Saturday, November 11, 2017

Quilt for Vegas

I've been away from social media more than I've been on it recently, but a few weeks ago I noticed that the Las Vegas Modern Quilt Guild was collecting quilts to give to first responders and families of victims of the mass shooting there on October 1. They were asking for quilts (as well as quilt components and financial support) made from Grayscale blocks and heart blocks from patterns by Cluck Cluck Sew. The recommendation was for each block to be made from white fabric and a cheerful color. So while I was on vacation in East Tawas a couple of weeks ago, I selected some bright prints in rainbow colors at the Ben Franklin store for my contribution. I'm not sure why I chose those colors--probably because that was the range of colors of the sample quilt the guild shared and I liked the look. Certainly cheerful! I already had some white fabric, so I figured I was all set, and on October 31, I got started. 

Okay, first a teaser. Then the story of how this came to be. Then some photos and stats--

My first decision was to make just Block A of the Grayscale blocks and place them in a zig zag like in the sample quilt. And I thought I might mix things up and make the colored parts of the block scrappy. I also thought I would make the quilt from 42 blocks (41 Grayscale blocks plus 1 heart block). While cutting strips, I realized that I did not have enough white fabric, so I made a quick run to the closest fabric store for some Kona White. When I got home, I noticed that the fabric didn't look and feel quite like the white I already had. Perhaps that first white wasn't Kona after all. No problem. I cut the rest of my pieces and then stacked the two sets of white randomly so that if they looked or felt different from each other, it would look like I planned it that way. 

Before I started chain piecing everything, I decided to make a test block. Here's what that looked like: one pieced, one laid out.

I have to say, it just wasn't grabbing me. Since then, I have seen other quilts made with scrappy colored blocks, and I like them a lot, but I just couldn't picture the end result. I stopped sewing long enough to color some ideas on graph paper.

Somewhere along the line, I knew that what I really wanted to do was make each block with white and just one color. I colored 7 blocks of each color, cut them out and then just played with different arrangements of the 42 blocks. As I messed around with them, I discovered that the arrangements I liked best were actually square quilts made with 36 blocks.

I kept arranging and came up with this:
It looks like it, but no wine was involved.
And finally, this:
The blank spot is for the heart
So much easier than making a bunch of blocks and then arranging them on a design wall. Since I had cut enough material for 42 blocks, I decided to make them all and put leftovers on the back. Once all those decisions were made, piecing was a piece of cake and the top was done in no time. I made one more trip to the store for backing fabric and batting (no wait, it was two trips; on the first trip, the store was closed due to a power outage--that's a whole other story I won't go into here).

I really wanted to do something special with the quilting, but my time was limited. My plan was to quilt straight lines (or something like that) in the colored parts and meanders in the background. I pin basted carefully (I thought) and then did the background quilting first. Not the best idea I've had. After the background was done, I could tell that the colored strips were too puckery on the front--and especially on the back--to do straight lines without problems with pleating. I ended up doing meanders in the colored parts, too. During that time, I had all manner of problems with my presser bar adjustment, needles breaking, and tension problems, and I spent a couple of frustrating hours cleaning, oiling, adjusting and doing whatever else I could to get things back on track. The quilting on the front didn't look like I had envisioned it, and it looked worse on the back with lots of bunching. I was so bummed. 

I pressed on. I had enough fabric to make a scrappy binding. I placed the colors pretty much randomly but made sure that I did not use the color of whatever block was next to the binding. It went together without issue, and I spent Thursday evening and Friday hand stitching it to the back while watching Christmas movies (really, already!) on TV.

As soon as the quilt was done, I ran outside to photograph it on our neighbor's fence. The light was terrible, so I'm not going to show you those photos. It was also freezing--literally. Temps in the 20's (F). Cold for this time of year, and especially after having ridiculously warm weather this autumn. Here are the bits of snow that stayed on the ground ALL DAY because it was so cold. Thanks, Canada. I'm assuming this is a gift from you.

I ran back in the house and threw the quilt in the washer and then the dryer, drying it on medium instead of low to work as many crinkles into the back as possible. And you know what? It worked. It came out cozy and just crinkly enough to hide the problems. This is the second quilt I've made this year that gave me fits on the back. Both quilts were made in haste, so maybe that's part of the problem. I may not have been careful enough to pull the backing taut. But I'm thinking now that some adjustment problems with my presser bar might have been putting too much drag on the quilt, so before I do the next one, I'll have to do a little more fiddling. But I sure am glad that a good wash and drying cover up the problems. I took more pictures this morning, with decent light in our living room and on the driveway, and now I'm pleased to share what I made. 

This next one is actually from the evening photos, but I wanted to record my initials/date. See the blue cast? Thanks, Eastern Standard Time change.

Still cold (below freezing), but sunny.

And a bit windy.


Self-portrait--the challenge of sunny.

I had to restrain myself from grabbing fabric markers and coloring in the backing.

I have two leftover blocks, which I'll send along with the quilt for other quilts.

How about some stats?
Dates constructed: October 31 to November 10, 2017
Pattern: Grayscale Block A  and Heart Block from Cluck Cluck Sew
Fabrics: Kona White and possibly other white (who knows); Polynesian Waters by Liora Manne for EBI fabrics (turquoise); Greta Lynn's Boo Basics Baby Zebra in Orange for KANVAS Benartex; KANVAS Studio's Zoo Baby Plaid Yellow, Benartex; mystery green, red and purple fabrics (no info on selvage, and no bolt info because they were flat folds), Coloring Book Floral in Black and White Keepsake Cotton (Joann)

Batting: Warm and White
Thread: Superior Masterpiece cotton in Granite for piecing; Superior King Tut cotton in White Linen for quilting and machine binding, Superior Treasure cotton in Old Lace for Hand stitching binding.
Binding: cut 2 1/4 inch wide, pieced from scraps of front
Size: Blocks: 10 1/2 inches unfinished, Quilt: 60 1/4 inches square pieced; 59 1/4 inches square quilted; 56 1/4 inches square after machine washing on cold and machine drying on medium.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 Treadle for free-motion quilting.

This quilt was a bit more of a challenge than I expected due to traffic/power outage problems, machine issues and quilt bunching, but it's really an easy, versatile pattern, and I have a feeling I'll make it again someday. 

The greatest challenge was trying to make something to cheer victims and responders of one horrific event while hearing the news of other unimaginable, devastating events. When will the madness end? I won't say anything further about it here, but you know how I feel. 

I'm linking up today with Lizzie Lenard Vintage Sewing for Free Motion Mavericks (because this is the first quilt I've been able to totally FMQ in more than a year since my accident), Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop? and Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it Up Friday (yes, this is Saturday, but it was finished on Friday).

Keep quilting comfort!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Stitching and Wanderlust

We've been away again. Autumn is for wanderlust. This time we ran off to the east coast--the sunrise side, and quieter side--of our beautiful state. It was sunny and cool--just as autumn should be. We had a blast staying at a tiny cabin on Lake Huron, and hiking and biking on trails along the lake. It's an area we know almost nothing about because we always seem to gravitate to the more touristy and heavily promoted west coast. Because we were on a bay, we were able to watch both sunrise and sunset each day. What a delight! And at this time of year, we could watch the sunrise without having to get up super early. It was lovely. 

East Tawas, the town we stayed in, had--drum roll, please--a Ben Franklin!! Yay! I remember shopping at Ben Franklin when I was a kid, but there are none near our home, so this was a real treat. Years ago, I would have loitered in the craft department, or maybe candy or toys, but this time I headed straight for the fabric department. I had been looking forward to this all summer. At first, I was a little overwhelmed. There were stacks and stacks of flat folded fabric. I had to narrow my focus a bit, so I decided to buy some half-yard cuts of rainbow solid-ish prints.

And then I spotted a large floral that I just couldn't pass up. Two yards, which is more than I usually buy of one fabric. I have some ideas, but time will tell what I do with this. Isn't it fun?

In the evenings, I worked on the Hollyhocks quilt. The cabin light was dim (cozy!), but I had the foresight to bring along a little high intensity lamp, and that was just right for hand quilting. I had unquilted the parts of the leaves that bothered me, and during our trip was able to finish them with a simpler design.
I like it better. Now all the interesting parts of the quilt are done. The rest will just be background quilting for texture, but that's okay. It will be a good project for evenings this fall. 

Right after we got home from vacation, we ran away for a Saturday bike ride (also on the east side of the state) because the awesome autumn weather was hanging on, and there were predictions for rain this week. But yesterday, I did manage to finish the quilting on the Lake Michigan quilt. 
The color is off here, but low light showed the quilting the best. I used my walking foot to follow the applique'd pieces in the water and land and then did more wavy lines in the sky. Next up is the hand embroidery of the grasses in the foreground. Another evening project--or maybe a deck project if the weather's nice.

This weekend the Grands are coming and we'll be celebrating our youngest grandson's second birthday (and early Halloween). Fun, fun, fun! Next week our lives will settle down a bit, and I hope to get started on a new donation quilt. 

I'll leave you with some pictures of our most recent adventures. Of course, the first photo I took just had to be of a sewing machine we saw while touring the Tawas Point Lighthouse.
We visited the lighthouse at least four times during our trip. And every day the sky was different. A rain storm was just leaving the area when we first arrived.

Our last visit was in the pink light at sunset.

We hiked along Lake Huron and Tawas Bay.

Monarchs flitted ahead of us. The area is a gathering spot for them as they get ready to fly to Mexico. This year they were lingering longer than usual.

Sunset was gorgeous.

But the real thrill for me was sunrise over the water. 

The bike trail led along the bay,

past parks (Isn't this seagull slide cute?),

through an arboretum,
through a meadow--the ghost of a once bustling company town (The houses are long gone, but the odd configuration of trees marks where they once stood),

and along colorful roadsides.
It was everything an autumn vacation should be. A vacation with a coda! That little Saturday ride, might have been through the last of our autumn color. The leaves were falling like glitter, and this week the rain might finish off most of them. 

Okay, enough with the wanderlust. I'm linking up today with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social. Hopefully, I'll have something new to share next week. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

More Puppies! (and a Travelogue)

A few weeks ago, I made a couple of puppy blocks (Dog Gone Cute pattern by Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts) for Karen at KaHolly. She is collecting them to make wallhangings and other items for an auction fundraiser to support a pet rescue agency in Texas that is helping victims of Hurricane Harvey. 

I just could not stop at two puppies. I had a couple more ideas to try. My first idea was to make a husky with blue eyes. Well, it turned out looking more like a Border Collie or an Australian Shepherd. Oh well. 
I tried again with some cream and gray Grunge fabrics. In my mind, the block was awesome, but my placement of fabrics was just wrong, and block was so hideous that I'm not even going to show you. Puppy fail. Funny how that happens.

I also wanted to try a brown dog--I don't know what they're called, but I know I've seen them--with blue eyes and a pinkish nose. That one turned out more like what I was imagining.
I wonder, though: do these puppies look a little vacant? A little zombie-ish? Maybe I should have used a slightly darker blue for the eyes. I love them anyway, and I'm sure someone somewhere will love them, too. I probably should have named them, but then they'd be harder to part with. Wait, I'll name one. The Border Collie is Fly, of course, from the movie Babe. Love that movie! You can name the others if you want.

I have other ideas, but I think I need to stop  eating potato chips  making puppy blocks now. These little pups will soon join their playmates for a little trip to meet up with all the others at KaHolly's quilty dog party. Oh, now I have a Go Dog Go earworm. Remember that book by P.D. Eastman? I must have read it a million times by now. It's a fun book. 

I'm linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday. Have fun with your puppies--whether furry or fabric. And thank you, Karen and Lorna, for making this project possible!

Okay, since this has been a tiny post, how about a few lot more vacation photos for those of you who like armchair travelogues? These are from the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, in the rural district, which is an area that I think of as ghost farms--a rural museum in the National Lakeshore (hard to explain). A lovely area. I think they are considering some heritage farming there in the future. We rode the newest part of the trail this year. 

A peek through a window of the farmhouse--layers of wall paper and linoleum printed to look like carpet.

Rest stop tree

Narada Lake

Do you see the beaver cuts? Two trees about to be toppled and one pointy stump where one has already been felled (way on the left)

Log school house from the 1800's (right across the trail from the beaver work)

A peek through the window. This is one of my favorite pictures from the ride. I love the dusty light.

I wonder if this could be a Native American trail marker tree.

The brightest spot of color we saw on the trail.

Okay that's it for this post. Bye bye.