Monday, March 30, 2015

MCH Month 3 Finished

Probably for the first time ever, I have finished a block in the same month that it was released! This is Month 3 of Lynette Anderson's 2015 BOM, My Country House. Of course it helps that it was the easiest month so far, and I simplified it further:

Instead of piecing the heart, I just fussy cut it whole from the same red fabric that I used for the house door in Month 1.

I've had the stems sewn down for over two weeks, but then I waffled quite a bit about how to sew down the hexie flowers. Click the photo to see it larger:

I pieced the flowers with 100 wt silk thread, which is completely invisible. But it felt wrong to use the same invisible thread to applique them down. So I had three options:

  1. Sew down the flowers invisibly with the 100 wt silk.
  2. Use cotton thread for the applique, same as the stems and heart. But, should I then change colours for the coral and orange hexagons?
  3. Use perle cotton and a running stitch for the applique, same as I did for Jacks and Cats. But what colour should that be? Yellow, orange, coral, or even black?

I do not believe that an invisible applique stitch is the only right way to applique. Rather, I think it depends on the type of project and how it will be used. In this case there will be a lot of wool applique, which I like to whip stitch down with a single thread of embroidery floss. And I appliqued the stems with cotton and a regular, visible applique stitch, so they would relate to the leaves.

Finally I chose to use pink perle cotton and a running stitch to applique the flowers. I had some size 8 perle cotton in my stash, so I used that, but ideally I think a narrower size 12 would be better. I think the pink blends well with the coral and orange, and it will look nice as a big stitch quilted detail on the heart, once I get that far.

I also waffled about whether to stitch the vein on the leaves, because that is a big commitment for the 48 leaves still to do in Month 2. But, since I went with the perle cotton on the flowers, I decided it would be a nice touch for the leaves. Fortunately, I had the perfect colour in my stash! It is also size 8, DMC 580 perle cotton, and back stitch. And it didn't take long at all.

At 3/4 scale, I was just able to squeeze the 40.5" block into one width of fabric. I still need to finish the trees on Month 1, and then I'm going to move ahead to all the pieced blocks. There's a postage stamp border between Month 1 and Month 2, and I have the idea that it will be more efficient to make the stamps from the leftovers of the pieced blocks. I'm not sure it really is efficient, but I will try!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Hanami is the Japanese word for "flower viewing," and it is generally used specifically for viewing cherry blossoms. Right now the cherry trees are just starting to bloom in Japan, and, after a big push this week, I have managed to get a tree to bloom right here in Toronto too!

I started making half square triangles (HSTs) for this quilt in December, but then other projects took over and I thought that I'd missed the season. I'd actually banished it to the basement until Mary Ellen left me a comment about an HST exchange last week. After some online research I realized that I still had time, so here I am!

Today I'll talk about my inspiration for the quilt, and in future posts I'll discuss my method.

In 2011 The Quilt Show had Edyta Sitar as a guest for episode 802, to talk about quick, paper pieced HSTs and quilt designs for them. Some TQS members organized a big HST exchange, and TQS member Wilma Moss made a Tree of Life quilt with her triangles that really caught my eye:

Big Thicket by Wilma Moss, adapted from an Edyta Sitar design

Thanks to Wilma for letting me post the photo! You can read about Wilma's quilt in the TQS quilt gallery here, and she also has a website, Brick Cottage Quilts.  I loved the mix of fabrics and those flashes of bright colour in Wilma's quilt, and I started to think about using up some of my large scale floral fabrics in a similar way.

Then last fall Audrey at Quilty Folk created her own version of the Tree of Life block:

Tree of Life blocks by Audrey at Quilty Folk

Many thanks to Audrey as well! I really love the compact trunks on her trees, and the round shape of the crown. Her colour scheme was quite inspiring too! Once again I thought about flowering trees...

Then the Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt Grand Illusion started at the end of November, and many bloggers started sewing masses of HSTs. I am unlikely to ever do someone else's mystery quilt, because making and/or tweaking the design is half the fun for me. But I thought, how could I surprise myself?

The answer was to incorporate some random elements into the design, and a Tree of Life seemed like a perfect opportunity for that. I reworked Audrey's design, keeping the outline but changing the construction so I could make it entirely from HSTs:

For about ten minutes I even considered making the whole background from light/light HSTs as well! I dug into my stash looking for a mix of bright florals, but I soon realized that I had enough pink to make all the trees pink, and the cherry blossom orchard idea was born:

I thought, wouldn't it be cool to get it done by the start of the hanami season? Well, it IS cool, and I am pretty stoked.

And it will be even cooler if I can get the top finished by the end of the season in early May! One down, twelve to go. :D

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Diamond Economy

Somehow, a diamond economy sounds better than economy diamonds! Either way, I think it's better than square-in-a-square-in-a-square-in-a-square, lol.

Anyway, I finished these up this morning, and yesterday I finished the last eleven four patch diamonds. As I did the final trim, I found a little bit of serendipity:

An orange flower was centred perfectly in the block, completely by accident, not once, but twice!

So, I'm on a roll, and next time I plan to show you what it's all for.

Oh, and by the way, that extra pin in the seam that I mentioned last time made all the difference! The last batch was much more consistent. And, isn't it interesting how the blue sky outside made these photos bluer than the last post? The colours were more accurate last time.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Four Patch Diamonds

Here's another Monday preview! I need 28 of these 4" blocks, and I have 17 done. One more day should do it.

There are probably many ways to make this block, but to avoid higher mathematics I've been foundation paper piecing them. I started with some raggedy oversized four patch blocks, and home made paper foundations printed on translucent vellum:

Then I just lined up the seams with the centre cross, pinned it, trimmed it, and sewed through the paper to add the dark green corners.

It worked reasonably well, but I did find that the block tended to shift a bit when I sewed. You can see that with the blue one above. I loosened up the presser foot, which helped a lot. With the last batch I will also put an extra pin right in the cross seam and see if that helps too. In any case, they will do.

I've really enjoyed getting back into the rhythm of paper piecing. I find it very relaxing to not always be worrying about a perfect 1/4" seam, and my high speed machine makes quick work of the short stitches. I even like tearing off the paper! The crisp vellum comes off easily and doesn't leave any little bits in the seam. Hopefully nothing will come up tomorrow and I can get the rest done. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Final Line Up for BFF

Last time I posted about Best Friends Forever, I said that 23.5 of the stitcheries were done. Before I did the final wash and cut, I decided to finish up that last ".5:"

And it's a good thing I did! Look what happened here:

I used the acrylic cutting guide from Paper Pieces to centre each stitchery on the 3.5" hexagons I'm using for the setting. It turns out that these two motifs, the basket and the house, were printed too close together. It's the only place I had this problem for the whole quilt -- usually there was 1/2" or more in between.

I'm not upset, because I wasn't a big fan of the basket anyway. When I stitched it I worried that it was too big, which it isn't. But I guess I knew something was wrong!

I always wash my finished stitching (cross stitch too) in plain unscented dish soap (environmentally friendly) to get out any oil or dirt. It works great, and I've never had any colour run. The linen was hung to dry, and then ironed from the back on a clean pressing cloth:

Cute, eh? Even the grunt work has been fun on this project.

Then all the motifs were cut, backed with muslin, and basted to the big paper hexagons:

I miss stitching these, actually. It was fun to come up with different stitches and colours for each one. The stitching for Down in the Garden, which I'm doing now, is not as challenging and is starting to feel dull. I may need to add something else to the mix!

Anyway, here's a reminder of how the BFF setting works:

As fun and exciting as this all looks, I'm not sure I can work on this and Texas Star at the same time without a total English paper piecing overload. And I've kind of set myself a schedule for Texas Star... So it may be a while before you see any more.

Finally, one problem I often have with internet photos is that you lose the sense of scale. So, here's a last photo with one BFF block, one Texas Star, and one of the hexie flowers from My Country House:

Is it different than you thought? They are 3.5", 5/8" and 1/2" hexagon centres, respectively. I should have put a ruler in the photo too. Anyway, lots to do!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Country Flowers

Although I've been quiet for a couple of weeks, I'm still sewing! A little here, a little there. Here's a preview with the two kinds of flowers for the TQS 2015 BOM, My Country House by Lynette Anderson.

The "fried egg" flowers are felted wool from Wooly Lady. I love the colours! Felted wool is my big secret plan to minimize the difficulty, especially with the 3/4 scale, and stay on schedule with this BOM. All the critters will be wool.

The hexies are 1/2", which I decided would be the best fit for my smaller scale version of the quilt. The coral and orange fabrics are long time stash inhabitants, and the yellow and green are both fairly new Quilter's Candy Basics from Connecting Threads. There will be a lot of CT fabrics in this quilt. They seem to match the simple feeling that I want for this project.

Month 3 will probably be the first month to be completely finished. I plan to make good progress this week!
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