Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Lighthouses. Tiny piecing. Last week I had a little time on my hands. Time to put those two things together. 

When we were in the upper peninsula of Michigan recently, our cabin was across from St. Helena Island, which is a nature preserve with a lighthouse on it that has been renovated in recent years by a Boy Scout troop and other supportive volunteers. We did not go to the island (it requires special arrangements), but we could see the lighthouse in the distance on a bright day, and its winking light at night. 

Here's how it looked in a picture hanging in our cabin

and in silhouette on the end of the island in a grainy blow-up from my cell phone

The lighthouse is of the same design as another lighthouse that we visited last fall: East Tawas Point. (For anyone who cares, in my post a few weeks ago, I mistakenly said that 40-Mile Point Lighthouse is also of that design. It's actually Sturgeon Point Lighthouse.) Anyway, while we were on vacation I bought a foundation paper-pieced pattern of the East Tawas Point Lighthouse (published by Presque Isle Needleworks) as well as a scrap of sky print fabric because it was so like the skies we had on our vacation. I decided to make it in the colors of St Helena to commemorate our vacation.

While I was between major quilting projects (waiting for a fabric order to arrive), I had thought of making a little strip quilt, but on impulse, I pulled out the lighthouse pattern. I think I knew that if I didn't make it now, it would end up in a drawer somewhere.  And just like that, it was done!

I love making quilts of structures. I usually make my own patterns and I use abstract print fabrics rather than "literal" prints, so this was a bit of a departure for me. But it was fun. Of course, I had to go and mess with the pattern a bit to make it mine. I added window frames and shutters to the windows on the house, and I reworked the top of the lighthouse to make it a daytime rather than nighttime view. I also added just a bit more detail to the embroidery that was suggested on the pattern. I studied lots of pictures of the St. Helena lighthouse online to make changes to the colors. I have no idea exactly how the lighthouse looks currently, but this quilt depicts it fairly closely, I think, in its original colors. There is vegetation that hides much of the tower today from this angle, but I left all of that out. 

I had been planning to do FMQ quilting, but in the end, I quilted the whole quilt with my walking foot. Here's a picture in lower light so you can see the details.

It so happens that when I did my last project with a walking foot, I lightened the pressure of the presser foot a lot so that the machine wouldn't drag and distort the quilt. The pressure is now so light that it just barely holds onto the fabric, but this made it possible for me to quilt pretty tight curves around the clouds on the lighthouse quilt. I was really pleased about this. I think I'll call this style Free Motion Walking Foot quilting. (If no one else has coined that--ha!) The rest of the quilting is sort of a folksy style to suggest brick work/siding, and cedar shakes. I had to restrain myself from getting too detailed. 

Here's how the quilt looks from the back (sort of a wet sand look to the fabric)
 and enhanced in low light. You can also see how I attached the hanger bits.
My tension wasn't always that great, but no matter. It's a wall hanging. 
Here are some of the details.
The flower material is left over from a quilt I made a long time ago for my daughter's bedroom (now our guest room).

When it was time to bind the quilt, I chose a piece that reminds me of the state stone of Michigan--the Petoskey Stone, a fossilized coral found along the shores of northwestern Lake Michigan. (There weren't any of these where we were, but still--a Michigan connection.)
Here's what the stone looks like dry:
and polished.
Here's the binding:
I also used that same fabric wrong side up for the foundation of the lighthouse. 

As an added touch, I sewed a button from the button collection I purchased five years ago from ceramic artist Sandra Lance. I thought it balanced the other reds in the picture. These kinds of buttons have become a sort of signature for me in my pictorial quilts. 
So that's my little project. Because of some of the realistic prints, it's a little "cuter" than my usual pictorial quilts. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it's a fun reminder of our vacation. I have it hanging on a hook near the inside of our front door for the time being. I'm thinking that someday I'll make another version with the colors of the East Tawas lighthouse--maybe in solids. 

The whole quilt is 12 1/2 inches square--actually bigger than I anticipated. (I thought at first that the dimensions on the packet included the border). The sky fabric is Landscape Medley Cloudy Sky in light blue from Elizabeth's Studio. The rest are scraps. The quilting threads are whatever thread (quilting or otherwise) I had on-hand that matched the fabrics. The batting is a scrap of Quilter's Dream Select.

The best thing I learned while making this quilt is that I can do Free Motion quilting with my Walking Foot--within reason, of course!

I'm linking up this week with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social and with Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop. Oh, and this is a DrEAMi, isn't it? So with Sandra at mmm!quilts at the end of next week.

Okay, now back to my regular quilting. I just finished a top! Now to plan the back.

I hope you are having a good quilting week working on projects big or small, planned or unplanned. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Mariposa Quilt

Now that the quilt is in the tiny hands of its new owner, I can finally share what I've been up to this summer. The Mariposa Quilt! 

Due to a complicated pregnancy my little grand niece was born about six weeks early by plan. She's teeny, tiny but a mighty mite, and was able to come home after only 9 days in the NICU. While they were waiting for her arrival, her parents referred to her as Mariposa (Butterfly in English). That's not her real name, but what a fun before-birth name. So, of course, my niece suggested butterflies for a quilt theme. She also gave me the name of the nursery paint color (Silver Drop by Behr--a warm, pale gray) and a photo of the Turkish style rug. Based on the style and colors in the rug, I thought batiks might be fun. I checked with my niece, and she agreed. I was glad because not everyone is a fan of batik. 

My first step was choosing a pattern. I had seen a lot of quilts online, and thought for sure I wanted to make a cute paper pieced pattern of charm sized blocks. I'm sure you've seen it. But it had a lot of pieces and I would need a lot of blocks. I wasn't sure about that. The morning that I was going to begin prepping the papers, another pattern popped up in my Pinterest suggestions. Bingo! There it was. Butterfly Dance by Nadra Ridgeway of ellisandhiggs. There are two versions of the pattern. I chose the mini. Then I went shopping.

I bought nine pairs of colorful eighth-yard cuts (dark/light) and one of a brown "body" color. Yeah, eighth-yard cuts--they love me at quilt shop cutting counters. 

I was hoping to find a whitish batik for the background, but they all had either yellow or blue tones, so I found a subtle tone-on-tone non-batik fabric (Glorious Hummingbirds in cream by Jackie Robinson for Benartex) that looked much like the paint chip I had of the room color. The design in it barely shows, but does add interest close up. 

The pattern is not paper pieced and uses sew-and-flip corners to make triangles for the wings. Easy peasy. (I do have lots of triangle snips left over. Not sure what I'll do with them. Please don't judge if I toss them.)
Just a few of 'em.
The layout was super easy, too. The butterflies are on an angle (not quite on-point) but are sewn into squares for a straight layout. In the mini, four butterflies are arranged so that they are flying in a circle, with a finished size of 15 1/2 inches.

After I started sewing blocks, I decided that I wanted one more set of colors in an inky blue. I added those in and really didn't think of it that those would make the quilt quite big, but I don't mind. I usually make fairly large quilts for babies (by baby standards) because then they can use them for quite a long time. So instead of a square quilt, it is a rectangle with the equivalent of 14 mini quilts altogether. 

I did add a little detail to the pattern. Since it is a child's quilt, I decided to add just a little more color by putting sew and flip triangles of the lighter colors in the corner of each block. These made little diamonds across the quilt among the butterflies. 

I had a lot of background fabric left when I was finished with the top, but not quite enough for a back, so I needed to make a quick trip back to the fabric store. I bought the rest of the bolt, but it was still not enough to make a nice back without awkward seams, so I made giant blocks instead with large versions of the diamonds using both the lighter and darker colorful leftovers. It didn't take very long to make, and really, I like the process of making pieced backs. Its more improvisational than the work I usually do on the front of the quilt. It seems like I can get them to lie flatter for quilting than when I use just one fabric. I'm not sure why that is, but I seem to be able to get them more taut when basting. 

For quilting I repeated the "Piedmont" quilting I used on my Hexie Quilt. I think I really got the idea from Jacquie Gering's first Walking Foot quilting tutorial on Craftsy. On the Hexie Quilt, I spaced the lines one inch apart. This time I spaced them 3/4 inch apart. I think they look sort of like the flight paths of butterflies. I remember I had a little trouble keeping my curves even on the previous quilt (the needle, not the guide, needs to be lined up with the previous line), so before I started quilting this one, I looked up some ideas online to remedy that. I found this little tutorial that shows how to use a paper clip to "lengthen" the guide on the walking foot to be more in line with the needle. Here's what my modification looks like:

I think if I did this again, I'd make the paper clip part a smidge longer, but it worked pretty well. 

On my recent vacation Up North, I bought a piece of multicolored batik, thinking I would work it into the back of the quilt somehow, but when I got home I realized that it would be perfect for the binding, as it has a lot of colors from the main part of the quilt, but it's quiet enough to let the butterflies shine. 

If you look closely, you can see my initials and date

Okay, here are the stats and then we'll take the quilt out on a little field trip for a photo shoot in the wild. (Or in the cultured, as this was on a college campus.)

Pattern: Butterfly Dance Mini by Nadra Ridgeway, with an added little diamond detail by me. Multiplied original number of blocks by 14.
Fabrics: 22 assorted batik prints (Sorry, I did not keep track of all the info on those bolts, and sadly, there is never info on the selvage of batiks); Glorious Hummingbirds in cream by Jackie Robinson for Benartex. 
Batting: Hobbs Premium Cotton 80/20 
Thread:  Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing, King Tut for quilting--I think it's Temple (white), but it could be White Linen. I remember waffling on that and forgot to write it down. 
Binding: Cut 2 1/2 inches wide and folded in half; 3/8 inch finished; hand stitched to back.
Size: 53 by 60 1/2 inches pieced; 53 by 60 1/4 inches quilted; 51 by 58 1/2 inches after washing.  
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 Treadle for walking foot quilting.  

On summer evenings, Michigan State University has carillon concerts. People take their lawn chairs, and maybe a picnic, and hang out on under the big trees to hear some pretty music. I took the quilt with to get some photos before one of the concerts. First, the BIG tree.

I can't even get the whole tree in the picture. It makes the quilt look like a postage stamp. 

I like how the front shadows through on this one. 
This area is usually lush, but we were in the middle of a drought.
After the concert, we wandered over to a bronze piece of art--Twyla made by Bill Barrett, inspired by his granddaughter as well as the dancer Twyla Tharp. I liked the idea of photographing the quilt here, but wasn't quite sure how to drape it to show off both the statue and the quilt.

On our way back to our car, we stopped in a campus garden for just a few more photos.

And on the newly installed bridge railing by the parking lot.

I didn't get any photos at home after washing the quilt because the weather was dismal, but that precious baby had her two-week photo taken on the quilt this week after it arrived in the mail. I'll show just a bit of her (to protect her privacy), but there she is on her washed quilt. For some perspective, those butterflies are 5 1/2 inches wide by 4 1/4 inches. 

So this quilt is one of the reasons I've been kind of quiet online this summer. It was made during a time of concern for the welfare of this little baby and her mother. There are lots of prayers in every stitch and we are so thankful that she is a strong, healthy baby. After she was born, my brother (her grandfather) told me that the night before her birth, he had a dream that his daughter was in the operating room and there were butterflies flying all around the room. Doesn't that give you the shivers?!

I'm linking up today with Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop Friday

Now I need to get back to my other secret sewing for the summer. I hope your summer and summer sewing are going well--whatever you are celebrating. 

(I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products, services, or stores I'm just documenting what I used or liked.) 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Churn Dash

Here I am continuing my TBT series this year of posts about quilts I quilted during my tiny quilting career in the 1980's and early 90's. For the previous posts, click on the label "my tiny career" on the right sidebar or below this post. These quilts were all made by Becky Schaefer from antique fabrics. She hired me to hand quilt them--a dream job. All quilting was done with off-white cotton thread. This month, in honor of summer, I'm showing Churn Dash quilts. I remember summer trips to visit working farm museums in years past, and they often had butter churning exhibits. I associate this quilt pattern with those trips. Many of Becky's miniature quilts had muslin backs, but some of the ones for this month have interesting antique fabrics, so I'll show backs when I have photos of them. At first glance, the quilts seem similar to each other, but there are subtle differences in the details, so I'll highlight those and, as usual, include any information I have about size, amount of thread used for quilting, and--since this serves as a way to document my tiny quilting career--the date of completion.  

First off, who doesn't like a blue and white quilt? This one is 16 1/2 by 20 1/2 inches. I like the tiny background prints on this one for good proportion and the border print. That looks like quilting with colored thread, but it's really part of the print. 

I quilted it with stylized flowers and outline quilting in the background squares and triangles and a delicate vine in the border. I used 23 1/3 yards thread, completing the quilting in January 1987. The back is a very light weight woven blue check. 
The next quilt, in brown and rust, is notable for an on-point layout and a fussy cut striped border with a chain design that looks like additional "'shadow"' borders or stitching. I outlined behind the dashes and quilted feather circles in the tan background squares and triangles. I like the variety of rusts. This quilt is 9 1/2 by 12 1/2 inches. 7 1/3 yards of thread for quilting. Completed in March 1987.  
The back is muslin. 
Here's another on-point brown and rust quilt. This one has a tiny fussy cut inner border. The color value selection changes the whole look of the blocks even though the design is Churn Dash. I bet that this arrangement also goes by other names. More feather circles here. It's 9 3/4 by 12 1/4 inches, quilted with 3 5/6 yards of thread (picky, picky measurement of thread!), and was completed in March 1987. 
The back is a snippet of antique fabric that coordinates with the front. 
Next is a black and blue version--more Amish style. I love how that double inner border contrasts with the outer border. It's 8 3/4 by 11 1/4 inches. 4 yards of thread for quilting. Completed in May 1987. Feathered circles in black this time--quilting that's hard on the eyes!!
More blue woven check for the back. 
More rust. This is one of my favorites. I love the scrappiness and every-which-way stripes and checks and well as the dark sashing. It's 10 3/4 by 13 1/8 inches. No thread measurement available for this one. I finished the quilting in May 1989.
I outline quilted behind the dashes, which emphasized the sashing in the muslin on the back. 
This brown and cream quilt is notable for the contrasting grayish setting triangles. It's a little bigger than many of the other quilts at 16 1/4 by 19 inches. There's that "shadow" border again. More feather circles and straight lines following the setting triangles for quilting, which used up 10 yards of thread. I finished this one in July 1989.
This one has a really fragile paisley design in the antique backing.
A different color scheme. It looks so structured with the red sashing, but look at those wonky plaids. Aren't they fun? And the subtle echoing of the colors in the border. Swoon worthy, no? This one is 11 1/8 by 14 3/4 inches. The quilting is outlining in the background--9 yards' worth. Finished in July 1989. 
I do like how the muslin backing shows off the quilting. 
I don't have any information on this next one. Too bad because it is quite different from the others with its lavender/pastel color scheme.The important thing to note in this quilt is what I think makes miniatures successful: the scale of the prints--tiny florals, plaids and checks, and those geometric designs in the background that coordinate perfectly with other colors in the quilt. And that tiny inner border is just the right spark. I'm guessing that this quilt is similar to the large quilt above--about 16 by 19 inches, but what makes this one a real standout is the piecing instead of plain fabric in the setting triangles. Amazing. It looks like with all that piecing going on, the quilting is just outlining in the background. 
I do have a back photo of this quilt--another delicate little print. 
Three more quilts. I have no information recorded on any of these, either, which means they were quilted near the end of my tiny career. Still worth sharing, though. They are all proportionally about the same size as the quilts shown above. Isn't that bright red/dark brown striking? It's outline quilted in the background. 
The only medallion style quilt. Wonky plaids again. The colors and designs work so well in this. Look at that multi-striped mitered border and how the red design in it picks up so well on the red sashing. Outline quilting in the light backgrounds and double outlining in the points of the triangles. 
This last is a very poor photo, but the only one I have. There was border all the way around. I'm sharing it because I like the combination of rust and gray, and of course, the plaids and stripes. It has simple outline quilting similar to the quilt above. 
I think these quilts are a fun representation of old fabrics and old color schemes of quilts. Maybe they also inspire you to take another look at the Churn Dash pattern--whether to reproduce a traditional style quilt or to take the pattern in a new direction. 

With school starting for many children in the next few weeks, guess what the theme will be for next month's TBT. Ha, and you thought I was done documenting my tiny quilting career. No, no, no. Not yet. 

Now I feel like eating some bread with fresh butter. I wonder why. 

I'm linking up with Sandra at mmm! quilts for Throwback Thursday. Go there and share your pre-blogging-days quilts and read about others. There are always some great stories.