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!!

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Christmas Deadline: The Western Kringle Quilt -- Pt 4: Crunch Time!

While today is the day Bonnie issues the next set of instructions for the "Ringo Lake" mystery quilt (and I will be picking those up!), my sewing focus today will be on finally moving toward finishing up the Christmas gift quilt I've also been working on.  When I last left off, I needed to get some additional MODA Aged Muslin for the photo transfers for this project.  Fortunately the Fat Quarter Shop came to the rescue!


On the left in the photo above is the new fabric in "Beige".  The swatch on it (and a very close match) is the "Tan" I originally used which was a project leftover from four years ago.  Next to it is the "Cream" I also ordered from FQS as a hedge on getting as close to my original fabric as possible.  On the right is the replacement "Tan" that I had previously ordered based on the name but when it came, realized the color wasn't what I needed.  No problem though, it'll work just fine with my Civil War repro stash!!

I cut sheets of the new fabric and prepped them for printing the replacement photos.  There were still some issues.  While I have done a lot of photo transfer in the past, I have used all but two of them in wallhangings so have never bothered to rinse them afterwards to further set the ink or check to see if it bleeds out.  Since this quilt is likely to be washed, this time I wanted to take that extra step and try using the bottle of Bubble Jet Rinse I had on hand.  While the first set of photos weathered the rinse step well, this new batch was mixed. 

First of all, before the replacement fabric came, I was able to print one replacement picture on a small piece of the old fabric that I still had.  The instructions on the Bubble Jet Set bottle said you could rinse them 30 minutes after printing:


NOT!  When I rinsed it that soon, ALL the color washed right back out of the photo!  This was a concern because at this point once the new fabric came in, I wanted to be able to print and process them as soon as possible.  So I figured that after printing I'd better let them sit for at least a day before rinsing.  I did do that with mixed results:


I found that for pictures with a lot of exposed background, the yellow ink came out of the background leaving them tinted lightly pink although the figures in the pictures retained the sepia (yellowed brown) tones.  The photos that had survived the first printing had sat for three days before I rinsed them which resulted in no loss of color.  I felt I didn't have that kind of time now but then still wasted a few days debating back and forth whether to try the printing again.  Now really out of time, I ultimately decided that I'd have to settle for using most of what I had.  In one case, I opted to use one of the original photos that I had printed too large (bottom row, second photo from the left).  It had a lot of background around the figure so I just cropped it tight eliminating most of the background details in order to retain the better colored shot.

Not as good composition-wise but better color-wise!
That done I was finally able to add the missing pictures to their strips, complete all the strip sets and piece the top together which itself was as easy as originally expected.


Then it was on to making the back.  Whoo, this was another slog!  I had originally thought the backing fabric I had in stash would be enough for most of the back but now realize that after completing the top I should have compared measurements since it was definitely not enough by itself.  Fortunately, I had also bought the panel fabric with plans to use just two of the largest motifs in it to create a label area. 


As it turns out I wound up not only using more motifs to help fill out the back but also using a lot of the other leftover project fabrics as well (and thankfully I did have enough to go around).  It took me a whole day to figure out how to extend certain pieces and slot everything to bring it to size.

And a space added to write the label information in when this is done!
On the plus side, putting all of that together has also allowed me to get a little Provence/Ringo mystery leader/ender sewing done as well:


With the top and back now ready, it was on to the batting.  After measuring the top, I saw I needed a twin size batt.  It turns out I only had one in stash - a polyester  - so set it out on my sewing chair over night to let the wrinkles "relax" out of it.


So today I'm working on layering and basting so soon it will be on to the quilting. 


Let's hope I can get this done by the end of the weekend so I can get this in the mail just in the nick of time!

Monday, December 11, 2017

On Ringo Lake Update: Part 2 Done, Part 3 (Barely) Started


Whew!  It took me until today to get Part 2 all done!  Just in time for this week's link-up.


I did pick up the Part 3 instructions but have only just started on what I expect to be a lot of cutting and piecing.


I don't expect to get this part finished by the end of the week  since I have to also work on finishing up the other quilt that I'm making for a family member's Christmas gift. 

Some interesting observations from the linkups:

*  Have you seen some of the gorgeous alternative color ways that people have chosen?  I really need to push myself to try that in a future mystery or even in one of Bonnie's regular projects.

*  If you've checked out some of the previous link up posts, have you seen the interesting ways people arranged their nine-patch and FG units from Parts 1 and 2?  I already like how some of them are put together.  Now I can't wait to see Bonnie's final layout -- maybe I'll wind up wanting to try one of the alternate layouts instead?

* So many people are finding this a great opportunity to perfect their piecing techniques or learn new ones.  Bonnie's instructions for the mystery totally support this.  Just another reason why she is as popular as a teacher and for her workshops as she is as a designer!

Oh and another goodie has come in to add to the fun of this mystery:


I finally got a copy of Bonnie's latest book!  I've been waiting to get this one for a while and cannot think of a better time to surround myself with all things Bonnie!   It'll be fun to read through this one after a day of mystery parts stitching. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Just a Quick En Provence Update

Last time I posted about this, I had this many blocks up on the Design Wall:



Now there are this many up:


I'm hoping to be able to get these in the leader/ender queue soon but working on them may get bumped for my priority project, the Western Kringle quilt.   However, now that they're literally "in my sight", I think they'll nag at me until I get them done.

On Ringo Lake Update: Part 1 Finished, On to Part 2!

Woo hoo!  I'm very pleased to say that I got Part 1 of Bonnie Hunter's latest mystery "On Ringo Lake" completed with time to spare (meaning on Thursday)!


I'm back today to link up with the skinny on Part 2 which dropped on Friday.  Future parts will drop every Friday until just after the New Year.  I'm hoping I can keep up which is especially challenging for me since I am also working on finishing up last year's "En Provence" mystery at the same time! 

Last week we got to dive into the turquoise, browns and neutrals for a little nine patch fun.  So what did Bonnie have in store for us this week?  We get to play with the other focus color -- the corals!  Also we get to make my favorite quilt block/unit:  Flying Geese!!


In her instructions, Bonnie has given a number of different ways to make the flying geese including using just squares and rectangles (sew and flip) or by cutting the necessary triangle shapes using either the Simple Folded Corner Ruler or her new Essential Triangle Tool both of which are available for sale on her website

However, she has also encouraged us to make them with the methods we are familiar with that will give us accurate size units.  Given how many we have to make, I prefer to use a method that makes more than one geese unit at a time.  For that, many people love the "No Waste" method.  If you Google it, you'll see many tutorials for that technique like this one from Fons & Porter. 

For many years my personal go-to method has been what Eleanor Burn's (of Quilt In A Day) originally called the "Triangle Pieced Rectangle" method.  I call it the "Two Squares Method" because like the "No Waste" method you make four geese at a time but you only have to cut two squares instead of five.  You can see Kimberly Jolly of the Fat Quarter Shop doing a demonstration of this method using Eleanor's Flying Geese ruler here.


There are different rulers to make different size geese so if you want to use the Quilt In A Day rulers make sure you get the ruler that makes the size you need.  Quilt In A Day also has a relatively new "all in one" geese trimming ruler called "Calling All Geese" which I've only managed to resist buying because I already have all the old rulers.  However, you can (and I did for some of these) also trim up the final units using a regular ruler which Eleanor demonstrated in her "Pioneer Sampler Series".  That series was the first time I saw her on TV and was when I first learned about the technique.  I do admit though, using her rulers can make the trimming a little simpler because with the markings on them, you don't have to think as much about what the correct measurements are to square them up.


I'm about 2/3 done with them so far.  I'll continue working on my geese all week and hopefully I can finish up in time to pick up the next part.  Head over to Bonnie's to see how everyone else did on the latest part of the "On Ringo Lake" mystery!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Christmas Deadline: The Western Kringle Quilt -- Pt 3: Getting Started and Here I Stand

As detailed in my last post, I had gotten all of the fabric for this project over the summer but wasn't able to get started on it until the Fall.  When I finally got started on this in early November, it seemed like it was going to be a very simple quilt to make so I was hoping to get it completely finished by the beginning of December.

First up was dealing with the pictures.  I have done a number of photo transfer projects since I started quilting.  I have used it both for elements in the quilt top and for labels (two examples of that can be seen here and here).  For this project, I wanted to use a base fabric that was close to the background color of all the "toss" prints.  Fortunately, project leftovers came to the rescue for that!  I had some leftover Moda Aged Muslin (upper right in the photo below) that I had used for backing my Civil War Legacy quilt.


I cut the fabric into slightly larger than letter size rectangles (to allow for shrinkage) and prepared it with Bubble Jet Set which allows it to accept the printer ink for the photo transfers:

 
...then it has to dry (it doesn't take very long).


After the fabric dries, it is ironed onto freezer paper so it will be able to be put through my printer.

While waiting for the fabric to dry, I searched for pictures of iconic Western characters/actors and downloaded them to my computer.  I used Picasa 3 to alter the pictures.  Although it's no longer supported by Google for use in Blogger, I still have the Picasa program on my computer and sometimes use it to organize my picture files.  In Picasa, I was able to color all the pictures in "Sepia" tones (to coordinate with the fabric prints) and applied a photo effect to them called "1960".  Then I loaded the altered photos into a word processing program and set them up to print two to a page. 


Initially I had some issues getting the images sized right (I needed them to finish at 4-1/2")  and also quickly found out that printing in Sepia takes ALOT of yellow ink and mine started running out as I got to the last few pages of pictures so the color on some were streaky.  I got more ink and eventually figured out how to get the pictures to print exactly the size I needed them.  Unfortunately,  I didn't have enough of the muslin left to redo all the pictures I needed to correct.  Also, after conferring with DH, I decided to go with a different picture of Clint Eastwood (I'll be using one from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" instead). 

So I've had to order more Aged Muslin.  I had looked around at the online offerings of some shops local to me but no one had Aged Muslin listed in their stock.  In the past, if I need what is considered "Civil War Reproduction" fabric, I do better finding it online.  I had originally ordered what I had from Fabric.com but that was four years ago and they no longer carry it.  At the time that I ordered from them, the color I got from them was called "Tan" and I went by that when I re-ordered from someplace else.  However, what I received was much darker.


I believe the issue has to do with a change in the color designations and dye lots.  Most of what I saw online in various places that was called "Tan" was much darker than what I had started with.  Also complicating things is now Moda has another lined of colored muslins called "New Age Muslins".  So I've done a second order, this time going by the look of the color on screen which in itself can be a bit of a crap shoot.  I've ordered two colors,  "Cream" and "Beige" that onscreen look closer to what I had and I hope that one of them will work.

While I wait for the new fabric to arrive, I've cut out the pictures that printed okay and sewed them to their respective strips and strip sets and have sewn together strips for vertical sashings and the top and bottom borders.


This past week, I used the break from working on the gift project to work on Bonnie Hunter's new mystery quilt and to continue work on last year's while waiting for the new fabric to come.  Since I'm now past my original finish deadline (but now very glad I started as early as I did), once the new fabric arrives, it'll be back to work on this project as my priority.  I'd like to be able to get this in the mail by the early postal service holiday shipping deadline which is December 14.  We'll see if that happens!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Christmas Deadline: The Western Kringle Quilt -- Pt 2: Getting the Fabric

When I last left off, I had picked out my quilt design and had seen some fabrics on sale perfect for it that were being offered in a big AQS fabric clearance sale.  I figured out how much I needed and put in my order.  Yeah, about that:


This is what I ordered and as you can see, by the time I did so, three of the fabrics I wanted (the ones with the big X's through them) had sold out!  It turned out not to be a big problem to resolve what I couldn't get:  the Western fabrics were all manufactured by Blank Quilting and were part of their "Western Album (I and II)" lines.  I was able to find them at Thimbelina's although I had to substitute two of the fabrics (the Pistol and Picket Fence prints) for other prints in the line (Sheriff Stars and Swirled Barbed Wire). 

Even better, I was also able to get a panel print (in the bottom of the photo below) that I can fussy cut motifs from to make a label for the back (must keep up with my Quilt Alliance pledge!).


Another boon was some sale fabric that I had purchased back in January.  I got it in one colorway for another project and also decided to buy this olive/blue/brown colorway just because I liked it.  I remembered it and when I put it with the fabrics for this project, I realized it was perfect for a backing.  I was also glad that I did get the Peppered Cotton plaid in my AQS order for the binding.  I've been stashing Peppy Cory's Peppered Cottons so hope that I might have a little leftover after this to put in that stash.

The last thing needed to complete the design was a very light print.  This was another luck up:  Erica's was having a "Make Your Own Sale" sale and I was able to get both the fabric and something else very much needed in general and for this project:


I finally got the new Creative Grids "Stripology Ruler" by Gudrun Erla.  This was not a "Gadget Fanatic" purchase -- I NEEDED this one because this happened a while ago to my June Tailor "Shape Cut Plus" ruler:


I used my Shape Cut constantly and loved it.  For me, next to a Rotary Cutter, it's one of the quilt tools I must have if stranded on a desert island (hopefully, also with a few storage tubs of stash!).  I admit I had seen reviews of the "Stripology Ruler" and had liked a few of its features so was very interested in trying it out  "some day".  So I was only partially heartbroken when my Shape Cut met its demise!

So good, now I had all the fabric I need and a new ruler to cut it with.  It was time to start the project!