Monday, November 2, 2015

Project Update: The Halloween Quilt(s) - Part 2

When I last left off, I wanted to find a piecing pattern for a five-point star for my Halloween quilt project.  I had seen a pieced five-point star in a book I had but of course since I needed it, I couldn't find the book!  After a couple of days of looking around for it I finally found it (in my Scrap Quilt Ideas file) --- it is an early Joanna Figueroa (now of Fig Tree Quilts fame) book called Star Struck Quilts.  However the star in her book was very large and actually wasn't pieced with an even edge because it was designed to be set behind an appliqued circle.  Then I looked on the web and lucked up on a paper-pieced version at the Quilter's Cache.

It was sized to finish at 8" but my pattern needed blocks that pieced to the very odd size of 5-3/4" unfinished.  So now I had to figure out how to reduce them. Fortunately a long time ago I had heard about and purchased the C-Thru Proportional Scale. 

You turn the dial to line up the mark for original size with the mark for the desired size and the scale tells you by what percentage to change it.  I tried it, reduced the pattern, and pieced it.  It was great -- except -- to set the star squares into the block center, they need to be set on-point!  Yikes!  At this point, appliqueing 50 some odd stars is starting to look better and better!  But no, I still didn't really want to do this much applique right now.  So now what?  Well, when you don't have a pattern, you make your own!

I looked at both patterns, noted their piecing similarities and then decided to copy the applique star from the 1904 pattern, draw a square of the desired size around it, then break it up for paper piecing.

  After I got it done, I had to test it.  After piecing it together it was still a little oversized so I had to carefully trim it down to the needed unfinished size, making sure to leave the seam allowance around those star points.  When done, I finally had my pieced block!

I'm also getting to put to a full test a technique that I've only sampled in the past -- Freezer Paper-Paper Piecing.  While I've done a few blocks with it before (on the Crumb Houses I started piecing a few years ago and the big Candle block on this runner last December), this will be the first time I'll get to make a lot of blocks using this method.  What I like about this method is that rather than needing to copy a pattern for each block, I can re-use the same pattern multiple times until the FP doesn't stick any more.  There's also no tearing off the paper afterwards because you sew along the folded template lines not on them.  Something new I realized this time around:  it's even easy to know if the piece of fabric you are adding is big enough because if your fabric piece is as big as the pattern part while it's folded back, you're good!

I learned about this method years ago on Madam Sam's Sew We Stitch blog (formerly Sew We Quilt) from one of her blog hops (which she unfortunately is no longer doing).  The original post is still there but the pictures aren't loading so if you are interested in this technique, I found some other sources demonstrating it here and (on video) here

So this should have done it right?  Well, no.  The problem?  Yes, piecing is fairly fast and yes, I don't have to tear the paper or spend time making a bunch of templates (I did make a second one but only so I could sew two stars at a time) but I just wasn't getting into "flow" on this.  It still felt very slow going although it was a little better when I made two at a time.  Unfortunately, mentally I was prepared for zooming on this project.  When I was not doing so, I quickly lost the motivation to bust these out.  By the time I entered the week of Halloween, I only had this much done:

Nope. Not. Going. To. Make. It.  Sigh!!  I was bummed until I realized that:
1) Like every other project before this, this will get done eventually.
2) I hadn't really prepared myself for "problems" and therein lie the problem.
3) Prior to starting, I had not realistically thought about how much I needed to get done each day and week to finish this by the Halloween deadline.  Maybe if I had, I would have realized going in that it wasn't possible to do.

So it's time to reframe my expectations.  I do still like the quilt and as each block goes up, I do get excited to see the next one even though I'm not equally as excited to sew them.  I decided to cut myself some slack and just keep this one up on the wall and work on them little by little.  At this point I now have a(nother) year and if I can make a good (and realistic) estimate of how long it will take, maybe going forward I'll feel more successful about whatever I do get accomplished.  

Fortunately I've also got a bunch of other projects I want to finish by year-end and none of them require the design wall so I can leave this up and just work on a couple of blocks each week until this gets done.  I thought this quote summed it up perfectly:

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.
~Ivy Baker Priest

Enough said!  Keeping Calm and Quilting On!

Project Update: The Halloween Quilt(s) - Part 1

In my "Get It Done Report" for October, I had planned to start work on my Halloween Quilt Project.  As had been discussed in this post when I first embarked on the idea, this is actually two quilts that I hoped to sandwich back to back.  The plan was to make Blackbird Designs "Hallowe'en 1904" and "Midnight Silhouette". 

To my mind, these were both fairly simple projects and with a pretty large stash of fabric for them already on hand, I had no doubts that I could get them done within a month. 

I'd say the first road block to that was something I thought was an advantage:  my "Confetti Scrap quilt project:

I had a deadline to finish that quilt by mid October in order to enter it into a scrap quilt challenge.  I decided to start cutting out the triangles for the Hallowe'en 1904 block centers (large) and HSTs (small) and sew them up, leader-ender style, as I sewed the parts for the scrap quilt. 

That actually went fine -- I got a lot of triangles cut out and a lot of HSTs sewn up. 

Since I also needed some of the same orange fabrics for the Midnight Silhouette quilt I even started cutting squares that I would eventually use to make the centers and flying geese star points for the Sawtooth star blocks in that quilt.  I make flying geese using Eleanor Burns' "Triangle Pieced Rectangle" method so need only two squares, a smaller one for the "geese" and a larger one for the "sky" to make four FG units at a time.  You can see that method demo'd here using the new ruler they have for doing these although the older rulers (like the one in the picture) or even just a regular acrylic ruler can also be used to make the final cuts.

Squares for the Sky, Geese and Star Centers

I had also joined a guild (for the first time) in September and their October fabric swap themes were "Halloween" and "Orange" fabrics.  It was perfect timing because I was also able to cut squares for both themes from this stash.  I had to give six sets (and keep one for myself) and in the pictures below you see how many sets I got back in exchange.

Orange Swap

Halloween Swap

(I admit, I'm not peeking into what I received until I'm ready to use them!)

At that point however, the train started to go off the rails!  I got stalled on the scrap quilt's layout and because it had a deadline, I needed to focus on that.  In the end, I couldn't come to a decision on how I wanted to finish it and as the clock ticked down to the submission deadline, I let both projects sit.  Eventually I had to throw in the towel on entering the challenge and finishing the scrap quilt for now.    

So I thought that meant I could now go full speed ahead on these two.  I laid out the large triangles for the Hallowe'en 1904 blocks on the design wall to decide how to distribute them.  I had actually cut one more orange set than was used in the pattern but decided to use it anyway.  Then I needed three more black sets than I had chosen fabric for.  I was able to get one set by using the same fabric purchased for the background of the Midnight Silhouette quilt.  I had purchased way more than the pattern called for because I knew I might be playing around with enlarging it so had plenty to spare.  I then had to go shopping for some more choices when there was nothing useful in my general stash.  I found exactly what I was looking for and thought that now I was home free.

However, you know how patterns will often instruct you to "read the complete pattern before you start your project"?  Well, despite the fact that I've had these patterns for a couple of years and knew the pumpkins on it are appliqued, for some reason I thought the stars were pieced. Nope!  They are also supposed to be appliqued and suddenly I realized that I was faced with having to applique 52 five point star blocks!  Then the questions:  hand or machine applique?  Starch the edges to prepare them for invisible MA or fuse them??  If fused, do I want to do blanket stitch or satin stitch???  In truth, I really wasn't feeling doing any applique at all (well except for the three pumpkins) and thought if it was at all possible to piece the blocks it would go faster, particularly if I could do that along with some more HST leader/ender-ing.  However to do that meant finding a pattern for one. 

For the rest of the story continue on to the next post......

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Get It Done: October Recap, November Goals

Once again it seemed like the month went fast and my resolve to get things done went even faster!  I'm a bit bummed that I didn't get much done this month.  This was particularly true of my priority projects - even having deadlines did not keep me on track!  Actually, I'm starting to believe that it's too many deadlines that's tripping me up.  I've always believed that it was best to "put it all out there" when it came to tallying what I wanted to get done.  However, I think that also serves to overwhelm me when things get off track and then I'm more likely to shut down than to show up! 

To that end, I have thought about making some big changes for how I will approach my planning for doing these reports next year.   I do see value in doing them and will continue but I need to refine how I will choose what is on them going forward.  More on that in a later post.   

For now though, the October report was pretty bleak as you will see.  There were many deadlines but few completed:

1. WIP:  My "Confetti" scrap quilt.  There's a scrap quilt contest being held by Fabrics 'N Quilts with an October 15 posting deadline.  The scrappy parts for this had been made as "leaders/enders" for the past few years and during September I found background and border fabrics for it (which I've already started cutting out) so now it's time to put the "pedal to the metal" and "'git 'er done"!  If I have time, the extra in this category would be to also finish the update of a display piece by adding the Lincoln/Obama embroidery piece to my old Spontaneity quilt.

I did some work on the scrap quilt but a finish was NOT DONE which I blogged about here.  I didn't even look at the embroidery project.
2. HSY:  Now is the time to get my Halloween Quilt project done.  I really want to get this finished this year and on the bed for the holiday.  The good news is that I can start the blocks for this as leader/enders while I'm putting the top together for the scrap quilt in #1.

Again, some work done but a finish was NOT DONE.  More on that in a later post.

3. Wool BOMs:  Xmas ornaments.  Now that these are up to date, I want stay on track so these are ready for the tree in December.

What's pictured here is from last month, this month's was NOT DONE which means I'm behind again.

4. Hand Work:  Now that I finally got back to the QAYG project, this is another project I want to keep on track and try for a year-end finish.  It will be good for Fall hand work so as before, the goal is to try to get eight blocks done this month (two per week) and until the end of the year.

These are also from last month, for this month NONE DONE

5. UFOs:  As before, the big priority Fall project that I want to bring to at least the flimsie stage is my Autumn Double Wedding Ring.  The extra in this would be to also get it layered  and maybe even quilted but given past performance I'm not holding myself to that!


To Be Quilted:  I have a few options here.  I know I won't get to them all but if I can get one done or even started it will be a plus:
   A:  my "Paisley Park" crumb quilt because it could also be entered into the Fabrics 'N Quilts contest. 
   B:  I still have my Chronicles BOM, the last of the initial Civil War projects left to complete and something I already have ideas in mind for custom quilting.
  C:  My Heart & Home Wool BOM wallhanging (last seen here) which I want to finish and put up for Fall decorating.

Even with three choices of project, these were NOT DONE 
7.  Gift Quilts:  The Baby Quilt.  At most I'd like to (just) make a final decision on what I will make for this.

I've been cataloging ideas on the theme,, but making a final choice was NOT DONE

Last month I also noted that I had taken the QOV category off the list until I could see what I could get done and it looks like it will stay that way, probably until the start of next year.  Just like last month, November and December have some definite deadlines so this will give me a chance to test my new planning system.  Hopefully it works for clearing out the year-end projects or I will have time to tweak it before the start of next year.

November Goals:

1. UFOs:  As before, the big priority Fall (and now year-end project) that I want to bring to at least the flimsie stage is my Autumn Double Wedding Ring.  I joined the "Pre-Mystery Finish Challenge" at Jos Country Junction with this project so now have a Friday after Thanksgiving deadline (well actually until December 2) to get the top done.  Layering and quilting can wait for next month.

2. Wool BOMs:  Xmas ornaments.  Now I have to get up to date again and must stay on track so these are ready for the tree in December.

3. To Be Quilted:  Last month I had three options, this month only two:  the priority is my Chronicles BOM, the last of the initial Civil War projects left to complete and something I already have ideas in mind for custom quilting.  I'd also love to get to High Strung +2, my Christmas quilt.  However, it could also be worked on at the beginning of next month if I don't get to it here.

4. Hand Work:  Once again want to try to keep my QAYG project on track.  Now I'll settle for working on it steadily but am no longer concerned about accomplishing a year-end finish of it.  The goal is still to try to get eight blocks done this month (two per week) until (whenever) the quilt gets finished.

5. WIP:  Now that I've started it, my Halloween Quilt project is no longer an HSY.  I did start the blocks for this as leader/enders while putting the top together for the scrap quilt last month.  Since it's still up on the design wall and won't be in the way of the other things on this list, I will keep working on it through the end of the year and into the next.

6.  Gift Quilts:  The Baby Quilt.  This month I must make a final decision on what I will make for this so I can start choosing fabric. Maybe this can be a Christmas gift?

7. HSY:  On the list of things I really want to get done before the end of the year is a little wool wall hanging for my kitchen called "All In A Days Work".  I may not get to it this month but I'm putting it out there because with my new system, it is something I think I could get squeezed in if I plan it right.

Last month I had planned to set weekly "To Do" lists to better try to meet my goals so I'm not as easily distracted or diverted by the day to day things that pop up.  I've actually realized that I really need to do that at the start of each project so that I have a clearer idea of how many balls I'm trying to juggle at once.  If I can minimize what I'm taking on in any given week, I think I will be more successful at meeting my monthly goals. 

Once again, regrouping and pushing on......