Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Deconstructing Coins

I've had some fabric panels for awhile (I think a year!) that Hawthorne Threads sent me along with a giveaway. They are samples of some of their digitally printed collections. They seem to coordinate quite well with each other, and I thought it might be fun to use them together in a quilt. 
Then in the last few weeks, the leaders of the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters, Ann and Kaja of Fret Not Yourself and Sew Slowly introduced the idea of making improv quilts with a Chinese Coins theme. If you look at my panels, you see ready-made coins. I could have just cut them apart and sewed them back together with some sashing, but I decided that it was time to challenge myself to go a little further with some improv piecing. 

The extent of my improv up until now has been mainly to hastily combine leftover quilt top fabric pieces with some yardage to make backs of quilts. And I've always thought of it as a relaxed way to just play with fabric. But I look at the process of other improv quilters and I see a slowly unfolding design with lots of consideration, challenge, and discovery along the way. And I have a feeling that most of these quilts end up very different from what their makers initially envisioned, even when the vision was hazy. So with these fabrics, I'm going to try to slow down and let them take me on what I hope is an new improv adventure. 

I searched my stash of solid fabrics and found quite a few colors that work with the prints.

I supplemented with the new blue fabric you see at the left end (from a local fabric shop) and a new piece of coordinating fabric (smoke--the second solid from the left) from Hawthorne Threads. 

I spent yesterday afternoon "deconstructing" the coins in the panels. They are approximately 5 1/4 inches long by 2 to 3 inches wide. 

Then I slashed some of them and inserted solid strips 1 inch wide (1/2 inch finished).

Notice I have the coins placed vertically for a possible horizontal line of coins. There are quite a few with directional prints, so this makes sense to me right now. I'm trying not to make any hard and fast rules here, though, so we'll see what happens. My first thought was to slash every coin, but then I realized I don't have to do that, at least not yet. (See the third coin in the bottom row--I like it the way it is.) I'm going to do a few more with slashes like this (trying to vary the location of the slash a little more) and then think about what variations I might do and how else I can work in the solids. 

This project has been muddling around in my mind for awhile, but now that I've started sewing, I'm going to try to do a little at a time and stay open to new directions. 

Meanwhile, I'm going to focus on quilting my hexie quilt. I've chosen the quilting thread (leftover from another project) and have narrowed the quilting to two different ideas. I know it will be quilted with my walking foot as FMQ on anything bigger than a mini isn't going to work for me right now. Oh, and I also bought an extra little length of the navy fabric that's in the quilt top to use for binding. I like that it's printed diagonally. I love the look of bias binding, and faux-bias is so much easier for me than the real thing.

Ha, I pin-basted this quilt to the extreme, I guess because I wasn't sure how I was going to quilt it. 

I'm linking up today with Ad Hoc Improv Quilters. You can reach them at either site that I marked above or through the AHIQ button on the right. 

Have a good week, wherever your quilting takes you. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Seasonal Mash-up

My calendar says it's winter, the temperatures outside say it's spring--trending toward summer (very strange in my part of the world; we had our bedroom window open last night)--and my quilting life has definitely been autumn this week. But that's okay. I've seen a lot of holiday quilting (looking at you, Lorna, and anyone quilting along with you) and summer quilting (at least for where I live--looking at you again, Lorna). Anyway, I have an autumn quilt finish!!

I started this quilt in late August 2015. I pieced it in just a few weeks but then decided to hand quilt it. It became my travel project, taking much longer than it needed to--and in recent weeks, my evening obsession.

I think I've done about 10 posts on this one in addition to some Instagrams. If you'd like to see the posts, click on the Fall Maple Quilt label on the right sidebar. 

This quilt has seen a lot. It's traveled to northern Michigan at least once, maybe two or three times. It's been to daycare at the Grands (for naptime when I didn't fall asleep myself) and on several train trips, one to Colorado. It has a small smudge on the back from one of those train trips and has a tiny repair where I had to patch in a piece of fabric with some fusible web where fabric along a seam started to shred while I was quilting (but with the busy fabric and dense quilting, no one will know it's there except me--and even I have trouble finding it). Most glaring to me is the wonkiness of the quilting in the border. I started out with parallel lines about 1/4 inch apart. By the time I got to the end, the lines were 3/8 inch apart and nowhere near parallel to the edge. But I don't mind. The texture looks fine. And this quilt border represents a triumph for me since I worked on it while I was pretty much incapacitated in other ways with a broken shoulder. 

The best thing I learned making this quilt is that if it's too hard to see what you are doing when you're quilting, you can quilt from the backside instead. I did that on all of the blue parts of the quilt. I was using a variegated blue thread (and often poor lighting in hotels or on the train), and quilting from the back just made more sense. This worked because I had already quilted around the leaves and borders so I could see exactly what needed to be filled in. 

Here are a few close ups, then I'll give you the details. 

Here are the details:
Pattern: From Ruth B. McDowell in her book Piecing Workshop
Technique: Freezer paper piecing, which I learned from Ruth's book, not to be confused with foundation paper piecing
Front Fabrics: All scraps from my stash. 
Batting: Mountain Mist polyester 
Backing: Moda Bella Solids in Feather
Quilting thread: Blue variegated (#570, Little Prince) Treasure Cotton Hand Quilting thread from Superior Threads; other various colors of random hand quilting threads from my stash
Binding: 1/4 inch batik (cut 2 inches wide) from my stash. I usually use 3/8 inch binding, but I didn't want this one to show much. I thought of using colorful scraps, but decided that I wanted the leaves to stay in the spotlight. My quilt edges are often just a bit ripply even though I really try to keep everything straight. This time I measured my binding each time I turned a corner and made sure that it matched the measurement for the length of the quilt side as determined by the diameter through the center of the quilt. I think I did better, and blocking may take out any irregularity that remains. 
Embellishment: 5 ceramic buttons from a collection I bought a few years ago from Sandra Lance, a ceramic artist who was living in Vermont at the time. I love how they blend in with the fabrics but shine like little gems.
Size: 28 1/4 inches by 36 1/2 inches. I don't plan to wash this, so that's the finished size.

I'm looking forward to hanging this quilt next fall. Not that I want that time to come any time soon. I want to enjoy each day until then just as it comes. No wishing time away.

Oh no, I just realized that I have no hand project to work on now. I may need to do something about that. I do have 2 WIPs to finish--my hexies quilt and the ever-with-me Lake Michigan quilt. That lake quilt always gets pushed to the bottom of the WIPs for some reason--maybe it's a confidence problem? It's near the top now. No where else to go! I do have another quilt that's been muddling around in my mind. I suppose I should also call that a WIP because now there are fabric bits scattered all over the guest bed, too. The muddling is not just in my mind anymore. More on that next week. 

Have a lovely weekend, no matter what season or pseudo-season you are in right now in this wonderful seasonal mash-up!

I'm linking up this week with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social, Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop? and Quilting is More Fun Than Housework for Oh Scrap


Monday, February 13, 2017

House Pattern (sort of)

Woohoo! I had lots of fun responses to my house blocks that I posted last week. In fact, some bloggers asked if I was going to publish a pattern or tutorial of the house with the log cabin style piecing. Now if you read my blog, you'll know I have trouble being succinct. Giving clear directions is probably not my forte. So here's what I'm going to do: I'm posting my graph paper design here. I cleaned it up today. If you are a foundation paper piecing enthusiast, I'm sure you can figure out how to draw your own block from my photos. But here's the good news for those of you who would prefer instructions. Janice from Color, Creating and Quilting has offered to write a tutorial to go along with the graph design. Isn't that neat?? She'll guide you through the process better than I ever could.  

To refresh your memory, here's the finished block:

So here are just a few things to know about the pattern:
It's drawn on 1/4 inch graph paper--I had to tape two pieces together to make it big enough.
The finished block is 9-1/2 inches (10 with seam allowance). 
Add 1-3/4 inch borders (including seam allowance) to bring the block up to 12-1/2 inches (12 inches finished). I make the borders extra wide so I can trim them accurately. 
The logs are 3/4 inches wide (you can use the graph paper lines for the vertical and horizontal lines). 
A, B, C, D and E represent the main colors. (Refer to the photo for a guide)
Bkg=background fabric(s)
SA=Seam Allowance
Numbers 1 through 25 = order of piecing.

Trace the pattern onto foundation paper of your choice. (I use unprinted newsprint from a moving supply store.) No need to reverse the pattern--I've already done it for you.

Here are the graph patterns:

Have fun, and be watching for Janice's detailed instructions on her blog. (No timeline yet, but I'll alert you when the tutorial is up.) I'll link this up this week to Tuesday Tips and Tutorials by Late Night Quilter and Quilting Jetgirl and to Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social.

Friday, February 10, 2017


I started the week by basting my hexie quilt, and I was planning to quilt it, but I had a sudden urge to spend time doing something completely different. (I know I've said recently that I'm a planner, but I guess sometimes I do get tugged way from my plans.). I had seen the house blocks that other bloggers and Instagrammers made in response to a call to action by the Montreal Modern Quilt Guild to make quilts for the families of the victims of the attack on a Quebec City mosque in Canada. 

I remembered saying in my first post this year, "I fervently hope it will be a good [year] for our whole fragile world...I'll keep doing my best to make it a better place through quilting." I've been dismayed (probably too mild a word) by things that have been happening in my country the past few weeks and concerned about our relationships not only with each other but with the rest of the world. I'm only one person. What can I do? Well, as a quilter, I know. I can take quilty action. If I have an opportunity to help comfort even one hurting person, I can do that. So I set aside my quilting plans for the week and threw myself into a project for our country's neighbors (neighbours?) to the north. 

I decided to make two foundation paper pieced house blocks. I worked feverishly on these blocks. I'm going to share a little about how I made them, but please do not lose sight of why I made them. It was a response I felt deeply. 

I quickly drew a simple house on graph paper. 

I couldn't quite settle on the second design. I went to bed that night thinking I might want to do something with a log cabin block. I figured I'd sleep on it and by morning, it would come to me. Well it did--when I picked up my phone the next day. It was right in front of me: the "home" icon on the opening screen. I pulled out the graph paper again and drew it, changing the roof line from the icon a bit to make it easier to piece. 

I did two fabric pulls:

Before I started sewing, I traced each pattern in reverse on newsprint for the foundation.

I started with the "home" icon block. When I first drew the block, I left the center space with the heart empty. I thought I'd use that little scrap with the hearts on for the middle, but when I laid out the fabrics, the delicate little heart got lost in the stronger colors of the solids, so I drew a separate graph design with a pieced heart to insert into the original design. 

Here's the finished block:

I also added a dormer with a heart to the roof in the simple house block. I modified the pieced heart for that one and added a little roof edge. In retrospect, I hope it's not too cutesy, but I really wanted to put a heart in there somewhere. 

The blocks are 12 1/2 inches square including seam allowance--the required size for the quilts. I added borders to fill out the blocks to the correct size. 

Please note that although I included the graph paper designs in this post for the record, I made changes to both patterns (the separate heart blocks in both, and the addition of a horizontal stripe in the simpler house), so they aren't exactly ready to be used as pictured for a pattern. If you are an experienced paper piecer, though, you can probably figure out what I did.

Also, for the record, all of the fabrics are from my stash. The pinks are Kona in Dusty Peach, Primrose, Salmon and Coral. The turquoises are Kona Azure, Capri, Breakers and Jade Green. Yellow is Kona Sunflower. There are a couple of Cotton and Steel prints. I've forgotten what the rest of the odds and ends are.

I thought I was done making houses, but yesterday when I was rummaging in my
basement for some boxes, I came across a basket of random quilty bits I was planning to donate to an art upcycling center. Two of them were little houses--extras I had made for my Neighborhoods quilt a few years ago. The quilt is a pattern by Shelly Burge for Quilt it magazine from March 2008.

I found some leftover scraps of the background fabrics and with a bit of finagling, including two weird Y- seams (!), I was able to squeeze them into one block. By dinner time I had a bonus block. 

It's always satisfying to design and sew quilt blocks. But projects like this are also painful. They are an obsession born of a sense of outrage, helplessness, resolve, compassion--so many mixed emotions in the face of senseless acts of intolerance, violence, hatred. I wish there was never a reason to make these kinds of quilts, but if my blocks can be part of quilts that can help ease the pain of the Muslim families who lost loved ones (or are caring for injured family and friends) and help them feel the love and support of their neighbors (both locally and in the country to the south), perhaps I have helped just a bit to make this fragile world a better place. I am so glad to be part of a worldwide quilting community. Together we can cover the world with love and make everyone feel at home, one quilt at a time. These blocks are houses, but they represent homes. Homes.

I'm linking this post to Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social and Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday. I'm pretty sure this will also show up at the DrEAMi linky party over at mmm! quilts. I'll update to that link at the end of the month.

I encourage you to check out the details of the quilt block collection at the Montreal Modern Quilt Guild, follow their progress, and get involved if you are so moved.  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Autumn in Winter

Remember this quilt top from the Autumn Abundance Blog Hop that Bernie from Needle and Foot hosted last October? You can read about it here and on any of my posts labeled Autumn Abundance (on the right side bar). 

I finally got to the quilting this week. It's been five months since I've machine quilted, and I was eager to see how it would go. I had some down time with my other current project this week while waiting for some batting to come in the mail, so I figured it was a good time to test out quilting to see if my healing shoulder could handle it. I'm still recovering from a shoulder fracture and going to therapy twice a week to build muscle strength. I can do quite a bit now, but I still have trouble reaching out or up and holding my arm in those positions. I wanted to see what I could do with actual quilting, and this little project was perfect before tackling a larger quilt. 

At first, I was going to do an all-over minimal design, but I wanted to push the limits for my arm, and I think the quilt--with it's traditional fabrics--wanted more, too. So I chose to do a combination of walking foot and detailed free motion quilting. Using the walking foot was easiest, and free-motion worked best with small movements. I can't keep up large scale free-motion movements for very long. (Yet.)

My goal was to quilt pretty densely in the scenery and background areas so that the window frame and geese would stand out the most. In person, they do. Maybe not so much in pictures. 

Last night I put on the binding, and even though this post is on Saturday, it was a Friday Finish. Just barely. I lost a needle at one point and spent a good half hour looking for it. (I live in fear of a grandchild or my husband finding my lost needles in a painful way.) I couldn't find it and finally went back to quilting, promising myself I'd look more today. Then, just before I went to bed, I brushed my hand over a little pillow that sits on my recliner, and sticking up just 1/16 of an inch was my needle! Whew! I have no idea how it got there.

We had a bit of sunshine here this morning, so I popped outside to get some pictures that I hope show the quilting. It was really cold, so I didn't spend time trying to get artsy. The quilt top pictures from my previous post will have to do for that. 

So, anyway, here it is:

And the back:

I used a single piece of backing to reduce bulk because there were so many seams on the front to quilt through. 

Close up of the center block:

Do you see where I FMQ'd my initials/date? (I need some practice, but at least it's there.)

I used a single layer binding on this quilt. I don't usually do that, but I had only a scrap of the yellow fabric left. I found it more tedious to hand sew to the back than with folded binding, but that might be because I was in a hurry and didn't take time to press the fold back before stitching it down. 

Here's a view of a clash of the seasons:

And how I envisioned the quilt on the front door from the street:

But you know what? Now that the quilt is done, I'm thinking it won't ever be displayed there. I have other mini quilts that I hang on the front door lately. They are simple one-block quilts that I made years ago, and it seemed like a good use of them rather than having them jammed into a closet. But boy, do they fade!. So maybe I'll hang this quilt on the inside of the door instead come next autumn--or somewhere else in the house--and make something simpler for the door. I do like how the picture looks from the street, though. 

Here's a recap of some of the stats with additions about the quilting:

Center Block: Autumn Harvest pattern, designed by Soma of Whims and Fancies

Border design: My own, using Quiltography app.

Fabric: Front fabrics were provided by Paintbrush Studios (Into the Woods collection plus selected solids from Painters Pallete--details are on my blog hop post). The back is Moda Bella Solids in Fog--seemed appropriate for the flip side of sunny autumn days,

Finished size after quilting: About 20 3/8 inches square.

Batting: Scrap of Quilter's Dream Select in white.

Quilting thread: Superior Masterpiece in Granite in the bobbin for all quilting and in the top for the light areas. Assorted all-purpose sewing threads (mostly Coats and Clark) in gray, green, gold and rust in the darker areas.

Quilted on my 100+ year old Singer 115 Treadle machine.

Now I'm celebrating because I can quilt again. I may continue to do a combination of walking foot and free-motion until I'm fully functional again, but we'll see. What I learned from this is that quilting is definitely therapeutic, both mentally and--especially right now--physically. 

I'm linking up today with Crazy Mom Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict  and Summer Lee Quilts (TGIFF). Because, you know, I have a finish!! I hope you're having a good weekend. I think the rest of mine will be spent seeing what the rest of you have finished.