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!

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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!

Finished the Balinese quilt!

I’m happy to say that I put the last stitches in the Balinese quilt this week. It was fun to make, and I like how it turned out – but it was a big project, and it feels good to cross it off the list.

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Here it is, hanging over the upstairs railing. After getting it all pieced, I seriously considered my husband’s suggestion of sending it out to be quilted. However, I also wanted to be able to say that I’d finished the whole thing myself. So when my friend Megan kindly offered me the use of her long arm, I was happy to accept.

IMG_2659.jpgI really debated how to quilt it – I explored all sorts of ideas. In the end, I decided to keep it simple, because the fabrics are complex. I decided some soft organic curves down the length of the quilt, reminiscent of waves lapping on the Bali shores, would soften the geometry of the hexagons, but not challenge the complexity of the fabrics.

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I hope the recipients will be happy! I look forward to giving it to them soon.

Rockin’ the blocks

Yes, I have made progress on my Balinese quilt, but I’m not posting about that today. Instead, I’m going to show a few pictures of individual blocks I’ve made/worked on lately.

So, last year I joined a modern guild in my area. I love it! It’s a small group, so hands-on activities are a little easier to manage. In the months before I joined, the group decided to do a round robin, where everyone started with a block they had made themselves and a tin of fabric — then the tins were circulated through the group, so each month members added a new block to a different tin. It looked like so much fun, I wish I had joined a little earlier so I could have had a chance to join in.

At our December meeting, the participants had their big reveal. Some really cool projects came out of those tins! But due to some mix up, one quilter got fewer blocks than expected. I think her tin was misplaced. However, since then, another participant and I both offered to make her an extra block, so now she should have a full return. Her theme was “Wonky Log Cabin” in black, grey, red fabrics. Here’s the block I made for her:

travelling quilt block

Now, a wonky log cabin usually means that the “logs” are uneven, cut on angles, etc. I didn’t do that. I hope she doesn’t mind! I’ve got this thing about using little pieces, so I made my block wonky by doing some improv piecing in the logs. I thought it would make the block unique – and hopefully in a good way. Oh well, if she hates it, she can always use it on the back!

I also noticed that there was one very small block already made in the tin. I decided to add to it, whilst it was in my possession – because the rules say that you can add to other blocks if you want to! So here’s that block:

block I added to.jpg

Originally, it was the red centre, with the grey and white fabrics around it. I added the red/white, and black/grey rounds. This one is a more typical wonky log cabin. I let her know that I was finished with her tin, and she is stopping by this afternoon to pick it up – fingers crossed that my additions are good surprises for her!

Now, in the modern guild, the one requirement is that every person participates actively in the guild. That has turned out to be no problem from me, because I’m the sort of person who has a hard time sitting on my hands when I get an idea or see something that could be done. One thing I noticed, in looking at other websites, was that other modern guilds often do block lotteries – so I decided to organize one in our guild.

The February meeting was our first opportunity for a block lotto. I sent out the pattern in advance (Wonky Star), and anyone who wanted to participate made one (or more) blocks. Each block entered in the lotto translated into one ballet, so if a participant made 5 blocks, she got five ballots. Here’s a picture of most of the stars for that lotto (I took another, final photo of all the stars, but it turned out blurry).

Feb 2017 block lottery.jpgMy two stars are in the second column from the right, the second and third stars from the top – one has a green centre, the other has green tips. I think it was a pretty cool collection. I didn’t win – truthfully, I didn’t even put in a ballot for myself. I didn’t think it would be fun for others if I, the organizer, won the first lottery! I may enter in future, though.

I’ve already tested the pattern for the March block lotto. It was suggested by another guild member, and the pattern is called Tic Tac Toe.

Mar 2017 lotto block - tic tac toe.jpg

What do you think of the orange and pink? I thought it was really fun and funky, and cheerful for this dreary time of year. Unlike the wonky star, this pattern requires exact piecing: but I think it looks really cool, especially once you start putting blocks together.

Now, my idea is to keep trying different things – new techniques, different colour combos, etc. We’ve had two blocks in a row with solid white backgrounds, so now I’ll be trying to mix it up with something different. I hope others keep participating, because I can imagine having a lot of fun with this! Let’s see what I can come up with for April’s lotto…

Making a half-hex quilt

The other day, I talked a lot about my fabric selection process for the Balinese quilt. Today, I thought I would share a little about the process of making a half-hex quilt.

hex n moreHalf-hexes are surprisingly easy to cut and sew. I used this template, the Hex N More, by Jaybird Quilts.

To be honest, I had been wanting a 10″ hex template, but the largest template my local quilt shop carried was this one. I decided to purchase it, however, because of its versatility. Using it, I can cut hexes or half hexes in 8″, 6″, 4″ and 2″ sizes, as well as varying sizes of triangles (to fit between hexagons), and tear drop shapes. I figured, if I could cut multiple shapes and sizes, I would be more likely to use this template again some time. I hope that turns out to be true!

cutting a hexTo cut half hexes is very easy. I first cut a strip of fabric that was 4.5″ by WOF. Then, I positioned the template on the strip of fabric, lining up the top and top edges of the template with the edges of the fabric. Then I only had to cut along each side of the template using my rotary cutter. It was important to cut the little indents at the bottom of the template, because eliminating those “rabbit ears” right away helps you line up the half hexes for sewing. Cut one half-hex, then flip the template upside down – if you cut neatly, you should only have to cut down one side on the subsequent cuts.

two halvesSee on my two half hex pieces, that the bottom corners are snipped back? That really, really helps in the sewing stage.

Anyway, I cut all my hexes and lined them up on my design wall the way I wanted them. Once I was happy with the arrangement, I was able to start sewing the hexes in long columns.

two halves paired for sewingYou place the half-hex in the number one position, and position in face up. (I marked my “number 1” in the chain with a piece of masking tape, so I wouldn’t forget which end was the top.) Then, place the number two half-hex right side down, lining up the edges — and see how the snipped-off corners make them fit perfectly? Then sew along that edge and press the seam to the dark side.

to halves pressed openSee? Two halves sewed neatly together. Continue on down the column, to the end. Then start again with the next column! Once your columns are finished, you will join your hexes using straight seams — easy! No funky piecing, no inset seams.

 

bali in rowsHere are several of my columns on my design wall – see, all the tops are marked with masking tape. I think half-hexes are great for creating a complex-looking pattern, using very easy piecing. I was really pleased with how quickly the top came together. I mean, there were a lot of pieces to sew – about 338, including all the end pieces – but very straightforward and efficient.

Yes, I’m pretty happy with this quilt. I might have to make a similar one for myself, one of these days!