Saturday, September 23, 2017

Bloggers Quilt Fest - Fall 2017

Woohoo!  I just came across Amy Ellis' blog post that the Fall 2017 Bloggers Quilt Fest is underway!  Amy is a Martingale author and pattern designer who has been doing this online festival in conjunction with Fall Quilt Market for about ten years now.  There is also a Spring Festival but for the past few years she has run that one through Instagram.

This time around she is going back to the old format:  everyone will post the link to their blog post about their quilt to one page -- the one announcing the start of the festival.  Amy says the linky software she is using will indicate with a check mark which posts you have already visited so you can keep track of your viewing.

This is always a great way to see what people are making around the world and find new bloggers whose work you'd like to follow.  If you have something to share, be sure to post your link to Amy's site by next Monday after which a random number generator will pick the winners.  Just follow the instructions for adding your link on the festival announcement page.  There are great prizes up for grabs so it's worth a shot to enter! 

I don't have anything to put up this time around since I haven't been at the machine much lately.  That means I can spend my time taking a trip around the quilt world and see all the beautiful work others have to offer.  Always an inspiring pleasure!!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

It took until the holiday weekend to get back on track...

With September now firmly in place, it's time to get my bearings.  In my last post in early August, I was all fired up and ready to get down to the nitty gritty of quilting my latest two projects and then.....NOTHING!  I had stitching plans for both but then got overwhelmed when it was time to actually sit down and stitch.  For the "Abundance" table runner (quilt design by Gudrun Erla from a Connecting Threads kit), the plan was to fuse down the leaves and since the body of the runner was already quilted (done quilt-as-you-go),  it was going to be a simple matter of choosing a thread to zig-zag around the leaves, then bind and finish it.

The problem was that after I got all the leaves fused on, I was really struck by the beauty of the design and suddenly the plans for a simple zig-zag edging didn't seem like enough.  I began to question the original plan of choosing just one color thread for them all and once I started considering doing thread changes, I began to see the possibilities for quilting more detail like veins in the leaves and maybe even doing some wood grain stitching on the "tree trunks".  However, going for more detail also meant committing to more time working on what was supposed to be a "quick-and-finished-this-week" project.  Needless to say I wound up going back and forth on this to the point that I didn't sew at all.

This puts me in a new and interesting phase in my quilting: early on I was determined to machine stitch my quilts but terrified to actually quilt them (aka "mess them up") so would often take weeks (months, years) to get up the courage to tackle them.  Now I'm more confident in my ability to stitch them but get bogged down on achieving "just the right balance" of quilting detail.  I love the end look of custom quilting but am aware of how much time (and sometimes extensive thread changes) it takes to execute.  Since my projects generally don't start out with the intention of being "show quilts", I usually want to try to default as much as possible to the use of one thread and simple continuous stitch designs.  However, once you get that "big" quilting idea in your mind's eye, it's hard to settle for less.

So I thought that instead I'd move on to quilting the other lap quilt I had also been working on but that didn't happen either.  I got bogged down again trying to decide how I wanted to quilt that quilt too!  By then two weeks had passed and every day I'd say, "I should quilt" and every day I didn't.  Instead I tried reviewing my stitch pattern books and then all the Craftsy classes I've signed up for over the years and waited (hoped?) for inspiration to strike.

Also during this time, my old iron started "peeing" every time I used it but fortunately on my last trip to the warehouse club they had an iron on sale for $20 so I got it.  Well a new iron also highlighted how bad my ironing board cover looked....

Picture from last year I kept busy by making a new one: 

How lucky is it that I had purchased this blue Alexander Henry print on sale probably two years ago, and it just happens to be the perfect coordinate for my new iron! 

I also busied myself with cutting out additional applique motifs from the scraps of all the batik bits that already had fusible attached.  Hopefully these can become or add to something one day.

Fortunately, I finally got some really good news when Craftsy sent out an email two weeks ago offering free views of one lesson from each of two of their classes:  Christa Watson's "Quilter's Path: Plan It, Stitch It" and  Helen Godden's "Escape the Ditch:  Empower Your Quilting".  Both pointed to motifs that helped me get over myself and finally jumpstart the quilting of both of the stalled projects!  For this one, Christa reminded me again about the idea of doing a "wood grain" motif which sent me back to viewing how Angela Walters did it in her "Machine Quilting Negative Space" class and that gave me the push to go back to the runner. 

So during the last two weeks of August, over the course of five (not continuous) days I pushed through to get the stitching done.  I detailed stitched the "tree trunks" and then the leaves in batches corresponding to the (bunch of) necessary thread changes.

I was using a medium dark brown bobbin thread which coordinated with the back.  It worked fine through the first two rounds but then one day it seemed like I just couldn't get the tension right -- there were a lot of "pokies" and thread breakage.  I had to walk away from the stitching for a day or two and when I regrouped I found that raising the feed dogs back up while lowering the stitch length to zero seemed to solve the problem and it was another two (again, not continuous) days to finish up the leaves.

I thought I was done and ready to move on to binding but then it still didn't seem quilted "enough".  So I decided to stitch in the background as well, completing that on Sunday and then bound it on Monday.


Before doing the background stitching I had another brainstorm to take some of the extra leaves I had cut and fuse them onto the back to use to write in my label information.  For those I used the colored threads on the back but a neutral thread on the front which created "shadow" leaves in the center front.

9/7/17 Edited To Add:  I was finally able to get a good shot of the "shadow" leaves on the front.

In the end, I'm happy to finally get the runner I now call "Autumn Leaf Dance" done.  It's not bad and while I like the background stitch motif, in hindsight I feel it's now quilted too densely.  So "Note To Self":  always sketch out your potential stitch designs!!  If I were to do it again, I use the same motif but execute it on a larger more open scale.  However, finished is better than perfect and every project is a practice for the next.  Moving on!

Monday, August 7, 2017

It's Been A Good Week....

So all the stabilizing ditch stitching has been finished on "Modern Twist"....

I know it's hard to tell from the picture but trust me it's done!
...courtesy of a lot of "Game of Thrones" binge watching!  I had never watched the show before now but since I don't live under a rock, I've had heard a lot about it all through its run.  When I saw the teasers for the new season (Season 7), I thought I might like to watch it since the next season will be the last.  Only the previous season (season 6) was on "On Demand" through our cable provider and everyone I asked said it was best to start from the beginning if I wanted to really understand what was going on. 

I found out that because we subscribe to HBO we also get free access to HBO-GO and ALL the seasons can be viewed there.  This worked out great because that meant I could watch it on my phone or my laptop or on the TV by accessing it through the our PS4 console.

So needless to say, I'm almost caught up and definitely sucked in!  I'll be starting on Season 6 this week.  As for the "Twist" quilt, with the ditch stitching done, I can now move on to the "modern motifs" free-motion quilting I want to do on it.

In between "ditching and Throne-ing", I also cut out and started working on this table runner:

I bought this kit from Connecting Threads awhile back and it turned out to be the perfect in-between project because it is made "Quilt-As-You-Go".  I used some fusible batting remnants layered onto the backing and then the background wedges and the corner "tree trunks" are stitched onto it. 

After that I'll be fusing and machine appliqueing leaves onto the background.  The pattern calls for 40 - 50 leaves for each tree.  Fortunately that will be made easy by using my GO! cutter to cut those out.

I will be using the leaf dies from the Round Flower, Flower Bunch and Rose of Sharon #1 Go! dies.  If you need to figure out which dies have the right size applique shape for a pattern, you can download a "cutting equivalents chart" from the Accuquilt site that lists the size of all the die shapes they manufacture.  I used this as a quick way to see if I already had dies that would cut the shapes I needed.  It's great that you can add fusible to your fabric (in this case Charm Squares) and cut them with the die cutter, remembering that the fusible is considered an additional half layer when planning how many you can cut at one time.  Since Go! dies can cut up to six layers at a time, that means I could set up to cut four with fusible attached at a time.

BTW, Accuquilt has a block design competition going on right now!  If you have an idea for a block using Go! dies, enter and you might win some great prizes!  But hurry, entries are due by
 August 22.

Edited 9/18/17 to add:  The block contest winners have been announced!  Read about them and see their winning blocks here.

As for me, if I can stay on track, I might be looking at some finishes by the end of the week!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Moving On....

So it's a new month and the design wall is empty...

...scraps from the last project were sorted...

.....the cutting table was cleared....

....and another quilt has been basted.

This is Modern Twist my project from the 2013 Planet Patchwork New Year's Mystery series.  It's been waiting a long time to be completed but this month is its turn.  It was the January pick from my APQ UFO Challenge list.  Over due but not to remain undone!  This is one of three Planet Patchwork mystery tops I have.  All of them are on my UFO challenge list for this year so eventually all will be picked and it would be a big feather in my UFO cap to get them all finished.

While "Twist" is on the quilting table, I'm going to try to start the cutting for a few new projects:

Also since the design wall is empty, I can start laying out the En Provence blocks as well:

As always I've got a long list of what I'd like to do for the month but will have to winnow that down to what I can actually get done as I move forward in the month.  To keep it manageable, I'll tackle it a project at a time, mapping out for each what it will take to get it done and being mindful of opportunities to work on more than one project at a time using the "leader/enders" system. 

With Summer winding down, what's on your "To Do" list for this month?

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Golfing Gift Quilt is A Finish!

Here it finally is in all it's finished glory!  This is "Jon's Gone Golfing With the Mets!" finishing up at approximately 54" x 65" using the "Gone Golfing" pattern by Rochelle Martin of Cottage Quilt Designs.  And just in time too, we'll be heading out to see the recipients (plural, the mug rug I made for his wife is here) this weekend.  If you'd like to read some process posting, please continue.....
This project started out with the "A Hole In One" fabric line from Clothworks.  I knew my friend's husband is a golf fan but he's also a NY Mets baseball fan and for a long time I debated about which of his interests to use to inspire a quilt.  This fabric line was perfect because it channeled the theme of the first and the colors of the second.
 Add some MLB fleece for the back to add the actual baseball theme to the mix and I was on my way!
Once I had the fabrics, I still needed a design to apply them to and when I saw the "Gone Golfing" pattern, I could immediately see the golf fabrics applied to it so now it was a "PIGS" (Project In a Grocery Sack) in a poke! 
It also helped that I was already familiar with this designer having made another one of her patterns three years ago (see it here).  Since using all the fabrics in the line didn't work for the pattern design, I had to add a few others to bring it all together....

 .....including key tone-on-tones from my "Freckles" (by Northcott) stash.
Construction-wise this one was all about strip piecing and fusible applique.  I had to change the pattern's borders to accommodate the amount of fabric I had.  I had purchased the "Hole" fabrics as four fat quarter sets because at the time that was the only available source for the white background print. 
I had worked on this project pretty intensively during Judy Laquidara's Quilt-A-Thons in January and February hoping to get it done for the recipient's birthday but I only got as far as getting the top done then.  (Unfortunately, Judy has since decided to discontinue the QATs and blogging about quilting although you can still visit her for her gardening, recipes and chicken tales.)  Then this "simmered" for a long few months while I decided how to quilt it.  Originally my plan was to just grid quilt it through the squares with a walking foot.  But when I started sketching out some curved quilting, I liked how it looked and realized that it sort of mimicked the topography diagrams of golf holes. 

I admit I also thought the curves would be faster to stitch because they could be done free-motion so would stitch out more continuously over the surface but in the end I don't think that was true.  When the center stitching was completed, I stitched-in-the-ditch around all the borders then debated what to do for the wider green and blue borders.  For the green, the solution was to make the pattern's applique letter templates smaller, print them on freezer paper and use them to spell out the names of famous golfers past and present.  If you're watching the (British) Open Championship this weekend, some of these names will look familiar!
Since the templates were freezer paper, they were reusable multiple times.  I did make multiple copies of some letters that were used more than once in a name or so that I could set up more than one name at a time (A, E, I, L, O, S, T).  One letter doubled for another (M was also W).  Since this pattern only had some of the letters I needed, I had to use some from the author's other pattern (A, C, H, L, M, N, O, S) and like I did for the previous project, make up a few that I needed that weren't available from either pattern (G, K, Y).    
Note:  A very handy tool when figuring out how to re-size pattern elements is a Proportional Scale by C-Thru Ruler Co. (now part of Westcott Corp.).  It is available from quilt shops (where I purchased mine years ago), art or office supply stores and even Walmart (although for once, their price is pretty expensive!).  Just turn the inner dial to match up the original size to the new desired size and it will tell you the adjustment percentage. 

In the past I have cut my own freezer paper sheets from the rolls purchased at the supermarket and that works fine for templates you will trace by hand.  However, when you need to put sheets through the printer, it is hard to get the rolled sheets to lay flat (even after pressing them or sitting them under heavy books for days -- ask me how I know!) so I'm loving the prepared freezer paper sheets I purchased from Martingale Publishing for that.
At first I free-motion stitched around the templates using a darning foot but found that it would often get caught under the freezer paper edges if they pulled up.  Something that I haven't use in years came to the rescue for that:

The wide plastic base on the "Big Foot" machine quilting foot kept the freezer paper in place as I quilted around it and that helped a lot to speed the stitching.

For the last wide blue border I decided to just mimic/echo the small orange border and went back to the walking foot for that.   At first I used painters tape (1" wide) as a guide....

...until I remembered that my walking foot has a guide bar!  So much easier and time saved not having to reposition (or even use) the tape!

I was a little scared about all the quilting because I have never quilted on fleece (or Minky) before but it was no problem at all.  I had no tucks and I've got to admit, I love the additional texture the quilting added to the plushness of the fleece.  I will also say that just like having a busy backing print, plush fleece will hide a lot of stitching sins too!
Back when I went to layer the quilt, I found out that the ends of the fleece I purchased were cut very wonky and because my border changes meant that the quilt finished a little larger than patterned, I was a bit short of fleece on the bottom of one side.  Note to self for the future:  buy an extra half yard of fleece so you can even the ends once at home and be mindful of how design changes will affect the overall size of your quilt as you are designing them. 
I decided that the solution was to piece in a label area on the short side.  Whatever fabric used had to be light or bright enough to write on.  In the context of the ball team's color scheme, the best color for that was orange.  Fortunately I happened to have the perfect "Freckles" color for that too!  I started collecting "Freckles" prints after getting some as part of a quilt kit years ago (that was for this quilt).   This particular orange was one I picked up on the "half yard sale shelf" that a local quilt shop (that has since closed) used to have.  At the time I really thought this line of TOTs were really versatile and a few years ago when I heard the line was being discontinued I stocked up on as many colors as I could get.  Since the cotton "Freckles" fabric was lighter in weight than the surrounding fleece, I also basted it together with an additional layer of batting so that area would have the same loft as the fleece around it. 

I originally planned to stitch the center of the quilt with white thread but felt it contrasted too much with the darker green and blue fabrics.  An odd choice of color turned out to be the best thing for overall "subtle contrast" for quilting all of the center -- a light green from Aurifil (#5014) which has been sitting on my sewing table since I used it for the bobbin thread on a Quilt-As-You-Go calendar quilt project I started a long time ago.  I also used this thread to SID around the borders.  For the top stitching in the last blue border and for the bobbin thread for the fleece backing I used Christa Watson's favorite "near black", the dark grey Aurifil #4241 which I finally got a few spools of.  For the label area, I used another unexpected choice, Connecting Threads "Cherry" (red) in the bobbin. 

 I stitched a basting line in the ditch around the label area so I would know where to make the bobbin changes for it when I was stitching in the front .   
Final debate was the binding but with little fabric left there wasn't much of a debate.  It was either the blue plaid or the orange plaid.  The orange was a little too bold for the front although I liked the way it looked with the fleece in the back.  If I wasn't so anxious (and time crunched!) to get this done, I might have opted to do a two color binding.  So I went with the blue although not on the bias as I normally like to do with plaids -- there's already enough pattern going on in this quilt and the print set on the diagonal seemed a bit too much at the end.

So I'm glad this one is finally finished and I can move on to other things!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

More Progress.....

Although I had hoped to have had the quilting all done by now, I lost out on two days of stitching during the week.  However, I'm still moving right along:  as of last night, I've finished quilting the golfers names into the top and bottom borders (in the pic below) and have four of the five names for the left side border done.

We'd got some maintenance work to do today and a gardening shift tomorrow afternoon so I'm probably looking at a mid week finish on this.  Just in time too, we have plans to visit my friends next weekend so thankfully, I'll have both gifts ready to bring too!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Finally Making Some Progress.....

Last week was a good week since I finally sat down at the machine and started quilting my friend's husband's quilt....

I was able to finish quilting the center (backgrounds and outlining around all the appliques).  This week I'll be stitching-in-the-ditch around all the borders and then work on the detail stitching in the larger borders.  I might actually get this wrapped up by week's end (she said, fingers crossed)!