Friday, August 28, 2015

The Kaye England CW Samplers Are Finished!!

I am glad to say that a big project that has been at the very top of my "To Do" list all year is finally done: Over the last two weeks, I finally quilted and bound the two Civil War sampler flimsies I finished up back in August of last year.  It's been hard to get good pictures of them so these will have to do for now and I'll try to get better ones later:

Re-piecing the Past from Kaye England's Craftsy class.

Civil War Legacy from Kaye England's book.

All the blocks were made from the scraps and leftovers from my other Civil War projects.  Through out the time I had worked to bring them to the topper stage, it had been my intention to probably finish them up by doing some simple "all over" stitching like Stippling or Baptist Fans because the layout was so busy.  I wound up sticking with that plan so "Re-piecing" was quilted with the Baptist Fans:

This was another chance to use my Westalee Circle templates (for more information on them, scroll down on this page).  I had also used them last month to start the concentric circle quilting on the "Thea's Puzzle" quilt seen in this post.

I liked using the templates because I was able to quilt the really large 12" fans evenly, without marking and by free motion quilting them.  I have quilted fans before:  on my "Stashbuster" quilt in 2010, I did them free hand and free motion.  They came out okay but it was harder than I thought to try to keep them even and back then I only stitched the widest arc at about 8".   More recently I did them again on one of the mini quilts I finished back in March.  That time I made cardboard templates for each size round with the widest arc 5".  I used a walking foot to stitch around them and had to swap out a different template to make each round, pinning them to the quilt to hold them in place while I stitched.  They were not as rounded as the Westalee fans are because the cardboard template was made based on a quarter circle.

With the Westalee template, I was able to use just the one template for all the rounds.  If I had wanted a different spacing between the rounds I could have swapped out other templates simply by placing them on the same centering pin.  If you want to see the template in action, check out Westalee's video here.  The next project I hope to try to do with them is use them to make the foundation circles for  Lori Kennedy's "Circle Doodle" quilt and use it to test out different decorative threads.

The center of "Legacy" was stitched free hand and free motion in a Stipple pattern and the narrow inner border was stitched with a walking (Accu-feed) foot.  The challenge was what to do for the other borders.  I wanted something simple to complement the simple center quilting but also something that complemented the border print.  I found what I wanted in two books on Amish quilting:

The pattern on the left is from Amish Quilting Patterns For Machine Quilting by Pat Holly and Sue Nickels and the one on the right is from Amish Quilting Patterns by Gwen Marston and Joe Cunningham.  You can see all the quilting better from the back:

Originally, I was a little concerned about what thread to use since the riot of color in each quilt might make it difficult to pick just one color.  However, I wanted to avoid, if I could, having to make a lot of thread changes.  Fortunately the quilt gods always come through for me!  I read a post back in November by Lori Kennedy who blogs at the "Inbox Jaunt" and is now a regular columnist for "American Quilter", the monthly publication for the American Quilters Society (AQS)  .  I've been following her blog for awhile now as she has been providing coaching on Free Motion Quilting techniques and patterns which she does on a domestic machine.

The post of hers that helped me out this time was one on "Choosing Threads For FMQ".  It was a great post in that it distilled the concepts down to a few simple starting questions to guide your choices.  It was also great because it was the perfect complement to another helpful post that I had read on this topic even earlier.  Wendy Sheppard  blogs over at "Ivory Spring" and is another accomplished quilter who also quilts on a domestic machine.  Her work has been frequently published in books and magazines, she has a FMQ course available through the Annie's catalog website and also has her second book coming out from Landauer Publishing this fall.  On her blog she has an ongoing series of posts called "Thread Talk From My Sewing Machine".  Back in April 2014, she did a post on the topic of achieving "Subtle Contrast" when it came to her quilting.  For this she uses thread colors that contrast enough to show against the backgrounds or piecing but not so much that the quilt stitching overpowers the quilt design.  She also identified which were her favorite Aurifil colors to use to achieve that. 

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Edited  10/4/15 To Add:  Wendy recently announced that her "Subtle Contrast" concept has been picked up by Aurifil Threads and will be sold as a thread box set!  Check out her post here about it.  I've searched and haven't seen it listed for purchase anywhere yet but hopefully that will happen soon too!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Armed with the wisdom of these two ladies, I have used their advice to help me decide on the threads I wanted to use to quilt all of my CW projects.  I was fortunate to have the perfect color for both of these and was able to use the same top thread for both:  Aurifil's #2324.  Both quilts are backed with Marcus Fabric's Aged Muslin in different colors.  For "Re-piecing" I used the Dark Brown muslin and Connecting Threads Essentials thread in Milk Chocolate.  "Legacy" was backed in the Tan muslin and I used Aurifil's #2000 thread.

Lastly in both cases, I monogrammed the label information onto the backing with my machine, listing the quilt information and all the block names. 

Before Quilting
After Quilting
With these done, in September I have to work on displaying all the quilts made to date.  I also still have to quilt the Chronicles BOM but I'm not sure when I'll get to that since I want to work on trying to finish my DWR next.  However, for the last few days left of this month it will be ornaments, ornaments, ornaments!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My First Quilt Show Entry

As quilters we all have those "firsts":  your first project, your first quilt gift given to someone, your first kit, your first Block of the Month, your first Mystery quilt, your first heirloom finish.  Well today I just received notification of a first for me -- my first quilt show entry!

When I started quilting in 2002, I read an article in Quilter's World magazine about documenting your quilts.  From the very beginning, I've used the format in the article for my own quilt journal entries.  While all my entries have this, I've never had the opportunity to fill in the last line:

...but now I will!  My quilt "Sweet Land of Liberty" will be in this show this fall:

Since 2012 Jackie Kunkel (quilt designer and owner of Caton Village Quiltworks) has hosted a quilt show at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT.  Her husband is a hobby pilot and volunteers with the plane restorations at the museum which is how she became interested in hosting a show there.  I've attended the show since she started it and will say it is the one show I can guarantee that my husband will attend with me!  He loves vintage airplanes and war memorabilia so is always eager to go with me to the venue to see the exhibits although I'll admit he comes to see the planes more than for the quilts.   As a history buff, I also enjoy the plane exhibits and we even once went on an outing to the museum with other family members to attend one of the museum's "Open Cockpit" days.  On those days, attendees can get an opportunity to actually sit in or walk through some of the planes on display.  It was a really fun day for all of us!

I also love that Jackie always manages to have great guest lecturers at the show.  Last year, I went for Sue Riech's lecture on World War II quilts (which were also featured in a big display at the show) and enjoyed Jackie's trunk show presentation.  This year author and AQS Certified Quilt Appraiser Mary Wilson Kerr and quilt novelist Marie Bostwick will be presenting.  I am particularly excited to attend Ms. Bostwick's lecture since I've read a few of her "Cobbled Court Quilts" novels and just recently downloaded "Between Heaven and Texas" to Kindle to read.

I had thought about making and entering a quilt back in the first year of the NEAM show because I had a project in stash that fit the theme that year but never got the project underway.  Last year when I finished "Sweet Land of Liberty", after entering it in Amy Ellis' Bloggers Quilt Festival I also thought about entering it in the NEAM show but admit I chickened out.  This year I decided to put my big girl panties on and put it in the show!  It is not a juried show but there will be a Viewers Choice prize awarded and the entry fee was a nominal $5.  I've always felt "Sweet Land" was perfect thematically for the venue. 

Now that I have received the delivery/mailing instructions  for sending the quilt to the show, I'm both giddy and nervous about it being on display but do look forward to seeing it hung at the show in September! 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Project Recap: Thea's Puzzle Quilt

In my July "Get It Done Recap", I noted that I had one finish in July and one almost-finished.  The finished project was detailed here and this post is for the almost-finished that is now finished!

Let me present the quilt called Thea's Puzzle from the free pattern by quilt and fabric designer Amy Butler:


Front Close-up 


 Back Close-up, label area

My DH discovered a plus:  this looks like a cool stained glass quilt when the light shines through it!

This is a rare bright colored quilt for me, done in an even rarer improv and modern style.  Edited To Add:  The pattern was designed to showcase Amy's Designer Collection solids from Rowan/Westminster fabrics but mine was made from my stash of Kona Cotton and other solid fabrics.

Once the design was done I debated on a number of ideas for the quilting.  The important thing for me was to bring the attention to the center but also integrate the borders.  I had seen a number of quilts around the web stitched in concentric circles and decided that was the ticket.  I found a great tutorial on this at Karen's Anderson-Abraham's Blooming Poppies blog.  Her method involved marking a medium sized circle (she used a food processor bowl) on the quilt and then stitching with a walking foot around the outside of the circle out to the quilt edges and then around the inside of the initial circle to the center of the quilt.  I took a slightly different path (and you know me, it must involve gadgets):  I started the quilting right from the quilt center and did it by free-motion using some new templates:  Westalee's Circles on Quilts!

This set of templates will quilt circles from 2" to 12" wide at increments of 1/4", 1/2" and 1" spacing.  You will need to have a ruler style presser foot which Westalee also sells if your machine brand doesn't offer one (Janome does).  Also good news:  Westalee, which is based in Australia, now has a stateside distributor:  Sew Steady and according to their website, the Westalee templates may eventually be offered in stores. 

Since the stitching is done free-motion, at this stage of the game there's no turning of the quilt, instead you turn the templates which are positioned on a center pin.  Westalee has a great video here showing how to use the templates.  The set up was simple:

Center point

Position the pin and pin lock 

Choose your template and start stitching.

This is what it looked like after using the 2" - 12" template (1" spacing between the circles), perfect since the center wedge blocks were 12" finished.  I realized after this that I wanted the spacing a little closer so went back in with the 3" - 11" template to add additional lines in between.  With the center of the quilt stitched, I changed over to my walking foot (on my Janome it's called the Accu-feed foot) and continued to stitch out using the side of the foot as my guide.  From here on in, it meant turning the quilt as I stitched but it wasn't too odious since I was stitching larger and larger circles. 

Once I had stitched out to the inner border, I loaded the quilt back on my cutting table to readjust some of the outer border basting before going to finish up the stitching.  I added some "faux wedges" in the outer border to break up the circular quilting and carry the block motif out to the border and then continued to add the circular quilting around them to complete the quilt.  I used the same fabric for the binding as I did for the inner border: "Fig & Plum", a Joanna Figueroa/Fig Tree Quilts print.       

This project had been waiting patiently for a long time so I'm glad to knock it off the "To Do" list.  I was also glad to get to try some new quilting templates.  The next test for the Westalee templates (and the next project up for finishing) will be to quilt Baptist Fans on one of my Civil War sampler quilts.

BTW, if you are a big Amy Butler fan, she was Free Spirit Fabrics designer of the Month for July.  Click on the links to read a blog post spotlighting her career and find out "10 Things About Amy Butler".

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Project Recap: Do Something To Crow About

This is a very small project that's very long on process so be forewarned! 

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To start, some background on this project:  back in 2013 I saw this little wall hanging offered on Ebay:

I loved the sentiment and the little bit of applique on it.  While I liked the format of it and homespun backing/binding, I wasn't sure where I'd hang it and wasn't jazzed about it as an addition to my d├ęcor.  Looking around, I realized that I had on hand all the materials it would take to make it myself and I had an empty frame that hangs at the entrance of my living room that I had long wanted to make a little mini project to fill.  I figured that a variation of this little piece would be the perfect thing to fill that frame.  Initially, I folded up my printout of the listing so that only the picture showed and put it in the frame as a reminder/nudge.  However, it was  long time before I came up with any definite ideas about how to translate the design.

Over time I came across a few pieced or applique heart block designs that I thought might work but it wasn't until I saw a quilt with pieced Double Heart blocks that I got inspired.  I liked the block because the hearts are made with my favorite block unit:  flying geese!  At that point I searched through my stash to find fabrics that would bring the simple block to life.  I found some in an coincidental place:  earlier in the same year I saw the listing, I had won a big stash of fabrics from blogger Vicky of the LA Quilter blog who was trying to downsize her stash.  I've been keeping that stash separate with plans to do a series of quilts from it.  I found the perfect pieces for the hearts in that stash as well as a great fabric for the crow.  

That same week, I was also looking through magazine back issues and found the perfect crow applique in a pattern by Lynda Hall of Primitive Pieces by Lynda in BHG's Sew Scrappy Vol 2.  Her project in that issue is called, fittingly enough, "Lots To Crow About".  With that name it was obviously destined to be added to this piece!  So I made my hearts (the extra flying geese will be added to the "Orphan Blocks" stash) and copied the crow template, figuring out how much to reduce it to fit the size of the piece to be made for the frame:

and then cut out and added the crow applique:

Now I needed to add the embroidery.  I typed out the phrase in a word processing program and then played with fonts until I found one I thought I could render in embroidery.  I quickly realized that transferring the words to the piecing was difficult because you can't use the "light box" method to transfer your design due to bulk from seams and the applique.  I found a few tips (like this one at Barbara's Cat Patches blog) that suggested using Sulky's Fabri-Solvy, a printable water soluble stabilizer for projects like this.  The problem was that at the time I wanted to work on this, I couldn't get to the Joann's near me to purchase the stabilizer and knowing I could get it locally, didn't want to mail order it.  So I came up with another solution:  why not take the example of  Golden Threads Quilting Paper and transfer the design to a light weight paper that I can print out the words on and then stitch over and tear away.  

Golden Threads pictures courtesy
I didn't have any Golden Threads paper either but I did have the next best thing:  tissue paper that you use for wrapping gifts!  I pulled some out and ironed it onto freezer paper (the quilter's multi-tool!) so I could send it through the printer. 

Sorry for the fuzzy picture but you get the idea!
This gave me my embroidery template and stitch guide which I pinned to the piece with applique pins.

I should note that this took more than a few tries to get right: as you can see from the previous picture, the first time I printed it out I printed it in black -- not at all helpful when you're stitching with black thread!  After switching to the more visible red print, I had to work on how to render the stitches.  Originally I tried replicating the thickness of the font with Satin Stitch and then an Outline stitch -- neither worked well with the Perle cotton thread I was using (I tried it with both size 8 and size 12).  In the end, I defaulted to working with the Perle 8 and using a simple backstitch and just did a simple outline of the font letters to get the job done.  This is only the second embroidery project I've done this year so I'm still getting my "sea legs" on this craft which I haven't tried since I was a teenager!  I also added an embroidered flower and stem as was done on the inspiration piece, using the Perle 12 threads I've been using for my wool ornaments

With the embroidery all done, I layered the finished top with a remnant of wool batting and this piece of backing:

I had this in my stash with a note attached to it that said "For Quilt Label".  The original yardage this comes from is cotton fabric that I got back in eighties!  My best friend from high school and I worked at garment district accounting firms back then.  We also sewed then so did not turn down offers of free fabric (hmmm, sounds like some things haven't changed!).  She had gotten the fabric from one of the companies her firm did work for and split the haul with me.  When I started quilting, anything cotton that was in my sewing stash was fair game for quilting so this cotton print was handy for a number of projects.  It started off as the stash for a Stack 'N Whack project (that is still a UFO I'm afraid):

....and was used to make pieced fish blocks in this project (from 2007 and recently posted about here):

Used here to make the white fishes with the rainbow stripes.
..... but found its real usefulness as label fabric:

After the layering, I quilted the piece with simple diagonal quilted lines.  As I had hoped, the wool batting combined with the tight background quilting made the hearts and crow "pouf up" just a bit to add more texture to the whole thing.  My last plan for this was to add small prairie points to fill in the areas around the applique and the block.   Have I mentioned that I'm into gadgets?  For a while I had wanted to try Susan Cleveland's Prairie Pointer tool (be sure to check out her videos) and figured that the very small (1/2" high) points I needed for this would be a good test for it.  So I chose fabric from my stash of 1-1/2" scrap squares and made the points:

The tool worked fine (although I look forward to trying some of her more decorative styles).  We're almost there!  Here is the finished piece before framing (finished size 4-1/4" x 6"):

...and here it is in the frame:

I realize that I should have more carefully measured what the finished measurements of the inside of the frame was.  The finished piece was a little too tall and had to be squeezed into the frame which means the top and bottom points got a little shortchanged in terms of visibility. 

Just before I did the embroidery on this little piece, I read this great post by Bonnie Hunter.  She viewed an antique quilt exhibit at the Vermont Quilt Festival and it inspired her to do a post on "Lessons Learned From Antique Quilts".  It's a good read and the gist of it is that quilters of the past made gorgeous quilts with a lot less tools and materials than we have now and a close look at their quilts show them to often be far from perfect.  So there's no reason for us to get all bent out of shape about our projects.  Just finish it already and love it when it's done!  In fact, 100 years from now, some one may marvel at what YOU made and how you did it!  Considering the issues I had completing the embroidery, that advice could not have come at a better time!

Note:  Also on Bonnie's post is a great sideshow of the quilts from the exhibit (click here for the thumbnail shots if the slideshow doesn't view).  Do also read the post itself for Bonnie's insightful comments about the details of many of the quilts.

So I'm glad to get this little one done and glad to get a chance to flex so many creative muscles while doing it!  Hanging this little piece near my quilt space will be a reminder that (as I commented on Bonnie's post) just finishing something is an accomplishment in and of itself! 

Get It Done! July Recap, August Goals

The good news this month was that there was one finish and one near finish this month generating new motivation to get other things done as well.  Recapping July, the Goals were:
1. UFOs:  Quilting on the Civil War lap quilts.  Time to git' 'er done!!
Although they were NOT DONE, with the quilting on Thea's Puzzle almost done, I'm now very DETERMINED  to work on these next!
2.  Wool/BOMs:  Finish stitching the April and May ornaments, prep and stitch June's and then start on the mittens for July.  However, I also have another set of pouch ornaments to make so the challenge will be to not only catch up on what I'm behind on but to work on two new ornaments each month until Christmas. 
NOT DONE so August will be a heck of a catch up month!

3. Applique:  To Spring Fling or not to Spring Fling, that is the question.  Right now, I don't know the answer! 

NOT DONE so I think this one is officially tabled until next Spring.

4.  Hand Work:  I will finish up the little "Crow" wall hanging.  I also still want to resume "Slow Sunday Stitching" but still need to decide with what.  Another "To Be Determined". 

DONE (although a detailed post on the finish still needs to be done). 
Hoping now to get back into my Slow Sunday Stitching QAYG project for fall.  

5. Gift Quilts: Yes, still keeping the baby quilt on the agenda.  Actually at this point, I can slate it for a first birthday gift.

6.  WIP:  Quilt Thea's Puzzle and make up the quilt sandwiches for the FMQ Mystery at Lori's Inbox Jaunt and plan the Seminole bands for the kitchen curtain project. 

ALMOST DONE!  (Although with the white fabric it's a little hard to see).  Will be finishing the quilting on the outer borders this weekend and the binding is already cut and ready to be applied. 

7.  Quilts of Valor:  There's a lot of ground to make up on this one.  If I can finish some other stuff maybe I can finally pull these out and make some headway on them.


NOT DONE, although I did reorganize the stash for this.  I will try to see if I can maybe still try to work on at least one this month.  
For me, August signals the end of summer so I'm setting my sights on trying to get ahead on my Fall projects.  I have quite a few of those I'd like to see get done this Fall so the priority projects in my categories may change a bit this month.
 August Goals:
1.  New Category - To Be Quilted:  As I noted above, now that I've done a bit of quilting, I'm ready and raring to go on the Civil War lap quilts which will be the priority in this category this month.  However, there's also still another big Civil War quilt to be quilted -- my Chronicles BOM.  It is the last of the initial Civil War projects left to complete. Although it is also a UFO, I want to identity the things ready for quilting separately from a UFO still in the production stage.
2.  UFOs:  In this corner I have a big Fall project I want to bring to at least the flimsie stage before the summer ends:  my Autumn Double Wedding Ring (the top can be seen here) that is still waiting on borders (glimpsed here).  This will be the month to get that done and maybe even layer it.
3.  Wool BOMs:  I really need to move on this to stay on track for the holidays so the big push this month is to bring these ornaments up to date. 
4.  Hand Work:  As noted above, hoping to once again get back to the QAYG project.  It will be good for fall hand work and I'd love to try to get this completely done by the end of the year.  Looking specifically to try to get eight blocks done each month (two per week) until the end of the year.
5.  Gift Quilts:  The Baby Quilt.  Leaving this one on the list even though I have a feeling that I will not work on it this month either.
6.  WIP:  For this category this month I actually want to finish up a display piece -- adding the Lincoln/Obama embroidery piece to my old Spontaneity quilt.
7.  QOV:  As noted above, I had a chance to go through and reorganize my QOV stash.  There's still some time -- maybe I can get at least one made up before the summer ends?!?

8. New Category - HSY:  My Hussy ("Haven't Started Yet") project for this month is my Halloween Quilt project.  While it will ultimately be one quilt, it is actually comprised of two separate patterns that I will be layering back to back when they are done.  I talked about them back in this post and one of the patterns seems to be a hard to find item.  I've had a number of queries over the years (the latest one came just this past week) from people looking to get it.  So I'd like to finish this one up once and for all so that I can pass it along to another quilter. 

Embarking on the "Good-bye Summer" tour, All Aboard!!