Giving back

Well, it’s a good thing I made so much progress early in 2017! Once I realized I was starting a Studio art class at the local university on May 1st, my sewing time became complicated.

Not that I haven’t done any sewing, because I have. But not on any of the existing UFOs I’m supposed to be completing this year. I’ve been using the limited time now available in my schedule to work on some charity projects.

First, let me tell you about the May meeting of the modern guild I belong to. We did a charity quilt sew-in, and by the end of the evening had created 10 quilt tops! It was a fun event. Everyone brought fabric strips of a designated colour, and basically you sewed on one strip to the side of a centre square, then passed on the quilt to the next person, and everyone ended up with a rainbow-ish log cabin style quilt, for our children’s charity. (Oh, except Wendy, in the front right. She is showing a top she made with the quilt lotto blocks she’d won at the April meeting.)

While preparing for that meeting, I made another charity top. I’m happy to say that he block in the middle was a UFO, and all the fabric used was from my stash. I think it will be cheerful for some young recipient who is stuck in the hospital.

I have a second, similar, UFO house block that will become the centre of another charity quilt. It’s in the queue.

I also used some scrap triangles from my friend Megan and some more stash fabric to try out the Delectable Mountains pattern, before setting it as the June lotto block for the modern guild. I made blue and green sections, then mixed them up for fun. Just a few more pieces to make!

In addition, a new member at modern guild, Lisa J., lent me a copy of the The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, by Sherri Lynn Wood. So of course I had to try the first exercise in that book… Again, I was able to use stash fabrics, and it’s still in pieces on my design wall. Getting close to done. Both the Delectable Mountains and the improv quilt can be kids’ charity quilts when they are finished.

Finally, I’ve recently become involved with Days for Girls. If you don’t know about this organization, it strives to provide homemade, reusable sanitary products for girls and women in the Third World, who otherwise couldn’t go to school or work because they currently have no way to manage their menstrual flow. The volunteer group I’ve joined sews reusable pads and panty shields, and packages them with purchased underwear, soap, and a Ziploc bag that allows the recipients to launder their items using just a small amount of water (since water availability is usually also an issue). It’s amazing to think that I can change the life of another woman somewhere in the world by spending a few hours to create these items for her. It feels like a very worthwhile use of my sewing machine.

That’s what I’ve been up to. I’ve also been super-busy with my studio art class… it’s fun, and I think I might be learning things I can eventually apply to quilting. Maybe. Or maybe I will end up with yet another hobby. Here’s the most recent thing I made in class: paper cranes on draped fabric.

As I was working on it, I thought, isn’t it ironic that when I’m not sewing fabric, I’m drawing it??

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Motoring through April…

I feel like I’m getting lots done in the sewing room — and other parts of my life, too! — but I’m not getting to this blog often enough. I need to add some blogging time to my weekly schedule, that’s for sure.

Brown is not my favourite colour.jpgOkay, first: finishes! I finished my colour study quilt, which I am calling “Brown is NOT my favourite colour”.

It is also a study in circular quilting with a walking foot, because I wanted to quilt another quilt (up next) in a spiral, but wanted to try the technique out on something small first. In this quilt, I discovered that I had a tendency to push the fabric toward the walking foot during the spiral, which ended up creating a slight twist in my fabric as I went on… good thing to learn here. I had to remind myself to slow down and let my walking foot do the work.

april showers.jpgThankfully, things went more smoothly in “April Showers”. This lap-sized quilt was a bit tricky to do — a lot of quilt to feed through the throat of my machine. The good thing was, that as I spiralled further and further out, the arc became increasingly gradual, and the amount of quilt in the throat became increasingly less!

I started the spiral with a circle about the size of a dinner plate and worked out. When finished, I picked up the beginning of the quilting line and spiralled in as far as I could, until it became too awkward to continue. I’ve also heard that you can do the smallest part of the spiral with a free-motion foot, but I was afraid that I would be too wobbly.

may lotto block.jpg.jpgSo that’s two more off of my list of UFO’s to complete for 2017, and it puts me well ahead of where I need to be. Yay! Oh, I also made this lotto block for the modern guild’s May meeting. It’s part of a modern BOM series found on Sew Mama Sew. Done!

On an entirely different topic, I started a learn to draw class, with the hope that I would start learning more art-type things that would bring an extra dimension to my quilting. Never having taken an art class after grade 8, I had to admit to having some gaps in my education when it came to things like colour, composition and line. I’ve been to three classes so far, and it’s been challenging! My big assignment for last week was drawing a shoe — specifically, my running shoe.

running shoe.jpg

This week’s assignment? Self-portraits! Gah! I don’t even want to show you what I’ve managed so far. Yesterday’s attempt… well, I told my DH that I made myself look like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. He laughed, but didn’t disagree!

I do have more UFO projects in the queue — really looking forward to clearing off the last of the lingering old projects! More in a few days…

 

March wrap-up

March was a very productive month. On top of the Balinese quilt I already posted about, I finished quilting and binding my Values quilt:

It’s definitely imperfect, but I learned from the process of trying to quilt it. And that’s what it’s all about, right? If I’m always afraid to quilt my stuff because my quilting isn’t perfect, it won’t ever get any better.

Wait till my next post, when I show you the experimental quilting I’ve been working on!

Anyway, back to March. I also got the top pieced for the third charity HST quilt for my Wednesday sewing group:

I don’t know if there’s a name for this lay out, but I think of it as “The Twist”. It was a bit tricky to do with random fabrics that people donated, but I think that I was able to make it work, thanks to the helpful input of a couple of ladies in the sewing group.

Now it’s all pieced — but I need a backing fabric, and to decide who will quilt it. Me? Or someone else?

But that’s not all. I also managed to finish piecing another quilt top — the one I’ve been thinking of as “Spring Rain”.

This one was made from scraps left over from another quilt. I thought the fabrics were so nice, I wanted to do something special with them. I like the clean, modern look of this quilt. (Obviously, the top and bottom rows still need to be trimmed to an even edge!)

I have already purchased a backing fabric for this one, so I need to press, baste and quilt it in April.

Now, I have to confess, I’ve also added a new project to my UFO list. The local quilt store was offering a course on fabric collage, and I decided to take it. And of course, I foolishly picked the largest project — a tall flamingo. I should have picked a little cat! Oh well. So here’s my flamingo so far:

This was taken during the class. The flamingo is now on my design wall at home, and I already have some ideas for how to edit her. So stay tuned for updates.

So that was my March. April will be busy, but I plan to fit in as much quilting as I can, so hopefully I can stay ahead of the curve in getting through my UFOs.

Off to the gym — need to stay in shape if I’m going to do all that sewing, you know!

Something new

My good friend R had her birthday earlier this month, and I wanted to make her a little something as a memento. However, she is quite an amazing quilt artist, so I struggled to imagine what I could make her that she hadn’t already made herself, and probably done a better job of. Then it occurred to me that she is a traditional quilter… so I could make her something modern-inspired.

I came up with this little piece, which I called “Stormy Spring”. The leaf blocks are improv pieced using the cut-and-splice-in method. I took a square of the green leaf-patterned fabric, and made some improv branching cuts, then spliced in dark brown fabric to create the branches.

I almost messed up on the first leaf! I made the cuts, started piecing in the brown strips, then got a couple pieces turned around and couldn’t figure out how to put them back together again. Fortunately, I was able to use the print itself to decode what went where, and finally reassembled the block. Afterward, I was careful to piece the remaining blocks slowly and methodically! I used a pale blue background fabric, and then quilted in gusting lines with a blue thread, to represent the cool and sometimes rainy winds that bluster around in March and April.

R seemed pleased with it. I’m certain that she is more accustomed to giving away quilts than receiving them, so I hope she enjoyed being the recipient for a change, even though this was just a little piece.

Okay, off to finish the binding on my Values quilt!

All progress is good progress!

I tell you, it feels good to finally be crossing off projects that have been sitting on my “to do” list for ages – sometimes months, sometimes years! Why did I procrastinate so long? At least I’m getting through them now.

Over the weekend, I quilted my “Values” quilt – it was a from a workshop I did a couple of years ago with Cheryl Arkison, to learn how to use value placement more effectively in quilts. Top has been finished for so long… now, finally almost done.

Here’s the front of the quilt. It’s made of half-square triangles arranged in concentric squares. I thought that radiating lines from the centre square would emphasize the movement of the design (since I’m trying to find ways to make the quilting complement the design, not just hold the layers together). Using my walking foot and some green painter’s tape to mark guidelines, I quilted many times across the quilt, trying my best to keep intersecting at the centre square.

Overall, it worked pretty well. But there were some drawbacks. First, I realized as I worked that the centre point was becoming pretty thick with threads. I tried to capture it in this closeup. Can you see? The outer edges of the quilt are soft and draping, because there is distance between the quilted lines, but as you get toward the centre, the quilting becomes denser, until you end up with a mass — almost a bump — of threads at the centre point. Another time, I might try to come up with a different solution. Perhaps, have fewer lines go right to the very centre of the design, and then use some deep inverted “v” lines to create the impression of additional spokes (if you get what I mean).

Another issue that is related to this one: where the fabric became densely quilted, it started to “puff”. Can you see it? I’m going to see if I can use my iron on the steam setting to press that sucker a little flatter. But it’s a problem I didn’t foresee at the beginning. Ah well, this is all about learning, after all.

And here’s the back. The trick was, I made two additional rows of blocks for the back that mirrored the corresponding rows on the front of the quilt — then I had to figure out how to get them to line up perfectly! I used basting spray on the quilt back and ironed it onto the batting, nice and flat. Then, with DH and Mouse holding the back/batting up to a window so I could see through, I carefully worked at lining up the quilt front with the pieced strip; the front was also spray-basted, so it stuck where I put it, but was repositionable. When I had them lined up, I ironed the quilt front to the batting, then basted around the whole perimeter using my machine set to a basting stitch.

On the whole, it worked pretty well. However, another time, I would baste the perimeter by hand, using even longer stitches, so that the layers and edges are secured where I want them, but the thread could be more easily clipped and removed if necessary during quilting. Even set to the longest stitch, my machine’s stitches were still pretty close together, and that made it awkward whenever I quilted toward an edge that need to be released.

Anyway! There you go. Another big step conquered; all that’s left is making and attaching the binding and sleeve, and the Values quilt will be done. I could have completed that today… but instead I worked on something else.

I was looking through my task list this morning, and noticed something that had been sitting there for while — something that kept getting scheduled, but then not done, so pushed forward again. Yes, it was finishing the last four pairs of Christmas pajamas. I made so many pairs back in December that I felt burned out on pajama-making, so the last four pairs had sat, partially cut out, since then. I decided to bite the bullet today and finish them off entirely: much though I still disliked the idea of working on them, I disliked even more that feeling I got every day when I saw them still sitting on my task list. So I brewed some hot jasmine tea and made myself sit down and sew a pair for Q, a pair for DH, and (amazingly enough) two pair for me that were made from the leftovers of Q’s and DH’s pairs. Since I had them each listed separately on the task list, that meant I could cross off 4 items today! Whew!

I have a few more things I’d like to get done in the sewing room this month, but happily I still have several days ahead of me to sew. I shall just keep chiselling away at my self-assigned daily tasks, and I will be able to look back on March as a productive month!

 

More lotto blocks

So the lotto block for our March Modern Quilt Guild meeting was the Tic-Tac-Toe block. I posted a picture earlier of my sample blocks:

I was so thrilled to see the completed blocks at the meeting last week! They looked gorgeous.

Don’t you love the oranges and pinks? I think they look fabulous. Such a cheerful collection of blocks. The guild member who won them, Celeste, seemed genuinely thrilled to be taking them home. I hope she will bring back the finished piece to show at a future meeting.

Trying to keep things interested, I challenged everyone to try some improv curved piecing for our next lotto block. Here are my samples.

Can’t wait to see what we get for our April block collection.

The nice thing about doing the block lottos, I think, is that it is an opportunity to try a new pattern or technique without making a big commitment. If you make a block or two and don’t like doing it, then you can stop. If you decide that you like the blocks, however, you might feel motivated to make a whole bunch and create your own quilt.I hope others are seeing it that way, too, and will be motivated to try all the blocks.

This certainly fits with my plan to keep challenging myself to try new things in 2017!

Candy Stix is finished!

Glad to have finally finished this one, about a year after I’d started it!

I put off the quilting of the piece forever, because I wasn’t sure what to do about the back of the quilt, and I didn’t know what sort of quilting would suit the design.

I finally decided to make the back of the quilt look like an oversized version of the blocks on the front – my husband’s idea, actually. I used some bright, cheerful Amy Butler prints, that I hoped would capture the whimsy of the scrappy piecing on the front. That solved the first problem. But how to quilt it?

I have been trying to thinking about having the quilting reflect the design of the quilt, to complement it, not just be a generic meander that holds it together.

I finally decided to do an off-kilter spiralling square, the middle of which is stitched to look like one of the blocks on the quilt front. I used a colourful variegated thread to try to pick up the bright colours in the scrappy candy-coloured bars… but I found that the colour really didn’t show much. Especially not on the front. I also discoverd that the spiralling square was tricky, particularly when I wanted to turn the corners. So the execution is imperfect.

But it was a good learning experience, and I had fun with it. And – I’m glad to be finished another UFO!