Monday, March 13, 2023

Moving It Forward Monday: The "Cotton Boll" Blocks Are Finished!

Ta Da! And one day early!

I had managed to stay on track making these blocks for "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll" as my "Block-A-Day" project for the first half of the month.  Yeah, stayed on track right up to last Friday when the usual "squirrel" diversions happened (more on that later).  

I had hoped to catch up over the weekend but only managed to get Friday's block done on Saturday and then had to spend Sunday die cutting more red and neutral HSTs and making more of the pieced border strips for the remaining blocks.  So today I decided to just finish up both of the weekend blocks as well as the last two blocks that were scheduled to be made today and tomorrow.

Now with the last of the blocks done, I plan to pack this up to take with me when we go to visit my MIL at the end of the week.  I'm hoping to layout all the blocks and put the top together while we are away but we'll see if that happens since I also have other projects I am taking with me.

Now, as for that "squirrel":

Yet another Valentine's Day project

I saw Kathleen Tracy's Valentine's Day Mini mystery quilt project on her blog last month and it was just perfect for a recent conundrum.   When I had finished the "Cherry Crunch" quilt last month,  I put it on the living room chair.   Hanging above the cabinet next to the chair was the little "Hearts & Flowers" mini quilt on display for the Valentine's Day holiday.  I was surprised that the "red and white" color scheme of "Crunch" didn't seem to mesh all that well in the space with the mini quilt.  Although the mini quilt has red fabrics in it, it reads more pink overall.  I would have thought that since pink is a tint of red they should look good together.

So my solution was that maybe if I made a pillow with some pink and red in it that could sit in the chair it might help the two get along better --- even though they would not hang out together for very long in any given year!  I wondered what I could make for that and as soon as I saw Kathleen's design I thought:  "that's it!".   With all the red fabrics I still have lying around right now, I decided to see if I could find a few that might work for it.  I actually picked the block and border corner square fabrics out quickly and then found a good print for the borders in my Civil War reproductions stash.  

However,  I had more trouble choosing the background fabrics.  The scrappy neutrals in "Crunch" actually read more towards light beige/tan over all in comparison to the mostly white background fabrics I used in the mini quilt.  I wanted a light neutral that would bridge the two.  What I had really hoped was that I had more of the Jo Morton stripe with pink buds that I had used for the vertical sashings in my "Civil War Strippie" quilt.  That print would be similar to what Ms. Tracy used in hers and bring more pink into the background.  

The striped print on the right is from Andover fabrics "Lucinda's Needle" line.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any more of that around in the stash or scraps.  So after auditioning a few fabrics, the light tan with brown branches worked the best.  Kathleen had used scrappy backgrounds for the little envelope blocks but at this point I didn't want to do a lot more auditioning so wanted to find one print that could work for them all.  At first I tried using the wavy textured light inner border print I had used in "Crunch".... 

.....but thought it too light and "blah".

What surprised me was a sort of mod print with "X's" turned out to be the best choice to my eye of the fabrics I had on hand.  It also works in that "X" stands for "kisses" in Valentine's iconography.  Of course that meant taking the blocks completely apart to replace the fabric, sigh!  

I like the final top although I am now debating on whether to add some appliqued hearts or maybe quilt it with heart motifs using red thread.  Of course with Valentine's Day well and truly over until next year and with many other priorities on the list for March, I'll settle for just having a finished top for now.  

BTW:  Kathleen recently did a great blog post on how she displays her mini quilts (and most of them are made up in reproduction fabrics).  Check it out here!

For the rest of the week, I will be pulling stuff together to take on the trip!      

Monday, March 6, 2023

Make A List Monday: What's In Store For March

With the month underway it's time to assess what's in the quilting queue for March.  

National Quilting Month

First up, it's time to celebrate!  March is National Quilting Month and every year, the third Saturday is National Quilting Day which is on the 18th this year.  

Check out the websites of your favorite quilt designers, museums, industry companies and vendors as most will probably be offering special projects, programs and sales in honor of OUR holiday!  

My DH has a vacation coming up later this month and we have already made plans with my MIL to go down to North Carolina to visit her.  That's doubly good news for me because it means an opportunity to have another mini Quilt Retreat with her that week.  

March Block A Day with Pat Sloan

Pat Sloan's March Block-A-Day series continues this year.  She is offering a block called "Cheerful".

I have enjoyed doing these the last two years, each time with my own twist on what block I piece.  I really wanted to do this year's blocks but couldn't choose between a couple of fabric themes I could see myself doing them in.  So once again I decided on a pivot:  since I already have blocks for two projects that I need to finish up and both needed about an additional fifteen blocks each, I decided to make those the blocks I will sew up daily for the month.

So for March Daily Blocks sewing I will finish piecing the blocks for "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll" in the first half of the month and continue working on my APQ "Scrap Happy" QAL blocks for the second half.

This will keep the "RRCB" project on the front burner for another month thus improving the possibility that I will finally get it to a top this year.  We'll be down in NC for part of the period I work on the "Scrap Happy" blocks.  I'll be returning to the scene of the crime with them since I had worked on them down there last year too.  It's also another chance to dig through my MIL's scraps to help "fund" the remaining blocks.

In other related Block-A-Day news, I also hope to quilt my "String Beans" quilt this month.  It was last year's B-A-D project (pun intended!) which I basted together last month.

Top and basted bundle showing the pieced backing.

Focus projects:  Raffle Quilts and a Memory Quilt

I have two projects that I also need to focus on this month: first is to resume work on the basket blocks for the two quilts I want to make to raffle off at my community garden's opening day.  

Technically, I can see this being another "block a day" project if I am going to have any hope of getting this done by the end of April deadline.  

The second quilt I really need to work on is a photo memory quilt for a long-time friend of mine.  This is a project that has been in discussion for at least three years now.  Last year she gave me the last of all the pictures I can choose from to put in it.  I found a pretty fabric line for it that had colors I know she'd like.  I also purchased some additional coordinating fabrics and novelty fabrics related to her life and interests.  

I did a preliminary layout in EQ8 but that's as far as I got.  I know I have procrastinated on this because it's such an important quilt and I want to really do something special for her.  It's time to face the challenge and get on with it!  

APQ UFO Challenge

This month's number to work on for the American Patchwork and Quilting UFO Challenge is #11.  On my list that is to finish quilting my "Modern Twist" project.

This is an oldie but a goodie that was a one of the three Planet Patchwork mystery quilts I worked on years ago.  They had been in the process of closing the website down around the time that I made this  one and it looks like the domain name is being used by another company now.  

This is not the first time this one has been picked for the UFO Challenge and in recent years I've frequently considered working on it.  The hold up has been that I always saw the piecing as "pipes" and the blues in it reminded me of water so I wanted to use various "flowing water" motifs in the "pipe" sections.  I only did so in one and then got stumped on additional motifs to use.  Over the years I've found a few more but have been working on transitioning to using different machines to quilt with so really haven't focused on getting back to this one.  Now that I've gotten a little more comfortable with my machines, I think I'm finally ready to resume quilting this one.  

Finishing up the Christmas Quilts:  Quilting Christmas Ribbons

Yet another on the "To Be Quilted" March wish list is to work toward finishing up the last of the Red & White Christmas quilts by quilting my "Christmas Ribbons" project.  

You can see the full top here.

The backing is ready and I also have the batting so at the least I'd like to get the next step done this month which is the layering and basting.  I also have already sketched out a preliminary quilting plan.  I'm actually thinking about taking this one down to North Carolina with me since I think I could quilt it on the Featherweight.  We'll see if that happens.

So what will you be working on in March?  I hope you also get to celebrate National Quilting Month and Day with some fun quilty projects or special things from your quilt supplies Wish Lists!

Saturday, February 25, 2023

A Saturday "Finished Or Not Friday" Report For Another "Christmas" Finish

 Yesterday a finish got done just under the wire so now I can send it over to join those gathering at Quilty Girl Alycia's for some finished project review!

This week I've finally got my first finished (although not the first I ever started) string quilt: "Cherry Crunch", woo hoo!

This quilt design is by Bonnie Hunter, the queen of string (and scrappy) quilts who you can find at her Quiltville website.  It was a fun romp through the neutral Strings stash and a chance to use up more of the red fabric scraps from the stash I had gathered for holiday sewing projects. 

This is also another of the projects I started last Fall with the intention of using it for decorating at Christmas and is the next to last of those projects that I needed to finish.  The theme for the holidays was Red & White and the projects were planned to be spread around the house for that.  I clearly didn't start them soon enough because I am still working on them, LOL!!  

In addition to this being a project for the holidays, I had also worked on the string piecing part of this along with another of Bonnie's string quilt designs.  Both of those kept me busy during her annual "Mystery Quilt Season" between the day after Thanksgiving and New Year's while the new "Chilhowie" mystery was being revealed.  The other project I worked on was "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll" which is one of her old mysteries.  

Last month I finished the string blocks for that one but I am still working on the pieced blocks to complete the project.  I sewed those up as leader/enders as I worked to finish the top for "Cherry Crunch".  Unfortunately, that piecing was interrupted once I got "Crunch" layered and ready for quilting!

For the backing,  I used up the rest of the same wide back print I had used for another of the holiday decorating projects:  the "9 Fat Quarter Disappearing Nine Patch" quilt that I finished up just after New Year's.

Even though I had made my top a little smaller than patterned, I still needed to extend what I had of the backing fabric a bit.  So as I usually do, I pieced in a label area using more of the leftover strings and some of the light inner border fabric to give me areas to write in the label information.  

In this design both the light portions of the blocks and the red "piano key" outer border are foundation pieced using old phone book paper to stitch up the strings.  I caught a few selvedges among the strings and left some in for fun:

A reminder of the benefits of "harvesting" your string scraps!

I did consider doing a scrappy binding using more of the strings but figured this quilt was busy enough!  So instead this was finished with, appropriately enough, Cherry Grunge for the binding which I had purchased during a shop hop back in the Fall.  This holiday season was the first time I've used Grunge and now it's in this quilt and in the tree trunks of the blocks in another of the holiday quilts (and which will be the last of the holiday quilts I need to complete).  

I also tried a new binding width based on a new-to-me technique I saw demonstrated by one of my favorite designers, Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts.  For binding, I normally do the traditional double fold method using 2-1/4" cut strips.  Her method starts off like the traditional single fold method, stitched to the front using 1-3/4" cut strips.  Then the strips are pressed to the seam allowance and that folded edge gets turned to the back creating a double fold binding effect!  While she then hand stitches her binding down in the back, I prefer to machine bind my quilts.  I glue basted mine and tacked it down by stitching in the ditch from the front.  It worked well for the most part with only a few missed spots that still needed to be hand tacked afterwards.   

Because of the busyness, I stuck to doing simple quilting for it:  free-motion stippling in the center and just straight-line stitching to frame the borders.  

I had expected to have finished this a little sooner since I thought the simple quilting would allow me to quilt it up quickly.  All but one of the other Red & White quilts completed have remained out in honor of  Valentine's Day this month.  I had another quilt that was not one of the holiday quilts but does have a lot of red in it so I decided to layer it up along with "Crunch" and try to get it done this month too.  

Inside this tidy bundle is my version of Pat Sloan's Block-A-Day design "String Beans" which is now also ready for quilting.  However, now I'm not sure I'll get it quilted before the month ends.  No matter, it was stitched during last year's quilt along and Pat will be starting this year's QAL on March 1.  So if I can get it done at some point in March, I will be happy that I got it moved along to facilitate that!

So that's it for today's late report!  Once this is posted, I will be headed back over to Alycia's to drool over the other finishes this month and you should too!  

Monday, February 6, 2023

Moving It Forward Monday: Focus is Still on Quiltville "Cotton Boll" and "Cherry Crunch"

Having carried  "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll" and "Cherry Crunch" forward from the holiday season and the first of the year,  the good news is now the construction of the blocks are finally starting to feel less like a slog and more "in flow".   

I've worked up a system whereby I sit down with pieces for both and leader/ender them until the "stack of the day" is done.  It generally takes about an hour and a half, much longer if I am interrupted by going to look up things I've seen in the You Tube videos I usually have playing in the background.

At this point I've sewn all the HST triangle sets I had die cut for "Cotton Boll" awhile back into the five piece strips needed for the blocks.

However, at that time I just cut up bits of fabric I had on hand but that did not yield all the pieced strips I need.  I will now need to die cut more HST sets to make the strips for rest of the blocks I need to make.  Speaking of the blocks,  I also got the first of those made up during the leader/ender sessions too.

They are just so vibrant sitting here by themselves!  I don't know how Bonnie came up with this design but it is a real beaut.  As noted before, these will be set on point and alternated with the string squares that I resumed work on during the Fall and Christmas season and finished up last month.

Regarding "Cherry Crunch":  I've been steadily sewing together the string strip units that I had attached red corner triangles to and have gone from this: this.

I need to make two more rows of blocks for the size layout I want.  If all goes well, the center of this quilt top could be completed by week's end.

At that point I'll be hitting the red stash again for strips for the red piano key outer borders that finish off the top.  Actually since I need the red HSTs for "Cotton Boll" too, I'll probably do a session where I pull from the stash to cut things for both.  This will also be an opportunity for re-organizing that stash and deciding if there are any more "red focused" quilts I want to either kit right now or make in the near future.

So what's the bad news?  Getting in the groove for all of this has been a way to avoid the two deadline (let's call them "promised") projects I should be working on, justified by the fact I've managed to keep these two moving forward at a good pace.  With these moving smoothly, it's time to push myself to face the other two.  If history serves, I'll probably find out that I was panicking about working on them for nothing.  Or at least I hope so!

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

January ends on a Quiltville note with a dash of cross stitch

As January drew to an end, I worked on pulling a bunch of Quiltville projects closer to the finish line.  "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll", Bonnie Hunter's 2010 mystery (and now in her book "String Fling"), was my project to work on during the mystery season while the new "Chilhowie" mystery debuted.  The last time I posted about this,  "Chilhowie" had been revealed and I was still trying to finish up the string blocks which I continued to work on this month until they were done.

Then the next step was to trim them up.

The last step for this part of this mystery was to split the string squares in half and sew them into quarter square blocks and triangle pairs.  

All trimmed up and de-papered!

The squares will be the alternate blocks in the layout, the pairs will be the side setting triangles and the single triangles will be used for the corner setting triangles.  

I've worked on these string squares and the other parts of this mystery in fits and starts since I started on this project at the end of 2018.  With this big step completed, I now have just about all the parts needed to make the blocks and pieced border for the quilt.

I did say "just about" because the only parts left to finish sewing up are those red and neutral HSTs in the front.  They are then sewn up into five piece strips that will border the block centers.  I've started on those and will continue to use them as leader/enders as I sew up the blocks or work on other projects.  

This project is my APQ UFO Challenge project for this month so while I had hoped to finish the top,  I am happy I was able to at least move it a big step forward.  I still have hope that this project could finally become a flimsie at some point this year!  

In other old mystery news:  back in November when the "Chilhowie" mystery began, I had said I hoped during the mystery season to get the backing made up for my "En Provence" mystery top that was finished back in 2018.  Getting it done this month was a case of "better late than never"!    

The finished backing with a space for the label....

...for this top.

It's another pieced mystery quilt backing and was easier to do than expected.  I had always thought I was going to be piecing together the leftover scraps from making the top to make up the back.  However, when I pulled out the stash in December, I found that I had forgotten I had purchased a big hunk of discounted fabric as a potential backing option.  So it was simpler to just piece a label strip and some scrappy squares together into a width-of-quilt strip.  Put that between two big swaths of backing fabric and I could call it done!

Now I have four Quiltville mysteries ready to be layered and quilted.  I do have some other projects that really need to get done so it may be a while before I can schedule a Quiltville-Quilting-Quilt-a-thon!

In other Quiltville project news: I am also still working on the last of the red & white Christmas (now Valentine's Day) quilts to be pieced:  Bonnie's "Cherry Crunch" design.  When I last reported on this one, I had sub-cut all the string strips that had also been foundation pieced during the "Chilhowie" mystery season.

I've spent the month adding triangles to the corners.

Now I have to make blocks with the units.

This will be another project that I can use as a leader/ender until I can get it to a top.

Lastly, a cross stitch update:  I was hoping to get this little cross stitch piece finished (but not fully finished!) before month's end and I just made it under the wire!

This is "The Year of the Rabbit" by The Frosted Pumpkin in honor of the Chinese New Year.  

Lessons learned on this one:  I had to rip a large section I had stitched because I was off by a thread in positioning.  After all, they call it "counted cross stitch" so counting properly is important!  In hindsight, I should have used a cream floss for the lower part of the rabbit's face and his paws when stitching on white Aida fabric rather than the white floss I had in my stash.  In the future, I'll remember that just like in quilting, good contrast matters!   This is only my third cross stitch finish so I am happy I was able to get more practice and complete it.

I've already picked out finishing fabrics from a stash I have.  That of course gave me a chance to review the quilt projects I had stashed them for in the first place, LOL!!.  I also have some ideas for how I want to finish this for display.  I hope not to sit on it too long though as I have a Valentine's themed WIP from last year that I want to finish and fully finish for February. 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Moving It Forward Monday: Quiltville Cherry Crunch

This weekend, I did more strip set sewing but more importantly, also did some sub-cutting:

A Stripology Ruler workout!

I will admit making the string strip sets was getting a little tedious.  I wondered how many of the sub-cuts I needed from them I would get from what I had already made.  The good news is that after cutting them up, I had about three quarters of what I needed already!  

I also still had some strip sets that were just a bit short of the needed width.  By my calculations, if I added another narrow strip to each of them and trimmed them up, I thought I would be able to cut all the additional sub-cuts I needed.  If not, I estimated that I'd only need a few more beyond that to get to the total needed.  

A few weeks ago as I pulled fabrics for the Fat Quarter Disappearing Nine Patch quilt, I also took the time to take smaller pieces of red fabrics I came across and die cut them down into HSTs for the corners to be added to the sub-cuts.  

In the pattern, Bonnie shows how to get them attached three ways.  One way is to do them from squares using the "Flip and Sew" method.  In these instances, I prefer to pre-cut my corners and sew them on that way.  Bonnie also shows how to do that method and shows how to use two different specialty rulers to get that done.   I used my Easy Angle ruler which also does that job.

So today, I added strips to the sets that were a little short of width.  Once I sub-cut those, I still needed a little less than forty more.  So I moved on to fixing some of the string set end cuts I had that had one or two strings in a set that were short of the full sub-cut width.  Working from scraps, I dismantled some of the short-of-width strip sets and added in really short cuts still in the scrap strip stash (which I usually save to piece onto the corners of the "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll" string squares).  Doing so I managed to get half of what I still needed.  Very much wanting to finish this off, I stitched up two final strip sets, sub-cut those and now I am completely done with this step and with paper foundations to spare!!

Whew!  While I am glad I got that done, it should be noted that of course this wasn't the deadline quilt I was supposed to be working on this weekend, LOL!!  Fortunately, it is a flexible deadline so if I have to move it forward a week, it will not be a major problem.  

As for the "Cotton Boll" string squares that I still have more to make,  I'll stick to the "15 minutes a day" plan.  I hope that I can get them done so I can still get that old mystery project to a top by month's end.  It is my APQ UFO Challenge project for this month so I'd like to see it done too! 

As always, a little Bonnie advice is a great way to top off the day:

Friday, January 13, 2023

Finished or Not Friday: A Jelly-ish Snowflake!

Another one of the "was supposed to be ready for Christmas" quilts bites the dust!

This is my version of the Fat Quarter Shop's "Jelly Snowflake" wall hanging.  I needed mine to be a smaller size to fit my display space so I cut my strips 2" wide (1-1/2" finished) instead of 2-1/2".  Hence the "jelly-ish" moniker! 

The top for this had been finished back in November but I worked on a lot of projects for the holiday and then didn't start quilting them until right before Christmas.  I thought I had found my groove doing free-motion quilting on Rhubye my vintage Singer 401 after using it to quilt part of a fat quarter quilt.  Which means it would be easy and simple to get this one done too, right?  

I had chosen the colors for my "Snowflake" quilt because I was inspired by one made by quilt and paper crafter Nicole Sphor.  Where she used pink, I used "Strawberry Reds".  So my plan was to follow her lead again and quilt this with all over swirl designs which also brings to mind swirling snow.  Just as long as it doesn't bring any real snow, LOL!! 

However, there were a few snafus before getting started.  First was batting:  I was all set to layer this and went to look for an appropriate batting for it in my stash.  Because the background fabric used is white, I didn't want to use any natural colored battings.  Since this is a wall hanging where the top and back were a little under 40" wide, I hoped I had a smaller batting like crib or craft size.  Also after the issues I had with the polyester batting used in the Fat Quarter quilt, I really wanted to stitch with a cotton batt this time.  Problem was I had nothing that fit those criteria!

All of the white cotton battings I had were twin size or larger and I really didn't want to cut into a batt that big.  Okay, I know I have a lot of white batting scraps. maybe I could make up a "Franken-batt"? 

Unfortunately all the scraps were "after quilting" edge cutoffs so most were about five inches wide or less.  I had a few large squares that would still need to be sewn together to create pieces the width of the backing and would then need to be attached to multiple other strips to fill out the length.  Sigh!  A little more work than I wanted to do at the time.  Ironically, I had shopped for batting for my "Christmas Ribbons" project in early December.  So I was kicking myself that I didn't think about the batting issue right after I had finished this top. 

So I had to make a run to get batting.  After I got it layered I set out to do the quilting.  Even though I've done swirls in the past, I gave myself a quick refresher by watching an Angela Walters video on the subject.   

And away we go!  Except, away it didn't go.  I would start stitching and my thread kept breaking.  What gives?  Is it the fact that I was using cotton batting rather than polyester?  I also felt a little "drag" on the quilt as I stitched.  That made me finally pull out my make shift "Supreme Slider"  which is actually a plastic sled sheet as recommended some time ago by Laura Coyne of "Sew Very Easy"

I installed it on the machine bed but found it didn't help much --- the friction of moving the quilt was a little better but I was still getting thread breaking every few inches of stitching.  I tried for two days and then gave up!  I switched machines, going back to Nova my Brother Nouvelle mid-arm.  Fortunately I had also thought to do the zigzag edging on the ribbon applique I added to the "Ribbons" quilt before needing to give up on the 401 since the Brother is straight stitch only.

Once the Brother was set into the table, the stitching began again and voila!  No problems what so ever.  So I spent two days stitching this up, added the binding and now it's done.

You can see the quilting a little better in this shot.

Another scrappy pieced back.

I threw all the extra blocks and a label area that were made up in alternative fabric choices into the back.  Also added in were the test block for the center square and piecing scraps made into two more filler bits.  I surrounded them with more of the background fabric from the front to finish it off.  Now with this done,  I finally get to see it hung near the tree!  

And now that I've fulfilled that vision, the tree can finally come down, LOL!  I still have two more Red & White holiday quilts to finish up but the good thing is, the next holiday is Valentine's day so the Red & White quilt decorating scheme can still stay up through to then.

I really liked this quilt design but even more I liked seeing all the color scheme variations that people made this up in.  Check some of these out if you think you might like to make this one up:

  • FQS Shop 2020 QAL finishing post with designers versions is here.
  • A blue & white version I saw at the Virginia Quilt museum back in October (scroll down to the bottom of this post).
  • In Pat Sloan's New Year's Eve video she shared a bunch more that quilters in her Facebook community made (starts at about 8:43 in the video).  
Now I have to break from finishing up the the Red & White quilts to work on a deadline project.  After that, I'll get back to them soon because I'd like to get at least one more done before the end of the month.  Fingers crossed that gets done!

Linking up at Alycia's Finished or Not Friday