Friday, July 11, 2014

A sunny Block Lotto win

June's Block Lotto was a 14 x 7 sunrise in aqua, turquoise, yellow, and white. I was so pleased to win because the block was challenging and I can't imagine making enough of them to put together a quilt. I was also happy to win so that I could keep two of the three blocks that I made. I was not pleased with how they came out and was wondering if they were not good enough to send to someone else. Luckily, as a winner I can choose to keep some or all that I made. So, I sent on the best of the three and kept the other 2 for myself.

I will receive 15 more making a total of 17. I'm not sure how I will arrange them or if I need to make a few more.

I made mine using different methods. For one (bottom one in photo), I paper pieced the sun rays, machine appliqued the center circle, and machine pieced the background onto the semi-circular sun. The problems with this one were with the scaling of the printed pattern, which I realized too late was wrong. It did turn out close to correct, but was not perfect.

The second one was entirely hand pieced (middle in photo). I made it while I was moving in to my new house and thought I could do it sitting by the TV in the evening. I don't think I've ever hand pieced something like this. I think the worst part was marking out the pieces. I also had some inconsistent seam allowances. Like the first, it was close to right, but not quite.

The third that I sent away was a combination of the two methods - paper pieced rays, hand appliqued centre, and hand pieced background. This turned out to be the best of both worlds and definitely the approach I will take if I make a few more.

I've received three so far and am eagerly awaiting the rest. It's so fun checking the mail!

Round robin has come home

For the past 3 years I have participated in Julie's Cotton Robin. For those of you unfamiliar with round robins - each participant makes a center block and passes it on to someone else who adds to it. In this round robin the center gets 2 rounds of borders and a third for quilting and binding. When it's finished it heads home back to the person that made the center block.

The process is anonymous so you do not know who is working on your quilt. It's always a creative challenge working with someone else's ideas and integrating your own into the mix. It is one of the things I really enjoy each year.

You can see this year's reveal here and my posts from previous years here and here.

This year I made a (slightly too busy) block from small equilateral triangles. Each one finished at 1 inch tall. I admit that I should have used a less busy background, but I wanted to introduce more colors into the mix. The block was an experiment for me - the round robin is a great opportunity to try out a technique on a small scale. I would love to make a big quilt with lots of these stars in different colors.

The first border was done by Julie who headed towards a color scheme that was a bit quieter that my start. At first I thought it dulled it all down, but now I think it lets the center shine. The piecing really enhances the center.

Maria did the second border and created a checkerboard design in grey and purple. I love the skinny aqua border (added by Julie or Maria) which sets off the two others.

The quilt was hand quilted by Cathy. The hand quilting was the perfect choice and echos the print in Maria's grey fabric. She added little 6-point stars in the checkerboards. I also love the blue binding.

I worked on three other quilts. First was Anne's improv center block. I added a border of little fuschia squares surrounded by dark blue and green batiks. I had trouble getting started on this one. The center didn't lead me in an obvious direction. I thought I wanted to create something with a regular pattern without losing the spirit of the improvisational piecing.

I added a second border to Sandra's tree. Glen had added an unusual curved woven section and I added the darker black strips, blue crosses, and a hot pink/orange outer border. I thought this one needed something bold and quirky to hold it all together. I like the asymmetry of the finished quilt.

The final round was Rachel's applique center. The two borders were so well integrated it was hard to tell where one started and the other finished. I decided against FMQ and did outlining on the applique, continued the circular lines for a while and then added rectangular spirals in each corner. Everything was quilted using a very fine beige thread.

I love doing these round robins. Every finished quilt is a surprise. And, although my quilts never turn out as I expect, they are always fun. Everyone's perspective is different and that's what makes it such an enjoyable process. I can't wait until next year.

Friday, June 27, 2014

My WIP is not a quilt

It's a house.

I moved into my new house last week after a flurry of activity and some anxious moments when I thought I would not finish in time for the new owners to move into my old one. The relief was unimaginable when I carried the last thing out the door (not counting the towels I forgot in the downstairs bathroom - a welcome gift for the new residents?)

My move may be one of the shortest - only one house stands between my old and new address. One might think that a short move is easier, but it's not. If everything had to be on the truck by a certain time, I would have been ready; instead I could compromise and say to myself: "Oh, that doesn't need to be packed in a box, I can just carry it down the road." After about 50 trips down the road, sometimes in the rain, I realized the error of my ways.

There is nothing new about my new house. It is of undetermined age and has been altered through the decades. My guess is that the oldest original parts are 100+ years old and the newest parts are from the 70's. There are many inspiring details that I will try to post pictures of - some might even be integrated into a quilt design or two. There are many uninspiring details too (like the bathrooms).

The old part of the house was divided into 2 flats and a basement flat was also added in the late 60s. Neither upstairs flat is quite right - one is smaller and sunnier and has the big original kitchen; the other is bigger and has a central living room and allows us to have a bedroom next to my girl who is 10 and not old enough to have her own apartment. Then there was the internet in one flat but the TV in the other. Going outside to have breakfast or check email was slightly inconvenient.

The only solution - find a door between them. There must have been 1 or even 2 doors from the main hallway to the three-bedroom flat - the house was once one large residence. Hubby got out the tools and after a few exploratory cuts, found the doorway.

Behind the plasterboard in the three-bedroom flat was some artwork, painted there on some old wallpaper. It is odd but amusing. Its age is unknown but I imagine it being painted by some hippies some time between the door being closed up and the plasterboard added. The old walls in NZ are often rough boards nailed to the framing with hessian / burlap covering. Over this is wallpaper. It makes for interesting wall archeology.

My sewing stuff is buried in a pile of boxes somewhere in the front room. There is an extremely slim chance that I can find it and make enough room to set up my machine and ironing board for some quilty therapy this weekend. The unpacking seems endless and it is hard to stay motivated when I know that in 6-9 months we will be packing it all up again so that the real work can begin. Does anyone know a good architect?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Finished wedding quilt

I finished the quilt for my friend's wedding which was on Saturday. I almost forgot to put a label on it, so with only a couple of hours to spare I was sewing it on the back.

I'm very happy with the end result and almost wish I could keep it for myself. Sometimes I think I like quilts that I make for others - they are better planned than ones I make for myself (not to mention the fact that they get finished quickly). There are several mistakes on this quilt, but it does take some looking at to see them. No handmade thing is perfect - isn't that kind of the point?

I don't have a good way to get photos of big quilts. I really need to figure something out. So here is the "Hey you guys, hold this for me" picture.

I did the quilting using my Swiftquilter frame and Juki TL-98P machine. After it was pinned and ready to go, I would guess it took me 4-6 hours to do the quilting. I admit that I tend towards dense quilting, so a more open pattern would have been faster. I used a free-hand spiral turned flower petal motif. It was easy to do and required no starts/stops and little concentration.

I had some soft sandy-colored variegated King Tut thread. There is no question that this is my very best favorite thread to use for quilting. This particular color just melted into the quilt. I used some pre-wound bobbins of Superior's bottom line in a pale grey. I've never used the pre-wound ones before and they were super convenient. Given the 8 bobbins that I used, it's nice to grab one from the bag and drop it in.

I can't be sure that they were 100% trouble free. I noticed on the back a few minor flaws and I suspect that the bobbin might have been the culprit. However, I also found that the bobbin case tension was too loose because some fluff was caught up in it and this too may have been the cause.

Of course none of this is important to the recipients of the quilt. All I hope is that they have many years shared together snuggling under its warmth.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Scrappy X block

It is my turn to define the monthly block for Monday Modern quilters. I thought I'd make something up that was quick and could use up a few scraps.

  • Background - white or white-on-white
  • Scraps - bright solids or tone-on-tone prints (avoid prints with too many colours)

Cut an 8-1/2 inch square from your background fabric. For the bright scraps I used strips that were about 5 inches long and between 1 and 2-1/2 inches wide but you can use smaller ones that are 2-1/2 inches long (more about this later).

Sew the scraps together. In my case I made one strip that was more than 14 inches long and 5 inches wide. If you use smaller scraps you will need to make 2 strips, each about 2-1/2 inches wide and at least 14 inches long. These are bigger than they need to be but will be trimmed down.

Press well and then trim the stip down so that you have 2 strips that are 2 inches wide and 14 inches long. For mine I made one strip and then cut it lengthwise to make 2 strips.

Cut your white background square in half along the diagonal.

Sew one strip along the diagonal of one of the white triangles. Make sure you center the strip - it will stick out quite a bit at each end. Also be careful on the bias of the white triangle - try not to stretch it while you sew.

Press the seam towards the white. Lay the other half of the triangle on top so that the points are lined up. Sew this together watching out for that stretchy bias edge.

Press well. You should now have a square with the scrappy strip in the middle. Leave the ends untrimmed and sticking out.

Cut the square again on the diagonal perpendicular to the scrappy strip.

Using the same method as before, sew the strip to one triangle, press, and then line up the other triangle and sew it on.

Press well and then trim the square down to 9-1/2 inches. Make sure when you trim that you keep the X centered. I used a 6 inch wide ruler and lined up 4-3/4 inches on the inner corners of the X to center it. You're done!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Quilting the wedding quilt

I spent most of last weekend sewing. DD was off to camp with girl guides (scouts) so I had no excuses. Friday night was a disaster - I had cut all of my setting triangles earlier to make sure I had big enough pieces of fabric and I cut the remaining squares for the blocks from what was left.

When I went to lay out the blocks I realized that the setting triangles were all cut too small. The was the result of a miscalculation (I forgot that the sashing would effectively make the blocks bigger) and some incorrect cutting. I was determined to come up with a solution to my problem before I went to bed - how could I use these triangles?

After more calculations, a double check of my numbers, and the cutting of one test triangle I came up with a fix: add a strip of the sashing to each triangle and then trim it to size. I had run out of sashing and I was nervous about cutting any more off of the backing fabric (I am known for not making the backing big enough). I realized that if I cut the 1-1/2 inches off along the salvage it would be okay. It was about 1:30am when I finally turned in.

The end result is a 1-inch border around the quilt. I admit, I like how it's turned out. (Sorry, no good pictures now that it's mounted on the Swiftquilter frame.)

I'm about half-way though the quilting. I'm using an all-over design which is a spiral-feather-flower thing. It's going well and I am sure that I will finish it with plenty of time to do the binding.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

WIP round-up

I was thinking the other day how I have long-term WIPs (I still refuse to call them UFOs) and then other projects that spring up like weeds, grow quickly, and are fully grown and out the door in a flash. What is it about some projects that cause them to languish in the back of the closet for weeks, months, and dare I say years? Are they somehow flawed and are filed in the 'too hard' basket or is it simply that they have lost momentum and need some fertilizer to get growing again?

I hate not finishing things and it pains me to think about lost hours of investment on works that are yet to be completed. I know that I have some good excuses recently - selling 2 houses, getting ready to move, a death in the family, a menagerie of pesky pets...

A few years ago after finding many UFOs in my closet (some more than a decade old) I set my mind to getting them all finished in a year. I was successful and so pleased with myself. But back then I was not involved with block swaps, groups, challenges, blogging, and so on. And I wonder if some of these distractions are stopping me from moving forward on these older projects. Or perhaps these fun virtual exchanges are an easy excuse for not tackling the big jobs.

Two of these lingering projects are still appealing and occasionally call me back. These are the green HST quilt and the blue snowflake quilt. Either one would reach full-flimsy stage if I dedicated a weekend to each cause.

The third is the butterfly hearts quilt which is a disaster and needs to be reworked. This was a case of me taking one step forward, not liking it, and then carrying on for another 100 steps before I came to terms with the fact that I really didn't like it. I should have trusted my instincts. Now I am faced with unpicking lots of machine satin stitch applique - not pretty.

My more recent projects are moving forward. The wedding quilt is 2 blocks shy of a quorum (I need 41 all together) and after coming up short (4 inches) and mis-purchasing a few fabrics for the sashing I have decided to use the fabric that I picked up for the back - luckily I purchased an extra yard. I have 3 weekends to get this one finished.

My tea towel challenge which was on track to finish this month has stalled. It's taken me weeks to attempt hand quilting (I needed a thimble and a hoop). My attempt last weekend was so demoralizing, I'm already thinking of alternative quilting ideas for the center panel. I just cannot hand quilt. It's uneven, it's crooked, and it takes me about 20 tries to take one stitch. Based on my calculations it will take me 59 years to complete at this pace. I don't have that kind of time.

Meanwhile, the round robin that I'm involved with is progressing. I just received the last round - a little flimsy in need of sandwiching, quilting, and binding. It just arrived this week and I haven't given it much attention yet. It will definitely have to wait.

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced.