Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year In Review

NOTE:  This is a pretty long post so if you are coming along for the ride, grab a cuppa your beverage of choice and set a spell while I look at what I did and didn't get to do this year in quilts!  (Yeah, I know, a week in the South will do that to 'ya). 

Well, it's time for me to take a look back at the quilting year soon to be finished.  2011 was a crazy year for me, one where my quilting focus changed constantly.  Despite a swath of sewing, I only ended up completely finishing one quilt for the year, a holiday quilt for display.  As a result the list for next year is already in place and will consist of a lot of stuff worked on or pledged to be worked on this year that I now really want to finish.  So let's look at what transpired in "THE YEAR THAT WAS" (cue important sounding fanfare music).

The Biggest (and non-quilty) News:  We Moved!

At the end of February, my family and I moved to our new townhouse from an apartment in our co-op complex. We had waited four years for the call for an available unit.  Getting it gave my two sons their own rooms and we gained a terrace and dedicated dining room that also allowed for a shared dining, office and quilting space.  Previously I had quilted in one half of the third bedroom of our old apartment (and hence why my sons had to share a bedroom) :
When we moved my quilt space started as this:

But now looks like this:

That is my old machine in the picture, my Janome went in the shop for cleaning shortly before we left last week.

I have mixed feelings about being in the dining room:  on the one hand, because the living room is on the other side of it and my sewing and cutting tables are right next to the main household computer, I am always surrounded by my family and in the thick of the household goings on.  But there are times and projects when I could really use some solitude and a closed door.  Fortunately, I can get that when the rest of the family is out of the house at school and work. 

The Original Plan For the YearUFO Busting!

The year was supposed to be focused on just working on projects of this nature:  all those projects half started or awaiting the transition from being a pile of blocks to becoming a top or waiting to be quilted.  I had even signed up for Myra's PHD (Projects Half Done) Challenge with the full expectation that with six months to focus on them, I would get a lot done.  But the move shattered that dream by completely changing both my focus and available time.  As the year progressed, I pushed myself way off course so many times during the year, that while I did do some significant work on one UFO, I completely failed to meet this goal.  The list that started the year included:

UGRR/Pioneer Project
Brrr! Park
Crumb Quilt #1
Boy's Blue Lagoons
Striped Squares
Blue & White Dresdens

Pictures of all of them can be seen in this post.  Additionally, I also planned to quilt a top called "Flowing Silk" that was to be donated to the BASICS quilt gather. In the end, the only project worked on at all was the UGRR/Pioneer Project.  The blocks which had been finished in 2010, were pieced into tops and are layered awaiting quilting.

Fortunately Myra is running a six month continuation of last year's challenge at the start of 2012 so I definitely will participate with the hope that I can try again to tackle these for the first half of 2012 with better results!

 Also In the Original Plan:  Working On BOMs!

While the main focus of  the year was supposed to be UFOs, there was a set of "new" projects I wanted to keep up to date and that was the Block of the Month Projects I had signed up for in the last quarter of 2010.  I had three:

Aunt Grace Circle of Friends
Civil War Chronicles
Jan Patek House & Garden   

Of these, only the Aunt Grace is currently a top waiting for quilting.

The Chronicles blocks are complete up to the eleventh month.

Completion of the top will be delayed until February when the BOM organizer, Homestead Hearth, receives their fabric order for the last set of border blocks.  I had hoped to start the Jan Patek BOM while I was away for the holidays but it looks like it will now be a HSY (pronounced "Hussy" and stands for "Haven't Started Yet") in 2012 instead.

Expansion Of the Year's Planthe Civil War Series!

2011 was the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and there were a lot of interesting documentaries and specials on the topic on TV.  I also read books on the period like "Uncle Tom's Cabin", "Red Badge of Courage" and the "Sugar Camp Quilt" and "Union Quilters" from Jennifer Chivarini's "Elm Creek Quilts" series.  When I realized I had projects in the previous two categories that were both made from CW reproduction fabrics and a HSY project with the same fabric theme, I decided to expand my project list to include this series of quilts.  So in this corner we have the layered UGRR/Pioneer project in the UFOs and the Chronicles BOM.

Barbara Brackman, the noted quilt historian, debuted her Weekly Civil War Quilt block series at the start of the year. I quickly realized this was a perfect opportunity to use up my scraps.  I had hoped to work on them using the leftover fabrics from the Chronicles blocks and the remaining stash after the UGRR/Pioneer tops were finished.  But then I also realized that I had one other CW project that I had long awaited starting:  my Merrimac Dresdens.  I had already raided the stash for that project for a few pieces for the UGRR/Pioneer project so I figured that actually making it would also clear that stash AND provide even more fodder for the Brackman project.  Here is the finished Merrimac top:

I plan to finally start working on the Brackman blocks either on New Year's Day or shortly thereafter.  Fortunately, the block patterns will be up on her blog until July, 2012.

Somewhat Sidetracked By Some HSYs!

Although the year's focus was to clean out UFOs, another concern was to also reduce the pile of HSYs .  These are projects that I had already purchased all the fabrics for and sit in bags or bins waiting to be started.  The UFO plan had started in anticipation of moving and not wanting to have to pay to move so much fabric.  But when the moving plan went into effect a lot sooner than expected and then we actually moved, the realization was that now I needed to pare down to have space for all the stuff I had!  The HSYs worked on this year were:

Merrimac Dresdens (which you saw before) and Safari Stars

Both tops are done and now awaiting quilting although I assure you there are many more where those came from!

The Unexpected:  A Rash of New Projects!

As noted before, the year was supposed to be devoted to clearing out UFOs and HSYs.  But the move generated so many new opportunities and reasons to display quilts and new ideas for quilts are always percolating so it is hard to resist them when they come due!  The new projects were:

Valor (a Pat Sloan design)

Floribunda (a Bonnie Hunter antique reproduction and Quilt-A-Long project)

Crumb Houses (For a Quilt Along led by Jo of Jo's Country Junction)

Anita's Arrowhead (A Holiday Quilt)

Anita's Arrowhead became "All Spruced Up" in tribute to the backing fabric and the fact that it is the first new quilt made for display in our new home.  It is also the only finish for the year.  The Crumb Houses are still underway but Valor and Floribunda are tops that will be quilted next year.

So 2011 wound up being a lot like like 2009 when I worked on sixteen projects during the year with only five getting completely done and another six getting completed the next year (and some of those that were not completed then are still on the UFO list now).  Lets hope that 2012 will be more like 2010, a big finishing  year!

Wishing You and Yours a Joyous and Prosperous New Year!  See you in 2012!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Good News and The Bad News

Hello from North Carolina!!  The Good News is that the Anita's Arrowhead project is now my first (and only) complete finish for 2011!!

I had gotten it assembled, layered and half quilted before we left New York last Saturday.  It is a requirement when I visit my MIL to bring a project to work on.  Starting Monday (after hitting some of the after-Christmas sales) we were able to get in some quilt time.  In the days following, I finished the quilting, cut and attached the binding and got up early and finished sewing it on this morning.  Now that it's finished, its "given name" will be "All Spruced Up" after the backing fabric and purpose: to decorate my couch during the holidays!

This was a good project to make my way back into stitching my quilts.  I did it in an allover swirl pattern and the busy fabrics hide a lot of sins.  In fact, excuse any pins you see in the picture, those are spots I need to re-do some skipped stitches.  And I really fudged up my binding corners but for a to-be-seen-once-a-year quilt, it will have to do!  I am happy that at one point I did find my free motion groove and know what I need to do and focus on in the future.  And I am grateful for all the tops I made this year because they will provide me with steady flow of practice tops for 2012!

So the finish is good news but before we left there was some Bad News:  The Chronciles BOM will NOT be a flimsie for 2011 as hoped.  I got word before we left from Homestead Hearth (the organizer of my BOM) that their supplier of the fabric for the BOM has to do a REPRINT of the red fabric used for the border blocks in order to fufill their order.  They are going to be sending out some of the fabric to get the blocks started but won't get the rest to us until FEBRUARY! 

Ooh boy!  I was already worried about getting the blocks done (have I mentioned that it is sixty-eight blocks?!?).  On the other hand, this means I can A) Take my time and work on getting the center constructed and B) get maybe a little less than half the blocks done and then finish the rest when the rest of the fabric gets in.  But I am disappointed in not having this flimsy in the can for this year and not meeting my BOM goal for the year either.

We will be leaving NC early Friday morning so expect to be back in New York by that afternoon.  My hope is to get a "Year In Review" post up before we ring in 2012.  I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday and are looking forward to celebrating the New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2012 UFO Challenges

Challenge #1: Continuing the PHDs

I have already made my lists for 2012 and now is the time to commit.  This year I participated in Myra's PHD (Projects Half Done) Challenge.  I am sad to say that I did not get anything completed although my UGRR/Pioneer Sampler project got as far as being layered and I doubt that would have happened without the challenge.

The good news for me is that many of Myra's participants are in the same boat so rather than starting a new challenge Myra is extending the challenge for the first six months of 2012 so that participants can try again to complete the things they had listed for this year. My original list of six projects is here and that works out great because that gives me one project a month to commit to working on.  This year, without a move to deal with and all the new ideas for quilts that come with it, maybe I can settle in and focus on what I already have in house.

Challenge #2:  Judy's Patchwork Times UFO Challenge

Judy is repeating her UFO Challenge for 2012 and I've decided to join in.  There were projects I had expected to get to once I had completed the PHD challenge and there were a bunch of new projects I made tops for during this year.  So Judy's challenge is great for me.  I also like the additional challenge of having to work on whatever project she calls for that month--the choice of project is out of my hands. I will admit that there have been times where I've avoided working on something because I couldn't decide on what to work on so this will eliminate that problem.  Here's my list for Judy's challenge:

1.  Autumn DWR - Piecing needs to be finished.

2. Floribunda - Needs To be Quilted

3.  Merrimac Dresdens - Needs To be Quilted

4. Chronicles BOM - Hopefully this BOM will be a top before the end of 2011 (I am still waiting for the last kit for the border blocks to arrive) and then it will need to be quilted

5. Safari Stars/WAK Triptych - Two companion projects, the first (pictured) needs to be quilted and the second to be photo transferred and pieced

6. Pulpit Tile - An old UFO that I need a push to quilt (and need to get a picture of)

7. Aunt Grace Circle of Friends BOM - Needs To be Quilted

 8. Bouncing Colorblocks - A swap quilt that needs to be quilted
9. Sage Sampler - This one almost made the PHD list; still needs piecing

10. Brrr! Park - Layered, Needs To be Quilted (and need a picture of)

11.  Civil War BOW Sampler - Now that all my other CW projects are pieced, I'm hoping to finally use all the scraps to get these made up since the blocks will only be up on the site until July.  Needs to be pieced.

12. Jan Patek House & Garden BOM - The last of the 2011 BOMs I participated in.  I hope to start it while I am traveling over the next week.  Needs to be appliqued.

And just to add a little more spice to the pot, a few other priorities are to get my Crumbs blocks finished for Jo's Crumb Along reveal at the end of January, make good on the promise to contribute two quilts to the BASICS quilt gather, quilt a finished top for Memorial Day/Fourth of July display and piece and quilt a Halloween quilt. In the end, whatever I get done, however few or many, is a blessing!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Getting Down To The Wire.....

Woo Hoo, all the Anita's Arrowhead blocks are now done!  I finished sewing the last row of blocks today.  So this pile....

....became this top.

The backing and binding fabric is already in house (picture below) and I have a ton of batting so I just need to decide what I will use for this.

This looks like it will be the first and ONLY complete finish for this year.  It is definitely the first one I am ready to quilt with no fears or trepidation.  It's for holiday display on the the back of the couch and busy enough that an all over design or maybe even stippling will be in order, simple to do, simple to finish.  O.k. hoping that's not going to be famous last words......

More on this later you can bet!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Important Milestone (For Me) Has Been Reached!!

The Civil War Chronicles Month 11 Blocks are done!

And here are all the accumulated blocks.

I am finally up to date and am now waiting for the last month's set -- the sixty-eight (yes, 68!!) border blocks.  The goal is to get this top done by the end of year.  The debate is whether that will happen before we go away next weekend (since I am also trying to finish up the Anita's Arrowhead Xmas quilt blocks) or if I will be taking this one with me to finish the construction while away.  We will see, what we will see........

Either way I am happy to have gotten this far with it.  I'll say it again, thank god for Quilt-Pro Triangle Magic Software and the Quilt In A Day Flying Geese Rulers.  They rock and I couldn't have done it without them!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust.....

The Month 10 blocks for the Civil War Chronicles BOM are now finished:

Although not without mishaps along the way that had to be corrected......

Now there is only one more month in house (Month 11) to be completed and I am reviewing what I need to do for those blocks.  The last month's blocks should arrive either this week or early next week.  Given that there are sixty-eight border blocks to be made, I hope it comes early this week.

In the meantime, I am also still working on the Anita's Arrowhead blocks and now have twelve blocks done.

Hopefully you got a lot done this weekend too (quilty or holiday-wise)!


If you are a big fan of Judy Laquidara over at the Patchwork Times blog, know that she is currently taking pre-orders for her new book, "60 Pieced Quilt Borders – Mix & Match" to be released in mid January by AQS Publishing.  You can read about it on her post here or put in your pre-order here.  I've already ordered mine!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Back In the Saddle Again.....

I took a much longer break than I expected to after the Thanksgiving holiday.  Of course, this puts me behind again but as always it's about doing what you can and moving on and eventually you get where you need to go.

As of today, Month 9 of the Civil War Chronicles BOM is now done.

This is the last of the months that call for only four blocks.  Months ten and eleven both need eight blocks each.  And after reading another blog, Mary's at Hill Country Quilter, who is also doing this BOM, it looks like the last month will be the border blocks -- a whopping SIXTY-EIGHT BLOCKS!!  I'm sure they are small but, whew!  It is going to be a challenge to get them finished either before we leave to go down South for Christmas or by the end of the year (since if I need to, I can take my sewing machine to my MIL's house and also sew there).  The last month's kit has not arrived yet so I'm just going to focus on finishing what is already here rather than worrying about what is coming!

I also started yet another new project (I know, I know):  I am doing the Brown and Aqua version of "Anita's Arrowhead" that appeared in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Quiltmaker magazine.  I got the kit on sale at the new kit discount site which sells closeouts of Keepsake Quilting, Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting, McCalls Quilting and Quiltmaker Magazine kits.

These are the blocks I have so far.  I wanted a Christmas couch quilt and the colors (christmas colors + brown) are perfect for our couch.  As always, I thought it would be a quickie but now I am not so sure since the seams are all pressed open for the blocks which is harder to line up the intersections (and these blocks have many) than when you can press opposing seams to one side.  I'm hoping I can get a few done each day and wrap this up over the next week or so.

My biggest disappointment over the last few weeks is that I didn't make the Thanksgiving week deadline for the BASICS December quilt drive.  Which is sad since I already had a top ready, all it needed was to be quilted.  I've been procrastinating really bad about quilting my tops and now have so many projects just needing that last step.  But I plan to address that issue shortly.  On the other hand, I've now made a promise to myself to make two quilts to donate for their final 200 quilt drive.

I've got a class trip with DS2's middle school eighth grade tomorrow.  We are going to the new CSI exhibit at the Discovery Museum in Times Square. I hope I won't be too worn out to sew when I get back.  Have a good evening because I'm off to bed!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another Finished Top

In my last post I showed the start of "Safari Stars":

When I originally worked on this design back in 2007, I had scanned all my fabrics into Quilt-Pro and it had been designed to be finished with an outer border of the fabric on the left and a solid black inner border.  But I always felt that the design still "needed something".

Then I pulled out the fabric on the right and it immediately resonated with me.  I had used this fabric as the color inspiration for another project many years ago and made a prairie point border with it (see the "Focus Fabric Feathered Star" in this post).  I felt like the new fabric pulled out the center purple and rust stars better and the whole top melded together.  I also now felt that the inner border needed to be a print and went through my stash until I found the black and white fabric on the table.   But I still felt the corners needed work.  So I pulled out another fabric purchased at the New Jersey Quilt Fest show in 2009 (which you can see a peek of in the lower left corner of the picture above):

I liked this new addition and with it, the right side fabric definitely won out for the final design.  So yesterday I added the additions, appliqueing them on with a wavy edge, an idea I got from the borders displayed on the last quilt pictured in this blog post by Liz about her new Australian Modern Quilt Guild.  Here is the design after the center blocks were all sewn together and I did a final audition of the borders:

And today I have a finished top:

I already have backing fabrics and am trying to now decide on how to quilt it.  I am thinking of adding prominently stitched "Andinkra Symbols" in some of the open blocks instead of doing the embellishments I had considered before.  With one more flimise on the "to be quilted" pile, I think I've reached my tipping point and will be forced to face my fears and rev up my free motion foot!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Another New Project

When I originally drafted this post, it was to contain the details for a new project - a Halloween quilt.  Technically it is two - my plan was to do two designs from Blackbird Designs that would be on each side of the quilt making it reversible.  The patterns are Hallowe'en 1904 and Midnight Silhouette.

I had purchased the fabrics in the early part of the summer and thought it would be just a matter of clearing the decks to get this project done for the Halloween holiday.  Work was supposed to start during the summer with the plan to spend September doing the quilting and have it on the bed promptly for the start of October.  But when September started without the quilt under way, I thought I'd settle for it to make it on the bed by Halloween. I was even encouraged to see that Sinta of the Pink Pincushion blog was also doing Midnight Silhouette and I'd get to have the fun of sewing a project and watching someone else's progress on the same project.

Well needless to say with all that build up you know what is coming.  When the last week of October hit and I was still pushing to finish the Dresdens, I knew it was inevitable.  When the Dresden top wasn't completed by the day before Halloween as hoped, I knew my last ditch plan to spend Halloween week at least starting this project was now history.  So what I was ultimately trying to avoid happened:  like the Valor quilt, this one won't see its holiday until next year.

So with that, what am I working on?  This quilt in progress:

New Project on the Design Wall
 This is a project called Safari Stars.  It is based on the pattern by Sue Harvey that was once on the Quilter's World Magazine website (but there is no longer a link there now for it) and has been on the HSY (haven't started yet) list since 2007.  I've always had big plans for this as a quilt for display and had a specific spot picked out for it at our old apartment.  In our new home, I have a display space opposite my living room where I currently have my basket quilt hung but wanted this quilt to become the semi-permanent display for this area. I also believe that when I have other quilts I want to display in the future in this general area , this quilt will meld with those better than the basket quilt does.   I am hoping this one will be quick work although I am looking forward to challenging myself by adding embellishments on it too.  What kind?  Don't know that yet and while I have some ideas about what I'd like to do, I am also going to see where this one takes me.  What I do hope is that it will be up on the wall before my family comes for Thanksgiving.  Of course now that I've said that, I hope I haven't put the "Next Year Curse" on it!

Friday, November 4, 2011

On A Roll!

Hot off the Dresden finish, the Chronicles Month 8 blocks are done!  In one day no yet, a new record!

But there will be no resting on my laurels:  I still have two more months of blocks in house to work on and the Month 11 packet should come in the mail sometime in the next two weeks.  Then there is an new challenge:  to quilt the pile of flimsies now sitting on the cutting table:  

I also have two other projects I want to try to tackle but we'll have to see if I can get those started.  Enjoy your weekend!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bloggers Quilt Festival Is Here!

It's here, it's here, the best week of the year! 

The Fall Bloggers Quilt Festival is in full swing at Amy's Creative Side.  Click on the link below or on the side bar and enjoy a parade of wonderful quilts!

I don't have anything in the festival this time but I will be drooling over all the lovely things everyone else is showing and picking up new blogs to follow.  So get right over there and enjoy the virtual show!

Merrimac Dresdens & Chronicles Update!

I have great news to report:  the Merrimac Dresdens top is finally complete!!!!
Block detail

I have to admit, this project became an obsession in the past few weeks.  It got to the point that I was not going to be satisfied until this top was completed and I had to really focus to get it done.  I am so glad this one is now in the flimsie pile.  I already have the backing fabric (see pic below) and have picked out the quilt stitch designs for it and look forward to getting it quilted soon.

Added to that I got two more months of the Chronicles BOM done since my last report.  Two weekends ago when I thought I'd be finishing up the Dresden project, I made plans to work on the Month 6 Chronicles blocks.  Once the Dresdens were all "plated" and moving on to the blanket stitching and sashing, my cutting table was empty for a moment and I realized that it was a good time to cut the pieces for the next (for me) month of Chronciles.  This month only called for four blocks and for once didn't require a bazillion HSTs.  I cut the pieces out on a Sunday and they were completely sewn up by Tuesday, the fastest turnaround I've had so far for this BOM.

I love these blocks!  I love the cheddar fabric in them and am trying to source some more since I've long wanted to build a stash of repro cheddars.  But I also love the way these blocks look together.  I don't normally go for quilts that are made up of one (repeated) block.  But this one creates so much interest with just the one block that I feel like you would get a lot of "Bang for the Buck" with it.  The secondary patterns and visual lines created really excite me.  So I am already thinking that I might make these again and create my second "one block" quilt (my first was Eleanor Burn's Quilt In A Day Bit's and Pieces Irish Chain quilt that you can see here).

After I had two rows of the Dresdens sashed and felt I was finally moving into the home stretch, I began to think about what was still to be done for the next few Chronicles months.  Month's 7 - 10 were already in house and Month 11 is expected sometime this month.  I figured if I could make one month's blocks in each week of November I'd be completely up to date by the start of December and then would only have to wait for the last month's packet to come in to finish the top.   

For the Month 7 packet I was back to needing a bazillion HSTs but the blocks were almost completely made up of them so I figured if I could print out, layer and sew up triangle sheets it would mean getting to the block sewing that much faster.   I sewed the sheets up in between sewing the blanket stitching and sashing on the Dresden block rows and cut enough of them apart to make up the first block on the Sunday before Halloween.  Then over next two days I cut the rest of the triangles apart and made the last three blocks. 

I realize that this block is larger version of the "Chisolm Trail" block I did for the Quilt In A Day "Pioneer Sampler":

So for the first time this year, I feel like I am on track.  However there is still a lot of other stuff to be done: a stack of flimsies to quilt, another new project to start, an old WIP I plan to get back to next week and of course the next month of Chronicles.  There's never a dull moment around here!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nose To The Grindstone Finally Paying Off

Good news!  The Merrimac Dresden blocks are almost finished!

After working on the Crumb Houses last week, I went back to these Dresden blocks figuring I'd have the top done by the time this week's Tuesday Crumb Along rolled around and could return the focus to the houses.  But for some reason I was dragging, not speeding along on these.  Sunday my husband and sons went to the NY Comic Con and I thought I'd have a Quilt-A-Thon day to myself.

 Instead I only got a few blocks done to finish the third row (but did get a lot of rest otherwise).  I really want to get this top done now because in addition to the new Crumb project (and finishing the quilting on the old one), I have a Halloween quilt project that was supposed to have been started already!  Not wanting to add even more flip flopping between projects, I decided to focus on getting this one done before moving on (or back) to other projects.

The opening picture showed the four rows I have of the five to be done.  On the machine is one block towards the fifth row.  Funny thing about that:  After completing three rows on Sunday, I went to set up the last two rows of blocks.  I was running low on Dresden blades and needed to know if I needed to cut more.  For some reason at that point, I thought I was short one background.  And of course, I didn't have enough of that particular background fabric left to make a block.  I did have enough of another background but it had to be pieced together.  Then to have enough blades to fill all the blocks, I had to do some "Poverty Patching" of what was left of my blade fabrics.  When I was done I had this:

I worked on the blocks again and when I finished the fourth row yesterday and put the blocks up on the design wall, I found that I had an extra block!  I don't know how that happened and now the pieced block and blades may be going on the back as a label.

There is still a lot to do:  finish the last row of blocks, blanket stitch them to their backgrounds, sew circles over the centers of the plates, border each of the blocks, put the center of the top together and then piece the outer border.  O.k. just listing all that tells me this top is not so close to being finished after all.  But as Michele of the "Distracted Quilter" blog so perfectly expressed in a recent post (in both text and video), you have to keep taking steps (no matter how small) toward your goal if you want to reach it.  So I will put my focus on the process and not the end because I already know the answer to the question "Are We There Yet?"!