Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gypsy Wife, Part 4

So. Many. Triangles. in this quilt! In addition to a first-draft version of the syllabus for the new class I'm teaching this fall, and an out-of-control explosion of fabric on every surface of my sewing area, this is what I ended up with after yesterday:

Block 11: Old Maid Puzzle (8")

These were straightforward but time-consuming. I pieced all of the little triangles using the two-at-a-time technique, then saved one of each pair for the pinwheel filler blocks shown below. (Can you find the identical pairs? A fun matching game for your kids! Suitable for ages 6+). Just for fun -- no really, it wasn't because I wasn't paying attention! -- I twisted the butterfly units differently on the two blocks.
Gypsy Wife "Old Maid Puzzle" blocks

Filler Blocks: Pinwheels (various sizes)

More triangles. Yay. Here's where all the leftovers were pressed (get it?) into service and combined with a trillion more new units. For the borders, I dug into my bin of precut 1 1/2" strips, although I've used up most of the more "modern" fabrics that work in this project. For the tiniest pinwheels on top (which will be used as block centers later), I started with 8 little precut 2 1/2" squares (mostly Tula Pink prints). These are going to finish as 2 1/4" squares. Teeny little suckers.
Gypsy Wife "Pinwheel" fillers

Filler Blocks: Courthouse Steps (various sizes)

After all the triangles, it was like a reward to do some easy courthouse steps. Actually, aren't these just log cabins? What's the difference? I'm proud of myself for cutting into that fun typewriter keys fabric that has been patiently whispering my name from the depths of the Strategic Fabric Reserves. I still have one more of these to finish, then it's onto some diamond-in-a-square type fillers. Some of them have bigger chunks, so I'll have a chance to work in a few fussy cut gems from the bigger prints.
Gypsy Wife "Courthouse Steps" fillers
My machine is heading out for a good once-over later this morning, then I'll be working with my young Protege #3 on her first quilt, a fantastic Cloud Nine creation. Today will be exciting, since I've got the whole design wall cleared off so she can arrange all of her pieces for the final assembly. I'm hoping she won't mind if I take a few photos to share.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Gypsy Wife, Part 3

More blocks to share! I basted my Northern Lights quilt yesterday, then came home to start the quilting. Unfortunately (cue the gloomy cello music) the needle-change screw snapped off so I can't change the needle to a quilting one. I guess there's no more procrastinating. It's time for a tune-up/repair trip.

What this means is, although I can't do any quilting for now, I'll probably continue flying through the Gypsy Wife blocks, because I can do piecework very nicely on my smaller back-up machine.

Block 7: Indian Hatchet (6")

This one was a snap to make, exactly as written in the pattern. I'm not sure I really like the fabrics that I used, but when you look at the whole collection together, it doesn't really stand out as bad. I might redo it, but maybe not. Gotta love the PC name of this block.
Gypsy Wife "Indian Hatchet" block

Block 8: Puss in the Corner (5", one bordered)

These were also pretty straightforward to assemble; I did use my typical HST method instead of cutting the individual triangles before sewing. I really like the "low volume" fabrics on the upper (bordered) block. I think it's closer to getting the right look of the thing.
Gypsy Wife "Puss in the Corner" blocks

Block 9: Nurses Cross (8")

This was a doozy. I did everything just like the pattern suggested and ended up about 1/16 - 1/8" too small. This isn't a big deal, but it's not an easy block to piece, and if your seams tend to be more than scant, I'd say you're in for a border treatment with this one. I didn't redo the math, but I think it would be better to cut all those edge triangles as larger (2 1/4"?) squares cut into quarters, so the straight-of-grain would be on the outside of the block. The pattern might have benefited from some midway dimensions; I trimmed my inner square to 4 1/2", then the next size diamond to 6 1/4" before putting on the pieced corners. I think that was a little too big, but since my block came out a little small I'm not certain what the "correct" trim size should have been. In any case, good luck.
Gypsy Wife "Nurses Cross" block

Block 10: Half Square Triangles (8")

These are two identical blocks, but with different fabric combinations. It would be a great use for the pile of scrap HSTs that lots of quilters have hiding in a bag or box just waiting for the perfect project. I recently gave that bag away, so I cut and made new ones. I cut 32 (16 dark, 16 light/low volume) 3" triangles, cut them in half BEFORE sewing, then paired them up in two different combinations. I had a few stray half triangles leftover from some of the other blocks, so I threw those into the mix as well. Visually speaking, these blocks are really going in the right direction. At this point, I'm starting to consider whether I need to remake some of my earlier ones with better/different/(less saturated?) fabrics.
Gypsy Wife "Half Square Triangle" blocks

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Gypsy Wife, Part 2

I worked up three more blocks last night; I'm having fun with these, since (1) I haven't done a lot of traditional block piecing in a while, and (2) I'm cutting into lots of good new pieces that have been sitting around without a job to do.

Block 4: Hope from Hartford (7.5")

No problems with this one, but I did cut the pieces a little larger than specified before starting. For this block, you DO have to cut each triangle separately, because you need to end up with identical units instead of two sets of mirror images. I have no idea why, but I always like the look of blocks that are constructed with partial seams. The thread spools in the center were the perfect scale for this block; I also used some precious bits of my beautiful Japanese crayon fabrics.
Gypsy Wife "Hope from Hartford" block

Block 5: Crazy Anne (10")

The pattern for this block called for all different fabrics in each corner; I modified that a bit by using the same fabric for all of the triangles. I pulled out a few Tula Pink squares for the squares, and cut 4 TP charms for the big triangles. I used a scrap of Charley Harper ladybugs shared with me by my friend Nancy (thanks, Nancy!) for the center. For the half-rectangle triangles, I used my TriRecs template instead of cutting the pieces at the sizes that specified in the pattern. Other than that, I don't have any special tricks or advice for this pattern. It's lots of fun to look at.
Gypsy Wife "Crazy Anne" block

Block 6: Star Block (9")

Pretty, pretty, pretty! This was a snap to make, but again, I didn't cut the individual pieces. I cut my squares at 4" and 4.5" to start, and the HSTs and QST units went together in a flash. I am proud of myself for cutting into a brand new fat quarter for the blue accent. Yay, me!
Gypsy Wife "Star Block"
While we watched The Bourne Supremacy (Matt Damon: best actor, or greatest actor EVER?) last night with our returned campers, I finished the binding on my New Wave quilt. If it dries up enough, I'm hoping to take some outdoor photos of that later this afternoon. This morning's task is to baste my Northern Lights throw, then work on a scrapbook cover. These first Gypsy Wife blocks have gone quickly, but there are dozens of little "filler" blocks still to make, then all those strips...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Gypsy Wife: A Fine Beginning

Jen Kingwell's Gypsy Wife quilt captivated my eyes and is my latest obsession. Just look at this cover photo!!

So, I have already dug into the heaps and heaps of beautiful bright scraps that I have been accumulating to get started. Right off the bat, I'm going to say that as much as I *love* the look of this riotous mix of colors and non-gridded assembly, the pattern requires kind of a do-it-yourself capability. Overall, her "directions" are very vague, although quilters with a little basic piecing experience shouldn't have too much trouble figuring out how to end up in the right place. If you're the kind of person who needs every single seam described separately, this may not be the pattern for you. I'm going to post my progress, along with comments about each section as I go.

Block 1: Color Wheel (9")

This one went together in a snap, although I didn't use her cutting and assembly techniques. There are lots of ways to end up with HSTs and QSTs, but cutting individual triangles to exact size and piecing all those stretchy edges seems like the least efficient way to me.The cutting dimensions given in the pattern are EXACT, so if your 1/4" seam tends to be a little wide, you might do better to cut the pieces a bit large, then trim to size before assembling the block. Instead of piecing separate HSTs for the corners, I would choose to do them in pairs (two of each color), then save the extras for piecing the HST blocks that come later.

Gypsy Wife color wheel block, 9"

Block 2: Pershing (9")

Blerg. A Google search on this block told me that there were some problems with this one. The directions specify cutting Every. Single. Little. Triangle. to exact size, but almost everybody who blogged about it ended up with too-small blocks. One quilter posted a PDF with paper piecing directions, but I couldn't get them to print out at the correct scale, so I just drafted it myself in PowerPoint. (If you want my pattern, just ask.) Even with the paper piecing, the block still ended up about 1/16" too small. That's not really a problem, though, since the seams will just swallow up the minor difference. Verdict: pretty block, although I wish I had chosen a dark fabric in the outer centers (where I used the blue dots on the white background). I would not do a whole quilt of these.
Gypsy Wife Pershing block

Block 3: From the Heart (6")

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the directions are the way they are. This is a block that uses two identical HSTs; it makes sense to do the "two seams down the center" technique (Method 2 on this blog) so you're not messing around with bias edges. I cut two 4" squares, stitched, cut, then trimmed the HSTs down to 3 1/2" before sewing them together. You could also make one flying geese unit if you have an easy way to make only one of them. For the QSTs, I also used the seams down the center technique, starting with two 3 1/2" squares from each fabric. I had one leftover QST, but I'll hold onto it for some of the filler blocks made later. For the upper row I actually used the pattern's technique. Overall, simple block with overly complicated directions. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Honeycomb finished

A week or so ago, while fishing a tennis ball out from under the couch (a fun game my dog plays with me, where she rolls and I fetch the ball), I found a wadded up heap of cotton that turned out to be my unfinished honeycomb project from my Modern Minis class earlier this year. Yikes! I let it hang for a few days to get rid of most of the wrinkles, then I spent a little time quilting it up. I started with curved flower of life lines using the walking foot. It felt unfinished, so I did a little freemotion filler within the "petals", then switched to a gold thread for the loopy quilting, inspired by the bee's waggle dance, in the background.
Finished honeycomb wallhanging. Pattern by Elizabeth Hartman.
Close-up of embroidery on honeycomb project. Design by Urban Threads.
Close-up of quilting on honeycomb quilt.
Close-up of quilting on honeycomb project.
 I finished the project with a sewn-in label featuring a Rilke quote:

We are continually overflowing toward those who preceded us, toward our origin, and toward those who seemingly come after us. ... It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again "invisibly," inside us. We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible.
Words by Rilke. Quilt by me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Pair of Finishes

Last fall I fell in love with the Forest Floor line of fabric, which eventually turned into a mid-scale Lotus quilt. I probably put some photos on my Facebook page, but it never showed up here and since I just finished quilting and binding it, this seems as good a time as any. This is done with the 6" jewel shape, so each triangle is 10" high.
Finished Lotus quilt. 46 x 60"
I was very happy with the loopy quilting, done with my always-favorite Sulky Blendables in some lovely variegated browns.
Forest Floor Lotus quilt, close up of loopy quilting.
I always save the scraps when I'm using the Hex N More ruler, and (as I posted about already) the scraps of this quilt turned into a wonderful little coordinating wallhanging.
Save those Hex N More scraps! 19 x 26"
I did a little Google-based research (pretty serious stuff) and adjusted the name of the quilt. Apparently "pareidolia" is a specific type of false pattern recognition in which a particular (often human, often facial) image is "recognized," like the man in the moon. It's a subtype of the more general "apophenia," which refers to the human tendency to seek patterns in random information. That works well for this project, which I think looks like it could be (but isn't!) a Microsoft Tag. Plus, with the simple addition of a few letters, I've got a terrific (OK, slightly hokey) quilt name!
 I've been stitching up a storm, so I have a lot more on the way...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Color Journals: Purple for Ann Marie

Ann Marie likes purple, with accents of teal and turquoise; she wanted a page that conveyed something about the natural world or the idea of change. I started with a beautiful fabric with hints of metallic sheen, added a stylized silhouette applique, and finished with a little curved piecing in the lower section. Tight loopy quilting in the lighter fabrics made the bird shape stand out from the foam batting, almost a trapunto look. The words ahead of the bird's wings are the first line of Maya Angelou's "Caged Bird." I love her poetry, how she chose words that could transform the ugliest reality into beautiful possibility, and I thought they were appropriate for this lovely simple page.
Purple page for Ann Marie
Purple page for Ann Marie (reverse). For the first time ever, I planned the back too, so the outlined bird shape would appear to be dipping its wing into the orange sun rays.
First verse of Caged Bird
All caught up! I've already finished most of the work on the next page, blue and brown for Rose -- hint (but no spoilers!): my husband asked if we could keep this one...