Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ringo Lake and En Provence Update: A Leader/Ender Spree

Up First: Ringo Lake

It's been a real challenge to try to keep up the steady work to get the "Ringo Lake"  parts finished.  I failed over the weekend --- didn't sew a thing!  I went to a guild meeting on Saturday and picked up waayy too much eye candy in the form of old magazines so spent most of the weekend oohing and ahhing and placing bookmarks. 


So I made up for that on the holiday Monday, making up more Part 4/6 combo units, the pieced triangles needed for the setting triangles in Part 9 and more Flying Geese for Part 5. 


About those combo units:  I've been piecing mine using the shortcut from Deb Tucker's Studio 180 Shaded Four Patch Technique Sheet which I talked about in my last post.  Even though I had written notes on both Bonnie's instructions and the Technique Sheet telling me exactly what size strips to cut out of which fabric to make the blocks in the format needed, what did I do?  When I started this round of piecing, I thought I knew exactly what to cut and sew.  Yeah, about that....


Needless to say these are wrong....


Really wrong.....


Oh so much wrong!   Note to self:  If you are using a shortcut but haven't sewn with it in a few days, it's a good idea to review your notes before starting!

Fortunately, these were cut from only one strip of each fabric and I had more than enough of the turquoise and brown fabrics left to cut more to make the corrected set.  However, I had to remove and salvage the coral triangles from the blocks I had completed (the ones in the upper right in the picture) because I only have some yardage left of one of the coral fabrics --- I've used up everything else to cut what was needed for all the other parts of the mystery. 

When I had cut the turquoise strips for that first errant set, I also cut all the triangles and squares needed for the setting triangles in Part 9.


I did some more stitching Tuesday and finished up all of the rest of the Part 4/6 combo units.  I also got some more Part 5 Flying Geese and Part 3 units done but there's still a lot more of those to make. 


I want to start on my 2018 goal projects but want to get these parts finished first.  Once I'm able to move "Ringo" onto the block piecing stage, then I'll be in a good position  to break off to work on something non-mystery related.

On to En Provence

This time last year I was getting a late start on piecing the parts for the "En Provence" mystery.  This year, while working on the parts for "Ringo Lake", I was also able to finally start putting together the blocks for that quilt.  This was where I was at the beginning of last week:


The first competed block is on the upper left of the design wall and the second one was down on the table queued up for sewing together.  This is where I am with it now:
 
 
With nine blocks pieced, now I'm going to start piecing the sashing units that surround the finished blocks so I can move everything tighter together to be able to add the rest of the un-pieced block parts onto the wall.  During all this leader/ender-ing (I know, not a word), I also finally finished piecing all the sashing Tri-Recs units too.


One of my goals for this year is to get both mysteries at least to tops.  Of course, it would be even more fabulous to finish both quilts completely but baby steps, Padewan, baby steps!  Many people have already finished their tops and a few have even already quilted theirs. Check out the last link-up if you want to see those beauties!

More good news: the first part of my Zazzle order came in on Friday.


Woo hoo!  Is this an incentive to try to make another of the Quiltville mysteries?  Well, to that end I realize I have a lot of the brown fabrics left over so I am thinking about that too..... 


 So many quilts, so little time!  Happy Quilting!

Monday, January 8, 2018

On Ringo Lake Update: From Part 3 to the Reveal -- Still Plugging Along

It's time for the last Ringo Lake Link-up today over at Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville blog now that the big Reveal is out of the bag!  Bonnie did a series of "Rapid Fire" posts right before and on New Year's Day giving us Parts 7, 8 and 9 in succession.  It's another Bonnie beaut of a quilt with some very interesting setting triangles (see Part 9 for those).  For me, I'm no where near the assembly part yet:

 
I wish I was further along by now but the holidays definitely threw me for a loop.  I had dutifully picked up Parts 3, 4 and 5 when they were released  during December but was still working on Part 3 when I downloaded Part 6 on the last Friday of 2017. 


Since I had big project plans for the New Year (are there any other kind?), I really wanted to be up to date on this mystery as we entered 2018.  I had already planned in my head that I might just be able to do a big piecing push and be ready for the Part 6 link-up, expecting it to be on Tuesday Jan 2.

Fortunately for me when Bonnie revealed Part 6, it turned out that the new unit was something I was very familiar with!  Back in 2015 I had ordered one of Deb Tucker's Studio 180 Technique Sheets for a block she calls a "Shaded Four Patch".  I've also seen this block called "World Without End".  It's a unit I've seen in a lot of designs I want to make and the same one used in the blocks I made for Eleanor Burns' Quilt In a Day quilt "Fabric Gal" back in 2014.


The Technique Sheet called for the block to be made with the same strip piecing methods as was done for QIAD but the sheet gave instructions for block sizes from 2" to 12" finished whereas the QIAD instructions were only for one size block.  Bonnie's Part 4 had given instructions for the pieced top half of the block and in Part 6 you added the large bottom half triangle.  Knowing this after the fact meant I could construct the whole block all at once and make a pair of them at a time.


While I worked on these,  I also continued making the Part 3 units as leader/enders and started on the Part 5 flying geese. 

 

Just like I had with the Part 2 units, I made the Part 5 geese using my favorite QIAD "Triangle -Pieced Rectangle method (what I call the "Two Squares" method).  Also good was that while making all of these up, I was also able to throw my En Provence blocks into the leader/ender queue and start moving them forward as well.

At this point it was one down and four more ready to go. 
So as it stands now, I have about 3/4 of the total combo Part 4/6 units needed so I'll need to do another strip cutting session.  I've only got about half of my Part 3 and 5 units done so far.  For the Part 5 geese, I've had to make adjustments to my piecing methods.  Unfortunately my neutral stash is running low and with some of the fabrics I don't have big enough pieces left to cut the large squares I need to do my quick FG method.  Since I also needed more small HSTs to complete the Part 3 piecing, I've resorted to doing the rest of my Part 5 units the old fashioned way:  I've cut QST triangles with a Companion Angle ruler out of my brown fabrics and by cutting a big batch of the HSTs for both I can piece both units the same way.  So this is what I have left to do:

By doing a little each day, I'll get closer to being able to start putting the top together, hopefully by the end of the week.  When that time comes, it'll be fun to see if any piecing "design decisions" (aka oopsies) will wind up creating "unique" layout adjustments.  We will see!  If you are not coming here from the link-up, do go check out what everyone has gotten up to.  You can see some of the great tops that have already been finished with some people posting tips on the best way to get that done as well.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

If you are here from the link-up, did you see the note on Bonnie's post about all the Quiltville swag available on Zazzle?!?!  There are buttons, magnets, mugs, t-shirts, aprons and bags that commemorate all of the Quiltville mysteries to date.  Proceeds from the sale go to purchase supplies for charity quilt projects.  While the sale is on I just had to get pins for the two mysteries I am working on to add to my bag.  I also splurged on a pair of new mugs which, lucky enough for me, were in the exact same colors I needed to replace two mugs I had recently broken.  Score!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Oh, the weather outside is frightful.....

 
 
(Just to set the mood...)
 
9AM
 

11 AM
 
 
11:30 AM !

 

...to be inside is so delightful...


...and since I've no place to go, let me sew, let me sew, let me sew!!


Stay warm and have a good day!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year and What's On Deck for 2018

A Very Happy New Year To Everyone!
 
 
When a New Year dawns, we all think about what we hope the year will bring and what we can accomplish in it.  Normally, this is the time for quilters to reveal the "Word of the Year" that they want to guide their project aspirations for the year.  I have done some work this past year using a Bullet Journal and studying the prompts of illustrator and author Jessica Abel through her blog and her book "Growing Gills".  If you feel like you never seem to get what you want to accomplish done, I highly recommend the book (and the email prompts she will send you after you purchase it) to help you pinpoint what your issues are. 

Between the two, I realized my biggest problem was determining what the "Realistic" part of S.M.A.R.T. goals (see Tip #1 on this post) really means and how to truly prioritize them.  Those two things were the main reasons why I was able to stay on track at the end of the year and get a few projects competed even while juggling a Christmas gift project and Bonnie Hunter's annual mystery without getting discouraged or feeling like I was going crazy.
 
So as 2017 ended, I tried to think about what would be my guiding word for 2018.  However, as I rolled around the possibilities in my mind, two words kept bubbling to the top for me.  They represent what I want to do more than how I plan to work and that is:
 
BUCKET LIST 
 
Yes, for me the guiding principal will be that this year I want to finish up my original Bucket List goals.  I wrote about my Bucket List back in 2010.  The projects on it represented the quilts that when I started quilting, I felt I NEEDED to attempt in order to be considered a "real" (as opposed to fake?!?) quilter.  To fulfill those lofty aspirations, at that time I had seven projects still to attempt: Double Wedding Ring, String Quilt, Lone Star, Dresden Plate, Complex Applique and a Hand Quilted Wholecloth.  I finished the Dresden plate quilt called Merrimac Dresdens in 2013 so that left six more still to do.
 
I had actually started on the Double Wedding Ring way back in 2009, made siginificant progress on it in 2012 and had last worked on it in 2015.   
 
 
 For the Wholecloth project I had plans as far back as 2012 to start it and made them again at the start of both 2016 and last year but each time got sidetracked.  So with the Bucket List my focus, I could finally get it started this year.
 
 
 After doing the "Growing Gills" lessons, I wound up completely reorganizing my "Hussy" stacks (HSYs - Haven't Started Yet projects) which reacquainted me with some of the things I had chosen to fulfill my Bucket List goals.  For instance, while I had considered doing a number of projects to fulfill the Complex Applique wish, I realized that there was a project that I had long wanted to make that could actually fulfill that for me and I decided right then to forego all others in favor of it.  For that one I plan to make (or at least start) one of the Robert Callahan's Applique projects.

.
I also have stashed no less than five different Lone Star designs, all using different approaches to the construction. 
 
These are just some of the patterns I have.
 Again, I had long debated about which to start with but with cleared creative "Gills", I finally made a firm decision on which project to start with:  I'm going with the Jelly Stars kit I have.
 
 
Now that I know where I want to go, I am ready to plan the when and how.  I had always planned for the wholecoth to be a whole year project so the push for that one is just to get it started and in the hoop.  Once that's done I can work on it a little each week until it gets completed (and it will be great for "Slow Sunday Stitching" linkups).  For the other projects, I thought that the easiest plan for attacking them would be a personal quarterly challenge.  I can attempt to get one BL item started (or in the case of the Double Wedding Ring, continued) in each quarter.  If I plan well, some might even get finished within their quarter.  And from my experience at the end of last year, I know that it is possible to juggle more than one project as long as I was realistic about what I thought I could get done and monitored, accepted and re-grouped when I was sent off track from my plans.
 
This is not to say that I don't expect to work on other things during the year:  I definitely want to get the two Bonnie Hunter mystery projects, On Ringo Lake and En Provence, at least to the top stage:
 
Lots of parts still in progress......
A Bonnie project may also fulfill my String Quilt bucket list item but I haven't decided on that definitively yet.


I'd also like to make some headway on some decorating projects like my Halloween quilt and a few wallhangings I want to make for the house.  Hopefully what I learned last year about planning and deadlines, will clarify for me just how much additional time, realistically, I can devote to these projects if at all.  If I realize I can't get them done, then at that moment it will be time to decide what will take precedence.  I'm also sure there will be those times when the project du' jour may be frustrating me and I will welcome having a diversion at hand.      
 
So that's the 2018 plan for me in a nut shell.  What is your Word for the Year or plans for 2018?  Whatever they are I wish you well in bringing them to fruition and making 2018 the best it can be for you! 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

One More Go 'Round with the Western Quilt

As the year finishes up, I'm also finishing up with Block of the Months I've been following on the web.  One of those is Aurifil's "Designer of the Month" Series hosted by Pat Sloan.  The theme for the Series this year is the Color Wheel and each designer made their block according to the color assigned them.  As a viewer, you can participate by making the block offered for a chance to win some Aurifil thread. 

Up to now I had been content to just "ooh and ahh" over the blocks presented but this month's block immediately struck a chord with me.  Designed by Amanda Murphy, I could see plugging fabrics into the block from the Western quilt I recently gifted!  So even though I should be catching up on mystery quilt piecing, I figured why not?  I had a leftover photo transfer square that made a great fussy cut for the center of the block and it'll be that much less scraps to process now that the gift quilt is finished.

This is the what I came up with for the December block design:

 
Interesting thing about this:  It just so happens that the thread I used to quilt the majority of quilt that the fabric came from was Aurifil #2370.  When I had to switch machines in order to keep sewing, I continued to use that thread for my mystery piecing and subsequently for this block too.  Also, Amanda lives in North Carolina  and that's where the gift quilt was sent too!

Let's hope all of this is an omen for a win!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Spending Quality Time With My Featherweight

Now that the Christmas gift quilt is finished, my plan was to get back to focusing on the Bonnie Hunter mystery projects.  That is until I sat down to sew and my old Euro-Pro machine wouldn't stitch!  It's running and I can pull up the bobbin thread but the machine will not form stitches.  I believe that means the timing is off on the bobbin race.  So the bad news is that now, once again right before Christmas,  both of my primary machines need to go in for repair which I'll do after New Year's.


The good news is that this time, I have a back-up for the back-up machine:  Fanny, my Featherweight is fully operational for this go-round!


I guess it was an omen that I had recently bought some accessories for it.   Singer-Featherweight.com had a Christmas sale for most of December and during that I got:


I had long wanted the seam guide and they were selling these canvas accessory bags below cost because they were manufactured slightly smaller than the size they had wanted them to be.  For me it was perfect because it is just what I needed to store all of my Featherweight stuff in.  I had also long been eyeing some free-motion feet on eBay:  


A while back (during another sale) I had purchased a feed dog cover plate for the Featherweight.  I've read both pros and cons regarding doing free-motion on the Featherweight and wanted to be able to try it.  Sew-Vac  was offering a discount on all the feet I wanted so my Christmas present to myself was to get them.  Why three kinds?  I use each of these kinds of feet -- closed toe, open toe, and echo -- on my other machines depending on the project so wanted to have them all for the Featherweight too.

This is also good because on my "To Do" list has been plans to make a carry bag for the Featherweight since my machine didn't come with a case.  In both of the bag patterns I have, the bodies need to be quilted so it will give me a chance to test the new feet out. 

For now though, it will be a while before I can put the feet to the test since I need to catch up on the Bonnie stuff.  Part 5 for "On Ringo Lake" dropped on Friday but I'm still working on Part 3:

 
It's said that the Featherweights weren't designed to work efficiently with cross wound thread spools and it's better to use a thread guide with them to feed the thread to the machine.  In my post about the Christmas gift quilt, I had talked about my old cast iron thread stand and how I had lost the center pole that holds the thread.  Right after posting that, I found a solution for a replacement right under my nose:  as you can see in the picture above, I found a wooden dowel in my quilt space that was just the right circumference to fit the hole in the stand!  The next thing I'll purchase for Fanny is a dedicated thread stand that will fit in the top oil hole of the machine that will also allow the thread to sit on the machine's spool pin.
 
Picture Courtesy of Singer Featherweight.com
So now it's back to work with hopes I can fully catch up before the (late) link up on Tuesday.  Time to:
 
 

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Christmas Deadline: The Western Kringle Quilt -- Pt 5: Right Down To the Wire For A Finish!

FINALLY, the Western Gift Quilt Is Finished!
(56" x 84)
 
Front

Back with label area

A close up of some of the pictures in the quilt

I put in the last stitches this morning after a too long weekend of working on it.   This was my adaptation of the "Changing Lanes" quilt from Deanne Moore's book "Fabric Play - Change the Fabric, Change the Quilt".  I made it for my mother-in-law's husband who is a big fan of westerns.  I had started on it back in November (which you can read about here) but this post is all about the final throws of the finishing!  If you're interested in some process posting then read on......

Did you ever have one of those projects that every time you get something done on it, it just never seems to be finished?  This was one of those although when I started out I thought this was going to be an easy project!  In its defense, I only have myself to blame for complicating it.  The issues with the photo transfers (which are detailed in this post) started it all.  Then the choices made for finishing it (or more correctly, the difficulty of MAKING those choices) added extra effort, time and intricacies. 
 
In the end this was very simply quilted but it took me a while to decide to go that route.  There are so many creative options for quilting a quilt now that sometimes it can be hard to just get out of your way on deciding how to do it.  I decided to start out by ditch stitching all the seams and then see if I was inspired to do anything else.  About that...

An "after the fact" simulation
Reminder #1:  Since I've been using my old Euro-Pro machine, I had forgotten how hard it is to package a quilt in a small harp space.   It's fine if you are doing free motion or are using a walking foot for border to border straight stitching.  When you have to turn the quilt to change direction in the middle of the quilt in order to stitch the little seams around the pictures -- it's time to choose another stitching design (or should have been)!
 
 Reminder #2:  After the New Year, I really need to take my Janome in for repair! 

 
 After spending Saturday morning and evening doing all the ditch stitching (DH didn't get in from work until late so we had to make a planned grocery shopping trip in the afternoon), I felt the quilt needed more quilting but wasn't sure, given the time crunch, just what to do.  While I did plan to outline the figures in the photo transfer squares, what to do in the other areas?  Stipple?  Cross hatch?  More vertical lines?  Watch TV with DH and wait for inspiration to hit?  Ok, I can tell you that last one is not a good choice when a deadline looms but it was all I could muster that night.
 
Very early Sunday morning, I went with DH and one of my sons to see the new Star Wars movie (my other son was invited to a free screening of the movie being hosted by his girlfriend's school later that same day).  We enjoyed it and after we got back it was time to get back into "finish this quilt stat!" mode.  In the end, I finally decided to do just a few long crosshatches across each "block" (each rectangular four piece strip set unit) from corner to corner opposite the photo transfers.  I also decided to stitch down the center of the outer border sashings. 

 
When done, while I still thought it a little too under quilted overall I very much liked the effect of the giant zig zags across the top and how that somewhat mirrored the similar layout of the offset dark brown and cream strips in adjacent blocks (the "Changing Lanes" of the pattern).
 
Of course deciding how to quilt it also prompted a lot of back and forth about what thread to use to do the quilting.  I admit I prefer to avoid a lot of thread changes whenever possible.  I was able to settle on a dark tan/olive Aurifil #2370 for the top (spool laying down in the photo below) after considering various browns, tans, creams and even monofilament.  Fortunately #2370 also worked well in the bobbin for the print I was using across most of the back.  I did debate about doing a different thread in the border but in the end, felt the stitching would look more balanced over all if I kept with the same thread across the whole top. 
 

50wt Aurifil thread is so fine that even when it contrasts it doesn't scream for attention against the fabric.
 
I still needed to detail stitch the photo transfers but decided instead to first trim up the quilt and attach the binding.  I had chosen a plaid for that and went the usual route of cutting it on the bias for that edging.


I also opted to glue baste the binding in the hopes of making the stitching go faster.  It did but the need to press the edge to secure the glue means a very flat binding when done.  Again not my preference but in the service of time, necessary.


I was tired by that point so left the outlining of the photo transfers until today.  Again there was the thread issue.  Again I auditioned a number of colors but decided on Smoke monofilament as the best option for all twelve of the pictures on the top.  For the back, I did opt for thread changes this time around:  for eight of the pictures, the bobbin thread would land on the light backing print so I stuck with using #2370 in the bobbin for those.  For the three pictures when the bobbin thread would land on the brown barbed wire print, I wound part of a bobbin of brown thread for those (Connecting Threads Essential in "Cinnamon", 2nd from the left in the previous thread picture).  I had one picture that was on top of the "show down" panel motif on the back.  For that one, I chose to go with monofilament thread both top and bobbin so as not to have a very visible weird head outline on the stomach of the gunman in the panel image.   
 
I have to say throughout all of this, I did have some issues working with using the monofilament.  I've always set my monofilament thread off the machine, usually on a thread stand. My Janome has a thread stand attachment and I used to use one of those cast iron stands with my Euro-Pro.  However the thread pole for the cast iron stand got lost or misplaced back when we moved in 2011 and I haven't been able to find it or a replacement for  it yet. 


However, my Euro-Pro also still had on it what I had used prior to getting a thread stand:

 
 I learned about using monofilament thread from Harriet Hargrave's book "Heirloom Machine Quilting" back when it was the "Bible of Machine Quilting". 


Back then she taught that the circular base of a simple safety pin taped to the top of your machine could serve as a "make do" thread guide.  Fortunately it worked!
 
Note:  Lori Kennedy, a Craftsy machine quilting teacher and quilt book author  recently hosted an interesting "Open Forum" on her blog "The Inbox Jaunt" about using monofilament thread.  Read her thoughts on the subject and those of her readers (including yours truly) in the comments of the post.
 
However, the needle threader on my Euro-Pro is also out of alignment (hmmm, guess it needs to go in for service too!) so needless to say it was a tricky prospect to try to thread the machine needle by hand with the "invisible" thread.  Uggh, so close to the  end....the solution was my sewing table light placed low and behind the machine so it shone through the eye of the needle from the back making it easy to see right where to put the thread.  Problem solved!  I'm glad I took the time to outline the figures in the images -- they really popped in their respective squares once that was done.


The good news was that I managed to get all the pictures outlined before I had to leave to go to our community garden (I and a few other members are attempting some season extension projects). 

As I said at the top of the post, the morning quilting session was FINALLY the last of it for this project!  On my way back from the garden, I picked up some Priority Mail boxes from the post office so I can pack up this quilt and send it along with....


...the cookies I bake each Christmas for my MIL and her sister.  These will go to the post office tomorrow morning and hopefully will make it to North Carolina by this weekend!  Boy do I look forward to getting back to the mystery piecing now!!