Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hollyhocks Top Finish

I finished the Hollyhocks quilt top (Ruth B. McDowell pattern) this past weekend and pieced together a back from some fat quarters I bought recently at a sidewalk sale. I wanted the quilt to have a cottage-y feel to it, so I chose what I think of as traditional fabrics for the background. I decided to add borders (which, I guess, go with the traditional look), piecing together random lengths of the same fabrics I used in the leaves, and then adding more of the background fabrics so that each pattern extended to the edge. I really cut it close, using up almost all of two of the background fabrics. Here's the front with the batting peeking out behind it. It's about 23 by 57 inches. (The lower third of the photo is more accurate in color than the upper part.)

To make the back, I pieced together 6 fat quarters, staggering them to make the most of the blue/green print. I had originally planned to use it on the front, but it just wasn't looking right to me. So I guess this quilt is, like a mullet haircut, "business in the front, party in the back." Maybe? There's a bit of print in those light colored fabrics, too, but they didn't photograph well. I'll try to get a close-up of them when I take the final pictures after quilting.
Here's what I had left from two of the front prints. I've already found a use for the lower print in my Lake Michigan quilt. Maybe a bit of the batik will show up there, too. We'll see.  

I've pin basted the quilt, and I have to make some decisions about quilting thread. Then it's going into my take-along bag to hand quilt on vacations and during other times away from home. It might be awhile before you see the whole thing again, but we'll see. 

Now I'm back to auditioning fabrics for the foreground of the Lake Michigan quilt, but I'm not getting much done this week. It just doesn't feel right to do whatever I want or need to do--whether it's sewing, taking a walk to the library, buying groceries or making a meal--when there are thousands of people in dire straits in the Houston, Texas area who can't do any of those things. I've spent way too much time watching TV, and that doesn't feel right either. It's like disaster as "entertainment," but watching the rescues does keep the victims and their rescuers in my mind and keeps me offering prayers even though it's hard to know how to pray in a situation like this. I am in awe of the people working seemingly tirelessly (but I'm sure actually to the point of exhaustion) to rescue others and provide a safe place for them, and I am heartbroken for the victims and all they have lost. I know that the best help from afar right now is donations to charitable organizations that can provide tangible support, but it doesn't seem like enough. 

I'll leave you with some pictures I took on a bike ride last week because I feel the need to try to end this with some sort of beauty in the midst of despair. We rode to a city garden not far from our old neighborhood. It was built in the 1920's, I think. There is a rose garden, a pergola with an overlook, and a big grassy area that can be used for events such as weddings. We had heard rumors that it was in disrepair, but were happily surprised to see that it is still being cared for and even improved. The "roof" of the pergola has been replaced, and new wisteria vines are being guided to the top. Flowers in some areas of the garden were spent, but there were plenty of beautiful blooms left. 


I'm linking up today with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hollyhocks and more

Summer is in full swing. We've spent time with family, done some fun daycare, gone on some it! So it's a perfect time to spend on smallish quilt projects--mostly in the evenings. I've been focusing on my Hollyhocks quilt (pattern by Ruth B. McDowell). I have all of the flowers made, and two of the leaves. I have two more leaves and a set of buds to go and then the background. It is such a fun puzzle!!
The blocks will get moved around a bit with some turned, but this is the general layout so far. I had intended to stick with stash for this quilt, but caved in to some purchases. I had a couple of Grunge fabrics and went to the store to supplement with one more. but then I couldn't decide between three. So what's a girl to do? Why, buy a bit of all three, of course. 
I'm glad I did. There are subtle differences that made it work to use all three. I wish I knew the names of the colors. I looked at the bolt ends, and all they said was something like "new color" or "new product." I should have taken pictures to check the fabric numbers to help ID them. Oh, well. Here's a close up of one flower:

I also bought some neutral/green fabrics for the background of the flowers. I'm not sure how they'll go with the overall background, but I'll worry about play with that later. 

Here's a general idea of the progression from pattern to flower in freezer paper piecing:

I love how the mess of letter codes, highlighting, grain lines, and tick marks come together to make a wonderful puzzle and precisely pieced block. Prep time takes awhile, but the sewing goes so fast!

Here's how a leaf looks in progress, back and front:

It's the bottom block in the layout at the top of the post. I did change the middle leaf after I sewed it together to get a little more contrast. It was easy to pick out a couple of seams and reuse the freezer paper pattern to fit the new piece in. That's what I love about this technique. It's easy to lay out a block to see how it will look and to redo parts. (Usually I make changes before sewing so I don't have to pick out seams, though.) Yea for me--I did use greens from my stash (except one Grunge). Some are super old!!

In the last couple of weeks, I also finished the sky on my Lake Michigan quilt. 

I was going to do the foreground of the sand first, but wasn't feeling inspired, so the sky it was. I added one new piece of fabric that I got at a sidewalk sale last week, but otherwise all of the sky is from my stash. Those clouds gave me fits! I messed around for a long time. The song "Both Sides Now" kept going through my head as I fiddled around with cloud shape and placement, especially, " It's clouds' illusion I recall. I really don't know clouds at all." All together now. Sing it with me. It's true. I see clouds every day. But I just haven't paid that much attention to how they look. I finally decided that it didn't matter and settled on shapes and an arrangement that I liked. Since then, I've been hyper-aware of clouds--and we've had a whole week of really interesting formations. What a treat! Soon I'll tackle that foreground--maybe after I finish the hollyhocks. 

A couple more things to share. The other day we were at an antique/thrift store that we like to check in with occasionally. There was a pile of stuff that had just been dropped off from what looked like someone's estate or moving sale leftovers. On top were two bags of batting.

One king size and one almost crib size (a bit cut off) I shamelessly looked them over carefully and stuck my nose in the bags to make sure they didn't have any funky smell. They were fine! So I asked how much they cost. $2.00 for both!!! Score! I will be able to make 4 throw quilts and a wall hanging or several minis. The clerk didn't know what they were, and when I said "batting," he pointed me to a vintage sewing machine that had come in. 

He said he couldn't open it because there was no key, and he didn't want to damage the case. (Good for him!) I was just curious enough that I went online that night to find out how to open the lock without a key. It turns out that all you need is a super skinny 3mm flat head screw driver. The next day I went back to the store armed with my knowledge and a screw driver, told the clerk what I had found out, and opened the case. (Actually, my husband opened the case. He had a better touch than I with the screwdriver.) Inside was a pretty 99 Singer from around 1928. 

It was electric with a solid hand wheel. Nice, but I restrained myself. If it had been a hand crank or had a spoked wheel I would have grabbed it. (I keep wondering how much it would have cost.) I left it on display with the case open. I hope someone else who will love it finds it. I think Bonnie K Hunter would be proud of me for displaying it instead of closing the top again. She always advises to free machines up for display when you find them hidden away in antique shops so someone will buy them and give them a good home. I keep thinking about it...

I'm linking up today with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social. I hope your summer (or winter if you're on the other side of the world from me) is giving you time for fun little projects. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Coins Finish!

Ah, I love a finish. And this one's been a long time coming. Deconstructed Coins is officially a quilt. I've been working on this one off and on since February. If you want to read about how I made it, please check out the Deconstructed Coins label at the bottom of this post or on the right sidebar. It's quite different, I think, because it's made from fabric sample panels. Anyway, let's get to some pictures first and then I'll give you the details and a few thoughts. 
My favorite photos first, and then a whole bunch of the usual kinds:

This is Casseopeia, a bronze statue made by Nancy Leiserowitz. She sits on the sidewalk along the shops in East Lansing MI across from Michigan State University (notice the T- shirts in the window). I've been wanting to photograph a quilt here for a long time, and this seemed like the right one. She's a bit broody looking. Maybe this quilt will cheer her up. The setting doesn't do her justice, but I smile every time I walk by. Her daughter Andromeda dances in the median strip in the nearby street. Sometime I'll get a good photo of her, too. 

 And the obligatory fence pictures:

I tried to take these during the shadiest part of the day, but the sun still peeked through, making those faded looking spots in the middle. 

And some indoor views.

A few close-ups. I have a ton so I can remember all these little coins. I'll just show three:

Here are the details:
Dates constructed: Begun February 2017; finished July 2017
Pattern: Original design, inspired by fabric panels from Hawthorne Threads, a challenge by the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters (hosted by Kaja of Sew Slowly and Ann of Fret Not Yourself) to make an improvisational "coins" quilt, and with many thanks to Louise of My Quilt Odyssey for suggesting using a navy fabric to set off the coins from the sashing. 
Fabrics: Digitally printed fabric sample panels from Hawthorne Threads (Forest Fables, Roam and Norwegian Wood). I cut apart the 96 coin-shaped images and used them all.
Solid fabrics: Hawthorne Threads in Smoke; Kona in Tan (on back), Shale, Silver, Light Parfait, Dusty Peach, Medium Pink (on back), Primrose, Salmon, Curry, Aqua, and Prussian; Moda in Fog; one other medium blue fabric that is a mystery to me. Nearly all of the solid fabrics were from my stash. The printed panels were included in a giveaway from Hawthorne Threads last year. 
Batting: Hobbs Premium 80/20
Backing: Improv pieced from leftovers.
Thread: Superior Masterpiece cotton in Granite for piecing; Superior King Tut cotton in White Linen for quilting.
Binding: 2 1/2 inch wide Prussian, folded in half for scant 3/8 inch binding.
Quilting: Walking foot, straightish lines in dark blue areas, wavy in the rest of the quilt.
Size: 63 3/4 by 51 inches pieced; 62 1/4 by 49 1/2 quilted; 59 3/4 by 46 1/2 machine washed on cold, machine dried on low.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 Treadle for quilting.

And now a few thoughts on making this quilt (there are lots more thoughts on the process in my previous posts), and then one last photo:
1. I really enjoyed participating in this Improv challenge. It took me a long time to make the quilt, but I learned that going slowly kept me interested and not frustrated when I wasn't sure what to do next. I don't think the actual hands-on time was that long. I managed to make or finish at least 7 other completely different kinds of projects at the same time. The variety was a good thing. 
2. My Improv is more structured (less free form?) than many improv pieces I've seen, but that fits well with my usual quilt-making style and preferences. At first I thought I should try to free things up more, but that's not me--and this is still improv. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do when I started, but really didn't know where it would go. 
3. I relied on rotary cutting to square up sections as I put the pieces together and I usually cut strips of roughly similar sizes for the parts of the sashing. I also made bits and pieces, waiting to join them until I saw how they fit with what I had already made. 
4. I could not resist making little rules for myself as the design developed. I had to use all of the coins. I placed all of the coins directionally so that the images are "right side up" and the quilt layout is horizontal (it is meant to be used as a hug around the shoulders). I cut all of the little strips in the coins one inch wide. I made the sashing blocks with either rectangles split in half horizontally, rectangles with a horizontal strip down the middle with an imbedded rectangle, or squares. In the sashing, I limited use of the Smoke fabric to the tiny rectangles. 
5. This was my first time using digitally printed fabric. I was a little unsure of it at the beginning. It is a poplin with a high thread count and tight weave. But that made it easy to cut without fraying, and my sewing machines loved it for both piecing and quilting. After washing, it was just as soft as the rest of the fabrics. 

I have come to love this little quilt and it will be hard to let it go. I have taken lots more pictures so that I can remember every bit of it, and that will help. It's going to a wonderful cause--Margaret's Hope Chest, which provides quilts to women in the Mother and Baby Program at Pine Rest Hospital. It will serve as a hug around the shoulders of a mother during therapy sessions to recover from perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.  

Okay, one more look, in the gardens at the university:

I'm linking up today with Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday. Tomorrow I'll also link up with Kathy at Kathy's Kwilts and More for TGIFF and with Ann at Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop. On the 22nd I'll link up with Kaja and Ann for Ad Hoc Improv Quilters. And I suspect that in September I'll link up with Crazy Mom Quilts when she gets back from her blog time off. There are buttons for most of these on the side, but I'll update the links as they become active.

In the meantime, keep quilting, and I will, too!