Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tools, tools and more tools!

All the cutting work I did in April brought out the Gadget Fanatic in me. I've gotten to use a lot of the special tools I have during these sessions. 

Starting with finishing up the top for the Heart & Home BOM  I'd like to highlight the borders....

...and all the special tools that helped make that happen!  For all the work I've been doing with wool specifically and for applique in general, I give rave reviews to Clover's micro-serrated scissors for making close cutting and smooth cut curves a breeze....

...and when I need circles of all sizes, I grab my packs of Karen Kaye Buckley's Perfect Circles.

For my Dreamcatcher project, to cut the large trapezoids I used the Fons & Porter Diagonal Sets Ruler....

...and for all the quarter square triangles I needed to cut for the sashing blocks, I used the Companion Angle ruler to cut them quickly from jelly roll strips.

While I'm shouting out the Companion Angle, I might as well also give a shoutout to the Easy Angle ruler and Bonnie Hunter for championing both of them. 

Although I now have these two, originally I used (and am also still very fond of) my All-In-One Ruler which has both angles on it but is not as easy to flip up and down when you have to cut a huge amount of triangles.  I do use it a lot for general strip and square cutting and as a travel ruler.  It has also been great for cutting the braid units for a scrap quilt I'm still collecting bits for:

Speaking of the Easy Angles, here's one that was "new to me" until this week:  Sharon Hultgren's Easy Angle II

Although I've long heard about the Easy Angle, I had never heard about this larger one!  I happened on it because I was recently re-reading my journal about the work I did on my UGRR/Pioneer sampler quilts.  I used the Tri-Mate ruler, a companion to the popular Tri-Recs rulers and the side triangle Tri-Rec ruler to make the long narrow triangles pieced unit in this block:

That was another "new to me" ruler when I saw it in a quilt store many years ago.  In my journal notes, I said that after I used it, I broke down and bought the book "Calming the Storm: Designs for the Tri-Recs Tools" book by Darlene Zimmerman and Joy Hoffman which was advertised as being a book of patterns using the Tri-Recs rulers.  Back then I didn't read the book too closely because I was disappointed that none of the designs in it used the Tri-Mate ruler.  However, I pulled down the book this week to take a good look at it again.  This time around I looked closely at the designs and noticed that one of them called for the EAII.  As I always do when that happens, I went to the web to investigate.  I found out that this ruler is still around as part of the "Wrights EZ Tools" line and in updated packaging available from various sources.  I was lucky enough to find a used one (in "like new" condition) on Ebay in the original packaging and a little cheaper than the going price so snapped it up.  I've had occasion to need to cut larger EA triangles so was glad to be able to add this to my ruler arsenal.

Also very helpful for the Dreamcatcher cutting was the June Tailor Shape Cut:

Personally, I love this one and you can tell by how beat up it is that it's one of my favorites!  I know that Sandy at Quilting For the Rest of Us has had issues with the accuracy of this so no longer uses it.  I have had issues with variance in block sizes since I often use different rulers in the same project to cut different block pieces.  Doing that is said to be a possible cause of block size variations.  I can't be sure if the issue is the Shape Cut, the other rulers or my own seam allowances.  I've found that I've had variations in finished blocks when sewing with a 1/4' inch foot on just two pieces of fabric versus sewing a fabric unit over seams.  In the end, the speed that the Shape Cut allows me to cut multiple strips wins out over the need to fudge stuff together later.  I can't live without it!

Admittedly having no machine for a while meant I did more surfing than sewing which means I see things that pique my interest and they wind up resulting in even more new purchases.  For starters, I also recently bought one of Deb Tucker's Technique Sheets

I'm a big fan of her rulers having used the Tucker Trimmer and Rapid Fire Lemoyne rulers (and look forward to buying the set of technique sheets for those in the future).  I also own her Hunter Star and Square2 (Squared) rulers.  The technique sheet I bought was the one for the Shaded Four Patch block because I saw a quilt I liked (in the upper left of the picture above) in an old issue of Quilt magazine.  It used this block made in the traditional way (with squares and triangles) and is the same block I used when I made Eleanor Burns' Fabric Gal quilt.  Her "Quilt In A Day" method uses strip piecing and is exactly the same as Deb's but Eleanor's pattern only gave strip measurements for the one block size used in her quilt.  Deb's sheet gives me the strip measurements for many sizes of blocks.  I've seen this basic unit in many quilts I'd like to make so appreciate having that shortcut available to me when I'll need it. 

Last but not least is Susan Cleveland's Prairie Pointer Tool.  I had seen this awhile ago but at the time had no plans to make PPs. 

I have done them before, making them using the "continuous strip" PP technique (and you can see a video of that method here).

Now I have a project where I want to make really small PPs that won't be connected so I will need to make them individually and was prompted to find an easy way to do them.  I did see the Quick Points rulers  but didn't like the fact that you needed different rulers to make different sizes.  This is often a deal breaker for me when it comes to any tool.  So remembering Ms. Cleveland's tool I decided to give it a whirl.  I look forward to trying it on my project** and doing some of the decorative variations she demonstrates in the future!

That's the gadget round up for now.  Time to get back to sewing!

**Updated August, 2015:  That project can be seen here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Little of This, A Little of That....

Well, my Janome went in for servicing last weekend so my little work area has been empty all week....

In the past it has taken as long as a month for it to be returned but I'm hoping it won't be that long this time.  For now, to tide myself over, I focused on getting to some project cutting.  First up was the pieces for the next Wool Ornament BOM stocking:

With that it's all ready for stitching.  If my machine isn't back quickly, I should be able to sew this up using my old Euro-Pro machine which now bides its time as a "traveling machine".  Unfortunately, that function is fairly infrequent ever since my MIL moved to North Carolina.  The last time I used it, I felt it could also use a tune-up and I'm not sure if they service other machine brands where I take my Janome since those are the only machines they sell. 

I have two projects that have been sitting around for a while that will use solids.  As noted on my "Get It Done" list for April (and for March) I wanted to get them cut out so I could use the leftovers for other things.  One of those projects is Amy Butler's "Thea's Puzzle Quilt":

The wedges will make up the center blocks.  I'm debating whether to use a solid for the inner border as per the pattern or to use that pretty green and pink print instead (although that definitely will be the binding).  To decide, I would need to start laying out the wedges on the design wall and formulating the center blocks but that's not something I'm ready to do right now. The white Kona is for the outer border and the Kaffe print is for the backing.  For now, I'm satisfied that I've cut the wedges and freed the solids from this stash so all of this will be bundled into a box until I'm ready to get back to it.

The second solids project is Kathy Doughty's "Dreamcatcher".

I saw this when Kathy blogged about it on the Material Obsession blog prior to it being published in a 2012 special edition of Australian Quilters Companion called "Old Quilts Made New".  The issue even came with a DVD where Kathy discussed her methods for reinterpreting antique quilt designs to give them a modern flair.  At the time I couldn't find this issue stateside and actually ordered it from her shop in Australia!  Last year this quilt was included in (and on the cover of) her second (solo) book " Adding Layers - Color, Design & Imagination: 15 Original Quilt Projects from Kathy Doughty of Material Obsession". 

As you can see this one is not all solids -- it's anchored by big trapezoids cut from Kaffe Fassette's Marquee Stripes fabrics.  Kathy used three of the color ways (Husky, Bright and Pastel) whereas I'll also include the fourth (Contrast).  The solids are used to make quarter square triangle squares with red combined with various colors for sashing.  I started with a stash of various Kona solids and added a  jelly roll of the 28 new (at the time) Kona colors introduced in 2012. 

Putting these together will be a great for Leader/Enders!  With the project solids all accounted for, I can now prepare a quilting sandwich for Lori Kennedy's FMQ Mystery project. The mystery actually ended at the end of February but I plan to do it anyway for FMQ practice.  The other thing I want to use the solids for is to add bright colored Seminole pieced bands to the new kitchen curtains I have long planned to make.  If you are not familiar with Seminole piecing, you can see examples of it at the bottom of this tutorial offered by Sew Well Maide.  I've only tried Seminole piecing on a very limited basis so this is a chance to work extensively with the designs while doing some Spring sprucing up of the house. 

For the last of the cutting sessions I have also finally cut the border strips for my long simmering Double Wedding Ring project.  This has gone on and off my "To Do" list so many times but I'm really hoping to finally get this "put to bed" (figuratively and literally) by the Fall.

Whew!  I'm hoping to spend the weekend finally getting back to doing some hand work.  Next week, I'll try setting up my second machine for sewing.  It may take me some time to get used to using it again!

A Crafty Public Service Announcement:
April is National Serger Month!  Did you know that Baby Lock was the first to offer sergers for the home machine market?  To celebrate, you can pick up a free e-booklet of serger projects HERE. Go HERE to the Threads Magazine site for a chance to comment and win a set of serger techniques DVDs. 

Want to try to serge a quilt?  Many years ago I used Kaye Woods "6 Hour Quilt" pattern and made quilts for my sons using a serger. 

An updated version of the original pattern can be purchased from Craftsy HERE or her website HERE or you can watch her make it on YouTube HERE.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Get It Done! March Recap/April Goals

It's April 1st but this is no April Fools post!  Gathering everything together for a look at what got done in the month that just passed (and so quickly too!!).  Here's what I had hoped to work on for March:

1. UFOs:  Quilting on the Civil War  mini quilts.  DONE! (Details here)

...and lap quilts...  STILL NOT DONE

But hopefully with the minis done and the opportunity to hang them this month, I'll be motivated to get this last big part of this project done.  Only snag right now is that I plan to take my machine in for servicing at the end of this week.  Hopefully I'll get it back quickly.

2.  Wool/BOMs: Continue work on the next block of the wool Ornaments.....  DONE!

..... and the Heart & Home BOM.  The plan was to finish the last three blocks and complete the quilt this month as well.  WELL, AT LEAST THE TOP IS ALMOST DONE!

I still have to add some decorative wool circle appliques to the big corner squares and to the borders but I'm happy to say all the blocks are done.  The backing is in house so I have to give some thought to how I want to quilt this to determine whether to finish it now or wait until later. 

Details on all of March's Wool BOM work can be seen here.

3.  Hand Work:  The plan was to continue "Slow Sunday Stitching" by restarting work on my old Quilt-As-You-Go project.  I'd also hoped to mount the finished Lincoln/Obama Redwork finished in February (see it here) onto the quilt it was made to be added to.  NOT DONE

My excuse this past Sunday was that I attended a quilt show ("busy" was my excuse all the rest of the month!).  Again, hopefully with some of the big projects off my mind I can get back to these now.

4. Gift Quilts: Once again, I need, need, need to start work on the baby quilt (its now long, LONG overdue!!!)  NOT DONE

I bought a pre-cut quilt kit (pictured above) at the quilt show, maybe that will help get me in gear?

5.  New Project/Challenge:  I'm going to cut out two new solids projects because I want to use the leftover stash from them for the FMQ Mystery at Lori's Inbox Jaunt and another solids project down the road.  NOT DONE BUT ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS PLANNED FOR APRIL!

So for April the plans are:

1. UFOs:  Quilting on the Civil War lap quilts (depending on the quick return of my machine).
2.  Wool/BOMs: Continue work on the next block for the wool Ornaments.  For the Heart & Home BOM I will probably just finish up the top details (and leave the quilting for later) because I have a Spring-themed one I'd like to get started on.  
3.  Hand Work:  I'll resume the "Slow Sunday Stitching" an finally restart work on my old Quilt-As-You-Go project.  I still would also like to mount the finished Lincoln/Obama Redwork but no promises on that one.
4. Gift Quilts: Once again, I need, need, need to start work on the baby quilt!!
5.  New Project/Challenge:  While the machine is in for service, it'll be the perfect time to cut out the two new solids projects and use the leftover stash from them for the FMQ Mystery at Lori's Inbox Jaunt and another solids project I'd like to do for Spring.

I don't know about you, but I am welcoming Spring with open arms!  Hopefully Mother Nature will respond in kind soon!!