Thursday, April 4, 2013

Quarter 2 Finish-A-Long List

So with April underway and the posting of my results for the first quarter of the Finish-A-Long done, I want to get a jump on listing my plans for the second quarter.

In this corner we have the following UFOs to tackle:

1.  Crazy Quilt Jewelry Roll and Pouch:  Finish embellishment/quilting and bind.

I started a jewelry roll and pouch for a friend of mine back in 2007.  The top is finished and it's all layered but I got stumped because I wanted to embellish it and couldn't get focused about what I wanted to do.  I thought inspiration would have hit over time but instead I got waylaid by other projects.  I've known my friend long enough that she hasn't hassled me about it until this year.  When she asked about it, I agreed with her that it's time to get this one underwraps.

As a further incentive, Thearica of the Pigtails and Quilts blog wrote on the HGTV Quilts and Needlework Forum a post about hosting an online Crazy Quilt competition in May.  I realized that once again this is a "kill two birds with one stone" opportunity:  to finish an old UFO and participate in a challenge.  Unfortunately, the piece you submit has to not have been seen before so I won't be able to show it until I have it ready to enter in the competition.

2. Heart & Home Wool BOM:  Finish blocks and top, quilt and bind.

I had started work on this one when Sinta began hosting her BOM Rehabs at her Pink Pincushion blog but again got waylaid by other projects and overwhelmed by a new love of all things wool.  This one was going to be a wallhanging for my bedroom.  However, recently I found another wool wallhanging project that is more "spring" like so would like to finish both and have this one for the fall/winter seasons.

3. Valor:  To be Quilted.

This was originally planned to be hung outside for the July 4th holiday in 2011 but I didn't get it finished for either that year or 2012.  So hopefully third year's the charm!

4. Civil War Chronicles (BOM):  To be Quilted.

This is the next up in my Civil War quilt series.  It's a bigun' and I'll have to give some thought to the quilting of it given my experiences with the Dresdens project (for more on that see this post).

5.  Brrr catch-up:  Finish Quilting, Bind.

Ambitious, but I would also really like to get the Brrr! quilt (from last quarter's FAL list) finished up.  Each day I have it laying out, my desire increases to finish it.  Hopefully before the quarter ends, that desire will push me over to actually working on it.

It should be noted that with each of these projects, I also have a new side project or two that I'd also like to try to work on along with the UFO.  Needles to say, expectations are that this will be a very busy quarter!!

I'll be linking this list to the Finish-A-Long linky when it's up on April 8th. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Taking the Process Pledge

On my last post about the aborted quilting on the Brrr! quilt, I took the time to do a little "process" blogging.  If you are not familiar what that is, if you read a lot of quilt blogs, I'm sure you've seen the buttons around and about.  Back in 2010, Rossie a modern quilter blogging at the "Rossie Blog" blog, did a post that talked about seeing more posts where crafters talk about how they moved along the path to creative quilting (along a lot of other things related to defining the modern quilting movement and the origins of "original" design) . 

I have to admit I'm often as intrigued by the route a finished project takes as I am about the finish!  I keep a very detailed quilt journal for my own purposes but have also always felt I should do a little of that on the blog too.  I won't talk as much about my projects as I do in my journal since my posts are already too long!  But I do now want to start posting in a little more detail about how a project gets from idea to a finish.  For me that might even hopefully make for shorter, more pithy posts!

So I am taking the "Process Pledge" and vow to talk more about how my projects progress from here on in.  If you'd like to do that too, link up on Rossie's blog here and download the button below to show your allegiance to all access project blogging.

Q1 FAL Fallout

So I posted the finish I did get done for the first quarter here so now it's time to turn to what I didn't get done and why (and a  chance to do a little process blogging).

My first quarter list had four projects, three "official" projects and a bonus project that I hoped could squeeze in if I made good progress.  Item #3 and the bonus were two mystery quilts from Planet Patchwork that I wanted to complete.  One was from this January's New Years mystery. 

It still needs some border work and then quilting. 

The other is the Thanksgiving mystery from 2007 and only needs to be quilted.

My plan is to try some "Modern Quilting" (ala Angela Walters) on both of these so I want to work on them together.  Didn't happen in the first quarter and since I've already kind of scheduled out what I want to get done this year, I am not sure now when, if or how I will squeeze these back in later.

At the top of my list for Q1 was my Brrr! Park quilt.  It was a quilt designed by Minik & Simpson that I purchased as a kit from Keepsake Quilting back in 2008 and finished the top, layered and pin basted in late 2009.  But it was not until this year, after finishing the #2 item on my list, I started on the quilting of this late in March and really thought I'd push it through right up to the end.  But I had chosen some rayon thread to quilt it with and that was ultimately my undoing.  Surprisingly right up to the Friday before the end of the month, I had this much done:

The quilting plan was to first quilt stabilizing outline stitching around the blocks and borders with a cotton thread in cream.  This quilt has a flannel back and had been lying round pin basted since 2009 and admittedly the back seemed a bit "puffy".  I thought the stabilizing stitching would smooth that all out but I was definitely wrong on that one!  I wound up ripping out all the three days (!) of stitching I had done, completely re-basting the quilt and then re-sewing all the stabilizing stitching (although this time I got it done in one day)!! Lesson: baste only when you are ready to sit down and quilt.  Next step was to quilt tree trunks with bare branches over the tree blocks. 

I was using a light aqua blue rayon thread in the top I had picked up at some point during the years while waiting to work on this.  Continuing with that thread (and with the cream cotton still in the bobbin), I had different "Winter Words"phrases planned for the setting triangles around the edges of the top's center.

Finishing up with the blue thread, I decided on doing continuous curve stitching through the HSTs in the first border and then would do the cream halves when I changed over to cream thread in the top for the remainder of the quilting.

The first stitching with the cream thread was to quilt snowflakes randomly through the center of the top and fill around it with free motion swirls (note: this is three of the four flakes I had finished and was supposed to finish the other four and the fill on the last Saturday in March).

The final stitching was to be some straight-line stitching in the second border and then more of the swirl fill in the final outer border.  I admit I was a bit nervous about doing all of it.  When I finally sat down to do the initial stitching on the trees, the bobbin thread (the cream) would pull to the top when I tried to stitch backwards (away from me).  Doing some testing on the sides I realized that the "auto" tension setting on my machine wouldn't work.  I tried taking it down and found that the "1" setting was the lowest I could go and not experience the pull and still have good balance on the back. 

That done, I started back on the stitching and found that the thread kept shredding and breaking.  Now what?  Well the solution to that was to slow down my stitching.  There are two schools of thought about FMQ -- some people run the machine really fast while stitching and some run it slow to get good control of the length of their stitches.  I find I get better control running the machine fast.  But when I slowed it down, the thread breakage problems stopped.  So I moved ahead, albeit waaayyyy slower than I normally do.  It was agonizing to work that slowly but I got it done over another three days. 

On the last day, I also moved on to the "Winter Words".  I was expecting it to be a bit of a challenge too.  In the end, I decided to mark them to give me a guideline to work within for both the letter size and to keep it even.  This actually went easier than expected and when done they looked so beautiful!  I was so encouraged that I immediately started in on the continuous curve stitching that I had planned to do on the blue half of the HSTs in the first border .  This would be the last of the stitching with the blue thread (thank god!) and I could re-load the cream on top and (I thought) zoom through the rest of what I had to do at my normal full speed.

Next in the plan was snowflakes in the center and swirl fill around them.  The snowflakes were tricky:  do I mark them out completely or do them freehand?  I decided to do a combo of both.  I marked a circle of ray lines that represent the rays of the flake and a center circle for those designs where the rays terminated around a center circle.  Using this guide, I free-handed the designs, simplifying the elements of different snowflake pictures I had collected down to what I was doable for me.  The first day I managed to get four done.  They were not perfect but they looked good enough to my eye and if it put me closer to finishing, it was all good!  When I left off Friday evening, I was confident I could finish the remaining four and do the swirl fill the next day (even with shopping and errands that needed to be done) and then plan to do the continuous curve for the first border, the straight stitching for the second and the rest of the swirl and fill for the final border.  Then I could bind it up to just eke out the Q1 finish.  But Saturday morning I got a shock when I took the opportunity before we left for errands to get a good look at my work in the Saturday morning light:
Acck!  There is a mess of thread mess on the backs of the snowflakes!  I forget to put the thread tension back up for the cream stitching!!  And to a lesser extent, I had the same problem with the continuous curve and the "Words" stitching despite not having that problem with the trees.  Are there different loft issues when I go out towards the borders versus the center of the quilt?

Needless to say this took a lot of the wind out of my sails.  With time at a premium, I knew I could not rip everything and still get all I had to get done by deadline.  So sadly, I have to put this one aside for awhile.  In the end, I've decided to leave the blue thread stitching but will have to rip the snowflakes and re-do them. 

With the start of April, I had plans to take my machine in for servicing and move on to other things (with new deadlines) using my old machine.  So I will have to try to come back this when I've distanced myself from it a little and can approach it a little more objectively (a.k.a. with less lingering disappointment).  Time to re-group!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Finish for the Q1 Finish-A-Long

It's time to report on my First Quarter Finish-A-Long efforts (and finally get back to blogging after too long away).  Despite a hope for four finishes this quarter (well, three and a bonus as I talked about here), I only got one completed. 

My #2 project, the "Merrimac Dresdens" is quilted and bound. The top and binding is made in fabrics from the Marcus Brothers "Merrimac" line that was issued way back in 2008 and the top was finished in November 2011.  After putting it on my Q1 2013 FAL list, I started basting it in late January with hopes of completing the quilting by the end of February. But the stitching took a lot longer than expected when my initial stitch plans changed a couple of times during the process and at one point I took a break from it during the latter half of February before getting back in gear and finishing it up in early March.

For the quilting, I free-motion outline stitched the plates and stitched a decorative pattern on top of the blades (the plates were machine blanket stitched to the backgrounds during the piecing process).  I used two different stitch patterns to fill the backgrounds of the blocks and a vine design in the border with a fill around it. 

The floral fill was the original background fill stitch I chose (and was based on and supposed to look like Leah Day's "Swirling Petals"). After doing a few blocks and seeing just how long it took to complete, I tried the wavy line fill as a test of a faster alternative. While I found that I liked it, I didn't like it enough to want all the blocks done that way or to rip out the floral fill I had already done. So a compromise was reached and I scattered four wavy line fill blocks throughout the top and continued the rest with the floral fill.  There is also some of the border vine scattered between a few blocks (another attempt at minimizing the amount of fill to be done) but the fabrics are so busy and thread so well matched that you can't really see them.  Overall, I love the texture created across the quilt but wish I had chosen a simpler motif to get it. 

The backing is a print from Andover Fabrics “From Lucinda’s Window” fabric line.  That line commemorated the "Reconciliation Quilt", an applique quilt made by  Lucinda Ward Honstain of Brooklyn NY completed in 1867 which depicted scenes from her life during and after the Civil War (you can download an IQSC article about that quilt here) .  I love to do contrasting backs and the applique cheater print against the dusty brown reproduction prints of the same time period really accomplished that. 

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Edited To Add:  I got to see the actual "Reconciliation Quilt" in April, 2014 when the New York Historical Society in NYC hosted the "Homefront & Battlefield" exhibit of Civil War quilts, clothing and artifacts.  I rounded out the day by also visiting the General Grant National Memorial (more commonly known as "Grant's Tomb") also here in NYC.

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The good news is that this finish checks off things on a few lists:  a UFO done, a "bucket list" project (Dresden Plates) completed and the second of five quilts to be completed for a Civil War quilt display series I am trying to put together.   I also did get some work done on the #1 project on my Q1 list but that will be a story for another post!

To see what everyone else accomplished for the first quarter, head on over to Leanne's "She Can Quilt" blog and check out all the links to see all the projects that have been finished!  A note about the Finish-A-Long:  during the Q1 linky period (through April 8), Leanne has lined up other bloggers to post interesting tutorials.  There is already one from Jennie of "Jennie's Threads" for a block carrier.  So check that out too!