Monday, December 31, 2012

More Civil War blocks

Day Five of our quarantine. I fear I am going mad in this isolated state. I am tired of watching child-friendly television. I am tired of hearing hacking and snorting and gagging. I am tired of trying to remember who had which medication at which time. Although I am feeling mostly better, my maternal compassion is tapped, and my husband, who continues to remain healthy, is completely taxed by the incessant whiny Need coming from the couch. Boo hoo to all of us.

I did a little work on Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt this morning, I sketched out the layout of the corner setting triangles (today's directions) in PowerPoint, added up all the remaining block units that we have made so far, and realized that we seem to be 40 units short (if I got the layout right). I spent way too much time trying to figure out the math of which 40 3" units we might still need to prepare, but then I realized I could just wait a few more hours and stop driving myself nuts. I'll wait until I see the solution in tomorrow's installment before I start cutting the third color.

Here are the next three of the Civil War blocks:
Two more red-violet/fuschia blocks. The one on the left ("Home Sweet Home") took me an entire football game to make. The other ("Enthusiasm") was a snap.
A pretty pink block ("Will Virginia Secede?") for the center of the quilt.
I am really enjoying making these cute little blocks. I haven't done a lot of paper piecing for a while, and it's so fun to watch all the teensy details come out so perfectly! This project is capturing my attention more than I had anticipated.

I will now spend the rest of The Princess Bride pressing and joining the fifty zillion postage stamp nine-patches that have been piling up next to my machine.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


This virus must have affected my brain's center for rational decision-making. A friend from Lisa's shop has been cleaning house and gave me a folder full of all the patterns to make the Civil War Love Letters quilt (thanks, Nancy!). I haven't done anything like this before, but lots of my other friends are making Dear Jane quilts right now, and I have been drooling a little over their paper piecing, which I love to do.

In my unending quarantined state, I decided to tackle the folder. It's WAY easier than Dear Jane, of course, with only 121 blocks (instead of the seven billion in the Dear Jane quilt), and the blocks are 6" (instead of 4). Those of you who know me will realize that there is no way I will be using Civil War fabrics. Instead, I'll be using the full spectrum of vivid brights, using all scraps. I started with the corners, using red-violet/fuschia fabrics. The first two came out pretty well. The next one has over eighty (!) pieces, so I decided to stall a little by blogging before I started it.

Sick Days

Somehow my husband has escaped this terrible virus that has decimated the kids and settled in my throat. Blerg. At least I'm not too wiped out for sewing. I started today by diving into the autumn colors Rapid City quilt that I have had basted for several weeks. I decided on swirly cloud quilting, using the humongous cone of thread that my healthy husband got me for Christmas. We got nine or ten inches of snow yesterday, but the sun was out this morning, so my sewing space was bright and warm. The pearly fabric that I used for the block borders was really glowing in the winter light.

When I'm quilting something this big, I appropriate the gateleg table that we normally use as a sofa table, and I set up a TV tray on my right to support the weight of the quilt. The boys were not happy to give up their ginger ale and kleenex stand today.
I got about half of the quilt finished; the swirly motif is looking very nice against the straight lines of the patchwork.

I guess I should start thinking about making some binding for this one!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

River group project

My art quilting group is working on a group project, in which we are making a series of quilts with a continuous river running through all of them; we are all using the same fabric as the river, a lovely dark navy with lines and circles that look like flowing water:

our watery river batik
 I, in what can only be described as a temporary break with insanity, have decided that I want to make my 18 x 24" quilt using tiny hexagons, so it will look in the end something like a hex-grid mosaic gameboard. I will be English paper piecing these (which means by hand, for those of you who might be uninitiated in the jargon of this process). Here is one hexagon basted onto its paper backing:

Yes, these hexes are only .375" on a side.

And here is my progress after yesterday and today:

If I have calculated correctly, I will need about 1167 of these micro-hexies to complete the project. But's not due until June!

Easy Street: Week 6

The Sycknesse is upon our house, so I was glad the directions were easy peasy this week. It took me longer to cut the pieces than to sew and press them, but that is because I do not have a well-organized, sorted stash of scraps. Mine are roughly sorted by color into filing-size bins, each heaped in a jumble that needs to be sorted for size and ironed every time I need something. Oh well. If it ain't broke, why fix it? This project has taken me to the very bottom of the barrel of the light neutrals.

We made 128 of these this week:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Easy Street: Week 5

So much to do today...we're baking and decorating a cookie tree, making custard for tomorrow's trifle, peeling beets for borscht, and taking the bones out of a pound of smelts. But first things first...time to post the progress on Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street mystery project. I (and, I'm certain, many others) certainly appreciate the straightforward simplicity of this week's directions. All we had to make was 64 of these:

I still haven't chosen my third color yet...dark winey reds will be auditioning later between the beets and smelts. Wishing you all much hygge!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Free-Motion Summary

I cannot overstate how much I have learned by participating in this project. Practice, practice, practice...that is the key! Here are the twelve projects that I completed for the monthly tutorials:

January -- "Leaves" tutorial by Frances Moore
February -- "Feathers" tutorial by Diane Gaudynski
March -- "Fillers" tutorial by Ann Fahl
April -- Don Linn's tutorial on marking designs through tulle
May -- "Railroad Tracks" tutorial by Leah Day

June -- "Divide and Conquer" tutorial by Cindy Needham

July -- "Tiles" tutorial by Angela Walters

August -- "Jester's Hat" tutorial by Wendy Sheppard

September -- "Fancy Feather" tutorial by Paula Reid

October -- Teri Lucas tutorial on echo quilting/creative filling. This was my favorite one, and...I won a prize! (OK, so it was randomly selected, but it's still exciting!)

November -- "Spirals" tutorial by Sarah Vedeler

December -- progressive borders tutorial by Patsy Thompson
Throughout the year, I have used my newfound free-motion confidence on uncountable are a few photos:

Once again, I would like to offer a HUGE thank you to SewCalGal for organizing this excellent project; her ability to keep something so large so well organized is truly remarkable! Also, big thanks to each of the twelve teachers for providing such valuable information to help everybody who participated (there were HUNDREDS of us!) to grow and improve our skills. Thank you, thank you, thank you ALL!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Easy Street mystery: Week 4

I wasn't in love with these when I first finished them, because the colors seemed to be blending together too much. Now that I have looked at them in actual sunlight, however, they're not so bad. I like the dark, swampy colors...I keep (mentally) using the word "murky" to describe what I'm going for. I need to pick my third color at this point, though; I haven't yet cut those squares for the fourth week. What should I use? Golds? Oranges? Chocolate browns? Maybe even (gulp) smoky blues?
Erratum: In my haste to calculate percentages, I was a little off last week because I failed to consider the half-square size of the flying geese. I think the correct figure is that we have now assembled or cut 66% of the units for this quilt. (for those of you who like the numbers...LOL!)

Pillowcases for Sandy Hook

A local quilt shop is collecting pillowcases to give to the children of Sandy Hook elementary school when they return after the winter break. I am tired of sewing for victims of violence, but maybe this project will help a few traumatized children recognize that most of the world isn't bad guys.

"Clearing the Decks": Part II

Despite my best intentions, the process of making this quilt got in the way of documentation, so I don't have a lot of in-progress pictures (sorry, Lynn!). Also, my left brain wouldn't cede control, so I ended up with a thoroughly unintelligible sheet of graph paper to make sure everything would fit together in the end. I so much prefer working like a jigsaw puzzle to make the available pieces fit into a final known shape, rather than creating a shape that is undetermined. Anyway, here's the top, minus the borders that are already cut and ready to assemble. I'm going to put a 2" strip of white around this, then a split rail arrangement of 2.5 x 5" bricks to border the whole thing (and use up the precut bricks).

I cleared out two plastic bins AND a bag in making this. This quilt incorporates:
  • the scrappy rectangles made from 3" pink, green, and red squares (leftmost column)
  • seven unassembled 12" blocks (top and right)
  • all the 2" squares that I had (second column), including a leftover block from a Modern Patchwork Roller Rink table runner
  • 22 6" blocks (third column and bottom row), some made for the rainbow scrap challenge, 2 from a previous Newington Schoolhouse Quilters mystery quilt, and 2 practice paper pieced palm blocks
  • Some leftover 1" squares, already sewed into strips during my Sol Lewitt phase (located along the left edge of the vertical column of six" blocks in the center portion)
  • a five" block (incorporated into the border of bricks, because that's where it fit)
  • the tumblers and half-rectangle triangles that I cut on the Accucut last January
  • the leftover strip of selvedges combined with a few pre-cut bricks

Hurray for cleaning house!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Clearing the Decks" Quilt

I had a really fun and convivial day at Lisa's Clover Hill today chatting with the ladies and working on assorted little projects. I realized that I don't really have a particular big project that I'm working on right now, so it's hard to pack something up to go out for the day. What I decided on last night is to use up all the little bits and orphan pieces that have been sitting in various bins for embarrassing lengths of time. At my friend Lynn's request, I'll do my best to document my progress and thoughts as I work through this project.

This is really the first time I have worked in such a free-form way. Kitty, another friend from the shop, seemed surprised by that, but it's true: I'm an absolute slave to patterns and precision. The patterns are frequently of my own design, but I like to have an idea of where I'm going. My idea of being free-form is to not fuss too much about a zillionth of an inch of a point getting cut off, maybe to stretch pieces a little to fit and sometimes to rely on "quilting it out" in the end. For this, I'm trying my hardest to leave those worries by the wayside. We'll see how that goes, if my right brain can assert any kind of dominance over my left.

Here are a few photos of my first day of collecting bits and pieces, and some preliminary stitching. For the rest of the evening, I'll be tracking down various orphan blocks that are hiding all over the place and figuring out what to do with them.
I have a four or five-inch wide strip of selvage strips, leftover from the bolster pillow, that I might use.
I have three 12x24" blocks that I made when I was being very virtuous about the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. Although that fell by the wayside in my life this year, this project seems like a good way to use up the few pieces that I did complete (red, pink and green). I thought I had blue and purple ones somewhere; I'll check upstairs in the UFO bin later when I tuck the boys in.
These strips are from the small scraps that I cut last January using Lisa's big Accucut machine. I'm never going to cut more tumblers or half-rectangle triangles...might as well throw 'em in the mix! There's also a row of 2" squares in the middle of the wall in this photo, and some 2.5 x 5" bricks that I started piecing  like a split rail. 
A few dresden flowers from the early months of the Rainbow Scrap Challenge might make their way into this quilt as well.
I also have a set of nine red and nine green 6" squares. I'll work these in too.

At first, I was envisioning a very minimalist, small-pieces, scrappy quilt with a "modern" (i.e., lots of white space) look, kind of like a bar graph with every bar made from different shapes or sizes. I don't relish the idea of cutting a zillion more tiny scraps on the machine, though; using up what I already cut is the whole point. So, now I'm thinking more of a complete mishmash, but I'll spend a day or two trying to figure out how to strike a balance between the big blocks and the tiny bits. Progress report complete.

Monday, December 17, 2012

New pillows!

'nuff said:

This matches nothing in my home, but I don't care.

This selvedge bolster matches EVERYTHING in my home!
It even has a zipper.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In the twelfth month of quilting...

December's free-motion quilting challenge was to work on border designs, based on the tutorial graciously provided by Patsy Thompson. I printed about a dozen of the practice sheets that she provided and doodled all over them trying out different designs. Even my eight-year-old enjoyed this exercise, because he can use this technique to incorporate frames onto some of his drawings.

I spent the cold, grey morning working with a very heavy heart on what turned out to be quite a lovely piece, which I will turn into a pillow for our family room. I used a length of Moda Marbles that was hiding in the stash, a pale dove grey washed with pink, and a faint metallic shimmer. I don't really know why I bought this, because it's not really "me," but it was perfect for this project, because it was plain enough for the thread to show. Lots of pictures to share in this post.

I started by tracing and stitching the square lines, using my walking foot and Aurifil 50:
Then, a different motif in each border area. I started as Patsy Thompson suggested, with the basic design that she called "worms" in the first half-inch border region:

In border #2 (also a half-inch), I stitched a basic swirl, again as she suggested in her tutorial:
Detail of first two half-inch borders
 The next border was a full inch. I decided to try my "whale tail" motif that I used in the October challenge. I did a little paperwork to figure out how to turn the corners gracefully, and decided to add simple feathers:
Corner detail of third border
In the next half-inch border, I went with Angela Walters' little square spirals that I practiced in November. I still really like this particular motif, and it was easy to turn the corners:
Fourth border
The next two were both two inches wide, and I wanted to try the feather wave border that was shown in the tutorial. I started by marking evenly distributed dots along the edges of the border region. I used those dots to eyeball the curves, which I did free-motion rather than switching to the walking foot:
A little uneven, but not enough to rip 'em out.
 With the curves in place, I went back in to add the feathers:
Fifth (two-inch) border of curved feathers.
It took me a while to get the shapes right on these and some looked much better than others (which is the point of a learning experience, right?). The final border was to be a mirror image of the fifth. Again, I started with the basic curve:

...and then braced myself for the final pass, adding the last set of feathers:
I especially love the corner treatments on this design.
 Now that I am looking at this photo, I can't believe that I made this! These borders look absolutely amazing (which, as it happens, I do say so myself)!!! I know, because I made it, that they are far from technically perfect, but this wasn't done with an embroidery machine, or a pantograph, or even a stencil -- just completely eyeballed free-motion work -- so I'm quite pleased with the results! In fact, I deserve some more exclamation points: !!!!!

After the borders were done, I had to put something in the center. I love the spiraling square, so I switched over to my walking foot and started at one of the corners working my way in:
This is a snap to do on a small piece that is easy to pivot.
And, behold, the finished piece:

After I finished this, I took my bobbin case apart to vacuum the lint out (I always do after a few hours of quilting) and found that the metallic sheen on the fabric was coating the guts of my machine. Yikes! It wasn't sticky, though, so it came right off. The next and final task for this wonderful challenge is to compile all twelve of my projects into a single collage. Tune in next time!