Monday, January 23, 2017

En Provence Update

Just so you don't think that all I've been working on has been labels, I've also been keeping up on my En Provence project.  As of this past weekend:

  • the four patches for Part 1 (neutrals - 221) are done.
  • the four patches for Part 3 (purples -169) are done. 
  • the purple and neutral HSTs (64) for Part 5 are done. 
  • I've cut the (80) neutral center triangles and (160) purple side triangles so I can piece the triangles-in-a-square for Part 4. 
  • I've also cut the (100) neutral center triangles for Part 2 but I'm still not totally sure I'm satisfied with the mauve fabric I've chosen for that part so will wait until after I've pieced the QSTs for parts 6 and 7 to test it out with all the other parts.
  • Some neutral and light purple strips have been cut and set aside to cut the QST triangles for Part 6.
  • Some neutral strips have been cut and set aside to cut the QST triangles for Part 7.
I'll be sewing up the Part 4 triangles-in-a-square during the week leader/ender style.  I also plan to set up strips for my Bonnie Hunter Scrappy Trips blocks to leader/ender when any of the En Provence sewing finishes up.

It's great that this one has no deadline so I can just work on it when time allows.  Look forward to seeing how it progresses!

Catching Up On Quilt Labels - Part 4: For The Finale, the Cardinals Are Back!

...or I should say the Cardinals are (finally) on the back!

I finished piecing this back in March of last year but it has taken until now to finally finish the label for my "High Strung + 2" Christmas quilt.   This journey started back in December of 2014 when I was able to get the book "Christmas at That Patchwork Place"  (published in 2001).  It was of interest to me for one big reason:

This is the "Cardinals" wall hanging by Deborah Moffett-Hall that is in the book.  When I saw the Cardinals design in a "Stitch This!" blog post on the Martingale site at the end of 2014, I just knew I had to have the pattern because back in 2008 I had made this:

...another wall hanging also by Ms. Moffett-Hall which had appeared in the December 1997 (#298) issue of Quilters Newsletter magazine.  That time, I had reduced the original by half (made the finished squares 1" instead of the patterned 2") and used it to make a label for this:

This was my first Christmas quilt, a free Block of the Month offered by Debbie Mumm in 2008.  

After I got the book, I wondered how I wanted to make the pattern up.  At the time, I had already started work on the "High Strung" quilt but it wasn't until I was finishing up the top in May 2015 and needed an idea for the label that I thought of this design.  I decided it would be fun to "continue the tradition" of using Ms. Moffet-Hall's designs as a label for a Christmas quilt.  Knowing I had plans to custom quilt the quilt because of all the applique on the front, I decided not to plan to piece it into the backing (which had not been purchased at that point).  When I finished (hand) quilting the quilt in early 2016 and was finally ready to make the label, this time I didn't change the size of the finished piece because leaving it full size would help me solve a problem:

I brought the backing fabric for "High Strung" after I had to commit to hand quilting it (because both of my sewing machines went on the fritz) and with the idea that I'd be stitching the header area with a light gold thread.  The thread I wound up getting and using was actually cream colored -- fine for the background I was stitching on but now not so great for the backing fabric I had chosen.  So the label size was perfect for covering up (most of) the light stitches on the back! 

Most of the fabrics used in the pieced picture came from my stash but some (the cardinal bodies, the gold border print and gold splattered label area) came from fabrics I won back in 2013 in a "de-stash" giveaway by Vicky who blogs at LA Quilter.   The light green and gold print was purchased at last year's New Jersey Quilt Fest show (which is coming up again in March).

Construction of these pieced-picture designs are fairly simple:  just follow a piecing chart and fill in squares, HSTs or "tipped" squares (squares with a smaller square sewn diagonally to form a triangle in the corner) in the appropriate color to create the picture.  In the border, the design has appliqued "berries".  Lucky for me, I was working on this right after I purchased my Accuquilt Go! machine so could make short work of the 35 (!) circles that needed to be cut to fill out the design.  I was able to cut them with fusible web already attached to the fabric (and luckily I had just restocked some Lite Steam-A-Seam 2) which made it easy to position them and fuse them down before sewing around the edges.

I really expected to get to this during the year but it wasn't until December when I made the Label Pledge that I was finally motivated to make a push to finish this up. Unfortunately, just as I started stitching down the berries, my primary Janome machine malfunctioned (again).  Fortunately, I had my Euro-Pro backup machine serviced over the summer so it was able to jump right in and pick up the slack. 

Then the issue was how to finish it.  Just do a (pillow turn) facing with a backing fabric and sew it on?  Add piping into the edge?  Add binding?  In the end, I decided that I wanted to quilt it.  I had some of the binding fabric from the quilt leftover (and already cut) so figured I could finish the edges that way so it wouldn't even need the extra layer of a backing.  Then was the challenge of "quilt whispering" (how to quilt it?).  Even once I was ready for that, the next challenge was the fact that it's been years since I've free-motion quilted on my Euro-Pro and it took a while to get my muscle memory and coordination back and being able to stitch well on that machine.  Maybe because I was stitching on batting only, I found I had to stitch at high speed with stitch length set to "0" and with the feed dogs up (which is what Leah Day does) to get half way decent stitch length control.  I don't remember using the feed dogs up in the past but hey, whatever works!

The "back" after the quilting was finished.
After it was bound, the last bit of the puzzle was to tack stitch the center of the label onto the quilt (on Saturday) and then sew it down around the edges yesterday as part of a Slow Sunday Stitching session. 

I admit, in the end this was a bit much to do for a label.  In the future, I'll have to carefully consider whether I want to do a label as complex as this and see if there is a possibility of piecing it into the back before quilting the quilt rather than quilting the label separately.

The good news is that with this finished, every quilt I have made now has a label and I have fulfilled the pledge I took with the Quilt Alliance.  There will be no anonymous quilts in my future (so it is written and so it shall be done)!  Please do your descendants and future quilt historians a favor and do what you can to add a label to your quilt projects.  The world should know that you are the astounding creator and craftsperson behind your wonderful quilt!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Slow Sunday Stitching 1/22/17
In a little while I'll get to sit and stitch along with everyone else over at  Kathy's Quilts.  This is what's on the agenda for today:

On the right:  I finally finished quilting the "Cardinals" label for my "High Strung" quilt (and that quilt was hand quilted during these sessions last year at this time!) so now it's time to sew it onto the back to complete the "Labels Pledge" I made this year.  On the left:  I'll also be continuing the work on my Quilt-As-You-Go blocks.

Two weeks ago I had prepped ten of these blocks for stitching but only got three sewn up.  Last Sunday although I didn't post, I did sew up two more but also had some other labels to sew on for the pledge.  I'm hoping to get the last five that are ready for stitching done today or during the week at the latest.  When done I'll have twenty blocks finished so can start thinking about sewing them together.  I laid out the blocks I have so far just to see where I am:

As noted before, I've got a lot of blocks with red in them so when I prep more blocks for sewing I will be looking to try to vary the colors I use. 

If you want to see what others are working on to keep their idle hands busy, head on over to Kathy's Quilts and join in on the Slow Sunday Stitching fun!  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Catching Up On Quilt Labels Part 3: Two More Done and Simply

I got two more of the quilt labels done over the weekend.  In both cases, I did not have plans for the labels prior to now so had to think about what I wanted to do.  Ideally, my top three preferences when making abels are to use a light colored backing so I can just write the label information right onto the back -OR- piece a light colored strip or space into the backing to write on when the quilting is done -OR- make a special pieced (or applique) block label using fabrics (or the block design) from the quilt top to echo on the back and provide a label space. 

The first of the next two quilts that I had pledged to do labels for is my (Carrie Nelson) Schnibbles quilt called "Tribal Scratch":

The back of this little quilt is the same as the "binding" -- that's because this was "bound" by turning the green and brown batik print backing to the front around the edge and mitering the corners.  A pretty print but too dark to write directly onto.

The other is my "Merrimac Dresdens":

As you can see below, the backing of the Dresden quilt is light but has a dense repeat design (the flower block from Lucinda Ward Honstain's "Reconciliation Quilt") so was also not a candidate for writing directly onto the back.

Of course since both are already quilted it was also too late for inserting a label strip.   I seriously thought about piecing a special label for both.  Particularly for Merrimac:  the first idea I thought of was to do a Fan block (a quarter of a Dresden plate) with a muslin center and sew it into one of the back corners.  However, the problem with both of these quilts is that I don't have any more of the fabrics used in the tops to piece a coordinating block with.  For Merrimac, I thought I had a few leftover Dresden blades but found I had cut them down to make the squares I needed for the little Tucker quilt.  Even though I still have a considerable stash of other Civil War repros, I wasn't up to snipping out bits from the remaining yardage to make the block blades.

So at that point, like I did for another Quilt Alliance Pledge label, it was time to dial it back a bit.  Was it possible to just simply find a square of coordinating fabric that I could write the information onto for each quilt?  Fortunately for that I did have good options!

Prepped for some Slow Sunday Stitching.

For "Tribal", I had some of the border fabric leftover from the gift quilt I made for my neighbors awhile back which went fairly well with the backing.  For "Merrimack", I decided to just snip a piece of the selvedge from what I have of the remaining backing fabric.  I love that I can also use it to identify that fabric as well as document the quilt.  It also blends in well with the back so is there but unobtrusive.   Here are both finished up:

Simple and now done!

Once again, I am reminded to try to give consideration to the label issue as I'm making a quilt.  This way if there is a need to save or conserve fabric (or even buy a fat eight or quarter more if need be), the time to do that is while the project is still current.  From the last session I learned that it's also a good idea to sketch out a label idea if you have one.  Don't only rely on remembering it in the event you don't get to the finishing until long after the top is made.  This way when you're ready for this step, your original idea will already be waiting for you and you will be less likely to procrastinate executing it because you don't have to think up an idea for it. 

So one last label to get done and of course it's the hardest because I have to get my quilting muscles back in shape on my old sewing machine!  Hoping to put that one to bed this week so I can move on with a clear head to the other projects I have planned for this month.

Monday, January 9, 2017

En Provence Update Instead of a Link Up

Having got a very late start on Bonnie Hunter's latest Quiltville mystery En Provence, I had hoped that by working on it during the Quilt-A-Thon days, I might at least have all the parts ready to show for today's final link-up.  Nope!   Go check out all of the finished quilts and tops and blocks in progress that ARE ready for posting over on the Quiltville blog here.

In fact, what was I thinking?  How could I have expected to have all my parts done in a few days when she started this mystery right after Thanksgiving and gave everyone a whole week to construct each part  and two weeks to get the top together.  Just another example of me needing to better define "Realistic" in my SMART goals.

That said, I'm not bummed just re-setting.  So last I left off, I had gotten 147 of the 221 neutral four patches for Part 1 made up.

I was out of the stash of lighter neutrals that I had pulled from the general and QOV stashes and was planning to go buy some more while working on the rest of the parts of the mystery.  However, during the QAT,  I was also working on my Quilt-As-You-Go blocks.  As I was packing them away after the stitching, what did I realize? 

I have a big piece of white-on-white fabric that I used for the alternate squares in the QAYG blocks!  I already have a lot of the QAYG blocks cut out and am pretty sure I won't need all of this fabric.  So I'm cutting a couple of strips to use to help make the rest of the four patches as well as add to the strips already set aside for the other parts of the mystery.  The good news is these will be good leader/ender and "15 minutes a day" piecing for the week.

Also during the QAT, I cut strips from my dark fabrics for four patches for Part 3 and to make the units for the other parts.

Today I got to the light purples on the left above that I wasn't able to cut. 

The purple four patches are another "15 minutes a day" piecing stash.  After all the four patches are done, I'll move on to cutting and piecing neutral and dark purple HSTs for Part 4. 

Then it'll be back to finishing up the labels and moving on to setting up for stitching the wholecloth project.   Hoping this week can continue to be as productive as the weekend.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Slow Sunday Stitching 1/8/17: More On the QAYG Project

The Half-time Report

I've been participating since Thursday in Judy Laquidara' Quilt-A-Thon for January.  She used to do these regularly and has just restarted them this year.  If you want to join in there's a monthly schedule on her sidebar for the rest of this year's dates. 

During yesterday's session, I set up to do some Slow Sunday Stitching today and got more done this morning.  I wanted to watch the NY Giants wildcard playoff game this evening and figured that if I got some of these blocks prepared in advance, I could sew on them while watching the game.  In past sessions, I felt the effort of stuffing the batting into the blocks took away too much time from the stitching.  I can get more of them done if they are prepped in advance. 

The last time I posted about these, at first I said I didn't know what batting I was currently using in the blocks.  However, I looked back through my posts and saw that in 2010 I had written about the batting:  it's Fairfield's Soft Touch.  Good to know because I used up all the batting I'd started with so need to get more of it for the next round of blocks.

Years ago I decided to make these blocks because of a "Quiltmakers Workshop" tutorial in the July/August 1998 issue of (the now deceased) Quilter's Newsletter Magazine (although they still keep a presence on the web).  I started quilting and subscribing to QNM in 2002 but back then, I was able to get back issues of QNM pretty cheap on eBay.  Sellers often offered them in sets of a whole year of issues for as little as $10 for the set.  As a result, I have a complete collection of them going back to 1984.  As time went on, I only stopped collecting them because the price of the issues got more and more expensive and were mostly sold one issue at a time.  Now that the magazine is no longer published, I've tried to pick up a few more of the earlier issues but I expect them to get even harder to get as time goes on.

We're expecting to have to go  pick up our minivan from the car dealer repair shop tomorrow so if I have any blocks left that haven't been sewn, I can take them as "travel work" for while we wait.  Ok, back to the game, we're down against Green Bay  14 - 6!

Looking to see what others are stitching on this blistery Sunday?  Head over to Kathy's Quilts and check out the Slow Sunday Stitching link-up

Patchwork Times Quilt-A-Thon - Day 4

Well, the weather outside is frightful and the warmth inside delightful!  It's cold here in New York City, 18 degrees and some places got up to a foot of snow yesterday after the early predictions only called for a couple of inches.  DH is still under the weather (pun intended) and DS1 started sniffling (he's the last in the house to get this) so I'll still be on the nursing shift today during this last day of Judy's first Quilt-A-Thon of the year. 

My plans for the day are as follows:
Set up more Quilt-As-You Go blocks to stitch on while watching this evening's playoff game. 

Evening Update
I got five more blocks set up so had ten ready to go for during the game.

More En Provence work.  I forgot to report yesterday that while cutting strips for the four-patches from what was left of the light neutrals I had originally pulled out, I also cut some strips for some of the later parts of the mystery too.  This way I'd have some of those fabrics for them as well. 

For today, I managed to dig out one more piece of light neutral from my Quilts of Valor stash and few light charm squares so will try to make up more four-patches (or if possible all the rest) needed for the project with these new neutrals and the rest of the more mid-toned neutrals already cut.

Evening Update
I got another 36 four-patches done (so a total of 147 for the weekend) but will need to find some more light neutrals and cut more of the mid-tone neutrals in order to make more. 

Staying with the four-patch theme,  I'd also like to start on the purple four-patches for Part 3 but we'll see if I get there.

Evening Update

I got strips cut from the dark purples for the four patches and for the later parts.  I wasn't able to get the light purples cut (the game started) so that and the four patches will have to be worked on during the week.

Definitely this evening:  Slow Sunday Stitching the QAYG Blocks while watching the NY Giants playoff game.

Evening Update
I got three blocks sewn up and with so many more prepped, may try to work on them between projects during the week.  Also finally got into flow on the prep so hope to make setting up blocks a regular weekly thing so they're ready for the weekends all the time. 

But Boo, Hoo, Hoo, the Giants lost (big time)!  Guess I won't be Slow Sunday Stitching through the Superbowl this year!

So a big thanks to Judy for reviving the Quilt-A-Thons and really hope to make time to do this next month!