Saturday, February 23, 2019

RSC & the Big Squirrel

It all started in January with a vague plan of what I wanted to do for Rainbow Scrap Challenge this year. I thought I might like to make some crumb blocks, some butterfly blocks and then cut my leftover fabrics into some squares and strings. I already had some background fabrics. I thought if I bought them before making blocks this year, I'd have a better idea of how my blocks would look in a quilt. I quickly made some red crumbs at the beginning of the year. 

But they just weren't inspiring me. I didn't like how they looked on my background fabric--just clunky with those swirly paisleys. There seemed to be too much going on. I let them be and thought that maybe they'd grow on me after I made some yellow blocks. I did cut some 2 1/2 inch squares and some strings with the odd-shaped pieces of fabrics in my scrap bin. Even those weren't doing it for me. Too much burgundy. I put them away to mull over later.

Moving on to yellow in February, I decided to make some scrappy butterflies before doing more crumb blocks. I wanted to make a butterfly quilt from the Butterfly Dance pattern by ellis & higgs that I used for my Mariposa quilt. I quickly made the main parts of the wings, using strings in place of single fabrics that are in the pattern. I knew I wanted to use my new floral background fabric. It did not have the full range of rainbow colors for this year, but I planned to make blocks for it whenever the month's color worked. But when I laid out the pieces on my floral fabric, uh oh. Meh. I wasn't feeling it. Again. 
Now, it probably would have worked out okay when I got more blocks made in other colors. But I was tired of feeling blah about what seemed to be mediocre blocks. I did not like how the old fabrics looked with the fresh crisp print. So I looked around in my fabric bins for something else. I was committed to using the background fabric. I had bought a lot of it. Then inspiration hit. Solids! I looked in my Kona bin. I had most of the colors I needed, and what I didn't have there, I found in some other solids in my drawers. I know these fabric pieces are bigger than typical scraps, but they are all leftovers of other quilts, so fair game in my book. In no time at all, I had parts cut out for 8 yellow butterflies. I even found a brown for the bodies that looked good with all my fabrics and inexplicably made me want to drink chocolate milk. 
In no time at all I had yellow butterflies, and they sang on my background fabric. And then I knew. There was no way I was going to wait all year to have enough blocks to make this quilt. I had to chase this squirrel. Now! So I cut out all my other colors and chain pieced pairs a mile long to get these butterflies made. There was only one little problem. I only had a bit of the greens I wanted to use. This was supposed to be a scrap quilt (except for the background), but I went shopping for the greens. I had already done away with the one-color-a-month plan for RSC anyway, so why not also throw a little more new fabric in there. I went to my favorite little fabric shop, challenging myself to find what I needed. There was no Kona (the store's line of solids) close to the colors I needed, so I had to go to plan B: turning print fabric over to see if the back would work. Found 'em, which is really saying something because this is a very tiny fabric shop--really only a part of a gift store--kind of like a modern general store. In these photos, the side I used is on the left. I don't know the name of this first one--my husband found it in a sale bin. Yea! I should have bought the rest of it.

And then some Grunge, which usually works well this way if the print is not too strong. 

I bought just a quarter yard of each because I really didn't want to add too much to my scrap collection. Still trying to keep in the spirit of a scrap quilt. 

After a flurry of sewing, the blocks were done and up on the wall. 

And then they were a quilt top.

The pattern yields generously-sized blocks, which are intended to be trimmed down from about 8 1/2 inches to 8 inches for 7 1/2 inch finishes. Because I had been pretty accurate, I was able to keep the blocks full sized with just slivers trimmed, so instead of a quilt that would be about 53 inches square, mine was 56 1/2 inches, a nice size for a lap quilt. (I repeated the original pattern 12 1/2 times to make my quilt.)

I still needed to figure out a back--yeah, still in squirrel mode here--but before I did that, I cut what I had left of solid fabrics into strips for a scrappy binding. I kid you not, without measuring, I just cut strips and when I was done and laid them out, they fit all the way around the quilt.

I even sewed it all together and pressed it, so that when I get the quilting done, it will be ready to put on. Whee!

So then, to the back. I had a big sort of jagged piece of print left from the front, assorted chunks of solids, and one butterfly block. (I had made 8 blocks in each color for 50 in all, but only needed 49 for the front.) I pieced the back in three big strips working from right to left, completely improv style. I might make one little change in that upper left striped section to add one more stronger color, but we'll see. I'm pretty happy with it. 

I still have some solid chunks left, but not many, and this is all I have left of the print!

Now that the top is done, I think I'll set this squirrel aside for a few days. I will probably quilt it the same way as the Mariposa quilt, with wavy lines as the butterflies flutter. And then it will be time to bind it and decide where those butterflies will fly off to. I'll let you know when it's done. 

But back to the crumbs.(Yes, I am aware that this is a scrap post, but I'm not sorry that I did not stick to the RSC plan for making this quilt.) Here are the rest of the blocks for the scrappy yellow butterflies. Maybe I'll keep making butterfly bits and figure out a more suitable background for them later.

I think my problem with the red crumbs was partly that I wasn't sure I wanted to make the crumbs so irregular--or maybe they will look better with a simpler background. I think I might try some yellow crumbs with just rectangular shapes and low contrast to see how I like a more controlled crumb with the paisley background. The other thing is that one of my favorite parts of last year's RSC strings was using rogue strips in other colors in my string blocks. I really miss that, so maybe I need to figure out something this year that will add that little spark. I'm also going to keep cutting squares and strings with my irregular shaped scraps. Who knows what that will lead to?

Oh, and before I go, I have to share a couple of other squirrels. The first I actually made at the end of January, but wasn't quick enough to get a post written to include in Sandra's DrEAMi (Drop Everything And Make it) last month. I used the rest of my old hospital gown to make three more doll gowns for Amy of A Doll Like Me, who makes dolls with unique 

physical characteristics for children with those same features. She also collects doll quilts to include with them and doll hospital gowns for children who need to have surgeries.The fabric of the gowns I made isn't real exciting, but I get a kick out of it being from an actual hospital gown. I'm glad to be done with the memory of that gown and to put it to a worthy use to make some little kids happy and more comfortable during a hospital stay with their dolls. I hope to make more gowns in the future from more colorful and easier-to-sew fabrics. I think hospital gowns must be made out of iron. They are remarkably difficult to stitch through. I'm also thinking I might like to try making gowns with hook-and-loop tape or some other type of closure. I would imagine some of the children receiving them might have limb differences that make tying a bow more challenging. So that's my plan for the next batch. If you haven't made gowns for this organization before, I encourage you to give it a go. They don't take long and don't take much fabric. I'm still working on getting the underarms smooth (I use French seams which don't bend easily), but I figure that doesn't matter to a child. If garment construction isn't your thing, you might consider making quilts for Amy's dolls. Those are fun, too.

And one more tiny squirrel running off in a different direction. My grandkiddies were here last weekend. My granddaughter wanted to do a little project with fabric and my sewing machine. She chose three strips of fabric, sewed them with the raw edges turned in, and braided them. 

I attached hook-and-loop tape to the ends to close around her wrist for a bracelet. A quick project for a busy weekend. And look, it matches her new manicure by Mommy!

I'm linking up this week with Sandra at mmm! quilts for DrEAMi, with Angela at So Scrappy for ScrapHappy Saturday and with Cynthia at Quilting is More Fun than Housework for Oh Scrap!

I hope you've had a good week month (?) whether you followed your quilty plan or chased your own squirrel!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

TBT: More Minis

Welcome to another installment of "my tiny career." My quilts to share today are my own creations, mostly made from antique fabrics. If you have been following this documentation of my pre-blogger life, you'll know that most of my career was spent hand quilting antique tops or tops made from antique fabrics. Then there was that period of time when I tried selling my own little quilts at craft shows (Ugh!) or on consignment. But there's one more little piece of the story that I have mentioned before. In the late 1980s I met a woman (let's call her ML--those are her initials) who had a booth with antiques and quilts/fabrics at a show at a nearby mall. After a conversation about quilting and my experience, she told me she would buy any quilts I could make for her. She also brought me a box of antique fabrics to use in some of them. At that time, I was fascinated by the techniques I had learned from Becky Schaefer while working for her and reading her book Working In Miniature, so with my new-found confidence in my own quilt-making, I focused on tiny quilts.

I pieced all of these quilts on my Singer Featherweight. The batting was likely light weight polyester from Mountain Mist. All of the quilts were hand quilted, mostly with off-white thread. The backings were off-white--possibly a good quality muslin, but I think maybe a smoother cotton. I don't recall how ML and I arrived at prices for these quilts. I did keep track of the amount of thread I used for quilting because that was the way I had always been paid before, but we probably negotiated a flat-rate price. For that reason, I won't record the thread used here as I did for previously documented quilts. 

First up are two log cabin rose quilts I made in February 1988. I'm uncertain of the source of inspiration. Both quilts are 13 inches square. 

The quilt on the left is from antique fabric from the 1930s. I made the one on the right from 1980s fabric. You can see that the colors in the '30s fabric are softer and clearer. Fabrics in the '80s had a yellowish or grayish cast. 
Quilts are reversed in this photo of the backs. I quilted minimally in the logs, did stylized flowers in the large outer triangles, and a little vine in the borders. 

Next, two fan quilts, February 1988. These are 12 1/4 by 14 1/8 inches. 

Again the one on the left is from 1930s fabric and the one on the right from 1980s fabric. Quilting echoed the fans, with scallops in the borders. It was interesting to me to pick fabrics with small enough prints to be interesting but not overly large in scale. 
Quilts in reverse order here again.
I have a little notebook with my drafts of some of these quilts. Most of the notes are indecipherable (my notes still look that way), but here is the page for these quilts. The plastic templates I made for the fan pieces are taped near the bottom. 
These next Ohio Star quilts are also from February 1988. (It must have been a cold winter! I got a lot of quilting done.)They are based on Becky's drafts. Again, 1930s fabric on left and 1980's on right. They are 12 1/4 by 17 inches. 
I quilted leaves with circles in the plain squares and a simple cable in the borders. 

This churn dash is also based on drafting by Becky. Yup another one from February 1988, and from 1930s fabrics. It's 11 3/4 by 14 1/4 inches. (Must have been breezy.)

Minimal quilting around the dashes, and my simple vine in the border. 
Bad photo!
An old fabric panel (I don't know the vintage) was in the inspiration for the colors of the churn dash blocks and the borders in this quilt from January 1989.
Another off-kilter photo--pre-digital.
The solid fabrics were a mix of older and newer fabrics. The quilt is 16 1/2 inches square. 

I quilted around features in the scene, outlined the dashes, and did a sort of half feather in the border. Quilting the borders were my favorite parts of these quilts. 

I drafted the pattern for the black and yellow Bow Ties (fabric from the 1930s-'40s. It's 13 1/2 by 12 1/4 inches. I quilted around the ties and then did trailing flowers in the border. The quilt on the right is a pastel Lone Star, made from a pattern and techniques from Becky's book. The fabrics are mostly 1930s with a few '80s thrown in. It's 15 7/8 inches square. I quilted jagged circles in the center (to follow the diamond shapes), feathered circles around the star, and a rope in the border. These were both finished in January 1989.

I have no notes on this next quilt. I do know it's an Irish Chain from Becky's book, and that at least the red fabrics are from ML's box of antique fabric. I'm guessing it's about 14 inches square. It's quilted with hearts and that sort of feather design. I don't have a photo of the back. 
That photo's not real clean, is it? Hmm.

,And these last two are an experiment in making Hired Man's Quilts from a set of suiting samples that I found in the box from ML. I'm not sure if the border fabric was also in there. Anyway, I remember these as exceedingly difficult. I probably should not have used that fabric on the back. I doubt I used any batting. They are straighter than they appear to be--just hanging funny, but you can see how thick they are. 

(The quilts are reversed here.) I remember that I had to use a stab stitch to quilt them because I had trouble rocking my needle through the thick seams. It was an interesting experiment, though. I don't have any notes. I'm guessing the quilts are about 10 by 13 inches. Looks like the label says they were made in June 1990.

I have one more group of mini quilts I made for ML from "modern" (1980s Ha!)  fabric, but I'll save it for next month. 

I hope you've enjoyed my minis. These were made with a lot of strip piecing and short-cut triangle piecing techniques. If I made them today, I'd probably try paper foundation piecing as much of the blocks as possible. They were a neat challenge, though, and it was fun to be able to make whatever I wanted and know I had a buyer for them. 

I'm linking up today with Sandra at mmm! quilts for Throwback Thursday. Make sure you check out her post. (They always contain fabulous stories!) Share some oldies from your pre-blogging days, if you have them, or just enjoy the ones other quilters have to share.