Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mod Pillows

Here's one more little finish for 2016 -- my Mod Pillows. I made these from the strip sets left over from Mod Trips, my modern, red and white version of Bonnie Hunter's Scrappy Trips Around the World. That was the quilt that started my Bonnie Hunter infatuation!

Anyway, the tops for these 20" square pillow covers have been quilted for a long time, and they just needed the back and binding. In my stash I had this fabric with old maps of the world...

...which is a perfect match by colour and by theme! When I first bought it online, it turned out to be much darker than I expected. So I "discharged" it by an overnight soak in a diluted bucket of bleach. The colour turned out much better, but despite several washes the fabric smelled of bleach for over a year! A cautionary tale. But, I'm glad to have it now!

So far, I'd sewn all my bindings by hand, simply because it is easier and hand sewing is something I already knew how to do. But, with my back the way it is now, I decided it was time to learn to sew binding by machine. Around the internet I've seen a couple of award-winning quilts that had bindings machine sewn to the front of the quilt. That's what I wanted to try!

This is a double-fold binding, sewn to the front the same as you would for a hand sewn binding. I did cut the strips 1/4" wider, just to give myself a little extra room on the back.

I ironed the binding out, and then ironed it again folded to the back, pinned the corner and used Clover Wonder Clips to hold the binding in place. Then, with my zipper foot and beige thread in the top of the machine and red thread in the bobbin, I stitched in the ditch from the front of the pillow, being careful to catch the flap of the binding underneath at the same time.

It is a little wobbly, as expected, but on the whole it was easier and turned out better than I hoped! I really prefer to have that loose flap on the back, and have a neat front. So I'll definitely use this technique again!

I'll be using the pillows right away, so I am glad to have them done at last. Plus, I am very happy to have the empty project box! It will be nice to get some of my new projects off my sewing table. :D

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top 5 Posts of 2016

WOman plans, God laughs

Each year that I've blogged, my list of resolutions for the new year has become shorter and vaguer. I've realized that for me, concrete goals and the creative process are basically incompatible. This year, my resolution is three words:

1. Follow the fun.

Over at Meadow Mist Designs, Cheryl is running a linky party where bloggers can share their Top 5 Posts of 2016. This got me curious about my stats, so I had a look at the numbers. I looked at most page views, most comments, and then added my own preference to the mix. Let's count them down!

#5 -- Sunny and Derivative. This was my two cents on the whole "derivative" controversy triggered by the Modern Quilt Guild this summer. Since my blogging focus is largely on the creative process, the issue was close to home even though I don't consider myself a modern quilter.

#4 -- Allietare Red Blocks. This post ranked second by page views for the year. Allietare was my first time participating in Bonnie Hunter's annual mystery quilt. It was a challenging project, but completely worthwhile. And it's inspired me to start a few more of Bonnie's quilts as well.

#3 -- 13 Cherry Trees. This post was ranked third by page views, and the one before it was second by comments, so I've combined them into a third place overall finish. I've been both surprised and gratified by how popular this quilt has been!

FYI, I've decided to make it bigger, and a wide border has been planned.

#2 -- Little Wooly Baskets. This post is #1 in page views, with more than double the page views of the runner up Allietare. The Woolie Contingent is large! Dawn Heese's quilt along was hugely popular.

My photo of Block 2 here, with the white basting threads all over it, seemed to hit a chord with people, and it was widely pinned on Pinterest. Very flattering! For a while I was concerned that it was more popular than the finished block, but I've realized that a) readers have to wait a long time for finishes around here, and b) I am mainly writing a "process" blog anyway!

And, drum roll please...

#1 -- Gwennie Medallion Month 1. This first post in the Gwen Marston-inspired medallion quilt along is definitely number one by comments. I've rated it as my best post because I certainly value comments more, and I think it is an entertaining story about the creative process. Plus, it's all original and I love how it turned out!

2017 looks now like it will be more machine sewing and less hand sewing. But, eventually I will figure out a new, ergonomic hand sewing set up too. A more supportive chair, to start with. All those people who told me to sit up straight when I was young are laughing now!

In any case, creatively, 2016 has felt like a very good year. God willing, my plan for 2017 is more of the same!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy Christmas!

To round off the week I've mostly caught up on the 150 Canadian Women quilt along that is being offered by Kathryn Wilson Tucker at Next Step Designs. You can see that I have succumbed to the temptation to start fussy cutting a few of the blocks! The maple leaf batik is by Cantik batiks, a special release for Canada's 150th birthday in 2017.

I was too lazy to dig out any Christmas fabrics this week, but this red plaid is a little festive. And I am fussy cutting it again! (Brinton Hall was the first time, here.)

One of the required blocks is a basic Shoo Fly.

3 by 3...

...switch out the middle and lay down the triangles in the corners...

...sewing lines lightly marked in pencil...

...keep everything pointed the same way...

...and hey, presto! Shoo Fly block.

Editing the photo, I can see the middle row is too wide, but I'm going to leave it. The yellow and tan lines are the main thing, and the rest will vanish into the seams.

And, here's the whole next batch. I may not keep that flower on the bottom left. We'll see how it looks in the final layout!

I'm sure it would be lovely to photograph all the blocks together, this set and the previous one, but I want to avoid handling the blocks too much. It's going to be a long year.

I've realized that this is four new projects in the past month -- this one, Flamingos en Provence, Wild & Goosey, and Cheddar Broken Dishes. All queen-sized quilts, and all 100% machine pieced. Since I wrecked my back in October, I have not been able to hand stitch almost anything. The ergonomics just aren't working for me. But, I have a very good chair for the machine, and it is almost like physical therapy for my back to sit and machine sew for a couple of hours. More fun than a gym!

So all my hand stitching projects are on indefinite hold, which has taken out most of my current projects. And, I've started to think about things I could do by machine instead. Like binding for sure. And maybe applique... I even think a little free motion quilting may be doable soon. Overall, it's different, but not bad. New things to try!

Happy holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


After three days of work on my second new project this week, this is what I have to show. They look like they're about to fly away, don't they?

What am I making? A slightly simplified version of this...

Cheddar Broken Dishes is a vintage quilt that was included in the October 2016 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting.

I decided to make it based on some dark photos of the magazine that I saw online. There was some debate about that white sashing, but it seems clear to me that with dark beige or tan sashing the quilt will be both warm and elegant. And a cheddar quilt has also been on my list for several years now!

It turned out that in 2015 there was a "Cheddar and Indigo" fabric line from Penny Rose Studio that had all the cheddar, indigo and white fabrics I would need. Of course, I didn't stop there.

But, I did really love the warm white colour of the fabric stock. Between local and online sources I found enough of the four whites in the collection to make the whole quilt.

Most of the indigo in the collection was sold out already. I found the middle one in the clearance bin. The others are indigos from different collections.

At home I found these two in my stash.

And then, not in my stash but in an old project bag stuck in a box of old crockery, I found these treasures! They were meant to become all-indigo, hand pieced log cabins based on a project in Patchwork Tsushin. That did not happen. But, they had a quick wash and now I can't wait to see how they play in the broken dishes.

Ha! Yes, found with dishes, now to become broken dishes blocks.

I mean, seriously, look at this batik! Thank goodness I found it.

The vintage quilt in the magazine was made with 1.25" hsts, but I have enlarged them to 1.5". I have gone back to the same paper piecing method for hsts that I used for Hanami -- see here. 10 dozen are made, around 100 dozen are needed. Yes, 1200, which is less than the 1400 in the original.

Between this project and my other new project, Wild & Goosey, every level surface of my sewing area is covered in triangles. A strong wind would be a disaster! Plus, I think En Provence will finally get to the fancier triangles this week too.

I thought about starting three new projects this week, but for now, I think these two will hold me. I think I can fit in one more post before Christmas, but, if you're taking off now -- Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2016

New Project Week

Usually I start a bunch of new projects in the spring and fall, something about the change of season, I guess. This year, I was obsessed with Brinton Hall, and I stayed focused on that right through the fall, pretty much.

But now, I cannot stand it any more. My Flamingos en Provence is on hold this week, because I am worried about my white fabrics, and I want to see more before I commit with them. There are several projects that I've been planning for as much as a year, and I've decided that this week I'm going to start every project that has it's own pile of fabric already. I think there are three for now, and one more for January. It seems counterintuitive, but I think they will be less distracting once they are started.

Two of them are Bonnie Hunter designs.

Today's new project is from Bonnie's latest book, Addicted to Scraps (Kansas City Star Quilts, 2016). I bought the book for "Garden Party," which I think is a design that people will still be making in 50 years. And I really like the cover quilt, "Idaho Square Dance." But, the one that completely hypnotized me was "Wild & Goosey:"

I think my first thought was something like "jeepers, no way!" But then the next day I had to read how it was made. And the day after that I wondered about a different colour scheme. And then the graph paper came out and that was pretty much it.

In her introduction Bonnie tells a funny story about her report card from fourth grade, where the teacher wrote, "Bonnie is bright and cheerful, with much potential if only we could contain that extra energy and get her to slow down and focus..." I bet she was the sweetest kid! Quilt guilds are full of high energy people who probably had similar comments in school. I know that I stayed focused only as long as the work was sufficiently challenging, which is quite possibly why I am always expanding my projects! But I think Bonnie's genius is that she makes these really outrageous, densely stitched quilts seem both manageable and reasonable. And once you've done one yourself, you get hooked.

Part of the appeal of Wild & Goosey is that it will use up all the brown and black scraps in my scrap box:

There was a lot of really ugly dark fabric in there, left over from my Hourglass quilt, which was my first attempt to clean out the ugly stuff. In fact (cue the theme from Jaws), right on the bottom of the box...

...was a strip of the dreaded banana fabric!! I really thought that was all gone. But this time I have finally put a good dent in my scrap box. Maybe 2/3 of it is now ironed and rough cut for foundation paper piecing. Maybe 3/4!

Bonnie used a solid yellow in the flying geese sashing strips. I thought it would look good in red, with light-coloured geese instead. Then if the geese in the sashing were light, it looked best if the diagonal geese in the squares were also light. Then one thing led to another and I redesigned the piecing of the squares too. Mainly, I had to do it because I changed the placement of the darks and lights, but also, mine will be less sewing.

Some of the blocks developed their own colour schemes. I love this one! Not my usual colours at all.

There weren't a lot of light fabrics in my scrap box, so in a few places I used the back of the fabric instead. The high contrast black and white fabric on the right is a nice soft grey and white in the block on the left.

The purple gingham in the block above was also used backwards.

There was no fussy cutting of any kind, but there were still some happy accidents, like the three dots here...

...and this perfectly placed daisy. Couldn't do that on purpose if I tried!

Overall, the whole set turned out way, way better than I expected.

They look almost like faceted gems to me. It's much richer than I expected for such a hodgepodge of mostly ratty fabrics. Now I am less sure about the red sashing. Maybe there is still a better choice out there? A slate blue, maybe? A warm caramel? No matter what, I'll probably have to buy something, so I'll look around a bit. One week 'til Boxing Day!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Green Squares

It's been like the green hills of Ireland around here this weekend!

It's time for the Week 3 link up for Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt, En Provence. Instead of Bonnie's purple four patch blocks, my flamingo-inspired colourway uses light and dark green instead.

For my simpler version of the quilt, I guessed that 100 blocks would be about the right number. Fifty have one square with flamingos on light green,

And fifty have one square with flamingos on dark green.

There are a few blocks where the flamingos were a little shy!

Overall, it's a lot of green. But, it's really nice to be working with a wide range of fabrics in colour this week! And I'm totally done! Whatever will I do with myself until the next clue?

In the meantime, please check out all the other mainly lavender-inspired squares at the link up here. Happy quilting!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

New Project, New Plan

If you didn't already know, 2017 will mark Canada's 150th birthday. I think every quilter on the planet will know soon enough, because the deluge of red & white and maple leaf-themed quilts has already started!

So far, I've managed to stick with my own projects. In January my plan is to pull out these maple leaf blocks from 2014...

...and do something improv-y with them. I already have a fun idea. Or, maybe I should say that was my plan. Thanks to that horrible temptress Quilter Kathy, today I finally laid eyes on the full layout for the 150 Canadian Women quilt along, which I'd been avoiding, and which you can see here.

The decision process was very fast! Yes, two months ago I said that I was done with BOMs and quilt alongs, but you know, I hope I can also recognize a good thing when I see it. This quilt will be a classic.

So, while this was my nice easy plan for today, the last seam on the last units for Week 2 of En Provence...

...instead I went down to my stash in search of a suitable creamy background fabric. This was right on top...

...and so was that scruffy pink piece, so I grabbed that too. I knew the cream fabric was perfect right away. Why?


Yes, there's still one day left in the Kaleidoscope of Butterflies link up, and I have a butterfly-shaped hole in my line up right now, because I really haven't been able to hand stitch since my back went out in October. So this should keep me going for a while. Please check out the much better butterfly and kaleidoscope photos that everyone else in the link up has posted!

I have enough of this fabric to do all the block backgrounds as well as the sashing, but before I even climbed up all the stairs I knew that using just one background would be too flat for me. I love the depth I managed to get in my first quilt, the nine patch, by using a wide range of backgrounds, some lighter and some darker than the setting fabric. That will be the plan again, and a really wide range of "reds" to go with them.

I started with my Allietare leftovers (good reds!), and then pulled in some other scraps from the bin:

This really was a very enjoyable day. My goal was to make three blocks, and I made seven. With all those scraps in front of you, it's fun to see what looks good together, and how much you can squeeze out of that last tiny piece.

It looks a little grey in the photos, but there is quite a yellow tinge to the background fabric, so I will probably stay on the warm side with my reds. I'm hoping to bring in a little of everything -- modern, traditional, 30s reproductions, batiks...maybe Christmas too. Why not? With luck the blocks will reflect whatever else I am sewing at the time. And I'm going to make an effort to use real scraps from the bin, not yardage.

150 blocks, 3 blocks per week. The patterns are free for two weeks, and you will find them here. The designer, Kathryn Wilson Tucker, has named each block for a pioneering Canadian woman, and includes a brief history with each pattern. They make interesting reading! I sincerely hope she will be able to get a book deal for the quilt sometime this year. It would be great to keep the book along with the quilt. When it's done!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Week 2 En Provence

It's time for the link up to share our work on Week 2 of Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt, En Provence. We made isosceles triangle units using the Tri Recs ruler set, our constant fabric, and our whites. For the next few weeks, you can read the whole clue here.

My constant fabric is turquoise instead of Bonnie's magenta. For the white I used the same fabric as my white squares last week. The minty green in the white matches the turquoise so well! Now, though, I probably don't have enough to make all the Week 1 squares in this fabric too. I'm sure I can find something else, though.

Looking at the sunflowers in Bonnie's En Provence button, I really thought we'd be making these units in yellow and green! I guess I am too literal sometimes. :D

Bonnie provided us with downloadable foundation patterns, but I made my own. I really like to have the seam allowance marked. And in this case I also carried the stitching line right through the seam allowance. When it comes time to sew paper pieced units into the quilt, I find it goes much better when there are no floppy edges from partially sewn (or crooked!) seams in the seam allowance.

Last year I was very keen on all the triangle rulers, and down on paper piecing. I still like the rulers -- there is no waste, you don't get the build up of thread in the seam, and it could be a little faster -- but, I find that cutting accurately with a triangle ruler is harder on my joints. Cumulatively, I'm hoping that foundation piecing will make me less sore.

I still used the Tri Recs ruler set to rough cut my pieces, though. I bought it just for this project, so I was glad to use it a little!

Since I'm planning to make fewer blocks, I think 64 of these units will be a nice, symmetrical number.

Bring on clue three!

And, please check out everyone else's work at the Week 2 link up, right here.
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