Friday, September 19, 2014

New Project - Jacks and Cats

A funny thing happened to me back in August, while I was working hard to stay on schedule with Best Friends Forever. I ran out of ideas! That's never happened to me before, and it was kind of disturbing, to be honest. I know it was rushing through the project that did it.

So since my last post I've been taking a break. On Wednesday my Mom and I went out to the mall, and I said we need to look at different things in different stores for a change. But of course I still bought three quilting magazines, including the latest AQS magazine and this one:

Primitive Quilts, Fall 2014
I keep saying this magazine, Primitive Quilts, is not my style, but somehow this is the third one in a row that I've bought! Then, since we were in the neighbourhood, we stopped at Art of Fabric and I bought a few fat quarters and a half metre of this, just as something useful for my stash:

At home I spread out my spoils and sat down to read my magazines. I love magazines, but I have been trying not to buy too many, because there is always a new project that I must make. Sure enough, when I opened the page to this project, it fell on fertile ground:

"Jacks and Cats" is a flannel lap quilt designed by Emily McGlothlen of The Little Red Hen. All the background fabrics are fairly dark, and if you squint your eyes all you can see are the white eyes and teeth of the cats and pumpkins. Click the photo to see it larger. I think it is genius!

I meant to say now that I intend to make the quilt pretty much as written, but I've realized that I've already changed quite a bit:

  • I scaled the blocks from 8" up to 9" to make it a bit larger
  • I changed all the fabrics
  • I changed the technique on the applique blocks
  • I changed the border
BUT, hopefully I've kept the spirit of the quilt the same, lol!

The pattern calls for 6 different shades of mostly solid orange flannel. I quickly realized that I might shop for months before I could find six different solid orange flannels, and I remembered some fall coloured plaid homespuns in my stash that I bought from Keepsake Quilting a couple of years ago. I was going to make these stuffed pumpkins, but I never did. A quilt will be better! In fact, almost all the materials will be repurposed from my stash. Instant gratification! 

I matched the homespuns with some co-ordinating quilting cottons:

I still had that black fabric out while I was playing with these, and I thought it would be really interesting to use it for the applique background, instead of the solid black in the pattern. So I had to buy another metre the next day. 

Actually, none of my fabrics will be solid! I'll use the leafy green Asian blender in the photo background for the inner border, and I'll have to piece the outer border.

The pattern calls for fusible machine applique, several layers of it, with a few hand stitched details on top. My hands hurt at the very idea of stitching through all that! Plus, I have some really nice felted wool in fall colours in my stash, from another unstarted project. So the faces will be felt applique, the stars underneath will be the homespuns, hand appliqued, and the circles under that will be quilting cotton, sewn into my new black fabric. At most there will only be three layers to sew through.

That gives me several new techniques to try with this quilt! I've already made a start on sewing in the circles:

I think the fabric mix will work! It looks like a harvest moon, doesn't it? And the black could be stars, or it could be spider webs. 

The circle is 8" across, and I used 32 pins to coax it into the background:

The AQS magazine I bought conveniently had a good tip for sewing curves. They suggest that you cut the curve that has to stretch, in this case the black, with pinking shears. Then you don't have to clip it:

It worked really well. My first one, the one above, came out nice and flat. The second one is never as good as the first one, I've noticed. Does that happen to you too? But I love the fabric:

Not much of the gold background will show once the applique is on, and I don't think it will detract from the glowing eyes. Plus, most of the rest of the circles will be quite dark. I'm really glad that the hardest part of the project, the sewn in circles, will be first, when my motivation is highest! After they're done, everything else will be easy.

I'm under no illusion that this will be done by Hallowe'en, but it is fun to work on a seasonal project in the right season, for a change. They say a change is as good as a break, and now I've had both!

Monday, September 1, 2014

25 Trips

I finally finished my last four Scrappy Trips blocks today. This brings the total to 25 of the 12" square blocks, which will make a comfortable 60" square lap quilt.

I started these blocks on a snowy day in February 2013, after seeing them here and there around the blogosphere. 19 months ago! It was the great quilt at Nifty Quilts that started me thinking. Her quilt is 96" square, or 64 blocks. I feel like I have been sewing and sewing and sewing, and I am relieved that I only wanted 25!

Remember that pile of off cuts from last time? I used 6 of them for the 25th block of the quilt:

I've learned more about my preferences while making this quilt. Repetitive machine sewing like this is not my thing. I'd rather have more challenge, or at least more variety, as I go along.

And although I love scrappy quilts, I've realized that I don't much like actual scraps. All of the strips for this quilt were cut from yardage in my stash.

There's only one fussy cut square in the whole quilt:

I just had to tweak it a little to get that seated figure to fit in the square.

The layout is the whole raison d'être for this quilt. I'll show that next time, when the blocks are joined. When I had it up on my temporary "design wall," it was clear that I'd have to put it together very carefully, without rotating any of the blocks, or the pattern would be lost. So, I labelled each block in the upper left corner, so I'd know which way is up:

I noticed that not all the blocks were as square as they should be. Let's hope it goes together well!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Highlands Houses Finished

I've been debating whether I should put a question mark after "finished," but I think my little Highlands Houses quilt is done:

Highlands Houses, 19" x 19"

I started this quilt just under a year ago, when I rescued a plaid shirt that my Dad never wore from the donation pile:

It was one wrong turn after another with this quilt, and the challenges continued with the quilting! As a beginner free motion quilter, I decided to do a loose stipple with fine thread, and let the quilting fall into the background. My practice pieces looked reasonable, but it all went out the window once the real quilt was under the needle!

I learned that:

  1. Shirting is stretchier than regular quilting cotton.
  2. Paper pieced blocks are stretchier than traditionally pieced blocks, because the grains are not usually lined up.
So, there are a few bumps in the middle, and a few tucks under the binding, but at this point I'm going to call it a day and move on to the next project! 

The whole time I was quilting I had this song from Cathy Miller, The Singing Quilter, going through my head:

Three quilts done, a gazillion to go!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

100 to go!

First, I want to say thank you to the Slow Stitching group over at Kathy's Quilts. What a warm welcome! It is nice to have the extra encouragement (in addition to my wonderful regular supporters), when all my projects are such long hauls. :D

If you missed the finish on the stitchery project I showed two weeks ago, it is here. And the second motif, which I was just starting two weeks ago, is finished here. I just made it under the deadline for that one! This one will be next:

But today's post is about my ongoing Texas Star English Paper Piecing project. I started it back in October 2012, and work has been sporadic. I've been keeping track of my progress with the "Texas Star Ticker" in the right sidebar. Then last week I cut the rest of the gold squares for the middles:

About 120 x 2" squares

It is amazing how hopeful I felt with those squares cut! I felt like a horse that perks up when it smells home. And felicitously, this batch of five stars brings the total to 233:

Which means there are just 100 to go!!

Some of you may have wondered where the plan for 333 stars came from. Well, I wanted a quilt that would finish at about 60" x 80", and I thought it would be easier to sew the stars together in diamond-shaped blocks, and then sew the blocks together. I drew up a complicated plan:

And when I counted up how many stars I would need, it came to exactly 333! So obviously, it had to be. I am pretty sure that "333" will be the title of the quilt when it's done. The complicated plan, though, has been abandoned, because with all the points the blocks are just too hard to manage. I will start at the bottom, add each randomly selected star one at a time, and build up row by row.

According to my Daytimer, there are 143 days left this year. 100 stars, 143 days, it should be doable, and I am going to make a push! Also according to my Daytimer, today is the 222nd day of the year. Cool, eh?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cottage Garden Needlebook

Here, at long last, is my Cottage Garden needlebook, made up and ready for service. It is the cover project from Inspirations #53, designed by Kris Richards. I bought the kit in 2007, started the embroidery shortly thereafter, and finished the stitching early last year. 18 months ago!!

It's been languishing because I wanted to change the inside design to add pockets for needle packets, but there wasn't really enough fabric in the kit. And I really liked the pink and cream yarn dye that came in the kit:

But finally I realized that with a basement full of fabric, I could surely find something else that would also be nice. I came up with this romantic print from the Mary Rose collection by Quilt Gate:

The needlebook measures about 6" x 6" closed. I'm using it to keep all my milliner's needles in one place. So I added three 2" x 3" pockets to the inside front...

...and the inside back:

A nice thick wool felt came with the kit for the pages, which I cut to 5" x 10". It stays well inside the cover, which was my intention!

There is a three loop closure made from ribbon and beads, which was only partially successful. My first plan was to use elastic. That would have been better, but I couldn't find it in the right colour. Next time!

With this design, the back cover is just as nice as the front:

So, there it is, only my second finish for 2014, and it's already August! Time to pull up my socks and finish off a couple more that are close to the end. Now the challenge is to avoid pulling out another Inspirations kit from my stash until I get at least a few more things done!
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