Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Cosmic Valor blocks done!

When I left off at last Monday's "Move It Forward Monday" post, I had big plans to get the two Quilts of Valor (QOV) projects to the top stage by the end of the week or over the weekend. 


That is until I was sidelined by the worst head cold I've experienced in a long while!  DH had it the week before and wouldn't you know it, as soon as he got better, it knocked me for a loop!  It took up residence in my head Wednesday evening (thank goodness I had  done the laundry that afternoon!) and I wound up in bed for pretty much all of last Thursday and Friday.  I was able to sit up out of bed by Saturday and on Sunday felt well enough to go back to the machine -- but only long enough to stitch one "Cosmic Valor" block!  Between stitching together the "parts" of the block and then partial seaming all those parts together, each one takes me about an hour to construct.


However, yesterday and today I was finally feeling fairly normal again so focused on finishing up the rest of the blocks (I had sewn a few more before I got sick):

Eighteen blocks all done!
Whew!  Next step, cutting setting triangles and constructing the center.  Still have the borders on "Combat Gratitude" to work on as well.  Maybe I can finish the tops by the end of this weekend? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

It's Almost Here -- Bloggers Quilt Festival - Fall 2016!!

http://www.amyscreativeside.com/2016/08/30/13917/

Blogger's Quilt Festival is hosted by Martingale author Amy Ellis and provides a great opportunity to see what other quilters around the world are making.  Participants can link up a blog post to Amy's website and observers can click the links to view their beautiful projects and discover new blogs to follow. 

Since 2009 the festival had been blog focused.  However, back in January Amy had announced changes to the festival.  The annual spring BQF was moved to Instagram and is now the IGQF.  The Fall BQF has remained as blog-based but is now held in September rather than in late October/early November when the big Houston Quilt Market is held.  So if you are like me and don't do social media, this festival is your chance to participate or view quilts that you may not have seen before!

The quilts be will linked together in entry categories based on the style of quilt:  Mini, Small, Large, Applique, Art, Hand Quilted, Home Machine Quilted, Modern, Original Design, ROYGBIV and Scrappy.  You can enter a project whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced quilter so if you have something you'd like to showcase, please post a link so we can all check it out!  Just like at many live quilt shows, part of the fun is that you can also play Quilt Show Judge and vote on your favorites with prizes to be awarded to the winners once the festival ends.

Quilters can add their links (and it must be a new post, not an old one) in the appropriate category September 19 - 24.   You will be able to vote for your Viewer's Choice favorites September 24 - 29.  The sponsors will award prizes to the winners on September 30.

So put it on your calendar to head on over to Amy's website on Monday and take a look!!

P.S.  If you happen to see this post after the festival has ended, don't worry!  Amy leaves the links up to view all the wonderful entries so you always have a chance to see what you've missed!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Moving It Forward Monday: The Gadget Addendum

As noted on my "Moving It Forward" post, I've had a fun month so far with QOV projects:


My word for the year is Efficient and for me part of achieving that is finding good tools to help get tasks done quick.  So far this month, this "Gadget Fanatic", had lot of fun with old tools, relatively new tools, newly purchased tools and "first time used" tools!!

Starting off, the quilt in the center of the picture above I call "Combat Gratitudes" and it is a great QOV mystery quilt design by Vickie Welsh of Field Trips in Fiber.  It is made with only four different blocks, all finishing at 8".  So all of these:


Were cut out with just these:


I used the Accuquilt Go! Value die for 2-1/2"(2" finished) HST triangles and the 4-1/2" (4" finished) HST triangles die.  Ever since I bought my Go! cutter, I've looked at projects to determine if I could "Make It Go!" and this was definitely one of those.  In the pattern, Vickie made the blocks with the HST corners using the "sew and flip a square" method.  However, I just cut extra 2-1/2" HST triangles and laid them on the corner of 4-1/2" squares lining up the 1/4" sewing line to the edges of the square and sewing them on with my 1/4" foot.  While I could have used the Value die to also cut the squares I needed, I used my trusty old and well used June Tailor Shape Cut template.  I was able to cut both the strips needed for the triangle dies and to sub-cut additional strips into the 2-1/2" (2" finished) squares and  4-1/2" (4" finished) squares needed to make the blocks. 
 
Since I used this project as a leader/ender for another one, there was A LOT of chain piecing going on while working on both.  For that, another big help and a "new to me" gadget was this:



It's called the Chain Ripper which I ordered from Gay Bomers at Sentimental Stitches.  The story here is that when my MIL was here on her last trip back in July, we were constantly searching my "quilt space" (aka the dining room) for seam rippers.  I don't know about the rest of you but for some reason I never use the seam ripper that comes with my sewing machines -- I hold them as sacred!  I know that at one time I had bought two extra seam rippers for general use but for some reason one is missing.  After working on blocks with my MIL, I was thinking that it was finally time to invest in a Gypsy Cutting Gizmo, the big purple standing seam ripper that I've seen around for a few years.  When my MIL left, I was just about ready to order one and then also go buy another regular seam ripper the next time I went to the fabric store.  However just then I got an email from Gay highlighting the Chain Ripper and the replacement set of two!  I liked the idea of being able to replace the ripper blade in the stand if it got dull so I decided to try it.

Gotta say, I love it!!  It's small enough to sit in the throat space of my machine so stays handy when chain piecing but out of the way when stitching.  The base is small and light weight so when you need to rip, you can also pick it up and use it in the traditional manner without needing to remove it from the base.  However, you can also remove the ripper from the base if you need to use it away from your machine.  At days end, you can also flip the point down into the base, handy for those of you with small children or cats who may hang around your machine.  I also love that I now have two extra rippers in the event any get misplaced.

When "Combat Gratitudes" became the main project, a new leader/ender was started: my "Cosmic Valor" blocks:


These blocks may look complicated but are actually made up of very simple units all of which were cut out with only the two tools seen here:



Like with the "Gratitudes" project, while I could have used my Go! Value die for the 4-1/2" and 2-1/2" squares needed for the blocks, it is just as easy for me to cut those with the Shape Cut.  The 4-1/2" tall triangles needed for this block are given as a template in the pattern (which is "Patriotic Cosmic Stars" in the May/June 2016 issue of Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting magazine) but it turned out that the shape was exactly the same as a long owned but never used tool in my arsenal:  the side triangle from the Tri-Recs Ruler set!  This was one of those gadgets I bought early on because it made one of those basic block units that I thought I'd use a lot.  Turns out that has not been the case, although I have used a companion ruler to the Tri-Recs, the Tri-Mate ruler which I talked about in this post
 
The Tri-Recs rulers work a lot like the Easy Angle Rulers in that you can cut a strip and then flip the ruler up and down to continuously cut the shapes you need (you can see that and all three rulers demonstrated in this video).  I needed triangles straight and reversed and was able to do both just by what side of the fabric was facing up while cutting.  Layering up to four width of fabric (WOF) strips of fabric at a time meant the cutting went fairly fast for the number of triangles I needed.  It should be noted that if you want to "Make This Go!",  Accuquilt does have "Triangle in a Square dies" that will cut these shapes and the dies come in 4"   , 3" and 2" finished sizes.
 
Here's hoping that now that my Tri-Recs have been christened, in the near future I'll get around to making one of the many "One Day" projects that will use them.  Do you have a favorite gadget?  Let me know what makes your quilting tasks go smoother or faster!

Moving It Forward Monday: QOV Edition

This morning I was viewing the latest posts in my Bloglovin' feed.  Katy who blogs at Katie Quilts  was linking up to pattern designer Em Baily's "Moving It Forward Monday" link up at her blog Em's Scrapbag.  Since I've actually managed to move a few projects forward last week, I decided to link up as well.


Here's what's up on the wall as of this morning:


The quilt top in the center is "Combat Gratitudes"  my first (finally!!) Quilts Of Valor project.  This one is in non-traditional colored fabrics for a QOV (that is, not Red, White and Blue).  It started with this Focus Fabric:

Then this was the stash collected to go with it (I call it the "Camouflage Color Scheme"):


This great quilt design by Vickie Welsh of Field Trips in Fiber  is only made with four main blocks all finishing at 8". 


I started off by testing if the fabrics would work with the design it by making only a few blocks first:


I thought it looked good so continued with it and now all the blocks have been finished, sewn into rows and the rows sewn together.  Next step is to work out the borders.  In Vickie's instructions, the center as I have it now can be finished for use as a veteran's wheelchair lap quilt but she also provides instructions for adding borders to bring it to the size desired for QOV donations.  I feel that since the light gray  units on the border edge have a little more contrast than the ones in her original border design, I want to "round out" those units somehow so I'll be working on that and making the border wider overall this week.

I used "Combat Gratitudes" as the leader/ender for the "Across County Lines" top I worked on during July and August (and that finished top can be seen here).  Once that top was finished and this one became the primary project, I decided to  start on my second QOV and use that as the  leader/ender while finishing "Gratitudes".  So on the left side of the wall are my "Cosmic Valor" blocks, this time in the time honored RWB color scheme.


You can find the pattern for these cool looking (and not as difficult as they look) blocks in Fons and Porter's Love of Quilting May/June 2016, patterned as "Patriotic Cosmic Stars".

As a self proclaimed "Gadget Fanatic", I was also able to have a lot of fun with  tools that helped get both of these projects cut out and sewn in a reasonable amount of time.  If you like gadgets too, check out this post on what I used.

I hope to keep up all the good forward momentum!  Happy stitching!!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Get It Done! August Recap, September Goals

Wow, August went fast!  I'm glad to say that while (as usual) I didn't get as much done as I wanted, I can honestly say that after doing this for almost three quarters of the year, I'm finally getting a handle on what is actually "doable" for me.  A big help for injecting a dose of reality into my planning (and something I learned from doing the Bullet Journal) has been breaking down projects into all the steps I need to do to get a project done. 

Until now, when I evaluated doing a project I would just look at the number of blocks and how easy/hard I thought they were to make.  But now I'm realizing that blocks that are "easy" may not necessarily be "quick" when you actually calculate the number of plain or pieced units that make up each block.  I also need to consider adding extra time to my expectations if I'm working out the details of an original design, allow for the possibility that I may hit a tough spot in the block construction or the overall quilt design that needs thought for coming up with a work-around or just for those times I encounter unexpected interruptions that come from life events.  Mix in even one of those things and all of a sudden what seemed possible may not be probable to accomplish!

So that said, from last month's July List I only worked on #1:  Quilts of Valor.  On that front I did a lot of work on one I'm calling "Combat Gratitudes":


The blocks are all done but still need to be sewn together to complete the center.  This one was originally designed as a mystery quilt by Vicki Welsh from "Field Trips In Fiber" back in 2013 for her local quilt club.  A basically simple design that made striking use of a set of non-traditional QOV fabrics I had (meaning it's going to be one of those rare quilts for the cause not made in Red, White and Blue). This fabric, called "Modern Heroes", was the starting focus fabric for the project:
 

I will have to add borders to bring this up to QOV size.  Vickie designed the center of the quilt to finish as a wheelchair lap quilt but she also gives instructions for adding borders to bring it up to QOV size.

In addition (and what took most of the month) was that I also finished the "Across County Lines" top I had started working on in July.  Funny, I had not even "officially" put it on the list because I thought I was going to knock it out within the first few days of the month! I had gotten all the blocks completed at last report in early August.  However, it took longer than expected to get it to the finished top:


My comments earlier about "hitting a tough spot" had to do with issues I had getting the pieced borders on that resulted from my center being about an inch narrower and two inches shorter than patterned once I had finished all the piecing (folks, accurate seam allowances do matter!).  If I was just putting on plain borders it would not have been an issue but adding pieced borders complicated things just a bit -- especially if you make the pieces up before you finish the center!  That said, I'm loving this one and now need to find a backing for it as well as decide how I want to quilt it.

So what's in store for the September List?  Keeping in mind what I've said about carefully evaluating all the steps involved for my intended projects, the list is really short this month:

1.  QOV:  Finish "Combat Gratitudes":  Now that I'm in the QOV groove, I want to get the center finished, the borders on, find a backing and get this quilted for donation.  I understand that all that alone might take all month and for once I'm prepared for accepting that possibility!

2:  QOV #2:  I have another QOV design and fabric I'd like to get pieced this month.  Haven't fully evaluated yet how much piecing it will take so although being listed here, if I don't get to sewing it now, it'll be formally mapped out for the October list.   However, if I can get it set up, I'm also thinking that it can serve as a leader/ender project while I'm doing the finishing work for the project above.

3. T-Shirt Quilt:  I really need to get back to this one since I need it for decorating which makes it a high priority.  I realized a while back that I had not made progress on this one because it involves designing the layout and as noted earlier I have to give myself time to think in that case.

I'm leaving it at that for now.  I realize too that I've been overwhelming myself with too many "want to do" projects.  It pains me to take a step back (so many quilts, so little time!) but for me finishing is important so adjusting my expectations is a must in this case!    

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Quilt Decorating I: Barn Quilts

When I did my "Get It Done!" recap for June, I said I would do a detail post on the Barn Quilt I made. This is the picture of it that I had shared before (as it's seen from street level):

Hmmm, that's a little hazy.  Need to take another picture of it!
.....and here it is close up:


I've always wanted to do a barn quilt for my terrace wall.  In the past, I have displayed a large grape ivy wreath there during the fall/winter seasons.  I'd decorate it with faux fall foliage and then drape it with evergreen pine boughs and ornaments for the Christmas holiday.  I've also always loved the articles I've read about Barn Quilts.   Since I'm big on using quilts as decoration, I figured that as a quilter, an exterior quilt block would be another way to announce my "hobby" to the world.  My plan was to use the signs for outside decoration in the spring and summer months.

I had mentioned this more than a few times to my DH.  One day in 2013 he found a big board of 3/4" thick pressed plywood discarded along his delivery route (he used to be a UPS driver but now drives their tractor trailers) and brought it home for me wondering if I could use it to make the "signs" I had so often talked about.  I was encouraged by his support since usually when I do these DIY type things he's skeptical (aka, thinks I'm a crazy lady) at best.  After getting the wood that year, I finally bought my own circular saw (always wanted one!) and cut the board down into two approximately 24" square pieces.  I figured I could paint on both the front and back of each and have four different block designs to make and display. 

We have a big heavy nail driven into the back wall of our terrace that was left from the previous tenants (good because we are technically not allowed to nail into the outer walls).  It's the same one I hang the wreath from so I drilled a hole in the top of each board for that.  I stocked up on water based craft paint at the local Michael's when they had sales.  But I admit I dragged my feet about the actual painting, primarily stalled about what block designs I wanted to do and what colors I wanted to use.   

Then in 2014 I saw that the always inspiring Elaine, who blogs at "Elaine Adair Pieces", posted about a Barn Quilt she painted as a gift for a friend.  Check out her work on it here:
 
 
Elaine had also previously painted some blocks on the side of her "barn" (aka her garage):
 
 
When I saw Elaine's post, my enthusiasm for the project was renewed!  She and I exchanged a couple of emailed conversations about what she had done and I realized that there were quite a few tips shared in her posts (oh, the power of blogging!) that gave me the confidence to push forward on this again.  Unfortunately, I had read her post towards the end of September so decided to wait until the next spring to try again.  Yeah, that would have been Spring of 2015 --- well, better late than never!  When this year's Spring season started late and I finally got my terrace cleared off and planting set up after Memorial Day, I decided that this would be the year to finally get this project done!

One of the first helpful tips in Elaine's post was to treat wood that's not smooth by sanding it a bit before painting.  I had always planned to paint a base coat first but found the next tip in her post -- to use an oil-based house paint as the base coat -- to be another very good idea since mine would hang outside in the elements.  I had also always planned that after using the craft paint for the block colors, I was going to seal the whole thing with polyurethane afterwards to further protect the design from the elements. 

The other good tip I got from her post was the idea of being conscious of using good contrast when choosing the colors for your blocks.  The wall my block would hang against is red brick so when I started to consider colors, it was like we always say in quilting "color gets all the credit but value (and contrast) does all the work"!  So I took that into account when I began to look around for a good quilt block to render.  Fortunately, just then I got the monthly e-newsletter from Quilting In the Country and it featured the popular "Barn Quilt Trail Midwest Medallion Quilt" by author Suzi Parron as a Block of the Month project. 


Note:  Quilting in The Country is no longer operating as a retail shop but still offers items online, although not this one.  If you're interested in a kit for the Medallion quilt, you can find it at Connecting Threads.

My eye was drawn to the block in the upper left hand corner.  I loved the blue and white and the use of orange, an analogous color to red, made it a perfect color combination for the patriotic summer months, not to mention pleasing to me as a NY Mets fan!  So with Elaine's tips and now a firm block plan in place, I was ready to go.
 
From cutting table to painting station!
I set about working on it just prior to my MIL (also a quilter) coming to stay with us for the second time this year, deciding that this would be a good "welcome" piece for the house.  So even if my neighbors or passers-by didn't appreciate it, I knew my guest would!   It took me altogether about a week to paint and dry the white base layer on both sides and the edges (done outdoors on the terrace), tape off and paint the different color sections (done indoors as seen above), touch up some spots after removing the tape and then seal it with a coat of spray polyurethane (back outdoors again). 

The good news is that when it was finished and hung, I did get compliments  on it from my neighbors too (as well as the opportunity to explain what a Barn Quilt is and that no, it was not made of fabric)!  On the Medallion quilt,  I also like the block in the lower right corner too.  If I can stay productive as I finish out the summer, I might paint that one to display in the early fall before putting the wreath out.  This was a fun project and another great way to bring quilty goodness into one's life!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

On the Design Wall: Progress!!

August is starting off well!  The project I talked about here is now here:


 The blocks are all done!  Still have to be sewn together to complete the top.  Now it's time to work on a border/borders.  Since I'm using Judy's book "60 Pieced Borders" to make this, I'm trying to decide whether to go with the original border paired with the center....


....or to use one of the other borders designed to go with it....


....or to use a border that is paired with one of the other quilt centers in the book.  Judy has always loved adding multiple borders to her quilts.  Check out this post from her blog from 2009 to see what I mean.  In this post, she talks about how she deals with how tedious it can be to make borders once she's finished the top --- she makes the borders first!!

Well since that's not an option for me at this point, I'm faced with decisions, decisions......