Saturday, June 24, 2017

Technicolor Turkey

After many years of resistance, this week I succumbed to the Rainbow Scrap Challenge for 2017 (RSC17). My inspiration is Angela Neff's rainbow version of Bonnie Hunter's Talkin' Turkey quilt. Angela started hers in 2013, and the flimsy is here, in 2016. Sounds so familiar, doesn't it?

But, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I still believe that I can start halfway through the year, catch up, and finish by December 31!

I have not one, but two copies of the pattern:


So, the block should be a piece of cake, right? Well, I have to admit that I mainly buy patterns so that I can take a photo for the blog and support the designer. I don't need a pattern for a traditional block...I skimmed the instructions and jumped right in.

The RSC colour for June is yellow, and my plan called for four yellow blocks. The centre nine patches went fast...


...and then things started to go awry. I used Stable Stuff for the string foundations, with the plan to leave it in the final block. I have no photo, but this is exactly what happened. Déjà vu! Stable stuff is a pain to remove, but, I did it.

Then, I thought I would save a step and trim the string blocks after they were sewn onto the middle. The pattern said that I should have about a 1/4" extra all around. So why were my blocks coming out scant? Something must have happened with that Stable Stuff and all the ripping and ironing I had to do. I kept going, and with plenty of steam and firm ironing, my block finished just 1/8" short all around.

In the middle of that, my big iron died, and I had to press the last seams with my small travel iron.

At least I got one block done! I put everything away for the day. Then I thought, no wonder it was tricky -- those 6" nine patch blocks are 8.5" on point, not 9" like the pattern says. It must be a mistake! In both books?

I re-read the pattern. The instructions say to cut the nine patches at 2 + a fraction inches, and I assumed that fraction was 1/2. It is not. 2 1/2" is too small, so my nine patches were too small, and the whole block was doomed. Is it finally time to get eyeglasses?

The other three blocks were already cut, but I was able to sew a scant seam, and they came out right. The first, problem block is on the top right:


I'm lucky that the yellow is low contrast, so the problem is not obvious. I'm keeping that block! But, now I have about 100 beige 2 1/2" squares for a future project. Back to the cutting board!

Usually when I run into this many problems, I think that maybe I should pass on the project. But this time I am not deterred. All the problems are solved now, hopefully. I only want 36 blocks, and I think around 7 a month should be doable.

And you know, my old iron wasn't doing a great job with all the fusible applique anyway. I was constantly finding little unfused areas that were probably left by the steam holes. A new, flat-bottomed dry iron is on order!

Best of all, I've remembered that I start thinking I need glasses every June. Why? This dratted tree:

Japanese lilac tree
The city has planted these everywhere, they are all in bloom now, and my allergies are in high gear. By mid-July the world will be clear again.

So obviously, this was all the trees' fault. Certainly not mine.

For many other yellow blocks, and probably shorter stories too, check out the RSC link up, right here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sunflower Block

With all the ups and downs I've had on this project, this is the block that kept me going. I love sunflowers. And I have to say, it's very satisfying to finally see them coming to life!


The block is fused, but not stitched. The project is my adaptation of Nancy Rink's "In Remembrance," from her book El Camino Real.

Rink's blocks finish at 14" x 18" (36 x 46 cm). I have enlarged mine to finish at 20" x 24" (51 x 61 cm). This changed the proportions of the block to make it relatively a little wider. But, since there is no full size layout in the book, you have to figure it out yourself anyway. So, I decided to make it work better for me.

About a year ago I started to needleturn this block in the original size, and I found my prepped middles in the box with my fabric:


 I didn't get very far, only one is sewn! But, I liked the colours, so I used the same fabric combinations for my enlarged, fused, version. I put these back in the box for now. Maybe I will make a pillow later.

Anyway, that's five of nine now fused. You may click here to see all the previous posts on this project. Now there are four more vase arrangements left to do. It is a heap of fun!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

El Camino SoCal

And Not Wordless Either

I thought I was ready for my summer break, but, it turns out that I'm not. Last week I shared the start of this project, an adaptation of Nancy Rink's quilt In Remembrance, from her book El Camino Real.


I had a long list of challenges with this quilt, from how to make it to what to call it. "El Camino SoCal" is the best name I could come up with, a) to reference the book, and b) to capture the bright, flat, almost neon colours of the applique.

There has been a lot of private, offline hand wringing about how to approach this quilt. The first plan was to needleturn all the applique. But, it turned out that the Laura Gunn Painters' Canvas fabrics are pretty heavy for hand applique. So, I thought if I enlarged the pattern it would be easier to turn smooth curves. But, then I waffled about whether the quilt was for use, or for art. For art, it would be too big, and for use, it was going to be a lot of hand stitching for something that would have a reduced lifespan in the washing machine.


When I realized this year that I had to learn to fuse, this project suddenly transformed into something both feasible and practical. And I have to admit, fusible applique is probably a much better fit for me anyway. My favourite part of the process is the start -- designing or revising someone else's design, choosing the colours and fabrics and seeing how they work. A long slog once all the decisions are made is not something I enjoy.

So, as you see, two more blocks are already redesigned and fused. And, the first two are now stitched. I'm using the same straight stitch edging as my Aunt Millie project. This time I'm using 28 wt Aurifil cotton in dark red:


I had hoped that the heavier thread would make a heavier line, but honestly, I think I would get the same effect with 40 wt thread, and a more balanced stitch too.

I am quite happy, though, with the "exposed seams" look of the topstitching. You will laugh, but it reminds me of all the Issey Miyake designs that I used to love in the 1980s. Between the stitching and the neon colours, the 80s are strong in this quilt!


It is only for a few weeks a year that we get the setting sun shining up on the wall like this, so I am glad to take advantage of the light! It's nice when everything works out. :D

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Butterflies and Break

Butterflies, Bees
and Blogging Break

I have several photos today. It's time again for the Kaleidoscope of Butterflies link up, in support of awareness of butterfly and bee habitats. Earlier this month we made a visit to Hy-Hope Farm north of Pickering to stock up on butter tarts and take some photos. It is always photogenic there! Later in the summer they will have more local produce, but this time they had a great display of flower baskets.



They also have a working apple orchard:


So, that is plenty of work for the bees. The trees were just coming into bloom. Look at this one:


Isn't that cool? I've never really noticed that growth pattern before.

It is several years now since the City of Toronto, and a year later the rest of Ontario, banned chemical herbicides and pesticides. Now every spring the city is a sea of dandelions! But apparently, dandelions are good for bees:



So, in a few more years it may well be uncool to mow the lawn!

In quilting news, I managed to sew up another six Moth in the Window blocks, from the pattern in Addicted to Scraps by Bonnie Hunter:


That one on the top right there is very disappointing, given that both fabrics are very nice. But, I'm not going to redo it! This past week I think I have finally learned my lesson about contrast, as you will see in a bit.

The first time I shared this project in April, there was some discussion about whether my lucky white butterfly was a butterfly or a moth. I looked it up, and the answer is butterfly! But, it can still be a pest. :D  And the difference between butterflies and moths is interesting too.

For the past two years I've taken a 2+ month blogging break over the summer. This year I want to try some new things before it gets too hot, so I think I'll break earlier. I find it is easier to experiment with new techniques when I'm not worried about analyzing everything for my blog.

Yesterday I got this new book by Katie Pasquini Masopust, Artful Log Cabin Quilts, and this is going to be my first big distraction. The combination of improv-pieced log cabins and abstract art quilts is very appealing. I started a new project right away!


As you see, I did not make a strong start. There is not nearly enough contrast in here to make it worthwhile. I am amazed at how many fabrics I have in the exact same value of olive green!

But, the one smart thing I did was start with the corners of my project. So, I will keep them and improve the middle.

The book has a lot of information about what makes a good photo, particularly regarding the range of contrast. Sadly, I did not pay close attention. This was my starting photo:


These are the waterlilies that grow along the Spruce Bog Boardwalk in Algonquin Park. It seemed like a good plan, but now I realize there are too many flat areas of colour for this technique. Anyway, I think I can save it. And, I have quite a few more ideas after that...

So, I'm not going to post regularly this summer, but I may pop in once or twice. I have at least three projects that are very nearly done, including Picnic...


...which is quilted and just needs binding now. I'm sure I'll post them right away if they get finished!

In the meantime, check out all the other butterfly and bee photos, fabrics, projects and info at the Kaleidoscope of Butterflies link up, right here. Happy stitching!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Making Space for Improv

My AHIQ two block challenge quilt is a finished top! The initial design happened so fast that it is hard to remember exactly how it unfolded. I think my thoughts progressed something like this:
  1. Modern
  2. Asymmetrical
  3. Slashed "+" blocks
  4. with nine patches
  5. Grey
  6. and green
  7. Very minimal
  8. Lots of negative space
Then I tried to forget about it and focus on finishing Nettie. But, I was worrying about the negative space for this quilt already. What size should I make the blocks to ensure that there are enough blocks to demonstrate the two block pattern, and still have lots of empty/negative space? Without making a huge quilt?

My trusty clipboard and graph paper are never far away. I am good with computers, but I always design in pencil. I find that drawing is a more direct link with my creative side, and the ideas flow more naturally.

I started by drawing the outside edges of the quilt, and then worked my way in from there. Is it still improv if it's planned? I definitely think it can be. In this case, I already had the eight requirements listed above. On the design, I drew physical boundaries, and improvised inside them.

If you think about it, every improv quilt starts with some kind of limit or boundary -- colours, fabrics, size, technique or purpose. Usually a combination of those. I often think that people who are hesitant about trying improv are intimidated by the "blank page." So my point is that you get to decide how much improv to put in your quilt. Just make some space!

So, after all that, how does the quilt look?

9+, 55" x 70" (140 x 178 cm)

The idea for the grey pieced blocks, and the placement of the extra blocks across the bottom, both came while I was doodling with pencil and graph paper.

After the blocks were pieced, I laid them out to get the best flow of colours and shapes. On the graph paper I had a strip of solid grey between the green 9+ section and the grey one. But as soon as I had both sections finished I could see that they would be better sewn together. So that's what I did. And then I had to re-balance the borders, and I did that too.

Start to finish, about three weeks. It certainly is a welcome change to have everything flow together so quickly and smoothly! It is a big confidence builder. To me that has been the biggest benefit of incorporating improv into my quilting life -- I'm more willing to take risks, with the trust that I can fix any problems that arise. And, I'm no longer paralyzed by worry about the small details. Keep calm, and carry on!

And while you're doing that, check out all the other improv projects at AHIQ this month, right here.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Grey/Grey

Two of the participants in the April AHIQ link up, Mary and Sophie, had some very nice tone-on-tone piecing in their projects. Since my new improv project, 9+, has 5 shades of grey, I was able to use the idea right away!

Isn't that light grey print beautiful? It looks like a rich, grey wool flannel. It's one of the Faux Linens that Connecting Threads had a couple years ago. The dark corners are their Faux Burlap, which is fun too.


All the blocks are now finished. Next time...flimsy!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Two Block Construction

Moving right along, the main section of my two block improv challenge quilt is now together:


I had all the inverse nine patch blocks, with five green squares, left over. I did consider making the quilt reversible and putting them on the back. But I don't really have enough fabric for that. So, I just sewed them together:


I think it's going well!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Organic Nine Patch

Once again, just one photo today. It's the second block for the two block improv quilt challenge for AHIQ:


This is another adaptation of Sujata Shah's Cultural Fusion techniques. It's the same process as her Crossroads block, adapted to a nine patch.

When I started making them, I thought that I would be able to adjust the process and end up with just two colours in each block. But that was wrong! When you make them four at a time, you always get a different colour in the centre.

Somehow, three colours in the block was less minimal than my original plan. Should I backtrack or keep going? In improv theatre you always say "yes, and..." So, I decided to just keep moving forward.

All the blocks are made, but not all trimmed yet. My calendar is pretty full this week, but I seem to have a lot of momentum here, so maybe I'll get the two blocks sewn together fairly soon. It's a simple plan!

Oh, and now that you've seen both the blocks (the slashed blocks are here), I can tell you the name of the quilt -- 9+.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Slashed

Just one photo today:


This is my start on the next AHIQ challenge for an improv, two block quilt. I've always wanted to make some of these simple slashed blocks, so I decided this was the right time!

I also have 3 or 4 metres of solid Kona cotton in steel grey that I want to use up, so that was my other starting point for this quilt. I rarely regret buying fabric, but that steel grey was not a good purchase. The centre top and centre bottom blocks are the solid Kona steel.

My plan is for an extremely modern and minimal quilt, with a lot of grey. I didn't think the solid steel would be enough for the whole top, so I added some grey textured prints. Do you see how only two of the nine blocks ended up in the solid? Yes, I am not doing a very good job of getting rid of it. But, I am very excited about the tone on tone possibilities of the different greys!

I think that'll be next.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Nettie is a Top

The "wild jumble" from my design wall has been tamed:


It should be around 62" x 80" (157 cm x 203 cm), but I haven't measured it. Everything fit, so that seemed good to me! I'd forgotten how much easier it is to assemble a quilt with sashing in between the blocks. Hardly any seams to match!

To compare my layout with the inspiration quilt by Nettie Young, click here. Nettie made 15 blocks in a 3 x 5 layout. I developed my layout based on my memory of hers, rather than while looking at the photo. And every time I ended up with those two columns of dark cornerstones that she has, it seemed like a mistake. I thought it would be more balanced to have at least 3 cornerstones across the row. So that is why I increased the number of blocks to 24 in a 4 x 6 layout, and cut them down to 10" finished.

The original 12" block, with the centre seams cut out and reassembled to 10"

I made 896 hourglasses for the original, all-hourglass plan. I still have at least 500 left. But, I am going to send them to the basement for at least a year! Hopefully some new idea for them will sprout after a good long rest.

The first AHIQ challenge was for a Chinese Coins design, and I don't really consider this as a fit for that. I just liked the layout in the Nettie Young quilt. The second challenge is for a two block quilt, and I have a legitimate two block design planned. Is it improv if it's planned? I would say yes.

And I've already started it! It's going to be very modern indeed:


5 grey fabrics.


Solid fabrics in a range of turquoise and green.



So, totally different. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wide Sashing


It's time for the Kaleidoscope of Butterflies once again, and no, this is not Moth in the Window, as previously promised.  The only progress on Moth has been that I decided I didn't want to make 90 blocks after all. My original plan was for 56 blocks, and all the fabric was carefully chosen and balanced, and I feel like it will go off track if I add to it now. I think the best plan will be to skip the border, and make it throw-sized.

Right now I am full steam ahead on my improv hourglass project, "Nettie." All 24 blocks are finished, including this tricky zig zag block:


I actually sliced the hourglasses in half to make flying geese, and then re-assembled as you see here. I won't lie, it took a while. But, I love it!

Last time I theorized that wide sashing would fix all my concerns with the dense hourglass blocks. Today I cut all the sashing, including that butterfly fabric above:


And, I put it up on the wall:


Now, I debated whether to show this photo or not, because it looks like a wild jumble. But I am really, really happy with it, and for now you will just have to trust me. It works, and it will calm down when it's all sewn together.

Hopefully that won't be too much longer, because I already have a finished design for the next AHIQ challenge, a two block quilt. But I refuse to start it until Nettie here is a finished top.

Back in March I was actually worried that I didn't have any new projects in the works! But, with Moth in the Window, Aunt Millie, this new solution for the hourglasses, and the two block quilt waiting in the wings, I think things are back to normal around here!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Stuck and Unstuck

On Thursday we had a brief thunderstorm, and then the best sunset so far this year:


Inside, I've been wondering what to do for AHIQ. Yes,

What to do
For AHIQ?

 Last time you saw my hourglasses project, it looked like this:


I thought I was off to a good start with these big brick shaped blocks, and I spent a long day earlier this month making one more...


...and one big word:


I was very happy with the word, and ok with the block, but at the end of the day I was feeling like things were on the wrong track. I was trying to combine two projects into one, but that wasn't working. So my first decision was to save the word for later and focus on the hourglasses for now.

Now what? One day I was looking at the patio stones, and I thought it would be good to sew my bricks together into big squares, and still have the narrow green sashing I wanted before. But then I never got around to it.

Then last week I started my new Aunt Millie project, and that whole thing just fell together so naturally. Most of the quilt is already cut. Yesterday I was admiring it, and I really liked the simple and light feel that it has.

Aha! Light. I realized right then that my hourglasses were too dense and heavy. And cumbersome. Thank goodness I didn't sew the blocks together into even heavier sections! In fact, I realized that heaviness has been my problem with this quilt from almost the very beginning. I tried to change the construction method, I tried to lighten up the colours, but nothing really helped.

What I needed were smaller blocks, with wide sashing to let them breathe. I cut my big blocks in half:



And as soon as I thought of wide sashing, I thought of this quilt, Stacked Bricks, by Gee's Bend quilter Nettie Young. Back in January Ann shared this link as part of the kick off for her Chinese Coins improv challenge, and it really spoke to me. I did some math and thought about fabrics, but the time wasn't right. I've found, though, that once I start thinking about a quilt, eventually it will see the light of day, in one form or another. My plan is to use these blocks, in that layout.

My existing blocks were about 13" square, and I wanted to get them down to about 10.5" unfinished. I tightened up all the rows, and then gave them a final trim around. They're not totally exciting, but they work.

I'm banking more on the full effect at the end, rather than the individual blocks.

But, I also still had another setting idea to try for the hourglasses. It is a lot easier to make the smaller blocks! And I'm very pleased with this layout. This one is weighted to the dark fabrics...

...and this one is weighted to the light fabrics. I like them both.

I also started to take more care matching the fabrics. When I started I had the idea that it had to be random. Now I've realized that the main thing is not to get bogged down in decision making, and just look for nice combinations as I go along. I think I finally have some traction on this quilt!

I've already named it "Nettie." And, since it's also going to be Modern Utility Quilt #3 in my continuing series, I'm going to use some of this:


Riley Blake made this printed gingham in 11 colours, and I have them all. I used the red and orange in MUQ#1, Picnic, and the yellow in MUQ#2, Sunshine. So, I guess there is still room to run with these for a while. Although, there is a brown gingham and a navy gingham that are both pretty ugly. But, that is a challenge for another time!

Right now, please check out all the other improv links for AHIQ this month. And if you are inspired by the next challenge, anyone can join in!




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