Friday, November 30, 2012

Colorful pincushion

The photo for November's color palette challenge was wonderfully vibrant: 

...but, since it was essentially the same as the May colors (which I also loved, of course), and it came during the holiday/end-of-semester frenzy, my project was a modest one. I made a pincushion as a prototype for the pincushion exchange that Newington Schoolhouse Quilters is having on Monday evening. Cute little hand-sewn hexies!

Free Motion Spirals

It's the end of November, so this year's Free-Motion Challenge is coming to a close soon. I would like to express my deep gratitude to SewCalGal for organizing this wonderful project. I have been practicing for just under a full year, and what a difference it has made! I'm not winning any awards with my quilting, but I would classify myself as having confident intermediate skills. And even more importantly, I am not feeling intimidated by the prospect of trying new things; even quilting really large projects seems feasible now!

I love these spirals that Sarah Vedeler focused on in her tutorial. I have done a few spirals before, but having some guidance on how to shape them evenly was very helpful. I started by drawing a grid with the FriXion pen, then jumped in with a couple rows of one-inch spirals:
After a few rows of two-inch spirals, it started to get just a wee bit boring. I consider that a good sign in terms of skill development -- when the mind begins to wander, it means "muscle memory" is taking over and the process is less mentally taxing. When I'm working on a "real" (i.e., not just for practice) project, I combat this boredom by constantly mentally recalculating what percentage of the project I have finished ("Ooh, that's 2 rows finished, 30 to go...I'm 6% done already!...If I do this much every day, it will only take me XXX days to do the whole quilt!"). Seriously, that is what goes through my head.
 I filled up a 16" square, ending with some bigger spirals, and an oblong one to finish off the experiment...
 ...then I wrapped up with a motif from Angela Walters' new book. I really like this little grid filler. I have a quilt in the UFO bin right now that this would be perfect for:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Radical Experiment

So, for a while now, I have been wondering if it is possible to use my embroidery machine with a twin needle using cyan and magenta threads to get a 3D effect. Due to a serendipitous confluence of events -- specifically, the good folks at Urban Threads posted something on Facebook about 3D embroidery AND my machine happened to be hooked up at the exact same time -- this was the evening to try it.

Guess what? WIN!

I can't find my 3D glasses -- I know they're in the house somewhere -- so I'm using my kids' transparent plastic tangram shapes to get the 3D "Magic Eye" effect.

This is just some junk muslin that I hooped up, the design is a symbol font that I previously digitized as an outline with my 4D QuickFont software, stitched out with a 6mm twin needle using rayon threads in the closest I had to true cyan and magenta. Nothing special, nothing to keep...but the concept worked!! [Insert maniacal laughter here.]

I will definitely be doing some more of this space (if you dare).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Everyone in my family loves winter, so we were happy about how cold it was today. We were hoping for a little more snow, but we rest assured that it will be here soon. I've been having fun with my embroidery machine (I really should make a monthly date to set this thing up!), and I stitched out another lovely little Urban Threads design. I had some lovely coordinating snowman batik and a medium blue with tiny sparkly stars for borders. I used the Waffle Time pattern again to make a sweet little number that I'm going to finish as a pillow for our family room. We have the most awful collection of ratty old pillows; it's time to spruce up our space with some prettier textiles. What I love about this particular design is that it doesn't have to go away after the new remains perfectly relevant until the last March blizzards melt away!

Tomorrow is my last (and favorite) lecture of the semester, so I'm feeling especially happy and hygge-filled on this frosty tonight. Stay warm, my friends!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Steampunk stitchery

I don't know what this is going to become in its finished state yet, but I stitched out this cute little dirigible for my steampunk-crazed eight-year-old. (If you see him, don't mention it -- it's a surprise.)

The designs from Urban Threads generally stitch out so wonderfully (as long as I remember to use a fresh needle); this one came out particularly well:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Easy Street: Part 1

With all of my copious spare time, I am making a mystery quilt from Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville blog. She calls it "Easy Street" and claims it will be "less intense" than previous mysteries that she has offered. Sounds vaguely ominous, but tempting enough to dive in.

Although I absolutely love the colors she picked for this quilt (lime, turquoise, purple!!), I don't think I have enough to do an entire huge quilt in those colors. Instead, I chose a brown print that has been percolating up through my stash for several years. I have always loved this one, and it seemed like a good neutral to replace the grey in the Easy Street pattern.

The first set of directions was to make 194 four-patch units. Instead of black-and-whites, which I can never keep in stock here, I chopped up a bunch of light neutrals for my background:

It took a day to cut, sew, press, and recut the strips. I went to bed on Saturday night with an array of 384 pairs all lined up on my desk. I started the morning by sewing these together and hanging them on the wall.

Wouldn't this make a pretty holiday garland?
Sometime during the first round of NFL games, I harnessed the power of the little fingers in my household to cut these strings apart.
Sweatshop workers. I don't think I need to worry about them organizing.
 I hooked up the embroidery machine to work on some Super Secret projects and got to ironing. Boring! ...but everything looks so pretty when it's done.
Pretty fabrics, pretty patterns
And here they all, Step 1 all done!

I'm hedging on the main colors to use in this quilt. I do love the standard autumnal hues, but I just did an autumn quilt. Is there such a thing as autumn overload? If so, I haven't gotten there yet. I'm considering emerald greens and sapphire blues, with dark chocolate as the accent color (replacing the purple in the original), but I will wait and see what the next directions have before I commit. I still might use the original brights in a smaller version once I have a better idea of how to scale it down.

Numbers 10 and 11 finished

Although these still need labels and hanging sleeves, two more of the Modern Patchwork minis are bound and finished! I stitched the binding down in front of a friend's fireplace on a chilly New England evening...a wonderful, hygge-filled evening if ever there was one.

"Looptastic" miniature
"Happy Hour" miniature
I just finished (!) the quilting on the last one; I'll make some binding later this afternoon and finish it (and maybe some sleeves) during today's football games.

And now my attention turns to some hush-hush secret projects that I can't yet blog about...but I can't wait to!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Basting session

Basting Day:
This is my autumn version of Rapid City. Not sure yet how I'm going to quilt it, but I have the perfect shade of Blendables ready to go!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Quick turnaround

As I mentioned in my last post, I downloaded the International Quilt Festival annual issues. Once I got the templates ready, this only took two evenings -- and that counts the hand appliqued circles (yes, I did something by hand!). Very quick and very lovely project:
"Marbles" table runner. Design by Brigitte Heitland, in  International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene, Winter 2011/12
I think I may begin following this designer's work more closely; I find her new Zen Chic line very appealing, and I love all the subtle curves she incorporates. Watch this space...

I have the binding on two more of the Modern Patchwork minis, with only one more to finish quilting. My next task is to put together a sampler quilt that uses each of the mini patterns in the same fabrics. I'm going to give the assembly directions to anyone who signs up for all twelve sessions of the class that I'm teaching (starting in only seven weeks!?!). I'll get started on that soon. Tomorrow I need to finish the quilting on the twelfth of the minis and baste another full size one, probably the autumn Rapid City that I love so much. I think I have enough pins to baste the Tracking Sandy top too. Also, I'm hoping to get started on Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street mystery quilt. I think I'm going to use an entirely different set of colors than the ones she recommends, but I haven't started cutting yet so I might just go with the lime-turquoise-purple palette that she chose.

Since it's only November 23, there is still plenty of time for me to over-commit myself to making holiday gifts...and I just saw that Urban Threads is having a big site-wide sale. Let the season begin!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Happy Hour mini

Here it is..."Happy Hour," the twelfth and final miniature from Elizabeth Hartman's book:

And that's the LAST ONE! I made EVERY SINGLE THING in that book!

This is only partially quilted right now; I did some nice feathers in the rounded parts, but I can't decide what to do in the background sections. I think a meander would be lost in the busy fabric and would compete with the feathers. I might just pop the walking foot on and do some shape echoing. This picture doesn't really do the piece justice - it's very dark and the fabrics all have different very small-scale optical illusion prints.

Believe it or not, I am not tired of these patterns. I could just keep making them over and over. I have several plans for making larger versions of some of them, and I'm sure they will remain favorite "go-tos" for a long time.

So, what's next...? Maybe this; I think I'm going to buy the three-year International Quilt Festival download (which, incidentally, also has a pattern by Elizabeth Hartman that I've had my eye on):
Marbles Table Runner, pattern by Brigitte Heitland. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Final Craftsy blocks

A little paper-piecing and POW! I have finished all twenty Tangerine Tango blocks from the Craftsy block-of-the-month class! Here are the last two:
19. Scraps from the owl quilt that I finished earlier this year made a nice circle of flying geese. (How is it that I never posted photos of that one?!? I will have to correct that.)

20. At the eleventh hour I realized that I didn't have a lot of red or pink, and I like how those colors look with this vivid Tangerine Tango.
And here they all are, in all their Tangerine Tango glory! These will sit and brew for a while, as I ponder settings and possibly making a few other blocks. I am considering making a whole side border that says "Pantone 17-1463"...subtle, huh?
This has been a great class, thanks to Amy Gibson and the Craftsy crew. I really like their model for online learning, and I hope they host another block-of-the-month program next year.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Odds 'n' ends

In case you're looking for something to read besides political coverage, here are a few things I have been working on over the last few busy weeks. (We're coming up on the holiday season, of course, so I won't be posting about some of my projects until the new year.) I finished another of the Modern Patchwork miniatures, this time the Owl Eyes:

"Owl Eyes" pattern from Modern Patchwork (Elizabeth Hartman)
I am really happy with how the quilting on the Owl Eyes came out. I was trying the Paisley motif from Leah Day's excellent website (if you need ideas for free-motion quilting, it's THE site to visit) using Sulky Blendables (30 wt), which has become my go-to quilting thread. If you want to try it, make sure you use a needle with a really big eye -- I use a 100/16 topstitch needle. I do a lot of pencil-and-paper practice before I try a new motif on the machine. I find that when my hand can draw the design while relaxed, instead of holding onto the pencil for dear life, it's time to give it a try with thread.

I have two more tops from the same book hanging on my design wall, shivering in the chilly air while waiting  for some quilting of their own:
"Looptastic" miniature in autumn scraps
"Escape Artist" miniature in citrusy brights
That makes eleven minis from this book; there's only one more pattern left! Seven of these little minis are hanging at Lisa's Clover Hill Quilts, where I'll be teaching one pattern a month all next year. Last Friday night, I finally got a chance to go there for some sewing, and it was so exciting to see them all together...a feast for my eyes! The semester is wrapping up quickly for CCSU, so I am anticipating lots of nice wintery stitching time in my very near future. I'll get to the Happy Hour (love the name!) in the next few weeks, along with some more UFO quilting, lots of holiday gifts, and who knows what other new projects that may present themselves to me. Hmm, I did pick up a new Rita Hutchens pattern at the Newington Schoolhouse Quilters meeting last night...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November color challenge

Love the photo for the new color palette challenge:

Can't wait to dive into this one. It's pretty close to May's palette (which I also loved):