adorable? All those tiny stitches. It's obviously old. I wonder about the maker and when it was made. Little did the maker know the work would become restroom art. But it's just right for this cute little trailhead in a cute little town. I've shown pictures of this trailhead here before, but this is a new addition. (That post I linked to is a long post, but coincidentally, it also shows pictures of my sewing closet revamp last year, so it kind of relates to my first item in this post.)

At the other end of the ride was a larger town. We roamed around just enough to know that we need to go back and take a closer look. The businesses in the downtown buildings have changed over the years, but the buildings are still intact with beautiful architectural details and the pavement is red brick for several blocks. On one corner, we found a Little Free Library (I love those!!)
Towns along the trail all have similar street names that give a glimpse of the past. 
I love imagining what these towns were like when the railroads ran through them. There is one town along the way that was a lumber/saw mill town in the 1800's. From the few pictures I've found of it online, it once had an apparently busy downtown district with elaborate brick storefronts. Now that area is almost a ghost town. There is a small post office (open a few hours a day), an insurance agency, a village office in a simple modern building, and a funeral home. There are large gaps where buildings once stood. Most of the rest of the buildings are closed up and crumbling, some with crude siding covering the fronts. A couple have been subdivided into apartments. I've taken pictures here before, but haven't looked closely. Here are the two sides of the street. 

Do you see that gap in the lower picture? Something made me cross the street and take a closer look. Here's what I found:
I think my heart skipped a beat. Two rooms with the exact same tile pattern. What do you suppose was here? How old are these floors? I wanted to ask someone about them, but the post office and village office were both closed and there was no one else around. When I got home, I tried to do some research online. I found a business directory from maybe the late 1800's or early 1900's. It did list a millinery and a dressmaker (no addresses). I'd like to think that maybe one (or both) of those were here. Most of the towns we go through on our rides appear to have seen better days in terms of downtown shopping districts. Residents drive to larger towns for shopping or other services. The closing of the railroads that ultimately gave us the lovely bike trails had a big impact on the towns we ride through, but most of them retain some vitality. And most of them are hubs of the agriculture community. But this town was probably also affected by the downturn in lumbering. It just looks sad to me and gives me the strangest feeling of nostalgia for a time and place I didn't even know. Maybe I'm overly sentimental for a time and place that might not even have been as I imagine. And I know that no town stays the same over time. Anyway, finding this little gem of a floor makes me want to save something of that past before this floor disappears in the weeds. Wouldn't this make a great hexie quilt pattern? Too bad I don't like to do EPP or I'd be on it in a minute. I do hope to find out more about this floor and whatever used to be here. There is a little historical museum in the town over the river. I think a visit is in order. I'll let you know if I find out anything.

Before returning home, we made one more little stop in a town we've ridden through on our bikes before. This town has been building a rest stop on the bike trail and we wanted to see the progress. Oh, my. Adorable!! They have built it to resemble the train depot that used to sit on the same property. That depot is still in existence, but it was moved a number of years ago several miles out of town to become a private residence. (I'm glad it wasn't torn down.) This new rest stop has a picnic pavilion where the baggage room would have been. The room with the "witch's hat" roof will be a museum.
This bike trail is fast becoming one of my favorites in the state, mainly I think because of how the towns along the way have embraced it and added to the sense of history and the enjoyment of riding. 

Well, that's how my summer's been going and my newest discoveries. What little discoveries have you made? Quilting/sewing inspiration is everywhere and in the most surprising places!! 
I'm linking up today with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Coins Back

I've been playing around with making a quilt back this week--to the point that it wasn't play anymore. But it's done! I was thinking of using yardage of one of the prints from the front of the Deconstructed Coins quilt to make the back, but then I considered how much that would cost and how much solid fabric I had left from the front of the quilt, and thriftiness won out. I decided to cobble together the solids. That's been kind of my thing for quilts, anyway, and I've usually enjoyed it. 

The first thing I did was even up the edges of all of my leftovers to make rectangles. I had run out of a few of the colors and had very little left of others, so the variety was kind of lacking. Depending on how much fabric I had left, I cut most of the pieces into two or four smaller rectangles so that I could distribute colors better. I really wanted to cut smaller pieces, but then I'd lose more fabric to seam allowance. First, I laid out the pieces on top of the quilt top to get an idea of how they might fit. My idea was to separate columns of colored blocks with narrow strips of Kona Silver (my biggest piece of leftover--15 by maybe 90 or so inches).

No matter how I laid them, I couldn't quite make it work. There wasn't quite enough of either colored blocks or the silver, even supplementing with some pieces from my stash that were close enough to blend in to with the other colors of the top. 

Next, I arranged the pieces in a more horizontal fashion with the largest piece across the middle. That seemed to work better, although I wasn't sold on the wide strip. 

 After playing working some more with my fabric pieces and taking pictures in grayscale, I came up with this:
(This is actually after I sewed most of it together)
And here it is in color:

Getting to this point was quite a challenge. I had to decide whether to lay pieces vertically or horizontally to have enough fabric in each direction to cover and overhang the top for quilting. I wasn't planning to line the pieces up so that the seams matched up, but that ended up being the easiest way to arrange them. I did add a bit of medium pink to the ends of the silver strip in the middle, and I like how it keeps that strip from taking over completely. This backing looks pretty planned for an improv back. If you look closely, you'll see that if you were to cut it in half diagonally, it would be two identical triangles. But I did not measure and plan the sizes of the blocks--I just let what I had left guide me to cut them into the rectangles, folding them in half or quarters to figure out where the cuts should be. When piecing I had to make more cuts to even up fabric after sewing pairs of blocks together. The sewing was a snap after I figured out the block placement. For me, the best way to distribute the fabrics was to use the grayscale photo--that was more reliable than my eye to determine what colors looked best next to each other. 

Looking back, it would have been much easier to pay to buy backing fabric, but learning how to make what I had work seems to have been a worthwhile challenge--and it pretty much used up all the fabric I had pulled for the quilt plus a little more.

Here's one more picture of the quilt top, just because I love to look at it (and I hope you do , too.) 

It's supposed to be really hot here the next few days. I think pressing and basting will be done in the basement where it's nice and cool. Then, on to the quilting. After that, there will be only one WIP to work on! Let's see if I get to it or give in to the idea I have for another quilt.

I'm linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social this week, and Ad Hoc Improv Quilters next week. Keep quilting! 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Quilt Finish and Top

A finish and a half today. First up: the Painted Daisy Quilt, or as I've also referred to it, Big Stitch Project. I wasn't sure if I was done, but some helpful comments on my last post said I was. Thank you. I never know when to quit. I still need to find a UV resisting spray for it so I can hang it on my front door for the rest of the summer, but here it is:

And the back:
The back and binding are from scraps.

Here are the details:
Pattern Daisy from Ruth B McDowell's book Pieced Flowers
Size Block:12 1/4 by 10 1/4 inches (width/height)
         Quilt: 18 1/2 by 17 1/4 inches (height/width)
Fabric Mostly BasicGray Grunge by Moda. I'm sorry, I didn't keep track of the color names. Thanks to Jayne at Twiggy and Opal, I will now try to keep track by taking pictures of bolt ends when I'm shopping. The flower center and binding are Free Spirit Joel Dewberry True Colors Woodgrain (that's a mouthful, isn't it?)
Batting Scrap. Your guess is as good as mine. 
Quilting Big Stitch (1/4-inch stitches) with DMC embroidery thread (four strands) in various colors. Cross hatching is at 1-inch intervals. I didn't use a hoop. If I did this again, I probably would to keep it smoother. I found that I still prefer tiny-stitch quilting, so I'm mulling over another quilt top to use that technique. After all, now that this is done, I need something else for a take-along project.
Binding Cut 3 inches wide and then folded in half for a 1/2-inch finished width. I wanted the binding to stand out well against the door, and I'm happy with how it turned out.  I used to use this width all the time when I learned to quilt. I might use it again, especially on quilts without borders (most of them these days). I know that it's popular to use narrow bindings, but I tend to stretch them too much (I think that's the problem), and they end up wavy. This is nice and flat, with much better corners than when I use narrow bindings. If I use it on quilts again, I'll have to remember to cut my backing and batting wider than the quilt top so that I don't cut off points. That wasn't an issue with this one.

Here are a few more pictures, then I'll show you the half-finish.
I did the hand sewing part of the binding at an outdoor summer carillon concert at our local university. The music agreed with me--I got 3/4 of the binding on. I'm not usually that fast. Those concerts are such fun. People spread out with picnic suppers on the lawn under the hundreds-of-years-old trees. It's a casual affair. This week there were crows, cicadas and a distant drum line (summer camp on campus) to accompany the carillon. Such a fun part of our summer.

Ah, and here's the half finish for the week. I got the top of the Deconstructed Coins quilt done. Yippee!!
I didn't spend a lot of time balancing colors, and it's not pressed or de-threaded, but it's done! After some dithering, I decided that instead of buying a piece of printed fabric for the back, I'm going to cobble together the leftover solids. It's more work but saves a lot of money and uses a good chunk of stash. And, let's face it, it's me. I did order a bit more Kona Prussian for the binding. I was going to go with a lighter color, but I feel like that border needs to be contained. I hope I like it. I already have a plan for simple wavy lines for the quilting. Hopefully, I'll have a true finish to share in the not-to-distant future. 

If you want to see previous posts of both of these quilts, click on the Painted Daisy and Deconstructed Coins labels on the sidebar or at the bottom of this post. 

I'm linking up today with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday and with JANDA Bend Quilts for TGIFF. I hope you are having fun with your finishes and half-finishes!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Summer Stitching

I have banished the squirrels and am back to my current projects. There are lots of fun non-sewing things to do in summer, but I made a surprising amount of progress in a short time on my Deconstructed Coins quilt. I made sashing rows and joined them with the coin rows this week.

My plan was to add one more sashing row to the top and the bottom. But that will make the quilt an awkward almost-but-not-quite square. So I'm thinking now of adding a narrow dark blue strip to each end and then put sashing down the sides as well: the same three patterns of three stripes with a tiny rectangle, two stripes, and squares. It doesn't seem like a lot to do, but really, it's almost as many sashing pieces as I've already made. Oh, well, the fabric supply doesn't seem to have diminished much except the aqua. I'll just keep sprinkling that in. 

So here's the basic plan, minus the details:

Meanwhile, I've been having fun with the big stitch quilting on my little door quilt. And I mean BIG stitch. I figured that since my usual hand quilting is with tiny stitches, I had to make it really different. So these stitches are about a quarter inch--maybe even a smidge more. It's a relaxing take-along project, or deck project, or sit and watch TV project, but I think I prefer tiny quilting stitches. And I'm having trouble deciding if I'm finished. Does it need more? More lines in the petals? More lines in the crosshatching? I don't know. So I think I'll do the binding next and then decide. It might just be time to hang it up and be done. Of course, then I'll have to piece another little something because I'll be out of take-along projects for the rest of the summer and fall. What a problem to have, huh? (I won't call that a squirrel because take-along projects are essential.)

So, what else besides summer stitching? Yesterday we celebrated Independence Day with a lovely rails-to-trails bike ride between two towns a little northwest of where we live. It was a gorgeous ride--much of it through a recreation area where there are no roads to cross. It alternated between well-packed crushed limestone and asphalt, so an easy ride. Both towns have old rail stations. One has been turned into a hair salon. The other is a museum run by the town's historical society. The museum was closed when we parked our car there at the beginning of the ride, but by the time we got back it was opening. The members of the historical society were eager to take us on a tour to share the station's story as well as all the local items they have collected over the years. And at the end, there was ice cream!! What a fun way to end our ride. I love tiny towns and exploring their history. 

Here are some pictures of our ride:
Lots of bridges and views of the river that meanders near the trail. 
And tiny details we saw along the way:

And the train stations:
The station on the top left is the one that is now a hair salon. I peeked in the window. It looks pretty much as it probably always did inside--except for simple cabinets with salon chairs. I'm glad they haven't modernized it. Glary picture through the glass, but look at that floor. Hexie inspiration, anyone?

The caboose was parked at the station turned historical museum. Look, a barn caboose quilt!

Railroad Crossing block, of course! It turns out there is a barn quilt trail in the three counties nearby. I had no idea, but the historical society had a brochure with a map to find them. (Of course!)

I'm linking up today with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social. Happy summer quilting, everyone, if you live in my hemisphere, and cozy winter quilting for the rest of you!