Thursday, December 31, 2015

Allietare Week 5

Just in the nick of time, I've finished all 98 of my units for Week 5 of Bonnie Hunter's 2015-16 mystery quilt, Allietare:

And, I sewed all the blue squares onto our long "sashing" pieces as well:

I don't think they are sashing any more, actually. Now that they are asymmetrical, I think they are for the border.

Do you realize that when we cut off all those corner triangles, we lost ground in the total area of the quilt? We're only at 65% now. Somehow, I don't think tomorrow's clue will be the last one. (Edit: Well, it looks like Bonnie went ahead and posted the final reveal just as I was writing this!)

With all my time this past week trying to "rest" my arm, I've had plenty of time to play with the units and doodle on graph paper. I think I know how it will come together! (Edit #2: I was right!) And, I also think that Bonnie's design is going to look best with the medium grey constant fabric that she specified. I think my blue batik may look best with a slightly different layout. So, that's lots of speculation, but this may be the last week that I follow the directions. ;D (Edit #3: No need to worry, my fabrics are exactly perfect after all!)

This lovely fabric finally arrived in the mail this week:

It's a new 2015 colourway of Philip Jacobs' Banded Poppy. And, it's the final answer to a longstanding problem of mine. What problem? *looks coy* Wait and see!

In the meantime, please click here to see everyone else's work for Allietare Week 5!

And if you haven't already, please have a...

I know in Australia they have already recovered from the hangover. :D

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Allietare Scraps & Blacks

Week 4 of Bonnie Hunter's 2015-16 mystery quilt, Allietare is a big one -- 120 red and white flying geese units in 30 sets of four. When I sat down to make my cutting plan, I started to think that Bonnie's quilts are really designed for scraps, and so far I've been using yardage. My scrap box is not very big, but I thought there might be a few more Kaffe reds in there. I was right!

I had enough for one set each of the two Brandon Mably fabrics above. Near the bottom of the box was a real treasure, a full 2.5" x width of fabric strip of red Kirman, now discontinued. Enough for three sets:

And, a big enough piece of red Asian Circles for two sets as well:

So that was exciting! I might have rejected that last one at the beginning of the mystery, but now I have a good sense of how things are going, and I know it will work.

In addition to the black hearts fabric that I cut for Week 2, I have five more black fabrics to work with:

The small prints here are a good balance to the large prints on my reds and golds.

And once again, even though the instructions call for a random mix of light fabrics, I cut them in matched sets of four. I have a good feeling about how that's going to work. Finally, after two days of cutting, I was able to match up all the sets:

That was fun!

But my shoulder has had enough. I was able to sew the black "wings" on 10 sets, and completely finish just one set...

Kaffe, Brandon and Mary Engelbreit!

...and even though I love how it is coming together, my shoulder just isn't having it. So it is all packed up, and let's hope that three full days of rest will give it a chance to cool off.

Click here to see how everyone else is doing with the Week 4 challenge. From me, I wish everyone a wonderful holiday, no matter what holiday you are celebrating!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Allietare Golds

Well, it's Thursday, not Monday, but Week 3 of Bonnie Hunter's 2015-16 Mystery Quilt, Allietare, is now wrapped up! I had hoped to spend last Sunday finishing the remaining four patches, but I developed some tendonitis in my shoulder. I've found the best cure is to do nothing at all, which is challenging, but it worked and I am better now.

It seems like I get this every year at this time. I used to think it was from hand sewing, but I've realized that it's the computer that's the problem, and sewing is just the collateral. Then I wondered, why do I spend more time on the computer at this time of year? I realized the answer is too much online shopping! So there's a lesson in there somewhere. :D

I was happy to be working with all the Kaffe golds, ochres and umbers this week. They were my main inspiration for this project, so it was nice to finally use them. A lot of Kaffe's older designs used this palette, so I've been using up some long time stash inhabitants... this gold Lotus Leaf. I love that combination of gold with chalky pink! I bought most of these in long quarters (9" x 42"), and they were a tangled nightmare to wash. They all frayed down to about 8.5". I'll never buy a long quarter again!

For this week's clue, where all the cuts are multiples of 2", it made the most sense to cut across in short 2" x 8.5" strips. And with a tricky large print like this, I thought it would be easiest to manage if I made the four patches from the same two fabrics, rather than random fabrics like Bonnie suggests.

So they just naturally came out in matching sets of four. Maybe I can do something interesting with that down the road, maybe not!

I had hoped that we would be sewing the golds together with our constant fabric, which is my blue batik. The blue would have helped my browner fabrics seem more gold:

We're only halfway, so I guess there's still time for that!

I think I missed the boat on that aqua and taupe four patch on the left there. But otherwise, the big prints work as long as there is enough contrast between the fabrics.

Last time I forgot to show you my black squares...

...which I decided to cut all from the same fabric. I didn't have a lot of suitable black in my stash, so most of it will be from this red hearts fabric. It just seemed easier to cut them all the same.

This week we had to cut 36 large light rectangles, and I decided to cut them all from the same fabric too:

They feel like they will be sashings or borders, so I think that will look good.

And finally, last week I finished the first step on all my hourglass leaders and enders. Now I've started on step two:

I'm amazed at how fast this moves along! I had 300 or so sets left when I started in late October. At this rate they could be done by the end of January, with no extra effort at all. In fact, I miss them right away if I sit down to sew and I forgot to take them out. Now I'm thinking of a new project for when these are done.

The Week 4 Allietare clue comes out tomorrow, and I think a reasonable goal will be to finish it by Thursday, not Monday! My Week 2 post was too late for the link up, so if you missed it you can find it here. And of course, you can see everyone else's Week 3 results right here. We're half way, and I seem to be sorting out the challenges and keeping up, so, woo hoo! Bring it on. :D

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Allietare Matched Sets

If part of my intention with this project, Bonnie Hunter's 2015-16 Mystery Quilt "Allietare," is to figure out why all my projects seem to take forever, then this past week has been a huge success!

The answer is "scope creep." Scope creep is a term in product or program development, when the thing you are making gets fancier and fancier, until the project is both late and way over budget. Say you are building a house, and then halfway through you decide you need bigger windows. And some extra cupboards in the kitchen. That's scope creep.

Right before the clue came out for Week 2, I decided that since I don't know the whole picture with this mystery quilt, I will just focus on the details. Then the clue was published, and it called for 20 matched sets of these red flying geese:

And somehow, between "matched sets" and "details," I became obsessed with the idea that some of my fabrics could be fussy cut. Not those ones above, but these fabrics below:

Those fans in the first fabric would fit exactly into one of those red flying geese. And wouldn't it be cool to match up the Oriental Trees in the bottom fabric? And then I had to decide how best to do it, and that used up the rest of the weekend. By Monday I simply couldn't think about it any more, and I decided to work on those Christmas Crumbs instead. That gave me enough perspective to see sense! Was I going to do the same thing when it came time to cut the gold fabrics? No way! And any way I cut it, it was going to waste fabric.

I did try it out with the stripes:

Then to cap it off, I realized that the fussy cut pieces were going to end up too far apart for the effect to work. My best guess for how the pieces will be used looks like this:

Fussy cutting makes no difference at all! I cut the remaining fabric normally. I did match up similar colours though:

And, it's fun to play around with the pieces:

But, the whole experience has now made me clearly aware of how corrosive scope creep can be. It's not just that it slowed down this project, but it also sent me haring off to start other projects as well. I realized that I've done the same thing many times before.

And ultimately, scope creep is bad design. It's much better to have a single cohesive concept than to try to fit every idea I ever had into the same project. Good design is something that I take seriously, and I'm hoping that will be the thing I remember in future. If I'm not completely immune now, at least I'm inoculated!

I missed the Week 2 link up, but you can still see everyone else's work here. Week 3 looks pretty straightforward, so it is a good chance to catch up. Heck, Mary Ellen finished her Week 3 pieces in one day, so I should be ready by Monday, right? ;)

See you again soon!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Crumbs

When I was in school, and I had a big deadline looming, I often developed a burning need to tidy up my dorm room instead of sitting down to my work. Here I am, decades later, and still the same!

A few weeks ago I bought Victoria Findlay Wolfe's book, 15 Minutes of Play. It has many great ideas for sewing your scraps into "made fabric," and then using that fabric in various quilt blocks.

Down in the basement, for several years now, there's been a small, open box full of scraggly rag ends of this old Christmas fabric. Today, instead of working on Allietare, I had a burning need to sew it all together!

Of course, it was so dusty that I had to wash it again first, and I ironed it dry. But, then I tried not to think too much, and just sew the pieces together. They are a little big to be called "crumbs," exactly, but they are ratty!

You can see that my brain was turned off, because one fabric is backwards there. In the spirit of improv, I decided to keep it.

Now I have a range of approximately 9" square pieces put together:

I tried some curved piecing, but not very well! I think they will flatten out once they are cut again.

I know it looks like crazy, avoidant behaviour, but actually I feel quite refreshed! Now I can mull over how to use them while I finish up Step 2 of Allietare. Most of the cutting is done...

...and I think it will be quick to sew together. 160 blue triangles! It should be downhill from here. :D

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Allietare Lights and Week 1

The first clue for Bonnie Hunter's 2015 Mystery Quilt, Allietare, was released on Friday. I spent the first day figuring out how to get reasonably accurate half square triangles cut using the Fons & Porter Half and Quarter Square ruler. This is basically the same as the Easy Angle ruler that Bonnie recommends, and I think my problems would have been the same with either ruler. One, it is hard to hold steady, and I solved that with some Omnigrid Invisigrip clingy plastic on the back. Two, I find it hard to line up the ruler with the edge of the fabric when the triangles are small. So, I lined up the strip with the lines on the cutting mat first, which helped to keep things square. And, I learned to tailor my seam allowance to each set of triangles. I know, I should have taken photos of all this! Anyway, at the end of Day 1, I had 15 acceptable 2" unfinished half square triangles:

And, all my practice paid off, because the remaining triangles were finished in two days. I know many people like to paper piece their triangles, and previously I would have done that too. But, paper piecing is definitely slower. Now, after one day of practice, I am set -- not just for this quilt, but for every other one too. I will probably also use this ruler for Stars for a New Day, instead of the paper templates provided in that pattern.

Another tool that turned out to be really helpful this weekend was my Steady Betty pin and press. It's a board covered in a heat resistant, clingy grey foam:

I didn't like it when I first bought it, because the iron doesn't glide over it. I guess that's the idea! But, I adapted, and it holds onto those triangles and keeps them square when you press open the bias seam. Plus, Bonnie's tip to keep the triangles chain pieced together until after you press them open was inspired!

I also really enjoyed working with all my fabrics. I talked about my choice of the blue batik last time. It has been so fun to work with -- every triangle is a little different. And, as you saw in the first photo, I have a big range of lights to work with:

I have a yard each of these two pretty, low volume florals. They'll do most of the work!

There are three light Kaffe Fassett prints, to go with the other red and gold Kaffe fabrics.

There are quite a few text fabrics, left over from my first Bonnie Hunter quilt.

Miscellaneous dots -- The dalmation spot on the right was the background in Collector, and I still have quite a bit of that. I'm also including a couple of very light blues with the other lights. They are another experiment, but I like how they look so far!

And more miscellaneous dots. These are all pretty small pieces, so it will be less boring than it looks here.
So far, I am happy with everything! I like my fabrics and how they are working together. I'm glad to finally be putting some of these tools I've accumulated to use. And I feel like my technique is improving. Bonnie has a link up for everyone's Week 1 results, so check that out here. On to Week 2!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Country Progress

Here is the pony from Month 8 of Lynette Anderson's 2015 BOM for The Quilt Show, My Country House. Mine is pretty much the same as Lynette's design, I just made the legs a little thicker and the stomach a little fatter so she looks more like a pony than a horse. When you search for pony photos online, they all look extremely well fed!

(And if you somehow haven't seen those Scottish ponies in their cardigans, you should definitely have a look here.)

In addition to all the individual blocks that I've been showing, last month I also managed to sew the postage stamp border around the centre house block:

Those are 3/4" stamps, because my quilt is 3/4 scale! There still need to be hearts appliqued into the dark green squares, and the flowering vine appliqued onto the pale yellow border. And the blue bird is still missing from the right chimney.

Even with lots left to do, it was time to finalize the layout so I can finish all the details. So, here it is all pinned up on my design wall:

It's coming along! The squirrel and the owl applique blocks in the top row both have leaves that will overlap the adjacent blocks, so those are not finished yet. And the Month 4 strip across the bottom is completely missing.

But, I don't feel too far behind. Half the flags for the final Month 12 border are already done. Plus, wool applique really is a lot faster than needleturn. And, it makes a relaxing break from working on the machine. So, that is what I'm going to do today! My half square triangles for Week 1 of Allietare are now half done, and I feel comfortable taking a day off. I'll get back to them tomorrow.

So, it's more slow stitching this Sunday, and I'm linking up to Kathy's Quilts again this week. Plus, I'll link up to Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times tomorrow. Happy stitching!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

No Picnic

Last week I finished all the blocks for my Modern Utility Quilt. I was determined not to slow down on this one! For example, when I made a cutting mistake, I just added an extra strip to bring the block back up to size:

Extra strips are a classic improv device, I think, but this first one really was a corrected mistake. The second one, well... let's just say I was not averse to another mistake! But after that my orange strip was gone and I buckled down.

My plan was to just motor through. The quilt is too big for my design wall, and since it's already so busy I thought it would be best to just distribute the fabrics evenly and sew it up. First I sewed all the blocks into pairs, and then some of the pairs into rows of four.

Monday morning I awoke with the conviction that I was selling myself and the quilt short with just a random layout. I thought maybe there could be a few "crystallized" areas near the centre of the quilt. And, I realized that I could put just the centre of the quilt on the wall, and then fill in randomly around it while I sewed it together.

Out came the seam ripper, and I hunted through all my sewn pairs for four blocks with this same light citrus-themed background.

Then I thought it would be nice to carry the same background out into the spokes around the corner. There was a lot of hunting and seam ripping required to find the right fabric combinations. Plus, it's trickier when some of the blocks point left, and some point right.

Then I wanted a cross with all red sushi fabric backgrounds, in more or less that spot on the quilt. More hunting, shuffling, and seam ripping.

And finally, an all-green cross a little further down.

Then I just started filling in around those three points. I had to rearrange the sushi cross with the fat ends together, because that's how it fit into the pattern.

Even though I spent an hour or so with the seam ripper, all my prep work sewing the blocks into pairs did pay off at this point. The main layout came together quickly:

There's just a hint of a glow in the centre, and a few interesting repeats to catch the eye. There will still be a full row of crosses to add to the top and bottom, and along the right side.

After my experience with the blues in Collector, I knew the greens would be important here, so I was careful to keep them even. Once again though, contrast is king. I don't know why I am surprised, but I am! I thought the almost solid pin dot fabrics would be more important, but it turned out that the high-contrast large ginghams, and the red and white apple fabric, are by far the most demanding.

I am keen to see it all sewn together now! And then, there will be the question of a border. I know, how will I manage to put a border on this? We'll have to see, but, I do want to add about 4" around, and I don't have enough fabric for more blocks. A debate for next time!

But for now, I'm linking up with the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters again this month. Back in my first Improv post, I mentioned that I wasn't yet in danger of never going back to regular sewing. Now I can feel my whole point of view shifting! I still have traditional projects that I want to finish, and start, but I've already thought of at least five new projects for Improv as well. Maybe I will finally start to reduce my stash!
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