Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tree of Life in the Hoop and the Other HST Quilt in the Works

Like most other diligent hand quilters, I tend to roll straight from one quilt in the hoop to the very next. This 'Tree of Life' quilt has been calling my name lately, sort of impatiently if you want to know the truth of it. It seems to be the time
Tree of Life in the hoop
So, okay, I'm fine with working on these colors right about now. Winter is settling into it's 'Oh no! There's more snow! mode and everything is sooo cold and chilly. These colors are bright, peppy and just feel good in contrast. This quilt was one of those bucket list quilts but also a very whimsical start. I need to remember that all those stacks of fabric piling up around my quilt room will eventually find their day as well.

Also something important to remember is that just because a quilt was on my bucket list doesn't mean that it will end up looking exactly as imagined. This crazy blend of busy-ish fabrics tend to make this quilt look a little more vintage that all the patterns and photos I usually admired. I really stretched myself with this fabric selection and that's a good thing. It feels unique and makes each block feel a little more special. I had to work harder to feel satisfied if you know what I mean. Plus I learned a lot. I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for making and learning from these sorts of choices 3 1/2 years ago! And yeah, it's a little wonky from using homespun fabrics in the setting triangles and not trimming every block to exactly square. Hand quilting will take care of the worst of it {it's very forgiving} and then washing and drying after should take care of the rest of the wonk. In spite of the fact that this quilt rejected most all the fun colors of perle cotton, {it wants to do boring white/cream thread}, we're all good here.
Tree of Life
This past weekend saw me working on adding another round of borders to my HST Medallion quilt too. It was the 5th round of first the black coping strip border and then the pieced triangle border. I tend to lump them both into '1 border round'. It never seems to photograph well when the pink hst's are on the outside edge, especially if they are sewn in the lightest pink colors. Ughh...  Oh well. You can get the idea of where I'm at--exactly halfway through the 10 rows of hst border work! Uh huh. It's gonna be a big one....
One more border for the HST Medallion
I am extremely pleased to report that this hst border went on together as well as the last one did! Yay! Improvements have been made and might be here to stay! {Well, for the life of this quilt anyway...} Lots of notes to refer to, but basically there are specific perimeters that make all the difference in precision. So proud to know that all that improv. work hasn't quite ruined me yet....
HST Medallion about halfway thru....
And because I couldn't bear to take if off the wall just yet, I simply piled all the quilting paraphernalia back on the counter like usual, pushing and stacking it way to the back. Can you believe I iron large quilt tops in this space? Without emptying the countertop first? If you've been following me for very long, you understand that my quilting room is quite small. There is absolutely no room for complete chaos and I often have to tidy up just to jump to the next quilt. Projects are almost all in small totes or the 'in progress' units piled right on top. I have to be extra efficient with all my under-the-counter-space and try really hard to always have my iron and cutting area board ready at a moments notice too. Seriously, I am not complaining! Anythings better than having to work from the corner of the living room, dining room table and/or hall closet like I did for so many years. Having a dedicated quilt space is divine. I'm imploring you, please make room for your own if you haven't yet! You'll never, ever regret it.

Linking up with Linda and Julie for sew, stitch, snap, SHARE!

Friday, February 16, 2018

When the Blocks Start With the Crazy Talk

I know, it's making you feel dizzy.
Getting the basket blocks sewn together and trimmed
It was making me feel the same way, no matter how many applique blocks I threw on the wall or how I changed the setting.
What's it gonna look like with the addition of the pineapple blocks?
This was one of those ideas that started out with a stack of gorgeous {to me} fabrics and lots of behind the scenes meditation on how to best use them. The bottom line always came back to trying to blend some improv. sewing with a sort of classic applique shape.
Those lovely basket blocks are just not doing anything good...
It was something that was hard to get started on. The idea seemed prettier than the final result could ever be, but oh so irresistible. And getting it to this point and seeing all that busyness on the wall was a wee bit frustrating. It wasn't all wrong, but the fun looking baskets were just not behaving well. There was a lot more crazy talk than I expected.
Hmm.. Could it get any busier?
My daughter popped in to tell me something and had to listen to me lament the situation. She hesitantly suggested using one of those 'strips of fabric that go between?' and finally the light bulb went off. These busy, busy blocks definitely seem to need some breathing room. The power struggle on the wall is real, but we quilters have our tricks too.
Okay, maybe the sashing will give everything some much needed space
I think it would help if I had about four design walls! This is most definitely going to take a little more time than I initially thought to settle. No point rushing anything! I finally took it all down and dove right into the scraps. Ahh... It felt like the wall had been yelling at me. 

Luckily, a good distraction was right at hand. There were these lovely. little, stripey bits that didn't want to end up in the garbage can. Did anyone else get the Maria Shell book, 'Improv. Patchwork: Dynamic Quilts Made With Line and Shape' for Christmas? 
Just having fun...
I've been pretty confident that this book was way above my pay grade. And hello? I don't exactly have a lot of solid fabrics, a must-have in the writings of this book. But the funny this is, a few snippets from the book have apparently been percolating in the back of my brain regardless. And guys, I didn't even read through the entire book, just sort of skimmed and gawked a lot, like we do when it's all just a bit too much to absorb in one setting. 

So yep, I'm here to tell you that somehow all these little scraps {some so skinny as to be ridiculous} have pretty much hi-jacked all those other important quilting plans/lists and want-to's. At least for the moment. They are currently making their way into a 'Railroad Tracks' sort of quilt based on Maria's yummy book. It's been open to the relevant page during this free-wheeling make time, let me tell you--trying to make an interpretation that won't come off as total garbage! Too, I'm thinking baby quilt size so it will be small and less likely to get overwhelming when the scraps run out. Which means I will probably be ditching that pink and blue baby quilt idea I proposed a couple months ago. How utterly boring that would have been compared to this....*wink

Monday, February 12, 2018

Another Day, Another Quilt in the Hoop

Chunky Crossroads is the current quilt in the hoop. I started it sometime in April of 2016 as an effort to play with improv. and maybe challenge myself color-wise. This color palette does not come naturally to me and it still amazes me how very much fun I've had working with it. Even now, getting it in the hoop, I am delighting in the mixture of colors staring back at me!
Chunky Crossroads getting some hand quilting on the border!
The entire middle of the quilt was machine quilted in a very simple wavy line crosshatch. Yep. I have zero originality when it comes to machine work. Love how it emphasizes the crossroads blocks though. This was one of those quilts where I grimaced a lot and worried that my feeble skills had ruined everything.  That's because I was an idiot and mixed in a small strip of cotton/poly with the rest of the backing and well, it caused a lot of puckering issues. Lo and behold poly/cotton does not stretch quite the same as the cottons.*sigh  Will I ever learn that using up just for the sake of getting rid of fabric {and not buying new}, is not always the best case scenario? Whatever. I used my trusty seam ripper and ripped out the worst of the puckering and then decided to let the other minor ones be. 

Yeah. Not showing you the back of this particular quilt, but my oldest daughter assures me that what's left looks sort of like it's been done on purpose. I guess us older folks would call it a mild shirring effect? The funny thing is that once I gave up on fixing the back and turned my mind to hand quilting the front, it's all perfectly okay again. I don't even care anymore and honestly, most people wouldn't even notice. The simple echo {hand quilting} is working wonders to pull all the applique elements together with the center of the quilt and I'm loving the whole thing again. No. That applique border was not overkill like I worried about and no, I didn't waste my time doing it. Sometimes it does cross my mind that I might be taking my applique love a little too far....
Trying to decide on colors
Which leads me to the next quilt I've been working on like a mad woman. There are so many projects that need some hand work done around here. To keep myself from starting the next couple that I'm itching to work on, I decided that at the very least, the foundation of this basket quilt HAD to be done first. No excuses! 
Playing with a vertical repeat as opposed to a horizontal one
After all the lattice applique was stitched down, then I needed to make a decision about the little 'button's. I had to figure out what colors and then how to do the repeats. You can see from the top picture which fabrics will potentially be used in the flowers, stems and leaves. I didn't want the little buttons on the lattice to compete too much with the flowers, but it seemed boring to not bring another color in to play.
And looking at all the basket after all the hand stitching is done!
So now the foundation is done, all except for the top horizontal row for the basket. And that can't be stitched down until the flower stems are put into place. My daughters had a young friend visiting yesterday evening while I was stitching down the last several buttons. She never said a word, but she definitely looked at my quilt like it was a foreign object. Maybe she's never been around quilt making before? This has been such an interesting project, watching it grow and change through every design decision. Sure, there's been some delays while I mulled and contemplated how to move forward, but never any regrets. Crossing my fingers the flowers will come together as well as planned and I can convince everything to stay in proper proportion....

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The First Finish {or Two} for 2018

It's past time for a finish around here. I was seriously starting to get a little twitchy seeing my completed quilt top list growing and not ending up with any real finishes. Do you do that too? Blue and Gold Strings has been in the hoop for well over a month, so it ended up being the first true blue finish for 2018. Such a great quilt to be stitching on though, couldn't have planned it better.
Blue and Gold Strings
I have adored getting the hoop out and just letting my mind wander, while working with this free style quilt. It has such a happy feel to it that it always worked like a magic elixir in making me relax and unwind. Ahh.. just letting the tension and stress of the day slip away while enjoying some fabric and thread play...
Looking at the corner applique
Though hand quilting is rather slow going, it has so many benefits I cannot imagine ever quitting it completely. {Not to mention that I can't afford to have everything professionally quilted!} Getting to spend quality time with fabric in the hoop is like that extra bit of sweetness that we reward ourselves with sometimes. I've contemplated giving this quilt away, but honestly, it might not be best time yet. Most of my family doesn't appreciate this one quite as much as I do.
Just enough stitching....
Stitching on this quilt has really helped restore my flagging faith in my personal ability to make unique and charming quilts. I think anyone who regularly quilts knows very well the normal ups and downs of creativity. There is always the 'better' quilt just over the horizon if only we can just focus for an extra minute or two. Maybe next time we'll get everything just right! Haha  You can believe that I'm already in the quilting room diving in to the next three or four projects with much more enthusiasm than they probably warrant.
Hanging off the deck railing
So, no, you don't need to feel that I'm down in the dumps and need a morale booster. Some quilts just speak a little louder, tell the story a little better, and perhaps more importantly, reflect more perfectly what we feel that our muse looks like in our head. It's just a wispy feeling that doesn't always gel correctly in every single quilt that we complete. And that's okay. We get parts and pieces of it right all the time and that just propels us to keep moving forward.
Cannot even imagine this quilt without the border!
And not to bore you, but the second finish of the year was that quick little picnic quilt I pulled out the other day on a whim: The 70's Are Calling. I skipped the batting and put a flannel back on it like Beth so nicely recommended. I'd have never thought of it myself and it just makes me like the quilt all the more.
The 70's Are Calling
Just a bit of diagonal wavy line machine quilting and smaller than normal width binding and it was done! Easy peasy. It has a lovely weight to it and any stretch you see is from the blocks not being squared prior to sewing.
A fun flannel backing....
It will be used primarily for covering up cold groceries, throwing across a wet patch in the car, sitting on the grass at the park etc., and just generally making sure that there is quilt always available in the car. I'm not sure I would ever go out and specifically buy these types of fabrics for quilt making, but it turned out to be a fast, fun little project. Who knew where this quilt making addiction would be taking me 20+ years after that stutter-stop beginning! Linking up with sew, stitch, snap and SHARE #19!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Keeping Up With 6and6in2018

I'm running a bit behind this week, thought this post would be up by at least Friday. Nope! Too much going on here to sit at the computer long enough to type out a post. What we have here is progress on the 6and6in2018 over at Meredithe's. It almost feels like cheating to 'get' to start six new projects, but really, I wouldn't have joined otherwise. Finishing stuff up feels good, but starting is better.*wink
The Big Basket quilt
So I finally knuckled down and figured out the next step for my Big Basket quilt. I wanted a lattice look in between the basket slats and had to decide how to do it best for efficiencies sake. First I laid some freezer paper down on top of the basket and cut them exactly to fit inside each of the slats. Then I took some quick measurements to determine the number best divisible by what I had to work with length and width wise. That all went swimmingly and it was drawn up lickety split. Then I ironed the papers onto the fabrics chosen out for each slat and started cutting. Oops! I accidentally cut the seam allowances off where they join up on the vertical. Guess I'll just have to add a 'button' of contrasting color at all the joints now, probably where the seam allowance is intact as well. Oh well. That's what happens when I make things up as I go along!

Then I jumped into the Solids Challenge project which has been in progress for well over a year now. This is a project that I never really want to work on until I'm knee deep in the fabric. It's cute and feels good while in motion, but otherwise doesn't seem very exciting to me. The fabric that I had picked out for sashing looks terrible as does most everything else that I auditioned. In desperation I turned to the black/gray fabric tote and started looking there, hoping something {anything!} would help keep the applique blocks in the forefront and not busy the whole quilt even more. The fabric that I finally selected is a very small gray/white pinstripe and seems to do a good job. I know some people would have went white, but that just leaves me cold. A little bit of white goes a very long way for me.
Solids Challenge quilt
And then there's the new project: Melon Patch. I think there will be 20 blocks as that seems to be the latest magic number when it comes to block amounts in current quilts. One of my friends suggested I have a bit of OCD and I started to get very annoyed before shrugging it off. If I do, then it's working very well for me, thank you very much! As you can see, the circles in these little centerpieces, are quite a bit wobbly in places and definitely not centered. I am NOT a Kay Buckley perfect circle type of quilter though I know a lot of you like very sharp looking circles. Each to their own is what I say.
Melon Patch
Our life gets very hectic, a bit messy and oftentimes feels like we're just a leaf in a fast moving stream. We have things like mice invasions and when I get to the end of my rope with the mice licking the peanut butter off the traps and running away without getting trapped, then my husband and son get out the pellet gun and find a way to kill them while {the mice} hide under the furniture. Very redneck but hey, it works. I cannot handle the idea of living peacefully with mice while having so many lovely quilts lounging around. Ughh...

We also have things happen like our heat pump going out in the dead of winter and our electric bill skyrocketing from the emergency strips running full blast. Ouch! When we figured it out. Finally. {Remember the November fire scare? It apparently caused the heat pump to start failing too....} We brought in several little heaters that are supposed to keep the living room temp. balanced out enough to not trigger the thermostat into making the furnace work. You know, unless it's really, really cold out. Meanwhile, I sit on the couch and try to do hand work with freezing fingers and hello? My stitching gets a little bumpy occasionally. This will all get sorted out eventually but winter is not exactly our best time of year for big dollar expenses. Ughh...

And then we had a friend borrow my suburban to go see a gravely ill relative. They got left much later than expected coming home over the mountain passes, and yes, wrecked the truck on the way home. Thankfully they are fine, but now I don't have a vehicle to drive because, while the insurance paid out, it's a pretty old suburban and the money didn't come to much. Probably shouldn't have claimed it really, but why else do we pay insurance? You know what I'm most upset about? Now we don't have any vehicles with seat heaters and also, I'm desperately afraid my husband will take this opportunity to replace that sturdy winter-driving vehicle with a dinky little car that gets better gas mileage. Ughh...

So.... the moral to my long, sad story is this, if my applique looks a little on the sloppy side, you know, it really doesn't bother me a whit. If my quilts could talk, my oh my, the stories they'd tell. There is a lot of stress, anxiety and just plain old dealing with life's little ups and downs stitched into everything that I do. You do the same! There's joy and there's tedium and so very much determination to create something beautiful with our own two hands. What I see is the human touch and it makes me so very happy. What are your quilts saying about you? A Legacy of Stitches is a great poem that says it very well. My favorite though, is the story of  'that quilt' in one of my old quilt books. I really need to embroider it, put it in a frame and terrorize my family just a little bit. They'd never, ever look at my quilts the same again.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Just Can't Help Myself....

When I cut the basket handles for the stringy improv. baskets, there were all these leftover bits and pieces. I started to throw them into the scrap basket and then at the last minute, set them aside. The next morning I impulsively hunted down a striped piece of fabric bought on clearance awhile back and started laying them into random rows.
Why not? Someday soon I will applique them onto this background fabric and then let it tell me what needs to happen next. Right now it looks a little Carolyn Friedlander-meets-up-with-the-frugal-quiltmaker, but hey! Some tidbits of scraps are just too intriguing to go to waste. 

In other exciting news, our oldest son got married this past Saturday evening! We traveled to Portland, Oregon for the big To-Do and got to spend lots of time with family and friends coming to help celebrate. Our new daughter-in-law is a lovely person and makes our son so very happy.
A wedding in the family
It will be awhile before the professional pictures are available, but I couldn't wait to share the wonderful news. Especially the bonus round. As of Saturday, we are also brand new grandparents!
And a sweet little bonus
Miss Lucy is our very first grandchild and what a sweet, spunky little girl she is! Her daddy died shortly after she was born and so my son gets to step in and be a father to her for all the rest of her growing up years. As you can only imagine, it was a very emotional, but super sweet wedding for everyone involved. We couldn't be any happier for the three of them.....

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....


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