Saturday, September 29, 2018

CRCNA Quilt Block

I was just finishing a quilt this week--yes I was sewing the binding to the back by hand--when I got an email from one of the ministry directors of my church. She had attached a request for quilt blocks for a group quilt for one of our denominational offices. A block request? Oh, yes. That squirrel got me to chase it right then and there.

I belong to a rather small protestant denomination called the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA, for short).  As a binational denomination, it comprises about 1000 congregations in the US and Canada and has denominational offices in both countries. This year, the Canadian office in Burlington, Ontario, has been undergoing a renovation, and the staff is now collecting artwork for the decor. One piece of art they would like to display is a quilt made by members of the domination to reflect the diversity and breadth of membership and symbolize a "welcoming embrace" to all who worship.

The requested block is a simple one--a log cabin with a large, rich purple center (centre, in Canada, eh?) square to represent Christ the King as the center of hearts, homes and churches. The rest of the block is up to the maker, with four light and four dark logs. 

Here is my completed block. 

Picking out the purple square was easy for me, as I don't have many fabrics of that color to pick from. I chose Marbella Purple from the Wanderlust Collection by Paula Nadelstern for Benartex. (I had won this in a giveaway awhile back. Thanks, Sandra!) At first I was going to use other gorgeous fabrics from this line because they are all so pretty together, but then I slowed down to become more intentional about what colors I wanted to use. I thought about what colors were meaningful to my congregation, and decided to focus primarily on the liturgical colors we use to celebrate the different seasons of the church year. These colors also appear in a set of five stained glass windows our church commissioned a few years ago. (You can see the windows here at Conrad Schmitt Studios, Inc if you'd like.) The colors also appear in various shades in the ministry logos on our church bulletin and other printed materials. 

I auditioned a lot of different fabrics to get the mix I wanted, and in a short time, my work space went from this:
to this: 

Squirrels are messy!!

I'd like to say this took no time at all. After all, it is just a log cabin block. But in truth, it took me the better part of an afternoon and evening, auditioning fabrics and then making sure my block was square, precise, and (always an issue when I'm sending a block to someone else) neat on the back as I sewed. 

My favorite part of the block is the little butterfly in the middle of the top log. I found it as I was searching through pale blue scraps, and it immediately reminded me of the year our sanctuary was decorated with ethereal butterflies for Easter as a symbol of resurrection and transformation. 

I hope this block uniquely represents my congregation as part of the denominational quilt. A quilter in Edmonton, Alberta, will be making the quilt from the diverse blocks. I hope she receives lots of blocks from across the two countries. (And hey, if you are a quilter and happen to attend one of the CRCNA churches, I hope you are participating.) I'm looking forward to seeing a photo of the whole quilt when it's finished. 

I'm linking up with Sandra at mmm! quilts today for her DrEAMi (Drop Everything And Make it) linky party because this certainly was an insistent little squirrel. I'm glad I chased it. 
And I do have a finish this week (nearly 3 years from the beginning!), but I'll save it to share next week. 

Have a good weekend! (And watch out for squirrels.)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Dark Blue

Another month, another Rainbow Scrap Challenge color. 
I knew I'd have these done early in the month.
I was Gramma nesting, waiting for our new grandson to make his appearance. 
I actually had the strips cut before the month even started. It was a lucky guess that the color would be dark blue.

I had plenty of fabrics to work with, many from very long ago. (So many memories in these scraps.)
I didn't think I would like working with a dark color, but it was actually easier to find outlier colors for these blocks than for some of the others--I guess because there was such good contrast.
I got them all finished in a day or so, and then zoomed on to dark green. You know how it is with nesting. Keep busy, keep busy. Waiting, waiting.
I'm not going to show you the dark green blocks, yet. That would not be appropriate.

In my rush, I forgot to make a collage this month of all of the colors so far. 

But I did make a whole quilt top with half of my RSC18 blocks. How's that for nesting?
Our grandson arrived a week early, or that top might even have been quilted. I will wait to show you the whole thing until after the October blocks are revealed, but here's a peek at a bit of it. The layout is much simpler and more sedate than the ones I played with throughout the year, but I like it. 
For the last week and a half, we've been enjoying cuddling our grandson and seeing how sweet his older brother is with him. Now we are home again. (It is oddly quiet.) My nesting feeling is gone, but wow, what a productive time it was! 

The air is distinctively autumnish here today--right on schedule. What a wonderful time of year to have a bunch of blocks done to make into cozy quilts.

I'm linking up today with Angela at SoScrappy for ScrapHappy Saturday. Tomorrow I'll link up with Cynthia at Quilting is more fun than Housework for Oh Scrap! 

I hope your scraps have been fun for you this month. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Baby's here! (Plaid!)

Our new grandson is here! He arrived on Monday, a week ahead of schedule. Well, really, babies have their own schedules, don't they? Mommy, Daddy and Baby A came home on Tuesday, and big brother E couldn't be more excited. (Although he did ask when A will start "doing stuff.") We're excited, too! We had a fun time waiting with E for A to be born and welcoming A home.

So now I can share A's quilt. 

When I was a kid, and other kids in church were passing time by daydreaming, counting ceiling tiles, or (my husband) imagining a ball ricocheting around the sanctuary, I was studying the plaid of the shirts or dresses in front of me. (Confession: I still do it. But only before the service starts or during the offertory. Well, maybe other times, too. And for the record, there were four plaid shirts near me the day I started writing this post.) The thing that was fascinating to me was how the main colors of the plaid changed when they crossed each other--transparency, I guess, but I didn't know that term when I was a kid. I have long wanted to try "making" plaid in a quilt. This was the time to do it. I found a few patterns online, but they weren't always true plaids (the colors weren't really mixed and I had trouble picturing how that would work), so I decided to draw my own pattern. 

First, I picked four colors from my Kona "chips." I know there are five here, but I was waffling at the time. Limelight (the top chip) won out for the yellow green. The nursery carpet is dark blue and the walls are a light yellow green. 

I used several internet sites to figure out what colors would result from mixing these. I'm sure there is a program that I don't have access to that would have done it easily. But nothing technological is ever easy for me. I took photos of my chips and tried to get hex codes for them and then used a color mixing program to figure out the mix. It was a lot of trial and error, but eventually, these are what I came up with:

You can see that I was still waffling here. Eventually, I looked at them in grayscale to make sure that the values of the secondary colors weren't darker than the colors I started with. I was really surprised at the secondary colors that turned up. That's what's so neat about plaid. Ultimately, I chose the lighter green on the left and lighter greenish/aqua on the top.

After I had some idea of colors, I colored a design possibility on graph paper.

Then I remembered that I could use my Quiltography app, which led to all sorts of possibilities. 


I eliminated the top two options, as I wanted something a little lighter, but I really wasn't sure which of the bottom two I liked better. However, I knew I wanted to place the blocks on-point. First I printed out the design, cut up the blocks and rearranged them. That was messy, though, and the little pieces kept falling off the tape I used to keep them on the paper. I knew there was an on-point option for layout on the program, but I thought that I could only do plain blocks between the patterned ones and in the setting triangles--until I accidentally clicked on a "plain" square and it filled in the pattern. Boom! I love learning how to do a new thing on that app, even if it is by accident. 

to this:
Much neater!

I ordered my fabric online to get all the colors I wanted. (The stores near me tend to carry just a basic collection of colors.) Because I wasn't sure which layout I was going to use, I ordered more of some colors than I would need. I also ordered two close shades of one color because I couldn't decide which to get. This is how stashes happen, right? To help me figure out which layout to use, I cut enough patches to start each one. I took lots of pictures and then consulted with my go-to advisers (husband and daughter).

We all agreed that we preferred the second one, but I had a problem with a couple of the fabrics. The grayish blue seemed a little too purple-gray and one of the yellowish green fabrics did not seem to have enough contrast with the other. A dig in my fabric bin uncovered a lighter yellow green that worked better, and was actually a better match to the nursery color. (I had forgotten I had it when I ordered the fabric). I went to a local fabric store hoping to find a grayish blue that would work better. I did find just the right color--but it was not a solid fabric; it was a Grunge print. Here's the thing, though: the back of the Grunge fabric was perfect (just a tiny bit brighter and bluer than my original pick), and the print did not show through from the front. So yes, my quilt is full of Grunge--but it's all on the inside. (Would you do that with a Grunge?? For a moment, I thought it would have been fun to use Grunge for the whole quilt. But that thought passed. Maybe on another one someday.)

Here's how things looked during construction. I made rows rather than blocks. That's a lotta chains, but it went fast.
Instead of making triangular shaped sections for the setting triangles, I used just enough patches on the outside edges to complete the sides. By sewing the rows together on the diagonal and then stay stitching the edge through the diagonal of each patch before basting the quilt, I avoided distortion. I waited to trim the quilt edge until after quilting. It worked really well, and I don't think I lost any points along the edges.
The little square at the top is the top left corner of the quilt. The right jagged diagonal is the top quilt edge, and the left diagonal is the left side of the quilt.
For the back, I had lots of extra fabric to use from the front. I had long admired the quilts I've seen that are sewn in strips and then cut with one section of the strips reversed, so that was my inspiration. I've seen these in various places, but the tutorial I saw was on Cluck, Cluck Sew, so that's the site I'll credit. I made one change. I had to include a block of Samson, the family dog. He also appears on A's big brother's quilt. (And, by the way, Baby A has passed the sniff test from Sam.) The pattern is a variation (longer snout) of a Dog Gone Cute block designed by Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts.

I had only a vague vision for the quilting. I knew I wanted to make the lines part of the "plaid." But beyond that, I wasn't sure how it would work. I started by quilting in the ditch (sort of) along each seam. That proved a bit tricky, as I had alternated the directions of the seam allowances when I pressed them so they would nest. That meant that the ditch kind of moved back and forth from seam to seam. Because of that, my stitches show a bit more on some patches than others. I also used a white quilting thread--not sure that was wise on solid colors. Quilting in the ditch was boring!! Oh, my. But I carried on, thinking good thoughts of the baby to come. Perhaps, if I had known, I would have quilted a quarter inch away from seam lines. Who knows? After I completed the ditch quilting, I added two parallel lines down the middles of the rows with white squares. I thought I would add more lines in the blue patches later, but I stopped myself from getting carried away. The quilting seemed to be enough to add texture and softness. I used the guide that came with my walking foot for quilting. My lines are far from straight--I still tend to wobble the quilt a smidge when I stop to move my hands (or when I resist moving my hands when I should or try to move them while quilting!)--but I've accepted that in my quilting. Just the way it is.
After washing

After washing

After washing
Okay, some stats:

Pattern: Front: my own design, drawn on graph paper and with the Quiltography app. Back: Inspired by a tutorial for Strip and Flip quilt on Cluck, Cluck, Sew; Variation of Dog Gone Cute block by Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts. Six sizes of patches: largest patch finishes at 3 1/2 inches square and smallest at 7/8 inches square. Quilt was laid out in diagonal rows rather than in blocks.
Fabrics: Kona Cotton in Snow, Prussian, Limelight, Jamaica, Celery, Malibu, Aloe, Laurel and Robin Egg. (For the record, colors considered and rejected were Cactus, Candy Green and Delft--I will have to make more quilts with them); Grunge by Basic Gray for Moda--it's one of the 30150 colors, possibly Delft or Heritage, but I'm uncertain.

Batting: Hobbs Premium Cotton 80/20 
Thread:  Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; King Tut in Temple (white) for quilting and Treasure in Little Prince (variegated blue) for hand sewing the binding. 
Binding: Cut 2 1/2 inches wide and folded in half; 3/8 inch finished; hand stitched to back.
Size: approximately 57 1/4 inches square pieced; 56 1/4 inches quilted; 54 1/2 inches after machine washing/drying.  

Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 Treadle for walking foot quilting.  

A quilt's not done until it's signed and dated.

What did I learn while making this quilt?
1. However clumsy I am with computer programs, I figured out how to use them to mix colors to make plaid. A big challenge, that task took much longer than actually making the quilt, but it was fun!
2. When you mix two colors the results can be unexpected! And the colors you start with tend to play a very small role in the overall colors of the plaid. Also, it's okay to make adjustments in the colors when you're not sold on the mix you picked.
3. I now know how to use my very basic computer quilt design program to lay out quilts on-point. I love how I keep expanding what I can do with a 15-dollar investment.
4. It's okay to use the back side of a pretty fabric. I've done that before on a small scale. But it was really hard to hide that delicious Grunge-ness. I think I just might have to make a Grunge "plaid" quilt.
5. It is possible to put a quilt on-point without stretching the edges out too much. It just takes a little care. Keeping whole patches intact along the edges, stay-stitching them, and trimming them after quilting can work very well. 
6. Figuring out plaid is a bit complicated for me, but I think I might like to try again--maybe with a more complex, asymmetrical plaid.
7. I love having a new grandbaby to quilt for!!

After I finished the quilt, we took it for a little bike ride on my favorite trail in town.

People keep adding little decorations to this trail. These little ladybugs were near this bench.
 And this little garden showed up since we were last here. Butterfly garden, maybe?

Evenings are still warm, but there is a hint of fall in the plants and the earlier sunset. Light was fading. Time to go home.

So, of course, now that A is here, I had to also take a picture of him on his new quilt. Just his feet, though. He's kind of a private person. He wasn't real thrilled about being unwrapped from his cozy cocoon, so we just snapped a quick picture and swaddled him up again for more cuddles. 

I hope you've had some fun finishes lately (quilts, babies, or otherwise) and that you tried or learned something new for you. 

Okay, now to make some burp cloths and crib sheets.

(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, September 6, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Schoolhouses

Since it is September (already!) I'm celebrating back-to-school for lots of families in my continuing 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. Most of these quilts were 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 I'm including a few other quilts because they fit the theme.

I love riding by old schoolhouses and am always happy to see ones that have been preserved, even if they have been repurposed. We do have one schoolhouse in our area that is still part of the public school system (since 1879). It is a beautiful two-color brick building that has been lovingly cared for. Last year there were 14 students attending. They have technology (and indoor plumbing), but the teaching is still one-room style with kids from kindergarten to fifth grade. 

So, let's get to these quilts that commemorate historic places of learning. I showed two of these quilts (with red borders) in my first TBT post about my tiny quilting career. I quilted several others of the same color scheme over the years, but let's see some other color schemes. I like this little brown and blue one with "floating" schoolhouses. Notice that one is the reverse of the others. What a fun detail! As usual, I'll include size, date quilted and amount of thread used for quilting, as it is my documentation of the quilts I worked on in my career. So this quilt is 8 by 10 1/2 inches. I quilted it in January 1987 with 2 2/3 yards of thread. 

As was typical with these little quilts, the back is muslin, with diagonal lines quilted in the background.

The next quilt has sashing between the schoolhouses. It is 8 1/4 by 11 inches. Quilted in January 1987 with 3 1/2 yards of thread. I'm really struck by the antique fabrics used in the borders of these tiny quilts and by the variation of patterns in the fabrics even though the colors are similar. I'm guessing at that time green was green and brown was brown--limited range of dye for each particular color. 

Here's the back of this one, again diagonal lines within the sashing strips. I won't show backs of others (don't want you to fall asleep) as my quilting did not change from one quilt to another in these layouts.

Here are some more. Just sit back and enjoy those tiny bits of colors and patterns. They are a fun collection of antique fabrics. 
Notice the subtle variation in the background fabrics of the blocks. 8 1/4 by 11 inches; 3 1/2 yards of quilting thread; quilted in January 1987

I think of lighted windows on this one and the next. This one's slightly bigger. 9 1/4 by 11 3/4 inches; 4 yds 6 inches of quilting thread; March 1987.

8 3/4 by 11 inches; 3 yards of thread; March 1989.
This next quilt includes an alphabet stencil. The picture cuts off some of the border, but the quilt is 10 1/2 inches square. 4 2/3 yards of quilting thread; April 1989.  
Here's the back so you can see the tiny matchstick quilting around the stencil. 

As I worked on Becky's quilts, I became more confident in doing tiny piecing myself, so of course I had to try out some of Becky's patterns from her book Working In Miniature. I made this schoolhouse quilt with my 80's fabrics, and gave it to my sister-in-law. 
8 3/4 by 11 1/2 inches; February 1987. No need to keep track of thread on this one.
Of course, I had to do the binding myself on this one. Here's the back to show how I made hanging strips. I hadn't figured out yet how to do (much neater) triangles--there wasn't the online support to learn such things as there is today.

Right around February 1987, I went to a craft show at a nearby mall. There I met a woman who had a booth with some antiques and perhaps some quilts and antique fabric. I really don't remember the details. We got to talking, and I mentioned that I was a quilter and that I had experience quilting antique quilt tops. She took my information and pretty much arranged with me on the spot to make some quilts for her to sell. She said she would buy any quilts I would make. The first quilts I made for her were schoolhouse quilts. I made one like the one above and one in green in February 1987. (I made another blue/rust one in the spring of 1988.)
These varied slightly in size depending on the width of the borders, but they were all about the same. 

My new client also brought me a box full of antique fabric scraps and yardage and asked if I would use them to make quilts. There were four antique schoolhouse blocks, which she asked me to make into a wallhanging. It was kind of tricky, as the blocks were uneven in size and were to be set together without sashing. It really looks uneven to me now (although the cut-off picture probably makes it look worse.) I'm hoping she blocked it. I'm not sure why I didn't do the binding. Maybe because there was no piece of fabric in the box big enough. I suspect that she planned to bind it with other antique fabric. It is 31 by 32 inches. I finished it in April 1987, with 78 1/2 yards of quilting. 
The back:
The box had some small scraps of the same fabric, so I also made her a mini version--still with wonky houses, but this time with sashing. The back was muslin. I finished it in April 1987 with 5 1/2 yards of quilting. 

Later that year I tried a combination of schoolhouses and log cabin blocks with log cabin ghost quilting. 
Strange glare in this photo. The quilt is 11 3/4 inches square. 9 2/3 yards quilting; July 1987.
Here's the back with those ghost cabins.
Later I tried a scrappy version of schoolhouses using 1930s scraps from the box. For fun, I made this one horizontal with quilted vertical lines in the borders. 
10 1/2 by 13 1/8 inches; 11 yards of quilting; January 1989. That looks like machine quilting, but I don't think I did machine quilting then. I suspect the chalk lines I used for marking were still showing. 
One more schoolhouse to share. This quilt was made by a client of a quilt shop owner in California.The owner of the shop was a friend of Becky, so she asked if I would quilt and bind it. After all those tiny quilts, it was fun to work on something bigger. This one is 38 1/2 by 32 inches. I remember being nervous about binding it, as that is definitely not my strength. I finished the quilt in December 1988. 76 yards of quilting thread. 

The back:

I'm linking all these schoolhouses up with Sandra's Throwback Thursday party on mmm! quilts. Join me there and see what everyone else is reminiscing about. See you next month with another installment of "my tiny career."

Whether or not you are in school (or live on a "school calendar"), I hope you are enjoying this time of year of new beginnings and changes in routine. 

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