Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Adhoc. Improv. #29 Catch-up Post

I can hardly believe we're into the third year of Kaja and Ann's adhoc. improv. challenges! This focus on utility improv. has been so timely for me as a quilter and I'm thrilled they are continuing with the prompts. First up for AHIQ #29 is the completed quilt top for Ann's last challenge, 'Use Your Words'.
Make Beautiful Things a completed quilt top!
This top started with orphan blocks and the idea that that the entire quilt would be a message of sorts. What do I want my quilts to say?  It took awhile to come up with something meaningful as I'm used to ending rather than starting with word additions, but in the end, I was quite satisfied with the results. How interesting that this quilt was also a jump start for their very next challenge, 'Playing With Scale'!  All those little, wonky crosses I ended up appliqueing onto the border {trying to fix the too-bold border without taking it completely apart} are just smaller repetition for the larger yellow crosses in the center of the quilt.

Playing with scale is something I've been nibbling around the edges of for a long time now, ie, making largish, out of proportion basket quilts and of course, adding repeat elements into much of my border work. Continued use of earlier used shapes and/or design is practically Quilting 101 right? But this particular prompt forces us to think about using scale in a more focused and practical way. Love that! And yes, ideas are already percolating on every available burner....
A closer look at Make Beautiful Things
As most of you know, there is almost always a quilt in the hoop around here. This latest one is a {much} former Adhoc. Improv. quilt where I was trying to play with strings in a less inhibited way. Starting with fabrics and a colorway that seemed 'peaceful' felt right. Way back at the beginning, it was a really good way to help me calm those scary, you're-gonna-make-a-big-mess-and-regret-it, sort of panic attack. Onward Ho! Nearly two years later into the Adhoc. Improv. invitationals and I feel waaaaay more confident about working with improv. strings. Just generally more confident about the whole improv. thing altogether if you know what I mean! This quilt feels very satisfying as a 'me' quilt and I'm not real sure this place would have been reached without the improv. linkups and supportive community and conversations.
Blue and Gold Strings quilt in the hoop
I was really hoping to be at the point of starting to sew these improv. basket blocks together by now.  However, there will 20 of them in total and guess what? That makes 80 basket handles to applique.*sigh  A couple of posts really resonated with me this week as I contemplated my personal 'making' approach. Kyle said what I've been thinking with her late 'How do you eat an Elephant?' post and then Cathy said it again, only briefer. It just makes me laugh to know I'm not the only quilter who just switches off on a project occasionally!
Working on the stringy improv. basket blocks
As these improv. basket blocks are a bit tricky to handle, I decided not to cut the string slabs apart until I'm ready to sew them all together. As you can see, the stay stitching is already taken care of so there won't be a delay when all the basket handles are ready to go. At that point I intend to audition the basket handle parts with the stringy basket parts, and then hopefully all will be in perfect harmony. At which point they will be set on point alongside the pineapple blocks and then we will be discussing side/corner setting options!
The Pineapple Quilt
And last, but not least of the open-ended adhoc. improv. projects is Vintage Lily. A little bit has to be trimmed off the top of the center block and then it will gain a 2 1/2" or so border all the way around. I'm kind of taking the wait and see approach with that until all the improv. snowball blocks are sewn together and trimmed. For these, I'm using the 'square in a square' formula from Sujata Shah's book 'Cultural Fusion Quilts'. To get the snowball effect, I'm just not cutting quite as far into the center of each square as the instructions might indicate.
Vintage Lily
As I had mentioned earlier, this quilt seemed to be begging for a very simple, perhaps casual, framework of blocks in order to have that vintage-y look that makes me so happy. After completing Scrappy Tulips last fall, I've been in the mood to try a scrappy snowball look once again. That time I cut little squares and sewed in a diagonal from corner to corner. For these 5" blocks, Sujata's method makes more sense and also seems to result in a bit less waste. {No affiliation, just telling you the method inspiration!} I am loving working with many of these fabrics and have particularly enjoyed adding in several button down shirts of my son or husband. There's just something about shirting fabrics that add to the vintage appeal!

So yes, do go check out Ann and Kaja's AHIQ current link-up and invitation. Anyone interested is welcome to join in! And in a total aside, read this if you have a chance. Some people just GET 'quilting', even under the most challenging of circumstances....

Friday, January 19, 2018

HST Medallion Quilt Gets the 4th border!

Another border added onto the Hst Medallion quilt! I started out with a lot of dread, thinking of how many borders were left to sew. Ughh! Do I really want to keep doing this?
Hst Medallion quilt
As mentioned previously, I decided to try cutting all the pieces during proper daylight hours in an effort to get them that much more precise. What a difference it made! I only had about 3 or 4 hst's where the seams needed to be fudged and wallah! The borders went on amazingly well. Such a relief. Maybe it actually will be possible to add on 6 more hst borders without completely losing my mind!

This black border is the very last one for a single fat quarter to work. In fact I had to add about 4" length of a different fabric on one side. And now it's taking a bit more than a fat quarter to cut all the hst's for each border too. I'm looking at the stack of fabrics pulled from my stash and trying to determine the order in which I will use them, trying to make the larger pieces of fabric fall at the last. From here on out, there will definitely be more and more fabric combinations used for each border just to come up with enough. And that's okay. It will just end up with a scrappier look, which of course I love and still adheres to the antique quilt inspiration.

The colors are off with this picture, but it's been hard to find the proper time of day to take a good picture. At least you clearly see the design and how it's extending out through the borders!

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Little Bit Here and There

There's been a lot going on around the home front, but the quilting has been pretty slow for the start of this year. Oh well. Thankfully there is always a quilt in the hoop to work on! For now it's the 2016 adhoc. improv. quilt with largish free-cut strings and some simple applique.
Gold and Blue Strings quilt
So far I'm enjoying the stitching tremendously and just going with the flow. In a moment of quilt room opportunity the other day, I stumbled across some older, vintage looking blocks. This, ahem! required some very deep digging as they have never actually been classified as a legitimate project before. They have been in my possession for about three years--found in a rummage room sale for dirt cheap. Never really sure what would happen with these or why I even bought them as the fabric appears to be a decor style fabric possibly used in reupholstering? But you know how it is. I. Just. Could. Not. Resist the siren call of these bright, funky prints.
The 70's are calling
The cutting and piecing was obviously very rough with these blocks. Rather than take them apart and re-cut them, I just started sewing them together 'as-is'. It is so not square, but I didn't want to spend a huge amount of time on them either. Eventually I intend to find a backing and a piece of flannel to use as the batting and then it will probably be tied instead of properly quilted. I'm thinking car or beach blanket? Whatever. It sure was a fun, lazy bit of time in the quilting room. #noregretswhatsoever

Friday, January 5, 2018

Committing. Resolutions. Intentions. Keeping the Dial Down on Low....

 January seems to be the perfect time for reflection, organization and focus. Like everyone else, I see the many wonderful QALs cropping up and wonder if this is the year. So many are tempting for any number of reasons, including things such as accountability, efficiency, being frugal, using up scraps, being charitable, committing to something on that bucket list, etc. etc.
Solids applique blocks
Not to mention the wonderful lure of camaraderie and the potential to have like-minded projects! Mostly I just have to step away. Although I can cheerfully work on ten different projects in a single month, too many 'commitments' {in the form of QALs and other similar resolutions} seem likely to cause a great deal of anxiety. I start to feel great pressure to make deadlines, play by the rules and/or conform, spend lots of extra time commenting on others progress, and just generally start having a really lousy attitude about my own quilting endeavors. Sometimes just from the constant, inadvertent, comparison factor. I know it's probably irrational, but hey, it can be very real.
Another Big Basket needing more stitching 
So I break it waaaaaay down. Ask myself questions like, 'How does this lovely, tempting QAL benefit me?' 'Will it help me learn/grow/flourish?' 'How will it effect time spent with all the other wonderful projects I'm literally dying to get started on?' 'What is the real, base reason I want to join up with this specific challenge?' When I start getting to the root of what I'm trying to accomplish for the year ahead, it gets easier to know these answers and then, know more clearly which QALs will work in my favor as opposed to those that will work against me. At least for this particular point in time!
Two older quilt tops waiting for quilting!
So that's why I keep the dial down on low and don't get too many elaborate plans going. There are a LOT of projects simmering in the back of my brain and on my quilty countertops. These are important to me and don't deserve to be an afterthought or lost in the cacophony of 'keeping up'. After much thinking, signing up for Meredithe and Anne's 6in6 in 2018 Challenge feels right. It should fit in well with some ideas already ring circled for priority in 2018--I'm just plugging those priorities into a slot now. Progress, a little bit of motivation to deliver, open ended deadline? How hard can it be?  Of course, you have to know that I'm interpreting this in my own special way! For the 6 old projects there will be 2 particular ufo's that I want to see reach completed quilt top stage: Solids applique project carried over from last year and also, 'Another Big Basket' from the big basket series worked on last year. I previously started on the framework of the basket, but then allowed it to get shuffled to backburner status. Both are still very solid projects, but need some love and attention.

In a little twist to the spirit of the challenge, I will also be taking 2 orphaned parts and pieces sets {pictured below} and trying to make a quilt top out of them as well: a stack of cream, quarter circle cut-aways from a prior project and also, this set of patchwork triangle trim offs. The intention is for them to end up being two very separate projects. Working with such seemingly obscure beginnings is always especially intriguing to me and oftentimes gets the creative juices flowing in unexpected ways. It's time for this sort of challenge and I like the idea of submitting ongoing progress to a deadline.

For the 4th and 5th projects on the 'old' side of the challenge, I dug through all the completed quilt top drawers and grimly settled on these dark quilt tops pictured above. It is beyond time they have been addressed. This is my resolute intention, haha, whether I hand them off to my longarm friend or whatever else I decide {honestly, I have thought about just giving them away as is!}. These need to be true-blue finishes by the end of 2018! Do not misunderstand my intentions. There will most definitely be other quilt tops stitched and brought to a lovely finish. These are just two that I don't want to see remain at the bottom of the list for a whole 'nother year! Both were important parts of my creative journey and need to see fruition.
2 sets of orphaned parts and pieces
 And since the second part of the year includes 6 lovely new starts! Wowsers! How easy is that? My first one for the year will be this 'Melon Patch' quilt. Inspiration was found in an old book that has caught my fancy before, 'The Standard Book of Quilt Making and Collecting' by Marguerite Ickis.
Melon Patch, a brand new start!
This project is intended to be a long term hand applique project, which no doubt will be interrupted many, many times by other more pressing hand stitching matters. The green plaid is a shirt that I rescued from my youngest sons Goodwill donation bag and will be represented in all 20 blocks. I love that sentimental touch. Most of the pieces are drawn out on other appropriate fabric selections and now need cutting and clipping before further work can commence. This little start was my way of properly finalizing the first new start of 2018. Now I can 'see it' and yes! It definitely makes my motor run!

And as always, I will still happily be working on any and all current projects already in motion that are not listed. Plus--don't kid yourself. I'm not. There will be many more new projects than a measly number of 6. Really, who does that?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Wrapping up 2017

So here's the round up for 2017! If you're tired of all these year end statistics and 'Wowsers! Look what I accomplished!, then feel free to check back in a later date. I'm actually sort of blown away by the numbers, but then I was always the person who scoffed just a little at other quilters great big pile of finishes. What are they making anyway? Quilt in a Day sort of quilts?
2017 Finishes
Okay, laugh with me here. We all have the ability to grow and learn! Come to find out, they probably deliberately carved out time for finishing up. Ughh... Not always the fun part for me, especially when it comes to machine quilting! I still almost break out in hives thinking, 'This is it! This time I'm absolutely going to ruin my beautiful quilt top!' 2017 was definitely a finish-it-up sort of year for me though. I had great determination to whittle away at my completed quilt top list, even if only by a little bit.  Just to give you an idea, the beginning of 2016 found me with 28 completed quilt tops, 2017 with 25 and as of today, there are only 22!
2017 Finishes
That never stopped me from starting more projects of course, but it did slow me down a few times. Okay, more than a few times. Starting is so... much easier than finishing up. Probably why I only had a net gain of 3? Oh well. That's the sort of detail that doesn't even make me flinch anymore. I figured out a long, long time ago that when I stop playing with current quilt projects, then the progress on hand quilting or machine quilting slows to a sluggish speed of almost nothing happening. Creativity seems to beget its own sort of momentum around here.
2017 Finishes
It's always fascinating to see every, true-blue finish in one single post. Occasionally a newer quilt, but usually the older, as of course I am always lagging a year, or two {or five?} behind. As I've stated before, this isn't necessarily a bad thing! Stitching those older quilts, while in the midst of putting together the brand new projects, makes for an interesting sort of influence--back and forth. Color palettes, design, technique, it all comes into play. Maybe it helps to nudge me into revisiting an idea that floated off into the ether. Or reminds me how much I love certain color combinations. Whatever. I can't imagine ever doing anything different or trying to be caught up to the point of always and forever finishing a quilt directly after the quilt top is nailed down! Just trying to some day get that backlog down to something that's a bit more manageable!

So, the numbers.... 19 completed quilts this year! Woohoo! One is a little Christmas table runner not pictured above in the collages. Just decided not to try and squeeze it in since it was such a quickie!

  • 1 Table Runner
  • 1 Comfort quilt
  • 10 Lap quilts
  • 7 Bed sized quilts
  • 9 of those quilts were completely hand quilted
  • 6 quilts were a mixture of hand quilting and machine quilting
  • 2 quilts were completely machine quilted
  • 1 quilt was longarm quilted by a friend
  • 1 quilt was a combination of longarm quilting {by friend} and a little bit of hand quilting
As always, I gave a few away too--13 in fact. New quilts and older ones too. It doesn't really matter does it? I talked about making/giving here, earlier in the year so I won't go on and on about how much I loooove giving away my quilts to just the right person.

One of the gifted quilts.....
And because it does sort of melts my heart to see my quilts being loved and appreciated, I thought it would be a nice time to share. I know some of you feel the same way! 
And another one.....
So that's the wrap up for 2017--a very good year! Thank you to everyone who drops by to take a look at the current quilt in the hoop or everyday progress. It's wonderful to be a part of this quilting community and make friends who actually enjoy talking quilty stuff! I'll be diving into the 2018 quilting projects as soon as we clean up the New Years mess, get everyone off to school, work and regular routines. 

Sorry for the quilty posts overload this past week if that's not your sort of thing. Eventually I'll even get caught up on replying to all the comments! Which brings me to another point real quickly. I don't reply here on the blog unless it's to answer a question that several people might be interested in knowing the answer to, such as pattern source etc.  If you have been commenting on my posts and NEVER get a personal reply? Then I don't have your email address and am getting stuck at Google Plus or somewhere without a clue how to reach you! Just drop a line to my personal email {can be found here} or leave an email address in your blog comment. Easy peasy. I promise I'm not ignoring you on purpose!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

It's a Long Post About 17 in 2017 Progress

Committing to 17 in 2017 was a big step for me. While I personally have a lot of quilting lists, feeling pressure is something I generally try to avoid! Meredithe made it super easy though and just encouraged us to make forward progress with each item on the list. Okay, easy enough! So that's what happened and wowsers, did I even surprise myself!
The Eagle Quilt is a Finish!
I divided the list into two sections, 11 quilt tops with a goal of reaching completed quilt top stage and 6 tops to be complete, true-blue finishes. Nine out of those eleven projects made it to the quilt top stage--82% success, and five out of six tops made it the finish line--83%. I feel pretty good about those numbers because the other two incomplete projects did actually make forward progress {yay!} and the only quilt top not finished yet {in that particular list} is still sitting at my longarm friends.  Good intentions and all that....
It's been a long time coming!
So this Eagle quilt. Yep! It's my very last finish for 2017. Just squeaked in at the last minute. I was pretty determined not to stress over the lists and details-- just let it all play out. I did as always and just picked up the hoop whenever time permitted or I was in the mood. The funny thing is, this quilt has never been one that I've been 'raring to get quilting on'. Once I had the hoop in my lap and had been stitching for awhile, then I would relax into it and really start enjoying the stitching. Thankfully that doesn't happen very often, or I would never get any hand quilting done!
Loving how it looks with the stitching
This quilt was started back in 2014. In fact, Angie and I started an Eagle quilt blog for awhile with the determination to make our own eagle quilts and encourage others to join in the fun. While it was great fun initially, the fire happened here that summer and I abruptly changed my focus. This quilt top took a good long while to come together and then, well... you know me. My quilt finishes are usually lagging a year or two behind the point of a completed quilt top! I don't feel too terribly bad as I don't think Angie's gorgeous quilt top is completed yet either!

I'm glad it was on my 17 in 2017 list though. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure it would still be languishing in the drawers with others that I'm stalling on! The thing that was holding me back was how to quilt it. For some reason this was one of those quilts that I couldn't 'see' and so finally I had to just get it in the hoop and start the stitching. Yes. That means I had times where I ripped out lots of stitching and started over. Mostly though, the more I stitched, the more it started making sense. It's all stitched with Perle Cotton #8 or #12 thread, something I do for all my hand quilting anymore. And I LOVE the texture in this quilt. It really makes the entire quilt come alive in a way that makes it all so worthwhile.

The eagle design was something I drew on paper after looking at lots and lots of other eagle quilts. Then I fussed and fussed with until it started looking the way I wanted it to and also fit into the size square I wanted for my quilt centerpiece. No, I'm not a good artist nor do I draw worth beans. It's just something you have to trust yourself to make happen and keep trying! What's the worst that can happen? That's what I always tell myself at the start when I'm feeling the agonies of inadequacy. You can read more about some of the other design process here or here if you like. As the time drew nearer to putting it in the hoop, I almost took the '2015' off the quilt and replaced it with '2017'. So glad I didn't though. This quilt really didn't have much to do with this past year and that only has to make sense to me!
One last picture!
So back to the 17 in 2017 list, my Peachy Cameo Medallion quilt finally reached the completed quilt top stage as well. Last we talked, all it was needing was the corner bits. You can see that I ended up making the fabric do the bulk of the work and just kept the shape super simple.
The corner work
My youngest son reluctantly helped me get a picture outdoors as the quilt was too big for a full shot in the house. That particular day was freezing cold though and he only lasted about five minutes, before running back into the house like a little girl.*hehe  Just kidding. It really was ridiculously cold to be standing about outdoors, trying and trying for that perfect shot.
Sort of a full-on picture....
 And last but not least was a project that I mentally determined to get rid of at least three or four different times. But every single time I opened up the box to finally put all the {set aside} fabrics back with the rest of the stash, my mind started spinning and nope. Just couldn't toss this one quite yet. Finally here in the last week I decided to actually DO something with it or be done with it forever.
Shattered--The scrap bin quilt
This project has been in the works for a couple years now and the entire center is made totally from the scrap bin. The plan was to make several vertical columns of make-fabric flying geese, but that essentially involved sewing hundreds of them. Ughh.. After making 72, I threw up my hands and decided that I was done. Then, when I was faced with throwing it all away or continuing on somehow, I suddenly changed course and decided what if? What if I took those flying geese and set them medallion style around the centerpiece? When I found an old castoff shirt of my husbands in the stash tote, that decision was set in stone and I was off and running. Still don't know what I'll do with the remaining 32 geese or where this quilt will end up. Mostly for now, I'm resting on my laurels that yes, indeedy, it did make forward progress as well.*whew!  It's been a good year!

Thanks Meredithe and Ann and all my other fellow 17ufosin2017 cohorts for the wonderful encouragement throughout the year and helping to push, nudge and cheer lead each other along. I definitely needed it with some of these projects!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Taking a Good Look at the Current AHIQ Projects

It's that AHIQ time of the month again! Considering how close to the end of the year we are, it feels like a good time to evaluate what projects are currently 'in the works'. Here is where things left off back in October for the 'Use Your Words Quilt', now changed to 'Make Beautiful Things'.
Make Beautiful Things getting a little border work!
Since I was feeling a bit lazy about taking the pieced borders completely apart, my goal was to find a small change that would make everything {somehow} work wonderfully well together. Hopefully with a minimum of fuss and confusion! And I think the solution was finally found in these small lavender and purple crosses. The addition of these small bits of color seems to take some of the punch and power away from this hot, hot pink that was trying to overpower the rest of the quilt. I'm having a hard time finding enough floor space during the holidays to lay the entire quilt out and show you how it will look in entirety, but trust me. Though the color is a little tricky, it somehow works to the good. At the moment there are still lots and lots of crosses to stitch. Ahem! Did someone mention a minimum of fuss?

Another AHIQ project that has been in the works for a long while, but was barely moving forward? These are the slab strings that will eventually be turned into postage stamp basket blocks for the every-other blocks in The Pineapple Quilt.
Slab strips for the improv. postage stamp basket blocks
Right now I am wincing at some of the Seahawks colored combinations, but when paired with the other fabrics from the stack, it all makes perfect sense. My mock-up postage stamp basket block is shown below--totally made from the scrap bin so don't pay attention to those fabric choices! These slab strings will have to be trimmed to a 9 1/2" square, stay stitched around the outside edge, sewn hst style throughout the middles and then carefully cut apart, then finally be sewn to a central square in which basket handles can be stitched down to. {Probably best to stitch the basket handles prior to sewing on stringy triangles though!} I really had to play with the measurements before I got something that should match up with those pineapple blocks. Totally worth the effort though as these feel like a fun choice.

 I'm really excited to introduce navy and other blues into the mix, but there are lots of nerves yet with this particular plan of attack. I switched gears at the last minute and combined blues with the greens instead of the rose reds I originally intended. And you never know, I could totally end up with two completely separate quilt tops once again. It's happened before around here! Some blocks/colors just don't wanna share quilt space with others no matter how much we plead and cajole...
A practice {improv.} postage stamp basket block
The only other open ended AHIQ project I have is the Vintage Lily quilt. So far the only thing accomplished is the centerpiece, and that's not even totally complete as it needs some kind of framework before joining with rows of blocks. What has happened with this project--is the fact that I've finally made a few decisions about how to move forward. Whew! So much time spent dilly dallying just trying to settle and then of course, trying to stay content with that particular choice!

For this project I have had it in my mind to try and evoke a old timey patchwork look. Something very simple and no frills. There are so many ways to approach that idea that my mind was simply overwhelmed with options. And there I stuttered-stepped and bounced around until eventually I just hit pause for awhile. I didn't come back to it until yesterday when I finally narrowed it down to one of Sujata Shahs free form blocks in a 'square in a square' pattern. I've always loved the idea of including improv. for this particular project and also, I don't want the piecing to be too perfect. This decision at the very least gives me a place to start, which is not always as easy as it seems!
Vintage Lily
So that's that. All three of my {current} AHIQ #28 projects are on the move! In contemplating whether or not to continue with improv. work in the next year, my answer is a resounding YES! I have not been able to join up with every single linkup since the beginning, but it's definitely worked as a gentle prod to keep opening up to and experimenting with different aspects of improvisational piecing and/or design.

It's absolutely slow going for me at times, although thankfully, not nearly as bad as it once was. Not something that comes naturally to me {still have the training wheels on}, so I often have to push against my default position of well..., whatever negativity that my brain is telling me might happen. I still occasionally {mentally} kick and scream at the idea of starting out without any concrete sort of plan or get balky at cutting fabric with abandon and potentially wasting some precious bits of fabric. The horror! Then later on, I always wonder what it is exactly I'm fighting against?

The beauty of continuing on with what my gut tells me is so very necessary, is that the outcome is more and more what I have wanted and needed to see happen in regards to my own personal quilting style. That utility look that comes about from free style piecing is something I wholeheartedly adore. There's a connection to the old style of utility quilts that deeply resonates for me, as it can feel genuine and authentic. You know, it if all turns out exactly the right way. hehe  So thank you Kaja and Ann for the supportive community, year round prompts and encouragement, and also the constant source of inspiration! With or without the AHIQ linkups {of which I'm obviously linking up to this month!}, I can't imagine ever leaving this sort of style firmly behind.
Christmas Dinner 2017
Hope you are all having a marvelous holiday! We have really needed this family time and of course the food.*sigh  Not much needed, but still, greatly appreciated regardless. SO much food that we are all in danger of starting to waddle.....

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