Wednesday, November 18, 2015

HIP Wednesday (Holidays in Progress)--or is that WHIP?

I spent most of today doing FMQ. It was a windy, rainy day, so quilting seemed the best thing to do. And it was going well. I did not have to pick out stitches on 1 1/2 patches due to tension problems like I did on Sunday. (Did you know that if your thread wraps around the screw that holds your presser foot on, the back of your quilt ends up feeling really ratty? And if you haven't done a check for a while, you get to spend a whole evening unsewing? It's all kinds of fun. Try it and see.) 

So, anyway, as I was quilting, my mind started wandering around thoughts of the remainder of the year, which includes not only some major holidays, but also three family birthdays (and prep for another birthday early in January). Which also means several little quilting/sewing projects that I can't show here until after the holidays. Oh, and there might be a painting project that's been waiting, oh, maybe 10 years or so. 

Here's my conclusion from all the thinking I did: It's time to take a little break--a blogcation. I think everyone's probably totally sick of seeing my slow progress on the Big Quilt. I have made some progress on the Fall Leaves quilt (but nothing earth shaking to show), and I've done nothing on the Lake Michigan quilt in the last couple of weeks. Given the time of year, I think my progress will be even slower over the next few weeks. And there won't be much else I can show because anything I do work on is secret for the time being. I do plan to do my monthly link-up post for Throwback Thursday at the beginning of December, but otherwise, I'm going to just enjoy seeing what everyone else is doing--when I'm not celebrating. After the first of the year, I'll share my holiday projects and any progress on my quilts, and then I'll get back to my usual blogging routine.  

As I finished quilting today, I looked around the room. 

This bed has looked this way for the past several weeks. Actually, it looks like this most of the time. There are at least three projects and several project inspirations on it and assorted quilting paraphernalia. I'm going to need this bed for my daughter's family this weekend. There are also two other rooms that are part of my "studio," so obviously I have a little cleaning up to do. And then? Bring on the celebrations!

I'm linking up this week with Sew Fresh Quilts and with Val's Quilting Studio (with apologies to Valerie because this isn't an archive post but is what my space looks like right now--the theme for her linky party this week). The linky party buttons are on the right.

Here's wishing you lots of fun celebrations in the coming weeks! See you again in the new year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Trunk Show!

This week, Soma at Whims and Fancies is hosting an online Trunk Show of our favorite quilts. What fun! But wait, pick my favorite quilts? That's like having to pick a favorite child or grandchild (all of them, thank you very much). 

So I've been thinking about my quilts and what might best represent my style. I've been quilting for a long time. My quilts tend to be derivative--based on a well-known block, a picture of a quilt or a design, or on a pattern from someone else. But there are some that are original designs, and even though I haven't made many, I think they are quilts that are uniquely me. Those are pictorial quilts made with either foundation paper or freezer paper piecing techniques, and they are the ones I've chosen to share today. If you want to read more about them, just click on the links in the title of each quilt. I've also included a couple of other quilts that are actually from patterns by others--but are representative of my style of choosing and combining fabrics. 


I made this quilt during 2012-2014 to remember a walk on a mild day during a winter of almost no snow. It is based on a clip of a video I took and is freezer paper pieced, hand quilted and made entirely from my scrap bins. I entered it in the Blogger's Quilt Festival in November 2014, and it won in the Art Category. It now hangs in my living room--perfect for this time of year.


I think this was my first attempt at a paper pieced original design, and oddly, I can't remember the exact technique I used. I made it in 2008 as a wedding present for my nephew and new niece. It was hand quilted.



I made these quilts for my sister-in-law (top quilt) in 2014 and for my brother (bottom) in 2012 for their birthdays. They love sailing and Lake Michigan. Years ago I made tiny versions of quilts using traditional block patterns, and I think these are an extension of that interest in working with small pieces. They are foundation paper pieced. The top quilt also has some layered top-stitch applique (Accidental Landscape technique by Karen Eckmeier). 

This little picture is of the lodge at Hetch Hetchy, the reservoir in Yosemite National Park that provides water to San Francisco. My grandfather built the lodge and it holds special meaning for my dad, so I made the tiny quilt for him for his 90th birthday in December 2013. It is foundation paper pieced with some layered applique and machine quilting. 

I am a long-time admirer of Ruth B. McDowell and her quilts. In fact, she is the quilter that inspired me to try making my own pictorial quilts. This is a pattern from her book Piecing Workshop and is a great way to practice the various techniques in freezer paper piecing. I used only fabric from my stash and hand quilted it. I completed this quilt in February 2013.

And finally, Poinsettia

This is from a pattern by Eileen Bahring Sullivan from 1994. I completed it in January 2015.
It's a foundation paper pieced quilt, and is the first time I did FMQ on a quilt of this type. 

So that's what's in my trunk. I hope you enjoyed my part of this show. I love making all sorts of quilts, but these types are the ones that are probably most "me" of all the quilts I make. 
I hope you head on over the the show and see what everyone else has on display. Please share your quilts, too. Oh, and did I mention there are treats? Check 'em out! The button is to the right. 

Gaining FMQ Confidence

After three restless weeks, I'm finally settling down and back to the treadle again. I now have three of the large blocks on the Big Quilt quilted, with some spillover quilting on surrounding blocks. This quilt is definitely going to be a little history of my growth in FMQ, especially on the blocks with the floral design. 

My favorite floral patch so far is the orange one in this picture. I can still see some wonkiness here and there, but it is the first block that I felt free enough to quilt without drawing much of the pattern before quilting. I'm getting lost in tight spots less now and am improvising a little more. I've started adding some curlicues here and there instead of just leaves when I get into a smallish space. Now I do have to say that I've been a bit more awkward on some of the patches after taking a break from FMQ, but that's okay. When the quilt is finished, it will be fun to compare my earlier and later attempts at quilting the flowers. 

In other news, I have a couple of snippets to add to the Throwback Thursday post I did last week. The day after I wrote the post, my son sent me a link to a realtor's website that he had come across, and it turns out that the little bungalow that we lived in while I was making that quilt is for sale! There were lots of pictures as well as a video of it, so I was able to see what changes there have been since we lived there. Most of them are cosmetic, and the place still has much of it's charm, especially in the kitchen. The wallpaper in the attic room is gone now (not surprising), and it looks like it just got a fresh coat of bright white paint (the electrical outlet covers were in a pile on the floor). It was fun to see the old house again, and it's such a coincidence that we were able to see it right after I wrote about it. 

The other little tidbit is that some of us fellow bloggers were discussing the fading of the old bedspread and wondering about the instability of older fabric dyes. As I was making the bed the other day (yes, the old quilt is still on it--I move slowly to make changes), I noticed that the fabric that I bought for the binding after I finished the quilting has not faded at all even though the other fabrics are in bad shape where the sunlight got to them. I wonder if that is because it was relatively newer fabric with a more stable dye. Can anyone shed any light (ha) on why there is such a difference in fading?

Otherwise, here's what else I've been up to this week. I have an old spool cabinet that I keep my thread, embroidery floss, and needles in, but now that I'm doing more FMQ, I've been investing in cones of thread that are too big for the spool cabinet drawers. So I decided to check out some antique stores for an old medicine cabinet for additional storage, and I found this little gem...

Selfie! (Old school style)
I'm not sure how old it is--probably not super old. It holds my thread cones nicely. That little tea towel was given to me at my wedding shower in 1978. I use it as a dust cover for my treadle when I'm not sewing. I'm thinking eventually I might hang a little scrap of fabric instead and pin some minis to it. 

Here's my other spool cabinet: 

Someone painted the label areas black and stuck little cherub decals on--I'm guessing this happened a long time ago given their poor condition. I was going to remove them, but I've grown attached to them--and they are part of its history. It was way too expensive, but this was what really grabbed my attention:

It still has the tin lithograph advertisement on the back from when it was in a shop! I have not seen one of these in any spool cabinets I've come across when antiquing. So cool! Just had to share this. It fits so well with my treadle. (Side note: Do you see those little paint chips on the wall behind the cabinet? Some colors I'm considering for painting my bedroom. Got to do that before I replace the old quilt on the bed.)

Well, enough rambling. I'm linking up this week with Sew Fresh Quilts and My Quilt Infatuation for their linky parties. Buttons are on the right. 

Have fun quilting, and remember, practice builds confidence when it comes to FMQ.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday Quilt Edition: The 13-year Bed Quilt

You know those UFOs or WIPs or whatever you name your projects that seem like they'll never get done? I'm here to tell you that you can complete them (eventually) and enjoy them long afterwards, even if you initially bit off way more than you could chew.

Here is the quilt, which we've used on our bed from October to June each year for the last 20 years. 


I've raised the blinds in this picture and put all the lights on to get the truest color, but over the years, we've kept the blinds closed on the west window (on the left side of the picture). The other window faces north, so generally the room is fairly dark. This is how the quilt looks from the doorway. It looks pretty good for a 20-year old quilt doesn't it? Keep reading and I'll explain in a few minutes why I've included this tidbit about the lighting.

I started designing this quilt in August 1982. My diary told me so. I also still have a folder with odds and ends of plans and templates, including an old grocery store receipt for dish detergent (55 cents) with scribbled notes on it about yardage requirements. We were living in a rented duplex at the time with our 18-month old daughter. I had recently learned how to hand quilt and had it in my mind to make a bed quilt to replace a cheap store-bought bedspread we got when we married in 1978. 

I chose two blocks. I'm not sure of my source, but I have a note paper that mentions Puss in the Corner and Grandmother's Cross with the dates 1898 and 1931. I must have copied that information from a book. I also have the graph paper design that I colored and most of the templates that I made from graph paper and glued to plastic stencil material. 

Notice the double border at the top of the design. I used that so that the quilt was long enough to fold over our pillows and would still show a border, as you see in the picture of it on our bed. You can see a couple of options that I tried out at the top of the design page.

I'm not sure when I purchased the material for the quilt. I didn't mention this quilt in my diary again until June 1983, when I noted that I was working on it, and in October 1983, when I mentioned that I was still cutting pieces out--over a year after I started the design. And in February 1984 (!) I noted that I had started cutting out the blue pieces for the quilt. I wasn't using a rotary cutter yet, so all that cutting was by scissors after tracing around each template. Now, in between all that cutting, my son was born (July 1983), so I have some idea of what I was up to most of the time. But I also quilted a double wedding ring top for my sister-in-law and made some other quilts that I'll blog about sometime. 

In May 1984, we moved to a little bungalow. Our old bed quilt was now nearly 6 years old and looking a little worse for wear, but I was sure I'd get our new quilt finished soon and I refused to buy something else in the meantime. We lived in that house for 11 years. My husband and I had an attic bedroom (the kind with a sloped ceiling where you can only stand up straight when walking down the middle of the room). During that time, I won $100 worth of wallpaper (which went far in those days) at a local store. In my optimism about finishing the quilt, I chose wallpaper to match the new quilt--an ivory background with a tiny dark red and blue print--to cover the knee wall of our room and a navy striped paper (very much like the outer border of the quilt) which I cut apart and made into a border strip where the knee wall met the ceiling. Never mind that it did not go with the brown/navy bedspread with the giant stylized paisley that we were using.

After we moved, I took a job quilting for pay (I'll write about that some day soon). And there were always other projects to tackle. I abruptly stopped writing in my diary the day we moved, so my detailed notes about quilting the bed quilt ended. At some point I got it pieced. I still have the plan for the quilting design--which I soon found out was way more dense than I realized and would take (almost) forever to hand quilt. But I was committed, and there was no turning back. I made templates from plastic stencil material and drew around them with a silver lead pencil as I quilted in a hoop on my lap. 

Here's the design:

And here's how it looks in quilting:

Well, you probably know where this story is going. In 1995, we built a new house and moved into it in July. By that time the old bedspread from 1978 was pretty much shredded, and the "new" bedspread had never had a chance to enjoy its beautifully wallpapered attic room. So shortly after we moved, I made the push to finish the new quilt. I had to shop for new material for binding, but was lucky to find a red that was almost the exact same color as the original red fabric--it even had a little whitish figure in it. I finally finished the quilt 13 years after I started it, and we've been using it ever since. It used to hang all the way to the floor, but sometime along the way, we bought a new bed with a thicker mattress, so now there is a dark green dust ruffle added to the box spring. 

I didn't know a lot about fabric selection in those days (except that I knew I didn't want floral), so the quilt doesn't have a lot of contrast. It's not a style I'd pick now either, but I still like it and have a little feeling of excitement when I pull it out of the closet when the weather starts to cool in the fall. Because it took so long to make, I've never considered replacing it. However, the last couple of years, I've been noticing something...

Here's what the bottom right corner looks like today (I've folded it up to the top of the bed so you can see it):

And here's the left bottom corner--the one by the window that ALWAYS HAS THE BLIND DRAWN):

Faded! See that contrast between the two sides? It's getting worse really fast and starting to feel kind of rotten. The little bit of light from the setting sun through the blind each day did its damage. No matter how much we think we are protecting our quilts, light is an enemy, even if it does take 20 years to notice. 

I think this quilt is near the end of the line. (Understatement!) It looks fine from the doorway in low light, but something will need to be done soon. I'm thinking I might save the middle of the quilt--cut it down to a lap size and re-bind it for an emergency car quilt. I would love to make a whole cloth quilt in off-white to replace it. But I have to be realistic. It would probably take me way too long to do that, even with machine quilting. The blanket you see under the bed quilt is actually a commercially made off-white cotton quilt. It's not big enough to be a bedspread, but maybe I will buy (yes, I said buy) a bigger one to be the main quilt. Then I could make bed runners to change as often as I'd like. 

Here are some stats: The quilt measured 104 by 111 inches when I made it (10-inch blocks, 2-inch sashes, and borders of 2, 4 and 3 inches). The batting is a fairly light weight polyester and the quilting thread is a hand quilting cotton. The quilt is now roughly 101 by 107 inches. I don't know if that is shrinkage from quilting or washing.

So there you have it. I'm not sure if this quilt is 20 years old or 33, but it's had a good run. Persistence did pay off. And apparently made me a little too attached to the final result. Now it's time to let go.

I'm linking up today with Jenn from A Quarter Inch from the Edge for Throwback Thursday. (Button is on the right).

Now, go work on a UFO, WIP, anything!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lake Michigan

Just a quick post here. We've been busy travelling back and forth to cuddle our new grandson, who, by the way, now has a name. On my blog, he'll be E, but I've been known to share his name on private emails.   

I did get some sewing time in on Sunday. I had some strips of fabric up on the wall for my Lake Michigan quilt, and I decided that rather than lay out the whole quilt before sewing, I'd stitch the water and then lay out the next section from there. It will be much easier to handle if I sew as I go. 

Here's a close-up of a section:

And here's how it looks from far. (Sorry about the blurriness here. I was too far away for my camera setting and the lighting. I'll try to get sharper images when I add more.)

To give you some perspective, the work is approximately 32 inches wide, and the water section is about 6 inches from top to bottom. (I pinned the "wet sand" fabric to the bottom to get an idea of how the bottom edge of the water will look. 

You can see in this post how I pinned fabrics to my design wall when I started. In the end, though, I just cut strips of random widths ranging from about 1 1/2 inches to about 3 inches, and then made random wavy cuts, pressed under a quarter inch, and laid them out. (The technique is Accidental Landscapes by Karen Eckmeier.) I knew I wanted some bright turquoise somewhere because that's one of the striking features of Lake Michigan, but otherwise I just quickly slapped them up and pinned them together before sewing. 

I usually sew the strips to a foundation, but this quilt is larger than usual and I didn't want the layers to be too thick. So I topstitched each strip to the one behind it and then trimmed away the excess fabric. 

It occurred to me while I worked that this is an improv quilt for me. I have a basic plan, but I really don't know exactly how it will look in the end. So in addition to linking up with Freshly PIeced for WIP Wednesday and Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social (if Lorna is doing it this week--remember the Dog Gone Cute link-up is going on), I'm linking up with Ad Hoc Improv Quilters.

Have fun quilting this week, improv or not.