Sunday, September 8, 2019

Cotton Robin 2019

Six weeks ago the Cotton Robin for this year was finally finished. There were a few lost/delayed pieces that set the schedule behind. These things happen, but since I was the organizer this year, it was up to me to chase things down. I was supposed to work on 4 quilts, but ended up only working on 3. The last round didn't quite make it to my house and was returned to the sender. We decided it was better to not try to send it to me a second time, so I did not get to quilt and bind a quilt this time.

My center block
I looked through the centers that I have done previously and decided that I needed to try something a bit different. As usual, I started out with a really ambitious design - a wonky paper-pieced NY Beauty design that I drafted myself. After considering the size constraints, I realized that it would never work, so I went in another direction and did some skinny bias strip applique. I will save the unused design for another day.

Clare, Nan, and Liz worked on my center block adding two borders and quilting it. This year, I decided to take my center and work through a design for each border on paper (or computer). I was inspired by one of the first years we did the Cotton Robin where the suggestion was made to make 2 centers and do one yourself in parallel. I was too lazy to do this, but I enjoyed the process of thinking how I would approach it compared to how other quilters did. Designing on paper eliminates the restraints of what fabric you might have available and the time/skill to create your ideas. But, I do most of my designs like this before I start, so it's how I tend to work anyway. Here is the finished quilt and my "parallel universe" version.

First border

My first border was added to Terry's center block. Her autumnal color scheme was a bit out of my comfort zone but I managed to pull some fabrics from my stash. I went with some slightly brighter shades of the same colors and I was quite happy with the results. I did two designs for this border using different colors and more/less diamonds. Here is the design I didn't use and the finished border.

Second border

The second border was for Cindy's center. Diana added a two-color border, and this gave me the opportunity to go back to Cindy's multi-color scheme on the second border without the finished piece being too busy (I hope). I decided on an hourglass block using multi-colored strips and a neutral solid. Although they all look the same size, it turns out that the red triangles in the first border do not divide the edge evenly into 4 parts. So my little blocks ended up needing to be squares and rectangles. I constructed them using paper piecing which made the rectangles the precise size I needed. As quilters we know squares and parts of squares so well, but rectangles are not so well behaved!

As always, I really enjoyed the process and the chance to try out new ideas. Check out all of the finished quilts on the Cotton Robin blog site.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Inspiration - Cotton Robin 2018

As I start the planning for the Cotton Robin 2019, I started reflecting back on previous years' work. Since my blog posts stopped a few years ago, I've done very little quilting. I'm trying to gain a bit of momentum and I enjoy documenting what I've done, if only for myself.

My center block for 2018 was a paper pieced pineapple block in blue and coral. I grabbed everything from the scrap pile in the color scheme and used a pattern that I found somewhere online. When looking for a pattern, I wanted one with a reasonable number of narrow rows so that I could get more fabrics in and keep the block small.

My center block

The block was passed to three other quilters: Traceyann, Shannon, and Diana. The finished quilt kept to the original color scheme and I especially like the way the original pattern extends from the center out to the edges. There's a real feeling of movement as if the center is opening up like a flower or firework.
Finished mini quilt

I worked on three other quilts. I added the first border to this quilt started by Julie. After staring at the red, black, and gray colors for a week I decided it needed another color. I chose a fresh green background for some more pinwheels and I set the original block on point. The measurements for this one were a little tricky which is a common challenge, especially when you put a square on point. The finished quilt by Glen and Marie was one of my favorites for this year.

First border added
Julie's finished quilt

The second border I added was to Elizabeth's center block that had already had a border added by Tish. I wanted to incorporate some of the greens and blues from the center into the border, so I made some small freehand plus and x blocks and used some strips of the same fabrics to square it up a little. I decided to only add the little blocks to the sides - this was partly due to the size limitations that we have.

Second border added

Nan did a great job with the spiral quilting.

Elizabeth's finished quilt

The last quilt I worked with was started by Andrea and added to by Nan and Rachel. I wanted to quilt it with a pattern to match the cat theme, so after a bit of doodling and some trawling around the internet, I came up with balls of yarn for the cats to play with. I wanted to bind the quilt with something other than the obvious red, so I picked out the turquoise from the paw print fabric and one of the cat's collars.

Quilting detail

Andrea's finished quilt

I have to say that I really liked how all of the quilts I worked on turned out last year and I'm really looking forward to this year's Cotton Robin.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Cotton Robin 2019

For the past seven years I have participated in the Cotton Robin, organised by the lovely Julie of Floribunda Quilts. Each year participants make a block of their choice and three other people add to it (two add borders and the third quilts and binds the quilt). The result is a mini quilt that gets returned back to the maker of the original block. There are few rules except for the size so that the work can easily be sent in envelopes between participants who are scattered around the globe.

Finished quilt 2016

I can confidently say that this is something that I look forward to each year and especially recently since I have hardly touched needle and thread except for the pieces I have worked on as part of the Cotton Robin. This year Julie thought that it might be time to take a break and I have stepped in as host this year. I have some ideas about how I can use the tried-and-true format and also help add to the community of the group. One thing that makes this a challenge is that during the Cotton Robin, everything is kept a secret - nobody knows who is working on their piece and there are no photos of the work in progress. I will be changing this a little, partly out of practicality, and partly to make it more interesting.

Finished quilt 2013

If there is anyone out there who might like to join in, please let me know. We usually have around 20 quilters with a range of styles and abilities - to join in all you need is commitment and creativity. The commitment part means that you will follow the guidelines and schedule and follow through to completion. I know that sometimes life can get challenging but this is an important part of participation. The creativity part is the fun bit - I use the Cotton Robin as a way to try new techniques or do something on a small scale that would be overwhelming on a larger scale. I love the balance between developing new ideas and working with what I'm given. Sometimes the style of the piece is not my "usual" thing or the colors are outside of my comfort zone. I try to be true to the original intent of the creator of the original block while injecting some of my own personality in at. Hopefully the end result will be something that no one person would have done.

Finished quilt 2015

Along the way I've learned to not be so precious about my work. None of the finished mini quilts are exactly what I expected, but I gain a new appreciation for the ideas of other people as I go back to look at what I've done year after year. In most cases the starting blocks that I make are experiments, so I'm not strongly invested in them from the start. Some people use an orphan block to start - something they did in a class or workshop, a mistake or reject from another project, or something started and never finished.

Finished quilt 2012

You can choose to add a note with your block if you want the other quilters to have information about your preferences. I don't usually do this because I hope that my block provides enough information about my preferences and I don't want to hamper anyone's creativity. I do sometimes add a simple suggestion to use bright colors, especially if my block is neutral or monochromatic.

Quilts I have worked on (borders or quilting/binding)

I'll be posting more about the Cotton Robin in the next few weeks as we gear up to get started with this year's quilts.

Monday, May 23, 2016's been a while

I seem to have left my poor blog unattended for a while. Life has been a challenge lately and although I have been doing some sewing, I also feel like I have not accomplished much. So, I suppose writing this is a way to prove to myself that I have been productive.

My last post was the start of my participation in the Splendid Sampler. I'm sure that you know at least one other quilter on the internet that is doing this one. I'm amazed at how many there are. I've done the first 28 blocks and am up to date (the 29th was just posted this morning). I confess that my mother who is visiting me did the rabbit and the sewing machine - my tolerance for applique is very low. The last block also needs a stitched thread from the spool to the needle which I'll do sometime soon.

I'm please with most of the blocks, although a few of the earlier ones could use a bit more contrast. As I pull fabrics out of the scrap pile, I am discovering a more diverse range of colors that still fit in my palette. Throughout this project I am trying a variety of techniques - so the applique is done differently on different blocks. I'm just trying to choose the method that I think will work best at the time. I did some free-motion machine embroidery (first time) and have done some hand embroidery (it's been a while). My one complaint is that the 6" finished block size is small which makes some of the pieces really tiny.

I finished the Monday Modern brown challenge. I was a bit late for the deadline - I had the front pieced and quilted but didn't manage to get the whole cushion cover done. I like the way it turned out and also liked the fact that I didn't try to hide the ugly brown and made it the center-piece of the design. The cushion now shares the slightly-crowded day bed with all of my other cushions.

I really enjoyed quilting this one. The back of it shows the quilting detail.


A few months ago I thought I needed a hand sewing project. Hand sewing really isn't my thing, but I found that there are times when I want to have an on-the-go project to work on. I purchased a Fiskars hexagon hole punch a while ago, so I started an English Paper Pieced project using scraps. These hexies are pretty small (1-1/4" straight edge to straight edge). My 12-year old likes to pick out the colors and scraps for the next batch, but it's slow going.

There's no grand plan for this project, I will just carry on until I decide to stop. I've started preparing some light neutral pieces to go between the diamonds. I figure about 100 of the diamonds should do the trick!

Finally, I am once again working on the Cotton Robin round robin. Unfortunately, this one is all done in secret, so you will have to wait for the big reveal sometime in July.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A (big) new project

Against my better judgement I have joined in with The Splendid Sampler that started two weeks ago. I can't remember how I found the website - surely I clicked there from somewhere else. The project is for 1 year with 100 blocks designed by a wide range of quilt makers and designers.

The Splendid Sampler

I confess that I don't like samplers and I don't like quilt-alongs. So why did I decide to do this? I'm still asking myself that question, but I think I have come up with some answers:

  1. I was feeling bored.
  2. I was out of the habit of sewing regularly and wanted a project that would encourage me to sew most days, even for 15 minutes.
  3. Scrap-busting - all of the blocks are small (6"), so many of the pieces are small.

Although 100 blocks over a year is a big commitment, I haven't signed up for anything and can slow down if I want to. After delaying my decision to get started, I had 5 blocks to make today to catch up. I had the day off, so it was the perfect opportunity. As I admired my 5 blocks, a new one was posted so I finished it after everyone else went to bed.

My color scheme is pretty loose - basically blue with green. Any blues will do - I'm just pulling them out of the scrap basket and the stash. There will be some neutrals too but I'm not limiting those to anything specific - beige, grey, white, whatever.

Here are the first 6 and already there is quite a bit of variety. I'm not a huge fan of applique and was thinking about skipping them, but decided to go ahead and do them and was glad I did. I especially like the little pot of flowers and the dark background really works well.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Feeling brown?

The Monday Modern quilters seem to have a collective prejudice against brown. Oddly enough, brown shows up quite often in our quilts but is always declared "a nice brown" (not like those other browns).

Last months we were looking for a challenge and I thought that we should do a brown one. The idea: someone finds some clearance fabric in a not-beautiful brown and we all take a piece and do something with it. I knew that some of the girls might struggle embracing the brown, but I also knew that by mixing it with some other fabrics, anything is possible. The guidelines are simple: make something quilted using the brown fabric - the fabric must be visible and recognizable. That's it.

Liz took on the job of finding the brown and her little girl picked one out from the clearance rack - and here it is. It's a pretty normal quilting fabric from my perspective. It's a bit on the gold side (hard to see in the photo), and this could make it harder to work with.

When the fabric was initially posted on Instagram, I went through my stash and pulled (most) of my browns. I realized that there are a lot of them - strange, since I don't like brown. But, I've been collecting fabric for a while, and I guess they've just accumulated somehow.

I did consider a totally brown color scheme, but decided that I'd rather mix it up and use the brown as an accent. Yesterday I went through the stash again looking for some feature fabrics with a bit of brown and other colors too. I found this cute little owl fabric and tried to pick out all of the other colors from it. It's an unusual combination for me, but maybe that's why I like it.

My daughter went for a butterfly print and came up with a second color scheme. (The periwinkle looks a bit odd, but there is that color in the butterfly print, it just didn't make it into the photo.) I confess, I am leaning toward this option because I am planning to make a cushion and these colors match the decor better.

Coincidentally, the Block Lotto this month is also using brown. I made three of this month's blocks but thought it was all too much brown for me, so I'm donating these to the pot.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

2016 finish alonq - Q1 list

A new year and a new finish along. I have a few hours before the deadline, so I better get on it:

Vintage Laura Ashley lone star: I've cut diamonds from some of the fabrics. A wayward order from has delayed my progress, apparently my package disappeared in Atlanta, GA somewhere. I should have contacted customer services earlier because they are resending and it's in Hawaii after less than 36 hours.

Scrappy chains: Started a while ago and made another square last night. Theses are supposed to be from 'scraps' but I think I was too calculated in my color choices and it's been hard to find fabrics for it. I might expand the color scheme a bit or start cutting into some fabric.

It's not a very long list. I have a few other things on the go, but not eligible for the finish along. There's the Cotton Robin round robin that is 'secret' so that will progress through June and a new brown challenge that Monday Moderns are doing - I don't have the inspiration fabric yet, so there's nothing to show right now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Monday Modern round robin

Back in August I organised a round robin with some of the members of the Monday Modern quilters. Nine of us made a center block that was added to by 3 other quilters and then quilted by a fifth person. This Monday, all of the quilts were returned to their owners and I have to say that we are a fabulously creative bunch!

Not everyone was as enthusiastic as I was, but I think that everyone learned something about themselves as a quilter. It is quite a challenge to collaborate with other people, do work that the owner will like, and still be true to one's own quilty voice.

Every month when we exchanged quilts, I would categorize them in my mind based on some characteristic - orange vs. not orange, round vs. pointy, animal vs. inanimate, calm vs. busy. It was so much fun to watch them change as different personalities added to them.

My quilt started with a red/pink and white checkerboard background and appliqued circles with birds on them. The finished quilt is so pretty with just a bit of a Christmas vibe - maybe because of the original bird fabric and the fact that I received it back just before Christmas.

On the back was a recycled green cat that had been part of the front (it's a long story).

I worked on 4 other completed quilts (in order: first border, second border, third border, and quilting/binding). I tried to do something very different on each one. I confess that I do have a favorite, but I'll keep that a secret.

And another one I did work on but was incomplete because someone needed to opt out halfway through, and the 3 that I didn't work on.