Saturday, February 27, 2021

Crazy Yellow

Moving on with my 52 Weeks of Scrappy Triangles (pattern and tutorial by Leila Gardunia), I've finished my yellow month for Rainbow Scrap Challenge with my yellowish blocks. Wow, this is going to be a crazy quilt. I wonder what I'll end up doing for those big background triangles. It's really too early to start thinking of that. 

I didn't have as many multicolored fabrics with yellow as I thought I did, but I did find bits and then just filled in with basically yellow fabrics. My favorites are in the upper right corner block--those blue strips with tiny fish were actually two different print fabrics. Took a little fussy cutting to make sure the yellow fish showed up. 

Here are the yellows with their pink mates:

Crazy, huh? 
Another random layout:

Who knows how this will end up over time? (And now I've just wasted a bunch of time trying to figure out the punctuation of that last sentence/question. Was I asking a question? I wasn't expecting an answer. But I digress. We all know my grammar and punctuation are mushy at best anyway.) There are some fairly large triangles in there. If they stand out too much later, maybe I'll add in a bit more fabric to make them smaller, but we'll see. This will change significantly as the colors get added in throughout the year. 

I know I had high hopes for using up my multi-colored scraps, but these really don't put a dent in that bin. Recently one of our local fabric stores showed all the placemats they've been collecting in the past year to give to recipients of Meals on Wheels. I'm thinking I might start making some of those. They don't have to be in sets so really any fun improv piecing and fabrics will work. I have some quilts ready to send out as donations, and I will continue to make those, but with the rising costs of sending quilts long-distance, I've been thinking I need to find some organizations to donate to closer to home. This seems like fun and will use up a lot of odd pieces of batting, too. So perhaps I will add those little projects into my quilting this year.

My other little monthly task, if you remember, is upping my fabric supply with the color of the month. Here's this month's batch. 

I have a lot of beloved yellows so I didn't really need them, but I did add some goldish yellows as well as a couple colorful low volumes. We'll pretend that that bottom one has yellow in it. It's actually a lime green but I couldn't pass it up. Just as I did last month (not really planned), I purchased these from Lark Cottons. I like that I can put together my own FQ bundle, and that the selections are not overwhelming to sort through.

So that's February. What a long short month it has been. We have had snow on the ground the entire month. Kind of unusual in recent years, but similar to what I remember from my childhood. Not sure if those memories are accurate, but I do remember wearing snow pants and boots, and sometimes black "stretch pants" under our dresses because we girls weren't allowed to wear pants to school. Fun memory: at the end of recess, the custodian (probably our favorite staff person at school) would stand just inside the door with a big soft broom, and as we filed in from the playground, he swept all the snow off of us so we wouldn't walk it into the halls and classrooms. We thought it was great fun, although it might be frowned on today. Then we lined up all of our wet mittens and hats on the heating system blowers to try to dry them out before the next recess. What a stink of wet wool! I thought of all that the other day when I was trying to sweep a load of snow off our porch. Now you know I'm an oldie. "When I was young" and all that. 

During the last few days, we've had melting. I went out on the porch in my socks and without a jacket to take a photo. I could smell things again and hear birds, and dripping! Yay!
We went for a walk to the old gravel pit near our neighborhood. There is still ice, but it looks a little soft. There was only one fishing shanty left and the current of the stream flowing out was fast.

I haven't minded being inside and sewing this month, but signs of spring are nice. We did have a power outage for about 10 hours on Monday. We usually get these when there is no explainable weather-related reason for them. The official word was "equipment failure" that affected much of our part of town. This one started in the middle of the night, which is not good because we keep our thermostat set quite low at night, so there was no residual heat from the daytime. The worst thing was that there must have been a power surge because it set off all of our smoke detectors and they wouldn't shut off. Standing on a chair in the cold dark in the middle of the night taking them down from the ceiling and removing the backup batteries is not fun. (Well it wasn't fun for my husband. I just held my cell phone up for some feeble light because I didn't have the presence of mind to pick up the flashlight next to my bed.)  We piled on the afghans and went back to bed, and then bundled up with layers, afghans and quilts in the morning to wait for the electricity to come back. Usually in a situation like this, I go immediately to the treadle sewing machine because I like the smugness of being able to sew during a power outage. But it was just a bit too uncomfortable this time. The one good thing was that when we lose power in the winter, we don't have to worry about losing refrigerated food. If it had gone on longer than it did, we would have just put the food in the garage. So that was our excitement for the week. It made me feel so bad for people in other parts of the country who have gone much, much longer without electricity or water and who now have damaged homes and businesses to repair. 

Our other excitement this month has been getting our first vaccination doses. My husband got his a few weeks ago and I got mine on Thursday. We are really happy with the way our county has been working hard to get essential workers and people in our age group vaccinated. There were so many volunteers working cheerfully and efficiently in the clinic that was set up. I'm dreaming of a bit more freedom in coming weeks, although we will continue to follow guidelines for keeping others safe.

I've been deep in my blue fabrics during the past couple of weeks. I was sure I could use up all my blues on a fairly good sized lap quilt. Ha! As if that would ever happen. I just finished the top a few minutes ago. Now to figure out a backing and how to quilt such an unusual top.

I hope you have had time to sew scraps or otherwise this month. I also hope you have been free from weather-related disasters or have been able to recover from them, and that you are seeing a reason for optimism in vaccination roll-outs. 

Stay safe!

(Just a reminder: 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, February 11, 2021

Valued Bear Paws

This year, in addition to making any quilts that choose me (you never know what's going to come up), I'm planning to supplement all those Bear Paw blocks I made as part of the Quilters Color Quest last year. If you recall, there were lots of versions of blocks in many styles/colors of fabric according to various prompts over the course of the workshop. They were all fun to make, but didn't all mesh well with each other, at least in my eyes. So this year I'm making more (yes, making Bear Paws is like eating potato chips--you can't stop at just one) to fill out the blocks for a variety of quilts. At least that's the plan at this moment. 
Because it was easy, I started with a simple plan of a quilt using two values of one color in each block. I had a few blocks as seeds for the quilt, and then it was just a matter of dragging out every tone-on-tone fabric in my drawers and pairing things up. Oh, and dragging out all the low-volumes/whitish solids I could find. What a mess!! A fun mess, though. I completely forgot to take photos of just which blocks I started with (probably only about four), and in the end I wasn't paying so much attention to whether there was a lot of contrast in the values of each block. I was just having fun pairing things up. Because I wanted to focus on color and value, I tried to leave out highly figured fabrics as much as possible. To each of the six-inch blocks, I added two strips of very low volume fabric to make 8-inch blocks. This makes a small lap size quilt that is preferred by my favorite agency for quilt donations. The most interesting thing to me is how those low volumes that looked pretty much alike while I was sewing them cast different subtle value changes across the quilt when viewed in sunlight.
I did need to buy some fabric for the backing. I have really enjoyed making pieced backings from leftovers/scraps over the years, but recently, that requires a lot of work because my available pieces are getting smaller and smaller. So I have been purchasing either wide backings or sale yardage. And even more recently, I've been purchasing them online for local pickup. For this quilt I browsed through the available sale fabrics at my chosen website until I saw that cute floral print on the right. It reminded me of a Liberty print, minus the luscious feel, of course, but still, so lovely and cheerful. I thought I was done looking, but then I had second thoughts. What if it didn't look the same in person? I kept scrolling through available choices. Oh, my! That fabric on the left. It took me right back to high school. I just had to have it, even though I knew there would be a dilemma over which one to use. 

I spend a lot of time laying my options over the quilt top. Dither, dither. One fabric picked up on the lighter fabrics of the top.

The other picked up on jewel-toned blocks.

In the end, I trusted my first impulse and went with the floral. I have all kinds of ideas running through my head for the 70's style print. I'm thinking pairing it with bright solids would be fun. 
Isn't it interesting how the repeat in a pattern causes a grid when you view the fabric from far? It's just a little off from square, but no one sees that when the quilt is in use. I did manage to piece a seam to match the pattern.

I knew when I pieced the quilt that I wanted it to be quick and easy. To me that means meandering in the background. Few stops and starts and fewer threads to bury. Plus, it's relaxing for me. Everything went well for a bit. Then my machine started to skip stitches about every three or four inches. I had just given it a spa treatment, so I couldn't figure out the problem. I put in a fresh needle (twice), rethreaded, found a little chunk of lint in my feed dogs, reset the bobbin, changed the bobbin, tried again and again, and...still skipping. So much for having few threads to bury. There were lots of stops and starts to pick out stitches. Then I noticed that the problem happened mostly when I was sewing over one kind of low volume strip. It was a prepared-for-dying fabric that was a little heftier than my other fabrics. I had used that fabric in another quilt last year and had no problem with the quilting, but I was using a walking foot that time, not FMQ. So I replaced my usual 90/14 topstitch needle with a denim needle, and voila! Problem solved! The needle made quite a racket puncturing the quilt, but I was so happy that it was sewing well again, I didn't mind. In no time at all the background quilting was finished. 

But what to do for the paws? For some reason, I wanted to do something different. When I made the blocks I pressed the claw seams open. I'm not sure why I did that, but it sort of eliminated in-the-ditch quilting for me as i don't like to sew in the seamline on open seams. I don't like in-the-ditch anyway, as I find it boring. So I decided to quilt about a 1/4-inch away around the blocks. With a walking foot because I don't do straight line FMQ well. Kind of a dumb idea. You can imagine how many times I had to spin the quilt to do that. I did figure out a way to do the whole block without breaking thread because, you know, I was trying to do this quick and easy. And it really didn't take all that long after all. But then, the middle of the paw. I had to do something there. I looked at gorgeous quilting by talented quilters online and must have drawn a zillion designs with pencil and paper. I was over with walking foot quilting. I still wanted something quick with few thread breaks. I finally came up with a stylized leaf. I wasn't happy with it, but by now, the quilt was no longer quick, so I just went with it. I'm okay with the overall look, but if quick and easy was my top priority, I should have just meandered the whole quilt and been done. Will I remember this next time? Who knows. But I've recorded it here as a reminder to my future self. 

So, here's how it all turned out. It's really fine, and definitely doesn't take itself too seriously. 

And I love the texture of the back.

I sneaked my initials and the year into the bottom right corner, using my washout marker. (After washing, it just becomes part of the texture unless you know where to look for it.)

Here are some close-ups.

And some with a glimpse of the scrappy binding. I cut lengths of about 8 inches (about 10 inches for the ones at the corners) from leftover paw fabrics in an attempt to reduce my scrap fabrics even more.

After years of binding with 2-1/2 inch strips, I had more recently been trying to make more modern narrow bindings, but my corners always looked rounded and "thick." Lately, I have realized that 2-1/2 inches is the sweet spot for me to get sharp corners, so that's my habit now. On quilts that have block points at the edge of the quilt, I cut my backing and batting about 1/8 inch outside of the top, and then I sew my binding with a scant 3/8-inch seam allowance. This keeps most block points intact, or close to it.

February has been a cold and snowy month for us. But yesterday, we had brilliant sunshine with no wind. So of course, I had to brave the cold not only for my usual garage photos, but a glamour session in the snow. Our front yard was pristine--not even marred by bunny tracks. So I tried. I really tried. I thought I could fling the quilt smoothly onto the snow. Except. One corner folded over. So those holes you see are my tracks from galumphing around to adjust things. Oh well. We'll celebrate snowy glamour shots anyway.

Here are the stats:
Pattern: Bear Paws; layout was based on a quilt pattern at Generations Quilt Patterns
Fabrics: Scraps from many years of quilt-making; backing is a Keepsake Calico (I think) from Joann. 
Batting: Hobbs Premium 80/20
Thread: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; Superior King Tut in White Linen for quilting; A heavy glace finish hand quilting thread that's no longer made (sigh) for hand sewing the binding.
Binding: 2 1/2 inches cut, double layer, machine sewn to front and hand stitched on back. 
Size: 48 1/2 by 56 1/2 inches before quilting; 47 1/2 by 55 1/4 inches after quilting; 44 5/8 by 51 5/8 inches after washing on cold and machine drying on low.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer Treadle 115 for free motion and walking foot quilting and the machine work on the binding.

Indoors, after washing

This quilt will join two others I made in the last months for donation. 

Now I'm taking a little break from Bear Paws. Today I'm cutting up blue fabric that will put a big dent in the scraps. My pattern is one I got in a giveaway last year. It is the quilt that has chosen me this month. Stay tuned...

How are your scraps doing? 

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