Friday, October 2, 2015

Country Cat

Here's a nice, peaceful cat, just minding his own business.

Or is he?

This is the third applique block from Lynette Anderson's My Country House. Another ambiguous one!

In Anderson's design the cat is looking a little away from the bird. In my experience, when a cat suddenly turns his back to wash an itch, that is when he is deciding if today is the day that he will finally eat you.

So I thought it might be friendlier if the cat was turned towards the bird. What do you think?

Cats always seem to have an ulterior motive.

In the photo you can also see my trusty bamboo background fabric, and the dark pink flowers are a weed that pops up between our patio stones every summer. This spray hung over my "photo shoot" in a convenient way.

Ten days ago it was still hot and humid outside when I photographed the first two Country Critter blocks. This morning I had to put on an extra fleecy layer, because it was only 8 C (46 F). Suddenly I'm in the mood for warm, cozy projects! (And carbohydrates...)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hen Party Flimsy

Hen-rietta says hurrah!
The third entry in my Friday Fall Flimsy parade is Hen Party. I started this in 2012, and it sat in a box for the next three years while I struggled with the border. I thought that I was struggling with how to quilt it, but over the summer I realized that my border design was the problem. It was too stiff and formal for the scrappy centre blocks. So I simplified it, and now it's done:

Hen Party flimsy, 60" x 60"

Hurrah! I don't think I've given enough credit to simple borders like this. They really do give a clean, satisfying finish.

Looking back at my explanation of the border three years ago, it is easy to see, with hindsight, that I was trying too hard. Square peg, round hole, etc. But don't worry, I have another use for those seminole borders!

Also looking back, I noticed that I didn't give many close ups of the blocks. I'm quite fond of Hen-rietta there at the top of the page, but I think this big guy is my favourite:

He barely fits in the 6" block. There's also a happy couple:

And a few eggs, of course:

The new border has some chicken wire, and chicks on the loose:

The blue hen is the state bird of Delaware, apparently. If you were wondering!

Those peeping chicks in the border must have escaped through this hole:

So, it feels really good to get that one moved off the shelf, and onto the quilting pile. I still would like to clean out a few more, but I'll have to see how that goes. Plenty to do!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Country Critters

I apologize, I was unable to resist that title!

Here are the first two applique blocks from the 2015 BOM for The Quilt Show, Lynette Anderson's My Country House. Month 5 was called "Naughty Fox," but mine is a grey coyote instead:

A couple of winters ago we had a coyote right here in our suburban backyard. We have foxes too, but design-wise I prefer the silver grey coyote. Coyotes are controversial here in Toronto, but the consensus is that they are here to stay. Anderson's quilt block is a little ambiguous. Are the chicken and coyote friends? Or is the chicken chasing the coyote away?

Month 6 is "Rabbit Love:"

Since my version is 3/4 scale, and all the critters are felted wool, I have been stripping down some of the details in each block. The original design has an embroidered heart on one of the rabbits. I stitched it, but then took it out again. It felt cluttered, maybe due to the busy, aqua rose background fabric. I love that fabric! I remember buying a lot of it for almost nothing in the 90s, at the same time that I bought all the pink and yellow fabrics for Circa 1998. "That will be useful," I thought. But I never thought it would take this long to use it!

But anyway, since the background is so strong I decided to fill in the leaves so they would show up from a distance:

Mary Corbet posted her video for Raised Fishbone Stitch a while ago, and I have been looking for a chance to try it ever since. It is fun and not hard to do, although I probably should have used a hoop. I kept the stitches a little separated since the fabric is lightweight, and because I wanted to make the whole leaf with one length of floss (almost a yard -- 90 cm).

Wool applique really is addictive, and I have enjoyed making these blocks. They were only a couple of days each. That's a good thing, since there is still much more to do!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Circa 1998

The second of my Friday Fall Flimsy parade is actually the first flimsy I ever finished, Circa 1998. It has been packed away since then with the vague intention of using it some day for free motion quilting practice. When I had to move everything after our spring flood, all the boxes on the bottom ended up on the top, exposing the sordid underbelly of my early quilt experiments:

Not too bad from a distance, but I can tell you that pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong on this quilt! Even when I started starting quilts in the late 70s, my feeling was that if I could set in a sleeve, sewing a quilt would be a piece of cake. So I had no lessons. How hard could it be? But, as most of you know, putting a quilt together takes a lot more precision than sewing clothes.

Living in California in the mid to late 90s, I started this, my third attempt at quilting, with a collection of small scale yellow and pink florals. Every fabric is a floral. Some are from proper quilt shops, but many were very cheap fabrics from Joann's.

Mistake #1: I didn't pre-wash the fabrics.

Mistake #2: I used a steam iron to press the blocks as I worked. Imagine my dismay when some fabrics literally shrank before my eyes under the iron! But not all of them, of course. So none of the pieces, or finished stars, were the same size. But, that was a problem even before I ironed anything, because...

Mistake #3: I didn't know to add extra seam allowance for rotary cut triangles. So none of the triangles fit properly, and some of the seam allowances are very scant. It is amazing that most of the stars look as good as they do.

Mistake #4: I took "scrappy" too far:

For the most part I think I had a good understanding of value, and these really wild blocks were deliberately wild. But, I realized that I was going to run out of my first sashing fabric (seen here on the top and right side). So I decided to make the sashings scrappy too. But, I couldn't find that same yellow, and I ended up with four different yellows in the sashings. The disaster was spreading, and I couldn't go back, because...

Mistake #5: I was attaching the sashings as I went along. This was really an attempt to correct Mistakes 1 through 3. Since all the blocks were different sizes, I reasoned that I could adjust the width of the sashings to even them up again. Which kind of worked, because the quilt is almost exactly 72.5" square. But most of the joins look like this:

Yeah. You know that quilt judge criticism, "straight lines should be straight?" Not so much:

There was a plan to add a Flying Geese border, but it was all too, too much at that point. Like Kenny says,

You have to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away, and
Know when to run!

I guess I'm finally ready to improve my free motion quilting, so the plan this fall is to get this basted and least partially quilted. It will be a good warm up for the others!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Collector Flimsy

Here's the first Friday flimsy from the sewing I did over the summer. Collector is finally sewn together!

At 77" x 59", it barely fits on my "design wall" (two Ikea wardrobes and a flannel sheet). I laid it out horizontally rather than vertically because it is most likely to be used as a throw on the sofa. I am glad that I didn't make it 77" square like I originally planned! It is plenty big now.

Except the backgrounds and setting triangles, all the fabrics are different.

My mom noticed that the kitties are eyeing the fish!

The layout took me a full day, it was quite a puzzle. The original design by Cosabeth Parriaud in Quiltmania had alternating stars and squares in the white blocks. When I reduced the size I had more squares than stars, so I decided to scatter the stars along the diagonal in a hopefully loose and creative way. Plus, I wanted it to be lighter in the middle, and I had to balance out the really strong prints like those three large circles. Then, when I started taking photos, I noticed that the blue prints really pop, so I had to balance them too. But, I got there in the end, and I was glad to get them numbered and down off the wall! The good thing about a design wall that has to come down at the end of the day, is that it forces you to make decisions. No dithering!

I took my time sewing it together so that everything stayed in order. Probably 75% of the points on the stars are a little cut off, but after all this, I am perfectly fine with that! I think the problem was with the way I trimmed the flying geese units, so I'll remember that for the next one. It's not very noticeable anyway:

When I pulled this project out again last spring, and I saw how much black it had, I thought to myself, "Ugh, I am so over black!" My Sedona Star colourway also had a lot of black, and they were designed at around the same time. I felt like my taste had evolved since then.

But, now that it is all together, I can see that the original concept paid off. I wanted it to sparkle, and it really does. That's from all the high contrast prints, on top of the high contrast design. So, will Sedona Star 2.0 still be black? Yes it will. And sparkly too. :)

Otherwise, it's just fun to remember where and why I bought all the fabrics in the quilt. Many of the darks, like the strawberries, were bought for this quilt, because my stash was low on them. But these tiny red hearts...

...were actually bought for Sweet Hearts, a long, long time ago. The sunflower prints are even older:

Remember Kaffe Fassett's first quilting book, before he started designing quilt fabric? I was very inspired by that red diamond quilt with the sunflower fabric, and bought mine around then. I owe a lot of my inspiration to Fassett, first as a knitter and now as a quilter. And of course, there's a heck of a lot of Kaffe fabrics in this quilt too.

So that's done and dusted. The back is pieced and ready to go, and now it's waiting for its turn to be quilted. It feels good to get one of these old projects done, and it is nice when the theory works out too!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What I Did This Summer

...And What I Didn't...

This foundation-pieced pine cone was designed by Cyrille Zellweger, who has an Etsy shop full of cute camping-themed paper piecing patterns. I bought several of them last fall...

...and promised myself that I would make them this summer. Full of enthusiasm, I started the pine cone right after my last post in June. I'd really enjoyed all the paper piecing I'd done previously, so I thought I would take it to the next level. My plan was to make the entire project with fabric by Art Gallery, which is really beautiful -- lightweight and with a high thread count. And it is great for paper piecing. The only problem... that they seem to have banned forest green from their production line. So that didn't work, but fortunately I still had a lot of my trusty Kaffe Aboriginal Dots in forest green left over from Sedona Star 1.0. I used that in the first photo above, and also in my second block:

You can also see that I used a medium scale modern print for the aqua sky. The colour in the pine cone photo is more accurate. It was an experiment, but I think it worked quite well.

But, even though they didn't take too long and all the problems were solved, I lost interest at that point. The thing I like best about paper piecing is the rhythm of sewing all those points. You can pre-cut your strips, and just sew -- light, dark, light, dark. When I looked at the rest of the blocks, I could see that every piece was a different size, and that templates would probably be needed, and it looked more like stop-and-go city driving than driving on the freeway. So I put it aside. I'm not saying I won't go back to it, but it wasn't the big summer project that I planned.

The big event in Toronto this summer was the Pan Am/Parapan Games. Although I didn't seek them out, the Games still found me. Near the end of the last week I was driving home from the grocery store, far from any of the venues, when I passed a couple of cyclists from Chile dressed from head to toe in their team colours. They caught up to me at a red light, and I could see that they were having a fantastic time, laughing and smiling from ear to ear. Toronto cyclists are not usually that happy, lol. It was like seeing a couple of flamingos among the pigeons, and a very nice moment.

It was also in July that I became very motivated to work on Texas Star again. Surprised me! After reading EPP guru Karen's blog for a while, I noticed that she sections her large quilts in rows, and then joins the wide rows at the end. My diamond section experiment was a total failure, but I decided to try Karen's approach. So far it's been a lot easier to manage, and I now have 245 of the stars joined up:

That's 99 more than last time, and there are just 88 left now. Isn't it funny how the numbers keep working out?

In my Summer Break post I thought I might work on Down in the Garden (DitG), Jacks and Cats, and Best Friends Forever (BFF) over the summer, but I've done very little on any of them. I think I need to pack DitG away for a while, because I've totally run out of steam on it. I may still pick up Jacks this fall. BFF is on hold until Texas Star is done, and I'll probably be happy to get back to it by then. I'm embarrassed to say that I still haven't bound those Homegrown placemats, but at least the potholders are done:

I really like them, actually, they're like fun little mini quilts.

And, over the next three Fridays I have three finished flimsies to show you, starting with Collector. I was hoping to bring that up to five, but I promised myself that I would make a big push to get some things quilted this fall, so that's a higher priority. But then again, after less than a week of catching up in Blogland, I was captured by the Ad Hoc Improv Quilter's link up that Ann and Kaja are starting. I knew immediately what I wanted to make for that! And then the next day this order of Laura Gunn's Painters Canvas, for a completely different project, arrived in the mail:

It is awesome, so you can understand how I am torn between too many options.

I know it seems like I am picking up right where I left off before the summer, but the long break from blogging was actually very helpful, and I will probably do it again next year. It gave me chance to step back and gain some perspective on all my projects. I'm tired of working on ideas that are three or four years old, or more, so I'm very motivated to clear out some old UFOs this fall, and get more current with my projects. We'll see how it shakes out!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Summer Dreams

aka Dreaming in Colour

Doesn't that block look like the very definition of dreaming in colour? I chose a "high summer" colour scheme for my version of Lynette Anderson's 2015 BOM, My Country House. So I guess it was natural that I gravitated back to it during my summer break. I'll tell you more about my break next week, but right now I thought I'd slide in just one post before the long weekend.

You may remember the centre block:

After a couple of inner borders (still to do), the design has 13 pieced blocks and 7 applique blocks. I planned all the piecing in advance, and one day ironed and cut all the fabric in one fell swoop. For me, that's just easier and less confusing than ironing and cutting the same fabric multiple times.

My goal was to make each block as interesting and unique as possible, and to see how many "looks" I could get from the same designs. This is the second churn dash:

One light, one dark, but actually a similar idea with the negative space, I've realized. Still, I think it will take the viewer a few moments to realize they are the same block.

Despite all my plans, somehow I still ended up with two red Ohio Stars:

For Month 5, Lynette Anderson made this Golden Gate block:

I changed the placement of fabrics to make them look more like Shoofly blocks:

Doesn't look like the same block, does it? In general, I changed the blocks to make the main motif less dominant. Because I used such bright colours, I felt the pieced blocks were in danger of dwarfing the applique blocks. We'll see in a month or so if my plan worked!

Anderson's Month 6 block was Night Vision:

This is nice and balanced in her subtle colour palette, but I really struggled to make it work in mine. Finally I decided to replace it all together:

I've been seeing these Rolling Stone blocks everywhere (Lori Holt calls them "sunflowers"), and they fit with the same 3 x 3 construction that Anderson uses, so I went for it.

I'm not sure of the name of this last block, because it hasn't been officially released yet. But, after playing with it for a while I found a star shape in the centre, so I'm calling it Found Star for now:

It's like playing with crayons. :D

Here's all nine:

Just four left now. Have a great long weekend, if you're having one, and I'll be back next week!
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