Thursday, April 29, 2021

I've got the Blues

It all started with the Chain Linx quilt pattern I got in a giveaway from Karen at Sugar Free Quilts through KaHolly in a Blog Hop honoring the legacy of quilter Paula B about a year ago. My plan was to make a quilt to donate, and when I looked through my drawers, I challenged myself to "use up" my blues. And only blues. I thought I might make a quilt that would appeal to a man--although, I really don't like to stereotype people that way. 

The design of the quilt I chose to make is unique in that it's constructed from four big rectangles arranged around a square. I first shaded in the link parts to get some idea of how they might look and to help me keep things straight while cutting the fabrics. 

I had two fairly large solid blue fabric pieces that were leftovers or rejects from other quilts, and my idea was to use the grayish blue for the links and the darker blue for part of the background to appear sort of as a border. 

With that in mind, I made the rectangular blocks first, choosing tone on tone fabrics.

 I made decisions about which fabric to use based on how much fabric I had available for a particular sized patch.

I wanted all four of the rectangle blocks to be alike. 

Always good to match your outfit to your project

As I cut, I pinned sets of four patches together and then bagged different sections up to keep things organized as I sewed.

After making the rectangles, I laid out other fabrics to decide how to make the center square. I had enough of the solid blue that I used for the border to make the whole center. So that's what I did. it kept everything symmetrical-ish. 
Everything went well, until I took photos of the top. And. I didn't like it. At all. There was one fabric I had used that was a sort of bubble pattern in blue and grayish blue, but in the quilt it looked dead gray. And it was one of the bigger patches. Do you see it there? 
Actually, there are two, but the big one is what was bothering me.

Times four. Yuck! I could not unsee it. So out came the seam ripper and I performed four surgeries. And replaced that patch with three smaller, darker ones. Four times.
Do you see them? (Never mind the stray thread.)

It really didn't take that long and made a big difference in how the whole quilt looked. More depth and vibrance. Even in the bad indoor light.
I thought I would use up all my blues, but we all know that didn't happen. Sigh. For a few minutes I thought of piecing all the leftovers into a scrappy back. But there were a lot of seams in the front, and I wasn't looking forward to quilting through those and a bunch of seams on the back. So, being fully vaccinated (Yay!), I ventured out to a local fabric store I hadn't been in for more than a year and found the perfect navy. And at another store around the corner, I found a good medium gray blue thread that wouldn't stand out as much as my usual off white on the quilt. 

I dithered for awhile about how to quilt. At first I thought I might like to highlight the links somehow, but everything I considered would have required lots of stops and starts and thread burying and I just wasn't feeling it. I wanted simple. And what's more simple than stipple?? (It's so relaxing--almost trance-like--for me. I know stippling isn't for everyone and that some people struggle with it. My tip is to go slowly, picture jigsaw puzzle pieces while you quilt and try for gentle swoops. It probably also helps to have the pressure light on the presser foot.) I had considered using a kind of turquoise-y blue thread for the top thread, but in the end I used the same thread that I had chosen for the back. I knew I'd probably lose at playing thread chicken, so I did run out part way through quilting to buy one more spool of thread. I almost did win at thread chicken, but I did need that second spool for the last bit of quilting. (Maybe 5 to 10 yards?) 

Early on in the construction process, I set aside a bandanna print for the binding. It worked really well for a subtle edge on the front and good contrast on the back. If you have a treadle machine, or another machine that doesn't show you guidelines for making sure your width is consistent when you turn the corner while sewing on binding, here's a little tip. I fold a square sticky note on the diagonal and then line it up with the edges of the quilt when I get near the corner. I sew up to the diagonal edge of the sticky note and then out to the corner. That always gives me the same measurement no matter what seam allowance I use when sewing on the binding. It's really helped me to have sharper corners. 

The quilting pulled everything together, and I finally decided that I liked the quilt after all. And there was someone making complimentary noises the whole time I was making the quilt. Someone who loves blue a whole lot more than I do. (He still misses his old navy blue car.) When it was almost done, he finally came right out and said he wanted the quilt. Well, who was I to say no to my husband? After all, I have never in all these years made him his very own quilt. Our other quilts have always been for us, not him. So, this quilt that was going to be donated to an organization is staying right here. 

Here are the stats:

Pattern: Chain Linx by Karen Chase at Sugar Free Quilts I really liked following her detailed instructions, which worked fine even though I was using a lot few colors. I appreciate it that she noted how to press important seams and left it up to me to decide how I wanted to press others. 
Fabrics: Prints are scraps from many years of quilt-making; solids are Kona Cotton in Prussian and Delft; backing is Moda Marbles (I'm not sure of the color--maybe Indigo? It's a dark navy.) Nautical.
Batting: Fairfield 80/20. First time I've used this. My machine loved it.
Thread: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; Mettler Silk Finish Cotton in Smoky Blue for quilting. (I haven't used this before, but it was what my local store had, and it worked out well--a slight sheen), Old Coats and Clark black cotton hand quilting thread for hand sewing binding to back
Binding: 2 1/2 inches cut, double layer, machine sewn to front and hand stitched on back. 
Size: 60 1/2 inches square before quilting; 59 1/4 by 59 1/2 inches after quilting. Since this quilt is staying home, I haven't washed it yet.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer Treadle 115 for free motion and for machine work on the binding.

I knew I would need to make a replacement quilt to honor my pledge to make a donation quilt, but although I still have blue fabric, it's not enough to make a similar quilt without a lot of hassle. What to do? And then I read Preeti's blogpost about her upcoming Quilt Along to make quilts for the same organization this quilt was originally meant for. Perfect!! What a great solution to my dilemma! I don't think it will be another blue quilt, but it will be fun. And of course, I'll keep the Chain Linx pattern for another time.

But I'm not done yet. Oh no. April was blue month at Rainbow Scrap Challenge, and since there were 5 Fridays in April (my self-imposed due dates for 52 weeks of Scrappy Triangles), there were 5 blue half blocks made. Here they are: 

And randomly with most of their mates from January through March (my, this year is moving fast!)

How about that navy corner on the upper left? Yup. That's leftover from the Blue backing, How neat is that? I will need to buy a bit more to make sure I have enough for a whole quilt worth of triangles, but I think it will pull all the colorful bits together. 

Whew! that's a lotta blue. Oh, just a little more. Here are the blue fabric bits I ordered to enhance my stash this month. 

This time I ordered from Winter Creek Cloth. I know it's weird complaining about not using up all my blues and then ordering more. But I'm really trying for a more modern vibe, and this is such a fun purchase this month. Now that we are more free to move about the community, I might purchase my next colors locally. But maybe not. I know there will always be backings and such to buy nearby. And maybe some fabric for Preeti's project...Stay tuned. 

I'm linking up this week with Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread ThursdayWendy at Wendy's Quilts and More for Peacock PartyMichelle at from Bolt to Beauty for Beauties PageantAngela at So Scrappy for ScrapHappy Saturday, and Cynthia at Quilting is more Fun than Housework for Oh Scrap.

Happy Quilting, whether you've got the blues or not. (homage to Buddy Guy)

(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.)  

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Outstanding Blogger Award

Well, I'm flattered. A few weeks ago, Sandra at Musings of a Menopausal Melon--mmm quilts nominated me for an OBA. I laughed at first because I feel like my blog has been running on fumes the last few years. I certainly have not been as prolific as in the early years. Nevertheless, I am trying very hard to continue blogging because I do like having documentation of my quilting journey all in one place. So thank you, Sandra (and anyone else who checks in) for still reading my words and encouraging me. And if you hadn't already been nominated, I would nominate you, too. Your posts about your quilts, designs, tutorials, home reno, your Great Lake, and your sensitivity to social issues are a highlight of my blog reading.

As a recipient of an OBA, I have some questions Sandra would like me to answer. So here goes...

1. Have you made any quilts of your own design? If so, please share. Yes, I make a lot of different kinds of quilts (mostly lap sized ones), but the ones of my own design tend to be landscape art/wall quilts. I'll stick with those for this blog post because I'm too lazy to find anyone I need to credit for ideas for my other quilts. The one I'm most proud of (is that okay?) is Reminiscence--a quilt based on a photo I took at a local park on a mild winter day. I used freezer paper templates to piece it, and I hand quilted it.

2. Have you entered any quilt shows, and if so, which ones? If not, do you have plans to? As far as I can recall, I've only entered quilts in the online Blogger's Quilt Festival of October 2014 hosted by Amy of Amy's Creative Side. I'm still thrilled that my Reminiscence quilt (above) won the viewers choice in the Art category.

A couple of years ago, I entered another landscape quilt, Mi Barca, in a general art show at my church. It's a reflection on a Spanish song, "You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore," particularly the line, "En la arena he dejado mi barca" (translation: "On the sand, I've abandoned my small boat"), a call to leave our daily occupations (pre-occupations?) to serve others with love and commitment. 

And that's it. I find in-person quilt shows overwhelming. 

3.Do you have a mentor, or someone to whom you look up to or have learned a great deal from in your craft? Explain how this person or these people have influenced you. These days I'm inspired by numerous bloggers and instagrammers. I have eclectic tastes, so my social media perusal covers a pretty broad range. I would say that most of my donation quilts are influenced by the posts I read, whether it's a pattern or color or a call for blocks or quilts to distribute. So thank you, quilters!!

In terms of my own designs, I have been most influenced by the work and books of Ruth B. McDowell. Although I've never met her, she has taught me how to design and construct a quilt using freezer paper patterns/templates. I am still trying to capture the abstract nature of her work--the unexpected fabrics and colors--but I'm content to use her techniques to make my own work. Reminiscence was made using her techniques.

Another influence is Karen Eckmeier and her Accidental Landscapes (you can see that influence in the quilt above and below), which I find fascinating as a way to interpret the shores of my beloved state. And that leads me to...

4. Do you find that where you live influences your choices of colour (well, color for me) and design? Can you give examples? Oh, yes. I'm very much inspired by my beautiful Mitten state surrounded by 4 of the 5 Great Lakes. Here's my Accidental Landscape of Lake Michigan.

I've also made some miniature quilts of Michigan lighthouses, which are mostly foundation paper pieced, with some accidental landscaping thrown in.

And I'm inspired by nature, even in my own backyard. One quilt I recently designed includes traditional blocks and my own paper piecing. It's my interpretation of Bear Paw blocks as Coleus plants.

5. What do you do with your makes? (keep, decorate, use, give away, etc.) All of those. My quilts are part of my home environment on the walls and wherever we need a cozy layer, but most of my quilts are given away for celebrations (weddings, births, birthdays) or donation to some favorite organizations to give cozy hugs to people in need. I've also made the difficult quilts to help comfort and heal people after a traumatic or tragic event. Making/giving away quilts is the most satisfying and heartwarming way I know to spend free time in my retirement. It's a celebration, a meditation and a mission. 

I think I'm supposed to nominate some other quilters. Because I've been away from blogland a lot this past month, I honestly don't know who has already received this honor. So I'm going to nominate anyone reading this post. I don't have a question, but I am going to encourage you to keep it up. Keep blogging. It does still have a wonderful place in social media. You are an Outstanding Blogger.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Scrappy Grands--or Grandly Scrappy

"Gramma, can we sew something?"

It had been months since we could be together, but that's one of the first things L said when they came to spend a couple of days with us during their spring break. Music to my quilt-loving ears. She even had an idea of what she wanted to sew: a landscape (lakescape?) like one I had made that hangs in their living room. Woohoo! It was a gorgeous day, and I knew we would want to spend a lot of time outside, so it had to be a quick project--maybe 20 or 30 minutes tops.

I just happened to have lots of scraps handy--especially blue for my RSC color of the month. I quickly cut some small pieces of backing and batting, and let her have at it to choose fabrics for an Accidental Landscape mini in the style of Karen EckmeierTo be super fast and easy for a beginning sewist, raw edge quilt-as-you-go seemed to be the technique of choice.

L found a piece of cloud fabric for sky. Then she cut wavy strips of blue for the lake. Don't you love the star fabric? Like sparkles on the water. I love how kids do art! We pulled out the bin of neutrals for sand. 

She laid them out, and I put a few pins in to hold them in place. Then she got her first opportunity to use the foot pedal to sew them down herself with some wavy lines. She mastered the pedal speed immediately and quickly figured out how to move the fabric to make wavy quilting lines.

I knew binding would be too time consuming for this project, so after stitching around the edge, I trimmed it for her with pinking shears. And done! A cute little mini for her bedroom wall. Didn't she do a great job?!

While we were working, C started sorting through the blue scraps himself. He is a major crafter, and his adhesive of choice is tape. Lots of tape. In no time, he had laid out his first quilt block. 

What a fun way to spend the first part of our weekend together! We spent most of the rest of the weekend outside. There was a little trip to meet up with cousins to hike some trails and play some baseball, more baseball and all kinds of other sports in our backyard, and a short hike in the prairie behind our neighborhood. A perfect way to end our isolation of the last year. Hurray for vaccinations!!

I'll wait until the end of the month to share my RSC blues. But I just had to share these blues today!

I'm linking up this weekend with Angela at So Scrappy for ScrapHappy Saturday and with Cynthia at Quilting is more fun than Housework for Oh Scrap. Oh, and with Sandra at mmm quilts on the last Saturday of the month because this was a perfect DrEAMi (Drop Everything and Make it) project.

If you live in my hemisphere, Happy Spring, which as far as I can tell from our trees and flowers, is about a month ahead of schedule. I hope you get to do some unexpected projects, maybe with your own little kiddies.

Life is Grand again.