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!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Country Beehive

Until now, I have been pretty much sticking to the script on Lynette Anderson's 2015 BOM, My Country House. But for Month 9, Lynette's design for the beehive has two flowers on the same stem, very close to the right edge of the block. Since I am using thick wool felt for those flowers, I would have had to sew them on after joining the block if I kept to the design.

So, I used the same elements in a different layout:

The beehive fabric is the same as the house fabric in the centre block. I thought it would be interesting to echo the same layout as the house block, using the flowers the same as the trees:

However, if you think about the perspective in the beehive block, with the stems behind the horizon, suddenly they look about twelve feet tall. Truthfully, they are reminding me of the Martians in the original War of the Worlds movie:

At around 0:36 you'll see the resemblance!

But, I'm not doing it again. I think once the block is sewn into the whole quilt, and not standing alone, it will be less obvious.

Plus, I'm really happy with how cute the bee is:

I have a few more bees cut out, to scatter around the rest of the quilt. So, on I go! The last three applique blocks are all nearly done, with a just a few embroidered details left. They will make a nice break from the heavy sewing with Allietare!

It is a long time since I linked up with Slow Sunday Stitching, so it will be fun to see what they are all up to over there. Check it out to see for yourself!

And, how do you like my changes to my blog layout? Now it's a little wider, the text is larger, and there's room for bigger photos. Of course, I changed the header photo too. If it's a problem for anyone, please let me know!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ready for Allietare!

For several years now I've watched other quilters around the blogosphere sew one of Bonnie Hunter's yearly mystery quilts. I always say, "oh, that is too much sewing for me!" Plus, it is very, very, very hard for me to give up creative control like that.

But this fall I've been feeling like it's time to get over this idea that everything I make has to take forever. Many people finish one of Bonnie's detailed, bed-sized quilts in the allotted six weeks. It's time to break through my hang ups and finish something fast!

Bonnie's hotel room view in Italy

Plus, I was immediately inspired by the above photo from Bonnie's introduction to this year's mystery, "Allietare!" I love the yellow ochre walls! I remembered that Kaffe Fassett was also very inspired by those Mediterranean colours. In particular, I remembered this photo...

...from Kaffe's first book, Glorious Knitting. I've always wanted to make this sweater, but I look terrible in gold. So here's my chance to use the colour in a quilt instead! I have plenty of gold and ochre Kaffe fabrics.

Bonnie's mystery quilt colours will be gold, red, black, white and grey. All the colours can be made up from scraps except the grey, which she says should be a single 1.5 yard piece of fabric. I had everything except the grey in my stash.

So, if I'm going to make one change to personalize the project, the grey is the obvious place to make it. Since it's a mystery, I can only guess about the function of the grey in the quilt. If it's going to be a black/grey/white gradient, then I'm in trouble. I'm hoping that it's going to work something like the grout around tiles, a shadow to highlight the bright colours.

Thinking of the two photos above, and using a little colour theory, I thought that something between the blue sky and purple stars might work instead. I bought a blue/purple/grey batik, and a blue/purple print by Kaffe's partner Brandon Mably.

Now, which one is best?

Use your hand to cover one side at a time. Interesting, eh? To my eye, the batik on the left makes the reds and golds seem brighter, while the rings on the right seem to make them faded and dull.

In real life the batik is a little more green, and the rings are more purple. Before I laid them both out, I really thought the purple-y rings were going to be the right fabric, because shadows tend to be purple. But, if the purpose of this fabric is to lift the reds and golds, then the batik is definitely the winner!

I think there are two reasons. First, the rings have more contrast, so they catch the eye first and compete with the other fabrics. Second, the rings are flat, solid colours, so they seem on the same level as the red and gold prints. The mottled and shaded batik, on the other hand, looks much further away than the prints. So hopefully, more depth and contrast between the fabrics will create more drama in the finished piece!

Now I'm dying to see how it works out. One week to go!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Modern Utility Quilt

In her wrap of the second AHIQ link up, Ann said that "Modern utility quilts are an official movement."

Well, I thought, "my letters and words are not destined for a utility quilt."

But... I really could use a small quilt to cover my hand sewing chair, especially during the summer. And then, I was very inspired by the windmill quilts made by Ann and her quilting sister. Especially all the gorgeous Hawaiian fabrics her sister used. This seemed like a good way to use up some of those big prints in my stash!

My stash has a box called "Novelty," and I knew I had this fabric in there:

I bought it on a whim at a show, and I thought I'd probably never use it. But, now it is the inspiration for a whole quilt! I love the pink, red and white palette.

The Novelty box had other food-themed fabrics as well, including a couple yards of this sushi fabric:

I remember that I actually wanted more than two yards, but it sold out before I could buy it! I do love all the colours, especially the rich Chinese red. And that teapot is looking pretty good sewn up, too:

I found enough pink, white and red foodie fabrics for half the quilt, and then I filled it in with some ginghams (tablecloths!) and dots. With a hint of cucumber, citron, and lime:

Sounds tasty, doesn't it?

I think Ann's quilt is from Sujata Shah's book, Cultural Fusion Quilts. Ann's quilt blocks are square, but I thought they might look good as rectangles. A little more modern, a little more dynamic. The only catch with a rectangle is that you have to make half pointing left, and half pointing right.

Here are a few on the design wall, just to see:

I really, really wanted to do the whole thing fast and have a small flimsy finished in time for next Tuesday's link up. Unfortunately, I lost my head and ended up cutting way, way too much. So now it is queen-sized! Another big quilt! We'll see how far I am by Tuesday. Right now I'm only half way through the blocks:

And now I still won't have a suitable utility quilt for my chair. But, I bet the same block would look great in all my old Asian fabrics! And I think the box of Christmas fabric I have would benefit from some of this too. Maybe next year!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Design Wall Monday

Since I don't have a permanent design wall, this is the first time I've had something to share with the Design Wall Monday link up. My "design wall" is a white flannel sheet that I drape across the front of two Ikea wardrobes. It works quite well!

But, it is just 2 m (78") wide, so sometimes new solutions are required.

On the wall are the first few rows of Carrie Nelson's X-Rated quilt design from this book. I'm calling my version Aloha Kisses, with all its Hawaiian-themed fabrics. I originally planned to make it as a throw quilt. But since the weather has started to get colder, suddenly I feel the need for bed-sized quilts! I bought fat quarters of all these fabrics, so I have plenty left to make it larger.

This quilt has to be laid out and all the pieces carefully numbered, or it won't go together right. Rather than lay it out in sections, I realized that I could use one square to represent the whole cross:

Now I can fit all the fabrics on the wall at the same time!

It was still a challenge to fill in the missing pieces and pack it up in order. But, I feel optimistic that it will work.

I won't be sewing it, though, until the new year. I want to see if I can sort out some Leaders and Enders to use with the white thread I need for this project. Plus, this year, also for the first time, I've decided to do Bonnie Hunter's new mystery quilt, Allietare. So I'm clearing the decks to make room for that.

In the meantime, check out the other design walls at the link up here!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Feathered Star

I'm still not sure that I should have done it, but I did, and here it is!

This is Sue Garman's feathered star pattern, which is Month 1 of Stars for a New Day. It was the 2009 Block of the Month at The Quilt Show, and now you can buy the pattern on Sue's website. I've been holding onto the instructions since 2009, waiting for the right time to start it.

Almost three years ago I bought some of the Victorian Modern collection by Weeks Ringle for this same quilt. But that just never felt right.

This fabric is all from Connecting Threads, and most of it is their new Heirloom Manor collection. I loved it immediately, and I also thought it would work well for some fancy, fussy-cut English paper piecing. "But I'm not going to do that," I said to myself! "I'm still working on Texas Star, which is all EPP, and after that I have Best Friends Forever."

Then I remembered Stars for a New Day, and I bought it. While I was washing it all, I thought again how ideal it would be for fussy cutting. "But that would be stupid," I said to myself. "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

Ironically, it was while I was doing some improv sewing that I decided to just go for it. Improv seems to foster a "why not?" attitude, I've found.

This freezer paper frame idea is adapted from Janet's idea at Quiltsalott. You position and lightly iron down the frame...

...then iron the template down in the middle, and peel off the frame. I reused the frame, but made separate templates for each piece, and scissors cut them all with a generous seam allowance.

I ended up fussy cutting almost every piece. The navy diamonds and small tan triangles were cut to avoid the pattern and make them more solid-coloured. In for a penny, in for a pound!

In the end, though, the fussy cutting was not the tricky part of the block. The tricky part is right here:

If you ever find yourself judging a feathered star, that is the place to look. But, you definitely shouldn't judge it unless you've tried it yourself! The first one took me five tries, and then I wised up and basted each seam first.

Until I got to that point, I was thinking that it is a surprisingly forgiving pattern! The blue feathers are foundation paper pieced, so it is easy to keep them all sharp, and Sue's pattern eliminates the Y seams.

Anyway, there it is, and now I will pack it away until the new year. While I was working on it yesterday, zoned out in the blue, white, blue, white, paper piecing, I had another idea for a new improv project! But, surely I have enough already...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My Country House Blocks

The last four pieced blocks for the TQS 2015 BOM, My Country House by Lynette Anderson, are finally done! Yes, I've been distracted by various new projects, but they were also a little picky to put together.

The original blocks finish at 9" square, but my 3/4 scale blocks finish at 6 3/4" square, and the math starts to get complicated. So I decided to foundation paper piece all the outside units.

I drafted my own foundations on graph paper at the original 3" finished size, and then used the photocopier to reduce them to 75%, which is 3/4 scale.

I don't know why my cutting mat always seems to be upside down!

Anyway, then I trimmed the units, removed the papers, and put the rest of the block together like a normal nine patch.

This block is called Garden Path. The white diamond is normally continuous around the block, but I deliberately broke it up. My hope is to balance these pieced blocks with the applique blocks, so I don't want the piecing to be too dominant.  We'll see soon if I was successful with that!

Truthfully, I was running out of ideas at this point, but I thought it might be interesting to have a block that is all background fabrics. It looks a bit like a swampy pond to me!

And, here are all four together. If you missed the first nine, you can find them here.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Why Improv?


"Organic" really is the word that sums up improv style to me. I like the way it looks -- every piece has its own character, just as in real life. I like the method, working with materials that are already on hand, just as Mother Nature does. Adapting to local conditions, and letting them determine some of the result.

But, that doesn't mean there isn't a plan. A seed intends to be a flower. It may not know exactly how it's going to be a flower, but that's the goal.

And if things don't exactly work out, that's ok too! Improv provides the opportunity to experiment and try new ideas in a low-risk environment. It's just old scraps.

For my quilt, though, I already have a general idea of the final layout, the colour scheme, what it's going to say, and what the individual elements are likely to be. I never have a shortage of ideas! And since I have the idea, I think it's best to honour it, while staying open to change as it develops.

Personally, I think there must be an idea before anything can come to life, and the timing of the idea -- before or during production -- is not important. Sometimes I think that improv is a little bit of smoke and mirrors. You're never really creating something out of nothing. Jazz musicians improvise on an existing tune. Improv theatre starts with an initial premise, and often follows a rough plot as well.

The challenge, and the benefit, is in figuring out how to get there. You're solving problems, you're developing new techniques, or using old ones in new ways. It's very much a "flow" experience. I'm feeling more confident and relaxed about all my projects, not just this one.

And, I can definitely say that it stimulates creativity! I've been working on several different projects this past week, including a completely new one that is not improv at all. I'm glad I was able to try out these flowers before the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters link up ends. Check out everyone else's posts here!
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