Monday, June 26, 2017

The Blue Baskets Mini is a Finish!

Finally!!  I'm dubbing it "Spring Basket Blues".

I had talked about the start of this little project back in May.  It's one of the monthly mini quilt kits from Piecing the Past Quilts.   For my version, I decided to add an embellishment of cut flower buttons I purchased from Aiming For Accuracy.  When I last posted, I had pieced  the basket blocks and some of the sashing....

Once I got the top finished....

...I needed to age the buttons.

I used some brown craft paint and lightly brushed and wiped off the buttons until I got the bright colors toned down enough not to contrast as much with the reproduction fabrics.



Oh and the little butterflies?  I hope I'm not the only one that saves the plastic pin heads when they break off.... 

With the top done, next up was the backing.  I had noted in the previous post that I had plans for an elaborate back.  Unfortunately, the math and the amount of fabric I had left weren't a match and there was nothing in stash that I liked with it so I went with the solid cream back that had been provided in the kit.  Fortunately I also had a scrap piece of batting just the right size to fit.  One thing I love about making a mini quilt is that I can spray baste it and then it was on to the Quilting!

With everything basted,  I knew I wanted to find designs to fill the open corner and side triangles.  Looking through my quilt books, I stopped at Eva Larkin's book "Free Motion Quilting Made Easy".  In it she has stitch patterns that are designed for use in square blocks.  However, she notes that if you need to fill a triangle or a rectangle you can just stitch half of the design!  Brilliant!  I went though the whole book and narrowed about twenty potential designs down to two to stitch out.  Then the debate was whether to go for "subtle contrast" with the thread or use a matching one --- I admit I chickened out on this one and went with matching (especially since I was doing the stitching on my old back up machine and not my Janome).  That makes it easier to hide the mistakes but harder for me to get a shot where you can actually see the stitching (as noted in the picture at the top of the post).    

In any event, it's done!  I did my usual machine attached binding although for this small quilt and per pattern instructions, it's single fold.  Here it is hung, the Spring replacement for my little Tucker quilt (that's Tucker rolled up in front of the basket, to see it in it's full glory, click here).

There's more to do and more to see, so back to stitching for me!

Before It's Over, I Better Get Out The June Update!

As of last Wednesday, it's now official -- Happy Summer!  I had hoped to get back to post before the end of May but life and "squirrel" moments got in the way!  This is the first full week of Summer and I am happy because as of right now, all of my community commitments (with the exception of the community garden) are on hiatus until September. 

Even all the spring prep work for the garden (both the community one and my terrace planters) is finally completed.  So far I'm signed up for volunteer hours on Sunday afternoons (with DH) and Wednesday mornings in July but there shouldn't be any of the hard grunt work of the last few months to do when I go.  That means I can expect to spend less time there (just our regular four hour shifts rather than a whole day) and expend far less physical energy than I have to date.  Not being exhausted on the return from the garden means I am more likely to be able to sew when I get back.

It is my plan to try to sew every day for the summer.  I didn't get to sew every day during the Spring but I did get some quilting done.  So what has kept me so busy these last two months? 

Well, I finally pushed through to a finish on the Baskets mini quilt!  You can read more about that here.

I also finally got started on "Catch" my project name for Brenda Henning's "Alaskan Silhouette Sampler" which I'll talk more about in future posts.

While finishing the basket mini and sewing the "Catch" blocks, I used "leader/ender" piecing and was able to finish the last two Scrappy Trips blocks I had set up as well as two more.

As you make stuff you generate more scraps and since I also needed more "leader/enders",  I also pulled out my "Scrappity-Do blocks"  (last seen on the blog here) and got nine more made up!

Still to do:  On the right in the picture of the "Catch" blocks you can just about see that my "En Provence" pieces are also still on the design wall.  That's because I want to lay all the blocks out before stitching them up but I'll need to remove the "Modern Twist" top (under the Catch blocks) to do that.

I have big plans for doing some Modern quilting on that one and have spent all Spring gathering ideas for that so now need to finalize them and get it quilted.   It should be noted that it was my APQ UFO pull for January!!  Needless to say that other project numbers have been drawn for all the months since and all of mine need to be quilted.  Yikes! That's six UFO projects identified but none quilted yet.  I really need to get to work!

Another thing I STILL need to do is finish the gifts for my friend and her husband. 

That's an old picture -- as noted in a previous post, back in May I got her mug rug quilted and bound.  The couple had traveled to Europe last month and I thought I'd give myself a deadline of finishing the projects up while my friends were away.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the date of their return before they left and cell access was spotty so we couldn't communicate.  Then I let other things intervene and they were advised by the U.S. Embassy to cut their trip short and return early.  The last leg of their tour had been scheduled to travel to Manchester shortly after the bombing that happened there.

Now that they're back, we're planning to get together to see all the pictures from their trip and I'd like to bring the gifts with me to that event.  My friend's mug rug only needs a label (and cookies baked to go with it and the mug) but I've still got to quilt and bind her husband's quilt.  With the "Blue Baskets Mini" done, that has to be the next priority.

The other "squirrely" (away from the machine) things that grabbed my attention all Spring:

Pat Sloan's 182 Day Solstice Challenge that started in December just ended last week. 

The MODA Blockheads have been going on since March.  Block #17 will be posted on Wednesday.

Sharon Barnes of Australia who had previously reproduced the beautiful Chester Criswell Quilt has been posting test blocks for reproducing her Malanga antique (actually "vintage" since it's from 1937) quilt.  She hopes to publish a book on the quilt and the blocks in 2018.  I'd love to dive into my 30s stash and work on those this Summer.

I've also been following the Simple Simon Modern Quilt Along in the hopes of doing another Modern project in the future.  It's posted on the first Wednesday of the month, starting back in February and will end in November.

At The Quilt Show, they have so many things going on:
* The Halo Medallion BOM designed by the recently departed Sue Garman and running through December.
Zoo Nouveau,  a Summer techniques sew along which started back in April.
*Designed To Quilt:  A series of lessons on the elements that make up appealing quilt designs.

Ricky Timms, the co-host of TQS, also has the free Legacy Quilt Club BOM going on at his website.

Piecing the Past Quilts (from whom I got the Blue Baskets kit) finished their Peace & Healing free BOW (Block of the Week for 33 Blocks) in May and started a new one, Rest & Refreshing, at the end of April that will end in September.  Block #10 was released today and prior blocks can be purchased from their site. They also have a free Summer Sew Along that started last week but I'm sitting that one out!

About a month ago, I discovered that Quiltmania has been doing another free BOM called Tuesday Hearts that posts on the Second Tuesday of each month.

Of course I'm also following Barbara Brackman's 2017 Civil War BOM called Yankee Diary the next post of which will be on Wednesday (they post on the last one of each month). 

And last (for me) but not least, the Temecula Quilt Co. scrappy First Friday Sew Along that posts -- you guessed it -- on the first Friday of each month!  I'd like to do this one (and/or Jen Kingwell's "My Small World" quilt) straight from the scrap bins this Summer.  Got to get organized though -- not my scraps, they're all sorted -- just me!

I know there's even more out there but with all of this, no wonder I'm so distracted!  Hope you are happily stitching away as the official Summer season gets underway.   As always, I wish you Happy Quilting!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Getting Back Up to Speed - Part 3

This will have to be a late post today!  I spent most of the day in our community garden and afterwards stopped off at Aldi's and Home Depot.  Being that it was the first long day working in the garden, I needed a long soak in the tub when I got back!  Only after seeing hubby off to work and catching up on my email, could I finally get back to quilt projects and posting.

With this post, I'm now up to the May projects!  As I was working on my friend's mug rug last month (see the previous post here),  I got an email from Piecing the Past Quilts about their monthly mini quilt kits.  I have been following their free Civil War reproduction Block of the Week programs "Peace and Healing" (which will be ending this month) and "Rest and Refreshing" (which just started this month and runs until September).   As soon as I saw the blue and white basket quilt kit,  I knew it would be just the thing to swap out with my little "Tucker" wall hanging for Spring decoration. 

Initially I held off getting it because as I said in my last post, I REALLY don't need any more project stash.  Yeah, that held until I saw these:

You may know Michelle Foster from the Quilting Gallery blog or from her Aiming for Accuracy pattern series.  Well now she is also selling buttons and other embellishments online at "I Love Buttons, Ect.".   I admit my Quilters ADD  has me wanting to do more embellishing of my quilts and I have seen a lot of cute quilts that had added buttons for that purpose.  When I saw the flower buttons, the Basket Mini immediately popped back into my head (a perfect vessel for flowers!) and it wasn't too long after that that the kit and the buttons popped into their respective online shopping carts!!

Of course I justified it by thinking that it being a mini and good for some Spring decorating made it totally acceptable to get them!  Actually, the only true justification will be to finish this one up quick, put it up for display and move on back to the other things I'm SUPPOSED to be working on!!

So right now I'm here:

I have to finish piecing the pieced corner setting units and then I can finish putting the top together.  I also think I may try to "age" the buttons a bit -- they're very bright against the repro fabric palette.  The quilt kit comes with enough fabric for the top, binding and the solid cream fabric is for the backing.  Oh, and it all came in a great little vinyl zippered storage pouch which you'll see later turned out to be very fitting! 

However, I was cleaning out my email box recently and happened across an old Quilters Newsletter post about Pam Rocco's "Kuba Carpet" quilt project:

The rails in her blocks reminded of the sashing in the mini and I liked the idea of maybe doing that for a pieced back.  So I'll be working on this little project for at least the rest of this week.  I'll check back in when it's done -- I promise that will be before June!

Also as my "leader/ender" project while working on the mini, I've been making more Scrappy Trips blocks. 

Up until now I had kept my finished blocks in a storage box with the strips, leftover pieces and ideas for other quilts to make from all the strip leftovers. 

It was getting a little crowded for all that AND the blocks so I looked around for something separate to put the blocks into.  Then I remembered something else -- I have a stash of vinyl from making covers for the cooler we keep on our terrace (long story for another time).  Back in February or March, I had pulled out all the vinyl scraps with the idea of making some storage bags.  I have a great "Work In Progress Bags" pattern by Amanda Jean Nyberg -- more famously known as "Crazy Mom Quilts" -- that I had downloaded from Connecting Threads back in 2015 (and she now sells the pattern through Craftsy).  I matched up the vinyl leftovers with different sized zippers from my stash (so I can make a few different size bags) and had set them under my cutting table for an "In Between" project.  Well once again, the QADD set in and despite being in the middle of the basket quilt project and the Trips blocks, I decided to try whipping one up! 

Fortunately, this made up in an evening!  What was cool was that the zipper I had set aside for this is an old metal one that is from my grandmother's sewing box back when I had incorporated her stuff into my stash.  The package says it was 45 cents back in the day -- you know that's an old zipper but it still works!! 

At least this quick little diversion is also a useful accessory! 
So that's where I am right now.  At some point I need to reset my plans for the rest of the year since I'm waaay off track from what they were at the start of it.  All the UFOs from my APQ list have not been touched so far this year and are awaiting quilting.  I'd still like to get my En Provence mystery quilt completed sometime this year (at least the top but preferably quilted and bound too).  I've also still got the two QOVs I worked on last year and it would be nice (but probably not likely) to get them out before or for Memorial Day.  I'll just have to see what May quilting flowers April's diversion showers will bring! 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Getting Back Up To Speed - Part 2

Continuing from the last post with what I worked on in April:  I FINALLY quilted and bound my friend's mug rug that I started back in February.  It finished at approximately 6" x 15".

This is my mini version of the "Ah + Shift" variation of Susan Cleveland's "Ctrl+Alt+Del" quilt that's in her book "Marvelous Miters".

I had bought a kit which used Cherrywood fabrics a few years ago with the intention of making something to hang in our computer area (and hopefully having some leftovers to add to the stash!).  I still may do that but when I decided that I wanted to do another mug rug for my friend's work cubicle (you can see the first one I made her here), I figured a mini quilt made from the kit wouldn't require too much fabric or at least it wouldn't be hard to replace what I used when I wanted to make a bigger one. 

I don't feel that the 3-D effect came out well when making it on this smaller scale.  It really relies on the direction of the light and how it hits the fabrics as to whether the keys "pop" like they should.  Also the fabrics look more washed out here than they do in person since I was trying to get a shot where the quilting shows up.  No matter, she likes when I make her things so I think she'll appreciate the thought and get a kick out of the sentiment.

It took me a long time to settle on which of the ideas I had for quilting it that I would use.  In the end,  I decided to quilt the words "Cubicle Cowgirl", "404" (for the computer error code that comes up when an online file can't be found), "Desk Jockey" and "9 to 5" and did straight-line matchstick filler around them. 

More caveats on this one:  I really wish I had made the quilting more visible.  It wasn't until after I finished the quilting that I remembered reading that Christa Watson likes to use  Aurifil #4241 (a very dark gray) when quilting on black because it gives a nice bit of contrast on that color fabric.  I must get a spool of that so it will be in my thread arsenal in the future.  I also totally forgot about the dark gray Sulky 12 wt cone I had bought when they had a "discontinued colors" sale back in January.   I purchased it and some other thread colors to execute the special quilting I have planned for my Gee's Bend project (which I'm still debating about whether to do by hand or machine) but could have probably used it for this too.

To round out the mug rug gift I'll be adding -- what else -- a mug!  I had picked it up awhile back  (long before I thought of doing this rug) knowing that I could use it one day as part of a gift for her because she loves cats.  I also plan to bake up some cookies to send with the mug and rug so got a pack of coordinating treat gift bags from the dollar store.

So at least her gift is done - oh, except for the label.  I'm still trying to figure that out.  I used a specially themed backing fabric for the rug:

This is from the "Rush Hour" fabric line by Studio E Fabrics that I purchased from City Quilter just before they closed their retail store.  It took me a long time to center the backing to get a range of the motifs included and I don't want to cover them up too much.  Once again, not until after completing the binding step did I think about doing a monogrammed quilt label on the back binding (you can see an example of that here).  Of course there is NO WAY I'm taking off the binding and re-doing it since this gift is already three months overdue!  I'll think of something while I'm working on finishing her husband's quilt.  Sigh, yes, I still have that to do....

And yet, in typical Quilter's ADD fashion, I have already started on yet ANOTHER project....but that's a story for the next post.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Getting Back Up To Speed - Part 1

It's the merry month of May!  Gardening season is finally getting under way, Mother's Day is next weekend and my birthday is the week after.  Time to get back to who I am!

Unfortunately, once again I am playing catch-up on my quilting.  I really thought I would get moving after my last post for National Quilting Day back in March.  Yes and no -- I did get started that week on cleaning up my buried cutting table and (once again) organizing my project piles.  With so many other things also going on, I didn't get all of that finished until the end of the month so didn't get back to work on projects until April.   However, rather than picking up on some of the in-progress stuff,  I began with some new things like: 

On Easter Sunday I made this little wool bunny ornament.  It's from the "Leaping Into Spring" pattern from Meetinghouse Hill Designs.  I had got the kit in March last year from Quilting In the  Country when they were cleaning out their retail store stock.  I have long envisioned making an Easter themed display using the wool bunny and these:

One day I want to try these wool and embroidered eggs by Susan Wojciechowski of Ewe-niversity.  I got this pattern but will have to wait until I either have fewer current projects cluttering the quilt space (because I REALLY don't need to add more to my "stash") or luck up on a really great sale on pastel wools.

However, cute as he is, now that I have made him up I realized that he's a little small for the display I had dreamed of!  I should have taken note of the fact that on the pattern cover, the bunny is pictured next to a seed packet which should have clued me in to his actual size, LOL!!  No matter, now that I am familiar with how to construct him, in the future  if I do get around to making those eggs, I'll enlarge the pattern and make a bigger bunny.

That said, as always the Quilt Gods were looking out for me because that same week the Quilting Arts/Quilting Daily blog  (re-)posted a pattern by Gudrun Erla for some quick and simple to make egg ornaments that can be made from scraps.  Since I was still egg-cited about the bunny finish, I decided to make those up to go with my new little friend.

These were cute and easy to make up.  For those of you that keep a year-round mini Christmas tree display (or have considered doing so), you might think about making these ornaments for an Easter themed tree.  Actually I've seen ornament patterns (like stars and pumpkins) that could be used for any number of other seasons so that is something that could be a seasonal decorating theme.

There's more of April's projects to come in the next post!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Happy National Quilting Day!

Today is a special day for quilters: National Quilting Day is being celebrated around the world!  Perhaps your guild, local quilt shop or a nearby quilt museum has an event going on?   Over at the Quilt Alliance they have a blurb on their page about the origins of NQD.  Sadly, the organization that started it, the National Quilting Association, is no longer around, having disbanded in September 2015.  Yet another casualty of the changes the quilt industry is going through.  For some interesting historical facts about quilting itself, check out this post from the Art Gallery Fabrics blog from last year's celebration.

I am thankful for the day because it's a prompt for me to get back in gear because I haven't quilted a lick in over a month!!  After being so productive for the first two months of the year, I think I ran out of steam.  I was stopped by a usual culprit: after basting the two birthday quilts for my friends, I hit a bit of a road block in trying to decide how to quilt them. 

I thought I'd take a day or two to think about what I wanted to do.  You know how that goes:  a couple of days turned into a week, then two and in the interim I started piling stuff on my cutting table and cluttering my quilt space so now faced the task of clearing it all up before I could work.  I also started getting involved with other things:  gardening season is coming up and I am taking a class and starting seeds for later planting.....

....and a new and long desired crafty gadget came in the house so I got diverted playing with that (more on that in a future post).  My husband has been on vacation for the last two weeks so I've also tried to tackle some of the items on the "Honey Do" list.  I could/should have worked on the other quilt projects I had going on along with the gift quilts but I had told myself that the priority was to complete the two gifts so I needed to focus on them only -- and then I didn't!!

It's ironic -- while the quilting has always presented a stopping point for me, the reasons why have changed.  When I started quilting, I set out from the beginning to be a machine quilter.  Early on, I'd get hung up because I was literally scared I'd ruin my quilts with my inexperienced stitching.  With each project, it would take a while to get up the courage to tackle the stitching and of course, in the end, things would work out satisfactorily even when I could also see room for improvement. 

Once I gained confidence in my stitching ability, the panic then centered on how to quilt the quilts.  There was a period when I read a lot of books and blog posts and watched videos on that topic.  However, the biggest leap was taking Carla Barrett's online "Quilt Whispering" course which really helped me break down how to look at my quilts to figure out how to choose to stitch them.  Along with that was realizing that there is no "one perfect way" to quilt any quilt -- for each one there are many options and you have to just choose one (or many) and go for it! 

Graphic courtesy of Sandy's "Quilting For the Rest of Us" blog

So now my challenge is to keep myself from getting hung up on that fine line between listening to the quilt and wanting to make the stitching the best it can be but not wanting to spend any more time on it than I have to.  However, I'm reminded now (as I consider where I am with these projects) that I won't know how much is "too much time" until I do it!

I had to clean up my quilt space recently so with that done, today will be a good day to get back into the mix.  There is stabilizing stitching I can do to get started and usually once I get a feel for that, my initial "whispering" ideas will come together.  If not, these gifts are now already so late that I'm now okay with going back to working on my other projects to keep myself busy if I'm not stitching on the gift quilts.  Judy over at Patchwork Times has another Quilt-A-Thon period coming up at the end of the month so now is also a perfect time to get myself in position for that too.

Hope you're stitching away for National Quilting Day!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Another En Provence Update

On Monday Bonnie Hunter opened the last Link Up for the En Provence Mystery.  There are some really beautiful finished quilts there!  A few quilters went mini and made the units half size (1-1/2" finished rather than 3").  In particular, check out the ones where the quilter did a colorway different from what Bonnie had patterned.  My absolute favorite was Monica's, who blogs at Lakeview Stitching.  Her colors were inspired by flamingos and she used flamingo prints throughout the quilt and very effectively in the four patches of her outer border!   I found all the color adventurers very inspiring and want to try that for one of Bonnie's future mysteries.  

I decided not to link up since, as expected, I didn't have all my parts finished.  However, there are quilters who posted where they are in the process, whether it's partial tops, a block or two or they just have all or some of the parts done like me.  Some quilters have actually counted the pieces in this design -- although the reports vary, it's definitely more than 2,500!! 

I will say that as of Monday, I did have my Part 6 green/white/purple QST squares sewn up but not pressed open so after looking at all that finished goodness, it pushed me to get them pressed.

Last night, I worked on getting the Part 7 QST green/white/yellow squares sewn up as well.  I pressed them open this morning and then read the instructions and saw that I also needed sixteen sets of four (matching) yellow 3-1/2" squares so cut those out too.  With that, just about all the parts are now in place.

All I have left to cut are the side triangles for the Part 2 Tri-Recs (Triangle in a Square) blocks and to test out how well I like my mauve "constant" fabric (at the top in the picture above).  I have a polka dot sub-theme going on among all the colors of fabrics I used for this.  So when I found a mauve that was also a polka dot, I had to get it.  However, I also purchased another brighter (tone-on-tone) mauve with a circle motif in it that I also liked.  While I'm leaning heavily toward the polka dots,  I'm still debating which choice to ultimately go with.

I made a few of the Tri-Recs units with the polka dot fabric and put up a block and two sashing strips on the design wall:

I like how balanced the Tri-Recs units look against the scrappy block units but will put up a few more blocks and sashings to be sure.  Although for now, I haven't totally ruled out the alternate:

It would bring an added bit of  "pop" to the proceedings and draw the eye to the secondary stars created by the Tri-Recs units.  However, with all the scrappiness already going on in this, I'm not sure it needs another thing to draw focus.  I'll let it "simmer" on the wall while I finish up the gift quilts.  One of the benefits of having more than one project going at a time!