Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Basting Grid Lines before Cross Stitching

Are you a perfectionist?  I admit that I am, somewhat.  I hate to redo anything, but I will take the extra effort to do something right the first time.  I know that is what is delaying my start on Sedona Star, but more on that later.

Many stitchers like to baste the grid lines on their cross stitch fabric before they start a project.  Usually the lines are five or ten stitches apart.  This can make counting much easier, and allow you to skip around to different parts.  However, it can be difficult to get the grid lines out after the project is finished.  For me, this is a deal breaker.  I recently saw a photo of someone's quite large cross stitch project, which would have been several months of work.  It was beautiful, except you could still clearly see the red grid lines even after it was framed.  I would be ill, and I know very well that after a few months of agonizing it would end up in the trash.

One alternative would be to take the basted lines out before you stitch the adjacent stitches.  My approach is to start in the middle and gradually radiate out from there.  Sometimes though, you have to take a leap across the fabric.  I know that once I start counting above 10 I will not be accurate, so I will use a temporary gridline just to count out the space correctly.  It looks like this:

Now you see it...
I count out every four threads (two stitches) with a running stitch - four up, four down.  Each up/down pair is then eight threads, or four cross stitches and four squares on the chart.  In this case I needed to jump 16 cross stitches (16 squares on the chart), which was exactly four of my running stitches.  Once I've placed the new stitches correctly, I can take the basting out right away:

...now you don't!
If I only have to use a grid line here and there where I really need it, I save myself all the prep work of basting the lines beforehand.  But the big bonus is that I will save myself the heartache of having visible grid lines when the piece is finished, and still feel confident that everything will match up at the end.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Even Weave vs. Aida

Last week was pretty much a write-off for me.  We had to get the plumber in, and you know how much of a disruption that can be!  I didn't sit down at my sewing machine once.  The only thing I've been working on is this:

Celtic Spring - Two Weeks
You can see I've got a lot done since last time.  It's actually been hard to stop long enough to take a photo, I keep wanting to do a little more.

I am really loving working on this Cashel linen 28 count fabric.  This is the first time I've used it, and I feel like it is about to become my favourite.  My Juin sampler is also linen, 32 count even weave.  The fabric came with the kit by Bonheur des Dames, but I think it is probably the Permin linen.  It has finer threads and larger spaces, and is stiffer.

I've always loved linen in many different contexts - linen clothes, linen drapes and upholstery, linen tablecloths of course, and even linen knits.  This Cashel linen seems to have more of that natural linen feel than other fabrics I've used, and I am constantly admiring it as I stitch!

I am also finding it easier to stitch.  I know there is great debate in the cross stitch world about even weave versus aida fabric.  Aida is supposed to be easier to stitch, but I disagree.  Aida is easier to count, but it is much easier to make neat stitches on even weave.  With aida it is very easy to accidentally split the thread of the fabric, and you never know it until you come back on the next row and realize the stitch is off.  There is no splitting the thread with even weave.  If you do put the needle in the wrong place, you know right away and it is simple to fix.

So I am finding this piece to be very relaxing over all.  There have been some challenges with the pattern and the metallic threads, which I will talk about in the next posts, but no huge problems.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Martha Schellingerhoud

Martha Schellingerhoud was the speaker at our Rouge Valley Quilter's Guild meeting last night.  As soon as we walked into the hall we all saw this quilt hanging up on the stage.  Click the link, it is really gorgeous!  She told us that it has been chosen to represent Canada at a quilt show in France this fall.  I think it is a great choice.

Martha did her trunk show for us.  The thread of her narrative was how she has developed different techniques for machine quilting large quilts in sections on a domestic machine.  I immediately began to pay close attention!  She showed us several quilts based on square blocks, and described her technique of joining pre-quilted sections together with sashing, and then quilting the sashing after.  All this time I am looking at that big circular design up on the stage and thinking about Sedona Star.  I could see how the concentric rings could be pre-quilted and then joined with those flying geese rings.

And indeed, she told us that had been her plan, but then on this quilt she changed her mind and quilted the whole thing in one piece!  Sigh.  She was worried that it would not lie flat if quilted in sections.  So that idea went out the window!

But the trunk show was excellent, and her miniatures have to be seen to be believed.  There was one with over 700 pieces!

In any case, I still have a year to figure out how I will quilt Sedona Star.  I'm sure the right idea, or better equipment, will come along!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Status - Sedona Star

Once again, I've been thinking hard about Sedona Star this weekend.  There's been a heck of a lot of thinking considering I haven't done any sewing yet!

The whole kerfuffle with the way the templates don't print properly on some printers, including mine, has somewhat got my back up.  I had to ask myself if I should do the quilt at all.  I wanted the quilt to be a stretch for me, but chasing down technical fixes wasn't exactly what I had in mind!  I've only bought about a third of the fabric so far, which could always be used somewhere else.  But the thought of not doing the quilt felt like going backwards, so I knew I still had to do it.  Quilters are resourceful, right?  My drafting skills are pretty good, and I think I will be able to draw in the parts of the templates that don't print.

So, I'll be doing the whole thing by machine.  I'll use the Ricky Tims Stable Stuff, and leave it in the quilt until the end.  I'll use Beth Ferrier's method of turned edge applique by machine, and use her fusible wash-away applique sheets, which should also help stabilize the lightweight shot cottons.  I can see the whole thing will be much quicker this way, and even though fast is not always a priority for me, it will give me more time for other projects as well, which also feels good.

Of course, the Stable Stuff and the applique sheets will have to be bought, which will have to wait until February.  But, that gives me three weeks to work on my other quilts, which I think will be a very good thing!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Another Change of Plans

Yesterday I was sitting and looking at Edward's quilt, which I had laid out with its border options, and thinking about my plans for quilting it.  I've gone through several different plans over the year that it's been a UFO.  Most of them involved some basic free-motion quilting.  Recently though, I decided to back it with a flannel sheet so it would be warmer and hopefully more practical in their cold basement where they watch tv.

The flannel sheet, though, will make the quilt sandwich much bulkier, and I doubted my ability to free motion quilt it in my old machine with it's 7" throat.  I decided to use the walking foot instead and quilt it in diamonds, which is a slightly industrial look that I quite like.  Looking at the top, I felt pretty confident about fitting it in my machine.

But then I started to think about Sedona Star, which is projected to be 88" square.  I really want some fairly elaborate machine quilting on it, I think it just calls for beautiful swirls and feathers.  I was prepared to do the practice needed to bring my skills up to par, but looking at my machine today I think I will be expecting too much.  A small quilt, sure, but not 88".

So, I have folded and decided to send it out for quilting when it's done.  There is a really good long arm quilter whose work I've seen in shows west of the city.  I will have to look into how much it might cost for her to really take her time and do a nice job.

This also means that putting myself in knots about doing the applique by hand is no longer necessary.  I guess I will be reconsidering my approach this weekend!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Auditioning Borders for Edward's Quilt

Two days ago I realized that I really, really want to finish something before I start Sedona Star.  I think I have enough balls in the air!  Edward's quilt was the closest to completion, so I've been making a big push on it. 

The last time I had it out I was really stressed with it.  The seams wouldn't line up, and I had to unpick a couple of times, which I hate.  I literally had to shake off the tension every time I sewed a seam.  It was nuts.

Since then though, I've been working on my nine patches, which have been going together so well, and they must have totally shifted my vibe.  When I went back to Edward's quilt the problems had vanished.  A friend of mine always says "a rising tide raises all boats."  I think those nine patches have been worth gold to me!

So today I finished joining the centre blocks and started to think about the border.  I'd already decided not to use my inspiration fabric because the wine-coloured circles will clash too much.  I decided to use this batik with the large white kanji instead:

When I first laid it out it was so busy that it made me a little nauseous!  It looks better with the red binding fabric over the edge, but I think it is still too much.  Fortunately, I found a yard of this quieter fabric in my box too:

I think that will be much better.  I also fiddled around with the red cornerstones.  There are four different reds in the quilt, and I thought about putting one in each corner.  But I definitely want to bind it in the red you see here, and I thought the red fabrics might clash more when they are right beside each other rather than scattered around the quilt.  I did think that putting just this one fabric in all four corners would be nice:

This fabric has the characters for "peace" and "good fortune" and similar good wishes, which I thought would be a nice sentiment.  I am still on the fence, because the two reds are a little off, although they are closer than they look in the photo once again.  I do kind of think that the second option, where the corners and the binding all match, might be too perfect, if you know what I mean.  We will see how it goes tomorrow.  My plan is to have the top finished before I start my Sabbath at 6 pm!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kaffe Fassett Shot Cottons

Well, I have already hit the first bump in the road on Sedona Star.  In the ring around the centre star I planned to use a dark and light purple.  I ordered the fabrics, Kaffe Fassett shot cottons, from two different stores, which I now see was a mistake!  You can't compare values in photos from one online shop to the values in photos from another.  Here is what I ended up with:

When you see them in real life there is even less difference than in the photo.  Somehow the photo makes the one on the left seem lighter, which is probably what happened to the website's photo too.

Anyway, it won't do, so I am going to try again and add a couple more purples to my next order.  One way or another, I'm going to get enough contrast there to make the piecing worthwhile.  But it means that I can't start that band, or all the little appliqued circles, until next month.  Argh!  But months 3, 4 and 5 will be pretty fast, with just the paper pieced stars, so I am counting on catching up then!

But I can do the middle star and the log cabin points, which will be in these fabrics:

Apologies for the grainy photo, but the colours are reasonably true.  It has been very interesting to see the Kaffe Fassett shot cottons in person.  They are quite lightweight and a somewhat loose weave.  I was afraid they would ravel like mad in the wash, but they were pretty good.  They do come out of the dryer, though, looking like those broomstick skirts that used to be popular!

They call them "shot" cottons because the warp and weft threads are different colours on some of them.  The bottom fabric in the photo above looks like this up close:

The lengthwise warp threads here are lime green, and the crosswise weft threads are magenta.  If you are a painter you know that red and green mix together to make brown.  This fabric is called "ginger."

I like the way the weave gives some added dimension to the solid colours.  I am a little disappointed that the top two yellows and the rust don't have the same contrast between warp and weft.  I am concerned that the colours will be flat.  I am also concerned that the fabrics themselves won't be flat - they are awfully wrinkly.  Well, I will start with the log cabin points and see how it works out!

The black background fabric, by the way, is also part of the quilt.  Five yards of it!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Celtic Spring

Well, I'm feeling much better now!  I started a new project last night, which has proven to be the ideal thing, AND, my fabric finally arrived today!  Tomorrow I will wash it and take photos for you.  In the meantime, this is what I've been doing:

This is the project, Celtic Spring by Lavender & Lace:

And these are all the gorgeous threads:

This project has been just the ticket to get my energy flowing again!  It is a dream to stitch.  The fabric is 28 count Cashel linen in Willow Green stitched 2 over 2, and after the 18 count aida of my kittens and the 32 count linen of my Juin sampler, the stitches seem positively huge!  Both my other counted thread projects became quite heavy to stitch as the threads built up.  This one has hardly any resistance at all as you stitch through the fabric.

This is my first Lavender & Lace project.  I could see right away that it would be nice to stitch, because the colours flow so logically from one to the next.  There is no "confetti" that requires you to scatter the colours all over.  I can often memorize several rows at once, e.g. "four rows of four," or "three rows of five."  With the kittens piece I had to consult the chart with every row.  I have a feeling this new piece is going to go very quickly!  Yes, there will be three more seasons after this one...  You can see them here.

As a rule, purple is not my most favourite colour.  I never go into the fabric store and see a purple fabric that I "have to have."  But I really am loving the beautiful purples in this project.  When you see them in real life they are mouth watering!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Still Waiting...

I am still waiting for my fabric for Sedona Star, and I have to say it is making me very grumpy!  I placed my order with Glorious Color in early January, and I got it last week already.  I placed my first order at eQuilter on December 26, and it has yet to arrive.  I do know that it is on its way, but for whatever reason the mail from Colorado is a week slower than from anywhere else in the U.S.

I know very well that working on another project while I'm in this mood will just end in disaster, so I've been trying to find a way to lighten up.  My Nordic Needle catalogue arrived today, which is usually a fun read.  Today, though, I saw a lot of projects I'd like to start, but which I know I shouldn't start, so it's just more frustration.

As I write this, I think the only way to shift this mood will be to start a completely new project and get the energy flowing again.  I think I'll go check out my stash.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nine Patch Update

Here are a few more of my nine patch blocks done.  I cut the fabric over a year ago, and it has been great rediscovering them as I sew.  Three of the lights you see here are from a set of "conversationals", based on historic designs.  They were 10" squares that I bought from Keepsake Quilting.  They are now out of stock, which is too bad, because I would love some more!

When I've been sewing these nine patches it's been the first time that I've really consistently managed the direction the seams are pressed, so that subsequent rows will "lock" together.  I am amazed at how much it helps!  These blocks have been going together beautifully, even though my cutting was sometimes off.  I didn't do this on Edward's quilt, and I am paying for it now, because it has been really challenging to get the seams to match.  And on that quilt it's pretty important!  I can feel that I am about to become quite fanatical about pressing!

Speaking of pressing, I am also quite devoted to my Clover pressing tool, the white plastic thing you see in the photo.  I don't have room for an iron in my sewing area, but even if I did, I would prefer the Clover tool.  It seems quite elegantly low tech to me!  And the hard plastic doesn't distort your fabrics like a wooden tool would.

Although I'd love a huge quilting studio, I am also very impressed with many Japanese quilters that I've seen featured in magazines, who make huge complex quilts in tiny spaces and with minimal technology.  I think many Japanese quilts have been made completely without electricity!  I feel a lot of sympathy for such a simplified approach, although I will not be giving up my sewing machine any time soon!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Juin Sampler

I very nearly started a new project yesterday!  Wouldn't that be just what I need.  I was still in the hand sewing mood after my unplugged Sunday, but my yoyo project is on hold.  I decided to use a different binding for the yoyo quilt - instead of Kaffe Fassett's red Kirman fabric I will use the orange.  I think it will show up better.  I want to make a few yoyos from it as well, so now I am waiting for fabric. 

That is how UFOs happen, isn't it?  You change gears and pick up something else, and lo!  A new UFO.  But, rather than the new English paper piecing project that I am really dying to start, I convinced myself to work on this instead:

Juin Sampler

This cross stitch and petit point kit is from Le Bonheur des Dames in France.  If you look you will see they have a ton of tempting projects!  This one is from a series of twelve monthly samplers.  Although this is the first one I have started, the other eleven are in my stash!

This is a UFO that I began some time around 2003-4, but the fine stitching was just beyond me at that point.  It is 32 count even weave.  The cross stitch is over two threads, and the petit point over one.  I picked it up again last year, during my Year of the UFO, and it was much easier.  I've been working it on and off ever since.  Now that it is my only counted thread project, I have a feeling it will go faster!

At least until my fabrics arrive...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Kitten Reflections

I am love, love, loving my new "day of rest" each weekend!  My plan is to turn off everything from 6 pm Saturday to 6 pm Sunday and just do quiet activities like hand work along with some meditation.  By Friday last week I was already looking forward to it!  I am now wondering about adding a half day on Wednesday - I will think about that!

With this weekend's hand sewing I was finally able to finish this cross stitch kit from Dimensions Gold Petites, Kitten Reflections:

Kitten Reflections

This was intended to be a quick, two month project, but instead it took me five full months.  Although it is only 5" x 7", it is 18 count aida and there is a lot of stitching.  It's true that I was distracted by the yoyos, but also, I think I have had my fill of cross stitch for a while.  For the past year and a half I have been cross stitching almost continuously, but now I really want to be quilting.

I promised myself that I would take a break from cross stitch for a while after I finished the kittens. Just this week, though, I decided to take down some old bookshelves, and it occured to me that my lighthouse cross stitches would look great on that wall.  The catch is that only one is done:

Cliffside Beacon
The lighthouses are also Dimensions Gold Petites, and this one did go faster than the kittens, but I am still not sure if I want to commit to them now.  There would be two more.  It used to be that when I finished a cross stitch project I would have the next one on the frame within an hour, but for now I am going to take a breather.  It may be a while before I get rid of those shelves any way!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Choosing Colours for Sedona Star

You may be wondering, when I keep talking about how inspired I was by my hand-coloured copy of the blank Sedona Star pdf that took me two days to do, why I have not posted this work of art yet!  I admit that I am hoping to create a bit of mystery about my design.  But I will talk about how I chose the colours.

I had two main principles in mind when I started.  The first, from various art classes over the years, was to put high contrast around the features that you want to stand out.  The second, and more important one, from interior designer Ray Staples, who always tells it like it is, that not every piece in the room (or in this case, quilt) can be the star.  She compares it to a Broadway show, with one or two stars, one or two supporting actors, and the chorus.

I was very struck by this when I heard it, because until then my philosophy had always been "more is more" -- more fabrics, more patterns, more colours.  I realized that too much noise can reduce the clarity of the message, and I wanted my Sedona Star to have a strong message.

I sat down with the uncoloured page and asked myself what the story was here.  What elements do I want to make stand out?  For me, it was the heart appliques first, and the nine Mariner's Compass blocks second.  So, the heart appliques will all be the same fabric, and that will be the only place I use that fabric.  To tie them all together so they tell a consistent story, my plan now is to do the Mariner's Compass blocks with just a few fabrics in a high contrast palette.  I say "my plan now," because this the area where I have the most doubt at the moment.  Will it be too boring?  The only way to know for sure will be to stick to my guns until the end.  I'll try to be strong!

Everything else followed on from that start.  I noticed the repetition of "nines" throughout the quilt.  I know nine is a significant number in many mystical traditions, so I'm hoping designer Sarah Vedeler will share more background on her inspiration.  I usually think of the nine planets in the solar system (if you still count Pluto). If you are a science nerd (which I kind of am), you know that the number nine has many interesting properties. Are there nine energy vortices around Sedona? 

This colour-enhanced image of the moon is not my palette, but it is kind of pretty, isn't it?  Anyway, most of the features on my quilt will be done with solid colours, a combination of Kaffe Fassett Shot Cottons and Kaufman Kona Solids.  The parts that I want to blend together will be prints.

I can't wait to show you my fabrics and get started!  If only they would get here!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Washing Fabric

I am still waiting for my fabric for Sedona Star to arrive, which is just as well, because I still have lots of organizing to do.  I think I mentioned earlier that I recently committed to washing all my fabric before I use it.  Even though I once saw cheap unwashed fabric shrink under the iron right before my eyes, I couldn't get over the hurdle to start washing it.  Now the hurdle is very high, because my stash is over 20 years old, but I am slogging through it a few loads at a time!

In the back is the washed and waiting to be sorted by colour pile, and the bins in front are waiting to be washed.  You can see I am getting down to the older fabric now!

It was Becky Goldsmith who changed my mind about washing fabric, at a workshop she did last spring for my second guild, York Heritage.  I learned a lot at that workshop!  Becky recommends that you put your fabrics in the washer AND DRYER, which is something I hadn't done before.  I thought the dryer would tangle it even more than the washer did, but I was thrilled to find out that it doesn't tangle at all.  Because she mainly teaches applique, her argument is that even cotton fabric will felt a little in the dryer, so it frays less and is easier to applique.  I also really like the feel of the fluffier fabric.

How many of you have had a good look at your stash recently?  I've been opening boxes I haven't opened in years!  There have been many pleasant surprises, and also a few "what was I thinking" moments.  Sky blue is not really my favourite colour any more!  I also found a whole series of pinks and reds, and I had no idea what they were for.  Then yesterday I remembered my plan to make heart-shaped log cabins.  I still like that idea enough that I have added it to my to do list!  So it's kind of a dangerous process as well!  Especially given that I had to buy new background fabric last night...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quiltmania No. 85

Although it is published in France, Quiltmania has been written in English for several years now, and the instructions are in both metric and imperial.  It is reliably one of my favourite magazines.  Quiltmania publishes two separate series - the numbered series is in English and comes out six times a year.  This series has articles as well as some projects.  They also produce a quarterly series, the "Special Editions," which are just projects and written in French, with metric measurements.

The one I bought this weekend was No. 85, September/October 2011.  Because they are imported the news stands in Canada are generally behind with this magazine.  You can also buy back issues (and many tempting but expensive books) at the Quiltmania website

Quiltmania goes to all the international quilt shows and prints good photos of the highlights.  This issue has quilts from Europe, Australia and Japan.  The focus is mainly on traditional quilts this time, with some really stunning efforts in both Australia and Europe.  Here are some more ideas for your half square triangles!

While it is not the most impressive quilt in the magazine, I was also struck by this one:

I thought this was a great way to set a sampler quilt.  The blocks are well unified, and it has good graphic punch.  I rarely like sampler quilts, most of them look too random and unbalanced to me, even with a limited palette.  So this is a great setting to keep in mind!  I noticed one of the shop ads in the back of the magazine has already used this idea for one of their kits.

There are a few photos from an exhibit of Reiko Kato and her students' latest quilts.  I just love the Japanese taupe quilts, and all the little accessories they make.  The fabrics are completely different than North American fabrics though, so for now I am just buying books rather than fabric.  I am SO tempted by Kato's latest - Garden Party.  If only I didn't have to import it from France!

Quiltmania is another great magazine for fairly simple quilt patterns with good design value.  Even though there are a number of American designers featured, the designs are a little different than those you find in American magazines.  There is a really gorgeous design, Eldon, from Edyta Sitar, with log cabin stars that you must see if you like her work.  I'm not sure if it was previously published, sometimes Quiltmania projects have been.  This one is not for beginners, though, the piecing has to be very accurate.

The cover project is called Ryokan, after the Japanese guest houses, although the designer Joe Wood is also American.  I think it is another great way to incorporate sampler blocks in an overall design!  The instructions for this project will be continued in the next magazine, No. 86.  It makes me think of all the barns in Pennsylvania with quilts painted on the sides - I'm sure there is a good quilt idea in there somewhere too!

Both this magazine and the one I reviewed yesterday, Sew Scrappy, had quilts featuring churn dash blocks, which was kind of interesting.  I guess it is a nice, simple block.

Finally, there is a very impressive design, Fontainebleau Forest, for an English paper pieced quilt that combines diamonds and hexagons in a pinwheel motif.  I already have an English paper pieced project in the wings, but I will keep this one in the back of my mind.  It is all fall-coloured batiks in greens, oranges and browns, and just gorgeous!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sew Scrappy

I bought a couple of quilt magazines this weekend, and I thought I would add magazine and book reviews to my offerings here.  I used to buy a LOT of books and magazines, but this past year I've been trying to cut back, because I already have plenty of project ideas and the last thing I really need is more!  But there is something very pleasant about sitting back and looking at a lot of nice colour pictures, so I still cave once in a while.

You will find that most of my reviews are positive, because I try not to buy anything unless I'm pretty sure I'll like it.  But if I do buy a dog I will tell you!

First up is Sew Scrappy, volume two, from Better Homes and Gardens:

As a rule I usually like magazines from Better Homes and Gardens - I think it is because all their products lean towards a warmer palette, which is my strong preference as well.  This magazine is $16 here in Canada, but for me it was well worth it.  It is 128 pages and there are no ads and no articles, it is almost all quilts.  There are not even any totes or bags, just quilts ranging from simple minis to table toppers to throws and bed quilts.  And one small fused greeting card project.  As the title suggests, they all assume you have a pretty big stash! 

Even better, they are all easy projects suitable for confident beginners, but with enough design value to be appealing to more advanced quilters.  The rotary cutting and quick-piecing instructions are good.  They are almost all pieced quilts, with very little applique. 

The only slight quibble I would have is that there is not a lot of advice on choosing fabrics.  The advice is usually confined to "sort scraps into lights, mediums and darks."  I know that many quilters lack confidence in choosing fabric, so this could be an area for improvement.  The up side is that with a scrap quilt a little bit of imperfection adds to the charm.

There were three projects that gave me ideas for the future.  The hourglass quilt on the cover is quite striking, and I probably have enough scraps to do it right now.  It uses a more "country" palette with brown undertones, and I have a lot of older fabrics in these colours.  I find myself preferring clearer colours in the new fabrics I buy, so this could be a good way to use up that older fabric.  The fun thing about this quilt is that there are a couple of surprises in it - can you see the nine patch block in the cover photo?

I also like the quilt in the bottom right hand corner of the cover.  It is made of nine patch blocks with white centres and sashing.  White makes a quilt look very modern and fresh to me.  It is not just white in the borders, there is also a lot of white in the fabric prints that tie it all together.  It was fun to see some of the same fabrics in this quilt that I used in my yoyos!

There is also a low-contrast snowball block quilt in the magazine that got me thinking about a project that's been in the back of my mind for a while now.  I've seen snowball blocks all over lately and liked them, but never seriously thought about making any.  But this time it clicked.

My mother collects chicken-themed things, so I've been collecting chicken-themed fabrics for a couple of years now with the intention of making a throw quilt.  You need a block with a simple design to show off all those fabrics, and a snowball block would be ideal!  I can make the corners in solid black and white to unify the quilt and give it some graphic punch.  Perfect!

The chicken fabrics are in the unwashed part of my stash, and it was all I could do to not immediately throw them all in the washing machine.  But I was observing my first day of rest, and laundry didn't seem to fit with that, so I am still waiting.  Anyway, you already know that I have plenty on the go!

Finally, another quilt I really liked in the magazine but am unlikely to make, now anyway, was a design by Valori Wells, whose designs are always very fresh.  It is all machine-appliqued concentric circles, done in bright, solid colours.  I think this is the big new trend in quilting, solid fabrics, and we will start seeing more of them.

Gosh, I have gone on at length here!  I will review the second magazine, Quiltmania #85, tomorrow.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sedona Star - Reading Month 1

The instructions for the first month of the 2012 BOM Sedona Star were posted on The Quilt Show website yesterday.  After giving them a quick read I proceeded to think hard for several hours!  I knew I was going to have issues just from reading the Introduction last month, but I wanted to wait and read the first month before I finalized my plans.

The thing is that I have very basic equipment.  Nothing will be done "in the hoop" on my twentysomething Janome that even then was marketed as a basic machine.  It does eight stitches.  But I don't mean to complain about my machine, because it does very well.  For me it all comes down to designer Sarah Vedeler's coy instruction to "applique using your preferred method."  My preferred method is needleturn by hand.

Given that one of Sarah's other key instructions was to leave the paper in the quilt until the end (there is a lot of paper piecing), this created a challenge.  Hence the several hours of deep thought:
  • I don't want to use fusibles at all.  I am vain enough to want my quilt to have longevity - at a minimum the 50 years that could be left in my own lifetime.
  • I could give up the hand applique and instead use Beth Ferrier's instructions for turned applique by machine.  I pulled out her book - More Hand Applique by Machine.
  • Beth's method would still involve some glue, as well as TWO layers of paper to take out at the end.
  • I could use wash-away applique paper and leave it in.
  • But how will I machine quilt an 88" quilt on my little Janome with its 7" throat if the paper is still in the appliques?
  • Then, a new issue occured to me.  Where will I keep the paper lined quilt for the whole year it is in progress?  I don't have a studio where I can leave it on the wall for a year.
  • I could keep it in pieces until the end.
  • But even then it would be a couple of weeks to assemble it.  Plus, the satisfaction of monthly progress will be greatly reduced, possible jeopardizing the whole project.  I have to be able to put it away each day.
  • If I take the paper out I can hand applique, but how will I keep the big pieces accurate enough to sew together neatly?
  • When I used to sew a dress or jacket I had big curved pieces that still fit together accurately.  How?  I cut a wider seam allowance and marked and pinned the matching points carefully.
  • AHA!  I will make it like a dress and just give myself nice wide seam allowances.
Problems solved.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Do you make resolutions for the new year?  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.  For the past few years I have been, and for the most part they have been helpful.  Even if I don't finish them, I usually will have a lot more clarity on the issue by the end of the year, and therefore be feeling better about it overall.  For me 2011 was about UFOs, and even though I only finished three, I also threw away several and considerably reduced the mental load associated with all those unfinished projects.

Rather than "making resolutions," I usually "set intentions," which feels less restrictive and more fun.  It's not just semantics when you think about how the two phrases feel.

Intentions for 2012

  1. Finish a quilt.  OK, this has actually been on my list for at least three years now, but I really think 2012 will be the year!  I'm much closer than I ever have been before.
  2. Keep on track with Sedona Star.  I'll be starting it late, because I can't order the fabrics until I get paid next week, but my goal is to never get more than a month behind with the top.  Quilting it will probably be on the list for 2013!
  3. Observe a weekly day of rest.  I don't follow a traditional religion, but lately I have been seeing a lot of value in observing a regular Sabbath or day of rest.  My plan is to switch off the computer, tv, sewing machine, etc., for a full 24 hours, and spend the time quietly with hand work and a decent chunk of meditation time.  I have a habit now of not taking time out until I get sick, so my hope is that more time outs will result in less sick time.
How about you?  What are your intentions for 2012?
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