Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Texas Star Schedule

Paulette made me laugh, somewhat hysterically, the other day when she asked her readers if we were ahead of schedule on any of our projects. We all know I am not good with schedules!

But my one successful schedule so far was completing all the individual stars for this project, Texas Star. Since then I have been sewing them together, on and off, and I have a good sense now of what is involved. So, a couple of weeks ago I did set up another schedule to get them all sewn together.

Here's my progress so far, the first 99 of the 333 total stars:

My plan is to add 12 stars per week, which should see them all joined by the second week of July. It seems far away now, here in the deep freeze, but the key to success is to make the schedule really easy. A few stars here and there in my spare time at the end of the day.

I have been really surprised by how soft the top feels! It's difficult to photograph "softness," but I've been trying:

I've realized that it's the English paper piecing that results in such a soft, smooth surface, because all the seams are left open:

Wrong Side
English paper piecing is definitely much slower than regular hand piecing, but I am so impressed with the result! I had been thinking that Best Friends Forever, which will also be English paper pieced, would be my last project using that technique. But now I think the door is open to another one, down the road!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

House Construction Finished

The main building work on the centre house block for Lynette Anderson's My Country House is now complete:

However, as with many contractors, some of the finish work still needs to be done!

After I finished the bricks and the gingerbread, I had to redesign the windows and door to fit into the new smaller space. The new windows are 1" square, and I decided it would be easiest to reverse applique them in. I used a ruler to draw the windows and door right on the fabric, and then thoroughly basted the blue fabric to the back:

On the front I cut open and appliqued one window at a time:

Lake view!

The door was also reverse applique, but I have no progress photos. After I cut away the yellow fabric from the whole arch, I tucked the red door fabric between the yellow and the blue. This left the blue transom window above the door free, and I just appliqued it all down. It was tricky, which is why there are no photos, but I am very pleased with the outcome:

There will be a gold doorknob satin stitched in the centre of the red circle. The white crosses in the windows are back stitched with four strands of embroidery floss. The original design has embroidered flowers in the transom window, but I like it the way it is, so I will skip that.

Any readers who are also making this project will notice that I ignored the instructions and sewed together the whole block before appliquing the chimneys (and the door). This was by design! My plan was to open up the seam just by each chimney and tuck the seam allowance inside. Then I wouldn't have to worry about placement beforehand.

The chimneys are 1/2" square, and I basted everything well before the final stitching:

With the applique finished, I just have to take out the basting, go back to the machine and re-sew the roof seam.

I did the same thing for the door, so the grass seam will also have to be re-sewn. But, the trees still have to be added and tucked under the grass, so for now that is just hand basted closed. The trees are next!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Warm Flimsy

Here's the finished flimsy for my mostly flannel log cabin quilt, It's Warm Inside:

Wait, wasn't this quilt supposed to be finished with a quilt as you go technique? Why is it now a flimsy?

Well, it turns out that for people with severe dust allergies, like me, quilt as you go is a terrible process. I managed to cut the batting for six individual blocks...

... and I felt like I had run a marathon. As you can see I gamely basted them together, but I couldn't bring myself to cut any more batting.

The idea for this quilt as you go design is a couple of years old now, and was conceived for my old sewing machine. I realized that my new sturdy machine would be able to handle the full size flannel quilt. So, I unbasted the squares and sewed the whole top together.

I know that border fabric looks a little busy...

...but try to imagine a bright red binding on the finished quilt. It will bring it all into focus.

I am amazed, actually, at how much the narrow white cotton sashing lifts and brightens the whole quilt. It feels much more cheerful and fresh.

And it's an appropriate finish for today, which has been the coldest day in Toronto this year, and probably for several other years as well. At 7:00 am it was -28 Celsius outside (-18 Fahrenheit), and the north wind was shaking the house. That's unusually cold for Toronto! But, with the cold we also have brilliant sunshine, and it is indeed warm inside.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Is it Valentine's Already?

I guess it's time again to trot out my neverending redwork project, Sweet Hearts. I did manage some work on it after Valentine's Day last year. I finished up the first of the couples:

...and made a fair bit of progress on the second couple:

You can see there is a lot of fine detail left on the second couple. This year I have accepted that there will have to be a lot of back stitching, and less stem stitch than I would prefer, in order to finish all those details. My issue with the back stitch is that it does shadow through the fabric more. The hearts in the first picture are back stitched, and you can see the white centres of the hearts are a little darker than the surrounding fabric. It is more obvious in real life!

But, this year I've been relaxing a lot more about things than I have in the past. If it can't be helped, then it can't be helped. So, shadowy back stitch it will be!

Here's the over all progress to date:

There are only two now that have no stitching at all. I'm embarrassed to say that a couple of the pieces are starting to yellow! Hopefully a good wash at the end will even things out. The final layout will have sashing, so that should minimize any aging on the fabric as well.

I'm still quite enthused about my final plan for these, so progress may be slow, but it will continue!

Friday, January 30, 2015

My Country House

3/4 scale -- 13.5" centre block

The new 2015 Block of the Month at The Quilt Show is Lynette Anderson's "My Country House." You can click here to see the whole quilt.

When the quilt was first revealed in late 2014 I was very tempted, but I decided that I already had enough similar projects on the go. Did I really need another? On December 31 I decided that I did. If I reduced it to 3/4 scale, it would make a nice wallhanging. BUT, I decided that I was not going to spend more than one week per month on it, so I would still have time for everything else.

That plan has failed completely, as you can see.

Regular readers know that I always like to give my projects a local flavour. A very typical 19th century brick building here in Southern Ontario is either red bricks with yellow bricks in the corners, or yellow bricks with red bricks in the corners. The library up in Uxbridge is a good example:

Most of the old farmhouses are mainly red with yellow corners, but for design purposes I thought red edges would read better. I made a template for the bricks with 1/4 inch graph paper:

I marked the bricks with erasable pencil:

My plan was to quickly work up the sides with some long legged blanket stitch to represent the bricks. But the fabrics were just too heavy to make neat blanket stitches. Plus the 1/2 inch "legs" were too long. So I have been satin stitching the bricks. For three days already.

I made a similar template with the graph paper for the white gingerbread across the eaves, but I guess I didn't take a picture. The gingerbread is stitched first with blanket stitch half pinwheels, and then I went back and put a Colonial knot at the end of each "spoke."

I know there is a loose thread there, which is driving me nuts. I will see if I can tighten it up without doing it over again.

I lost eight days to flu this month, so I have only spent about five days so far on this project. But there is a lot still to go -- windows and door, chimneys, trees, sheep, funny blue chicken, and the postage stamp border!

But -- don't laugh too hard -- I really believe I can catch up over the next few months!

(Actually, I think I can work ahead, because the piecing is all pretty straightforward. Time will tell!)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Last BFF Stitchery

Best Friends Forever, Month 8 motif

Woo hoo!! Insert happy dance here:

...if you sexy, then flaunt it!

23.5 of the Best Friends Forever stitcheries are done, but only 22 will go in the quilt. I might make a mini or two out of the leftovers, but, not any time soon!

Next up, the English paper pieced setting, then some applique for the finishing touches. Maybe another year!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Approach

When I started blogging just over three years ago, I had a lot to say about stitching, and the creative process in general. It irritates me no end when people say that they are not creative, when really, everyone is creative. Creativity is just the courage to try new combinations of things we already know, and a whole lot of practice and persistence.

Best Friends Forever, Month 8 motif

I also believe that there is a lot of benefit in a cross-disciplinary approach, and that no matter how committed you are to one craft, you will improve your skill by trying something different.

So, covertly or overtly, that's what I've been trying to demonstrate with this blog, and it will continue to be my practice. Going forward, though, my plan is to talk about it less, and to just let the work stand on its own. I'm hoping that the reader experience will be more like the serene swan floating across the water, and less about all the frantic paddling going on underneath!

Best Friends Forever, Month 6 motif

There's no doubt that writing less will be a challenge, but I am thinking of it like a meditation practice -- if you are always thinking about how to meditate and analyzing what you're doing, then you're not doing it.

So that's the plan, and we'll see how it goes. I am still always happy to answer questions and discuss details in the comments. But for now, let's just enjoy the view!

Fresh, shiny new thread

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