Monday, April 24, 2017

Stash Sale

This weekend a nearby guild had a big stash sale. One of their founders, Marcie Lane, lost her fight with cancer last year, and they were selling her stash to raise funds for cancer care and research. Personally, I really like the idea of continuity in a stash sale. The room was packed, and every person there went home with a little of Marcie's legacy. I sincerely hope that when I am gone (you know, 40 or 50 years from now), my guild will sell off all my fabrics too.

Among other things, this bag of red and white fabric caught my eye:

When I lived in the States, I thought my obsession with red and white quilts was because I'm from Canada. But, here was a whole room full of Canadian quilters who had no problem walking right by this bag. So obviously, it's just me. Looking closer, I could see there were several applique patterns on freezer paper ironed onto the red fabric.

A red and white applique quilt, I thought. Nice! I added it to my pile, and sat down to wait for the checkout line to get shorter. I had a nice chat with Marcie's mom, who was also a Bob Ross fan. But the line didn't get any shorter, and I decided that I wasn't going to be able to wait. I put it all back and headed home.

While I was driving, I could not stop thinking about this quilt. I was sure that I could fuse the red to a light pieced background, and that would be nice. So, back I went! Almost one hour in line, but quilters always have plenty to talk about. ;)

At home, I opened the package and pulled out the other blocks. They started to look familiar:

That is such a distinctive block, and I realized that it is actually Aunt Millie's Garden by Piece o'Cake Designs. Fortunately, I already had the pattern:

A red and white version of Aunt Millie, I thought! But, now I am pretty sure that the big red squares were just the backgrounds, same as the original quilt, and marked in silver pencil for the placement of the applique:

And all that white fabric probably wasn't part of the project at all. There were 11 blocks in the package, so I think Marcie had already started one, and that ended up separated from the rest. It is funny that I assumed that Marcie was making it the way that I would want to make it, even though that was not the case at all!

But I still had to try my idea. I took off all Marcie's freezer paper, dug out an old roll of Steam-a-Seam, and covered the back with the fusible. Then I carefully cut out the applique following the silver pencil lines:

Snip, snip, snip...
The fabric is a thick, rich red hand dye, so fortunately there is no wrong side, and the fabric is very stable. My fusible, however, was old and not sticking very well, but I kept the mat underneath at all times, and I got there.

I laid it out again on my fabric, and fused it. My plan was to straight stitch the edge, rather than satin stitch or blanket stitch. Over at Indigo Threads, Sharon recently shared a photo of a quilt she'd made this way. The fabric frays a little at the edge after washing, and I really like the soft look it has.

I considered a matching red thread for the stitching, but then I decided orange would have more character. The stitch length is fairly short, about 1.75 on my machine, and I usually piece at 2.

The Aunt Millie pattern has little pieced circles in the centres. While I was cutting, I was reminded of how Hawaiian quilts are made, and I decided to fold and free cut the centre in a similar way. It is like a "maker's mark." Mine turned out fairly wonky...

...but I think it sets the right tone. I will try some different cuts on the other blocks. But for now, here's the finished block:

The red is so rich that it looks like velvet against the prints. I'm happy! I think I'll make 9 all together, and set them on point with alternate pieced blocks. It's all planned!

Since fusible applique is probably my future, I am glad this came together so well, and that I have eight more blocks to practice with. It was just the right degree of challenging, and I am interested to see how the next ones will turn out.

Now I have to find room for it in my project drawers... Just when I had it all neat and organized, a new project comes along!

(N.B. I went back to put in the link to the Bob Ross post, and I see that post links to the Piece o'Cake blog! Isn't it funny how some things seem to stick together?)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Moth in the Window

My grandmother used to say that if the first butterfly you saw in the spring was white, it was good luck. After a couple years of seeing yellow butterflies, I was happy to see a white one this year!

Mine was IRL (in real life), but maybe this block set the right tone. Yes, it's another new Bonnie Hunter project! This is Moth in the Window, from Bonnie's new book, Addicted to Scraps:

I know I've talked a lot about how Orca Bay will be my next new quilt, but I am still tweaking my plan for that. In the meantime, when Robert Kaufman announced that the Kona Color of the Year would be Pink Flamingo, I had a burning need to make a pink-based quilt. But in February, nobody had it in stock. And then I found this pink print from Blend, which is almost the same colour. It was discounted to about half the price of Kona (Kona is expensive in Canada) at a fabric outlet near here. Score!

Bonnie's Moth in the Window is made with plaid shirts and black sashing, and I love it. But, I had a feeling it would also look good with pink sashing. And, the simple two colour block is a great way to show off your fabrics.

I had the day free on my birthday recently, and I thought, what could be better than a new project? An hour with the calculator, a couple of hours moving heavy boxes in the basement, whittling down to about 60 fabrics, rough cutting them all, and by the end of the day, the first block made:

Most of my colour inspiration is coming from collections that Pat Bravo did for Art Gallery a few years ago, especially Indie. The three backgrounds above are all her fabrics. Even though the sashing is pink, I don't want the quilt to be too "bubblegum." I chose all the fabrics to coordinate with the sashing. Of course there is a little Kaffe too:

And I don't know how long that daisy floral has been in my stash. But aren't they awesome together? It is so fun to try out different combinations. Even the wilder blocks blend when they're all together:

This is just the start, there will be a lot more of the blue-greens to come. My original plan was to make 56 blocks, and use leftover squares for the border. Bonnie used HSTs in the border, but I still need at least 800 HSTs for my Cheddar and Indigo quilt, so I thought I'd just use squares. I sewed up some strip sets...

...but I decided yesterday that even in these nice fabrics, they will not do anything for the quilt. So now my plan is to make more blocks, hopefully 90, and just put 3" of the pink around the edge. Maybe there was a reason I never put all the fabric away again! Other than mere laziness...

Anyway, I am having a lot of fun with this, and now I have a project for the Kaleidoscope of Butterflies again! Come back on May 1 to see how much progress I've made.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rose Boll 9

So, it turns out that Prairie Star is too demanding to sew straight through. For a break, I've finally made a few more Rose Boll blocks:

This is my red and white version of Bonnie Hunter's Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll. You last saw it on New Year's Day. Since then I've been steadily making the 500 HSTs required. Now that's done and the blocks are coming together fairly quickly. It reminds me of a building project, where for the first half of the project it's just a big hole in the ground, and then all of a sudden it starts growing fast!

These rosy florals are so fun to work with. This dark pink is from Eleanor Burns' Forever Love collection.

I've also used a few fabrics from the Savannah Garden collection from Henry Glass. This red looks even better than I expected cut and sewn.

And this is the main Savannah Garden floral in white. I believe the ditsy red print is from my old LQS, now closed for many years, and the white on white blender too.

I had planned to make the whole quilt from stash. But, it turned out that I had plenty of cream florals, but none of the reds that I imagined. So, woe, a little online shopping was required. I lost my head at Missouri Star, but I'm certainly not having any regrets now! I like all kinds of fabric, but these florals feel like home.

I'll need 25 of these blocks. More to come!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Made by a Human

Moving forward with my new colourway for Judy Niemeyer's Prairie Star, the next step is the RS units, or "large corner spikes." I planned out my own cutting instructions, concentrated, and the first one turned out great. Here is the new yellow and white section, laid out with the flying geese and melon spike units that I made a few years ago:

It was a little tricky to manoeuvre the big paper section through the machine, but doable.

The whole project is very well designed, and the instructions are detailed. But, they do frequently say things like "After you pin the papers onto the fabric strips, take the strips and the papers to your machine," as if your cutting table and sewing table are different places. It is all the same table here! It really felt like you need a large, dedicated studio to follow the instructions, and I decided it would be easier to simplify the cutting and strip piece it, instead of using all the cutting templates. Strip piecing is also easier with prints. I measured off the pattern, and rough cut everything without even ironing the fabric:

I iron the strip just before I sew it on, since the iron is right beside me anyway. And then I iron the seam open. The advantage of the strip is that you can sew along either side, and you don't have to worry about the right side triangle or the left side triangle. Everything always fits.

Well...everything always fits as long as you stay focused! You still have to take care pinning the strip.

This is the one segment where the strip has to extend well past the end of the seam, and I forgot. Those are very tight, small stitches, and I didn't want to unpick it. So I cut off the far end of the strip, which was now too long, and sewed it to the short end, not through the paper. I think it did the job:

If I hadn't fixed it, there would have been just a tiny quarter-inch hole there. You can see the seam allowances through the white fabric, but to me that was better than the damage I would have done unpicking the seam.

Made by a human! Two done, six of these sections to go. I'm going to do my best to stick with it, because it's not an easy thing to set aside and come back to later. And the warm weather is coming, so I want to finish the top before it is too hot to sit next to the iron. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Decision Time

More HSTs for Hanami

I am not a good multi-tasker, but this winter I needed about 2000 HSTs for three projects, and that is a lot of repetitive work. (About half are done now.) So, I downloaded some of Pat Sloan's podcasts from All People Quilt. There was a great interview with Gwen Marston on February 6, which I recommend. What's the difference between liberated quilting and improv quilting? None. There is no difference, says Gwen. I love her common sense approach!

I also enjoyed Pat's discussion with Linda Thielfoldt in the same podcast. Linda has been cleaning out her studio, and has some helpful thoughts on how to make decisions about what to keep and what to let go.

Since I finished Hen Party I've been thinking that it's time to stop jumping on every shiny project that comes along, and to get real about what the quilt is for, and how it will be used. So, I've pared things down to two basic categories:
  1. Quilts for Use -- throw quilts and bed quilts
  2. Quilts for Art -- wall quilts
When I thought about my requirements for those two categories, several of my projects started to change, and some dropped away. Quilts for Use have to be durable and not too precious, with no fragile embroidery or applique. Quilts for Art, on the other hand, have to be non-trivial, there has to be something special about them. And, they have to be smaller! There is nowhere in our house where you can hang a bed sized quilt on the wall.

Improv quilts will work well in both categories. My Gwennie Medallion is something that I will be quite happy to hang on the wall...

...when it's done. ;) One of a kind, original, graphic -- improv sounds like art to me.

Two recent projects are going to the orphan block box. The first is the half scale version of Brinton Hall that I started for my guild challenge:

I just don't think this will hold its own as an art piece. You have to be very close to see the embroidery, and when you stand back it feels drab. Plus, I still have the big one for the bed.

The second one to bite the dust is the 150 Canadian Women quilt along, which is not feeling good to me any more. 30 blocks are done:

I was not thrilled when I realized that this quilt was excluding important women in Canadian history, such as Laura Secord and Elizabeth Simcoe, because they were not born in Canada. I admit I did not read that part of the introduction very carefully! But last week's inclusion of Helen MacMurchy was the final straw for me.

The challenge of history is that when you go back far enough, you will almost always find something unpalatable by today's standards. MacMurchy was a significant figure for women's rights in Canada, so I understand why she was chosen. But she is not my choice, she does not represent the Canada that I want to live in going forward, and I don't think it is sufficient to say "those were the times then." This would be a quilt that I am making today, for the future. I don't want to spend the rest of the year turning over rocks in Canadian history, and making excuses for inexcusable things, so I'm going to let this one go.

On a brighter and completely different note, I've implemented a new plan for all my hourglass blocks. Last time you saw this project, I was sewing the hourglasses as leaders and enders on Allietare. That worked great, and all 896 of them were finished last year. BUT...

...the vast majority of them still required trimming. And I baulked.

I think I made a big mistake when I decided to make a large, time consuming project from fabrics I didn't like. For six months I've been thinking of ways to make it nicer. Different settings, applique... nothing seemed worth the effort.

Then last week I was thinking deep thoughts about improv, and I thought it could be a great solution for the hourglasses. Before I could change my mind again, I started to sew:

I just sewed together the untrimmed hourglasses, and used scissors to clean up the seam allowances. It turned out that a row of eight untrimmed hourglasses was about the same length as nine trimmed ones. I like those offset rows quite a bit!

My "plan" is to play around with different settings of the hourglasses, and make brick-shaped blocks like this. I've been admiring the green in Kaja's latest work, and I think I'll use something similar for narrow sashing between the big bricks. We'll see!

I've been keeping some of the hourglasses in a project box on top of my wardrobe, for "easy access."

This has been the situation for six months. Maybe there has been some creation going on up there when I wasn't looking! The Improv box has some of my early improv letters and words, and I've decided to stick them in this quilt with the hourglasses too. Would the embroidered roses from the Brinton mini work as well? Probably not, but we'll see.

Anyway, I'm still aiming for queen sized with this quilt. I like it so much better now, that even the fabrics don't seem so bad!

And I'm glad to be back at AHIQ. Please check out everyone else's work at the link up right here.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


Here we go with Prairie Star 2.0! I've changed the colour scheme on this sooo many times, but this week I put a freeze on the changes, and cut the fabric.

The new, and final, version of the centre star.

It's been a long road. Prairie Star is a Judy Niemeyer pattern that I bought in 2012. This is another quilt that suffered in the doldrums of family apathy that I described in the recent Hen Party post. And now, I think it will really benefit from the fresh energy I got from that finish!

The original plan was to make it for my dad, who wanted it in red and gold. I struggled with the colour placement:

In hindsight, I can see that a lot of my "design" problems were actually caused by conflicting requirements from my dad. And then, I didn't like that red and dark cream floral background in my first attempt at the centre star:

The floral was too brown, and washed out the lemon yellow. The lemon yellow was going to be a big feature in the square blocks around the star, and I had a lot of it, so that was a big problem for me. Still, I kept going, and the next two sections turned out well:

Then I started to have doubts about that red spiky border. From a feng shui perspective, a bunch of red spikes pointed in toward the centre of the bed is not good. My dad is elderly, and it just seemed undesirable. I tried to involve him in a redesign, but he had come to the point where anything new, even a quilt, was simply too stressful. He didn't want it any more.

What to do? I packed it away, and every so often I'd get out the coloured pencils and try another variation.

Goofy, but appealing too.

In the baking heat last summer, I thought the quilt would be nice in cool aqua and fresh green. If those spikes around the edge were green, that would solve my feng shui dilemma. And they'd be like prairie grass! Light bulb!

I bought yards of a pretty aqua and red floral, and some coordinates. Plus, I wanted to save something from the first version. Since the arcs of red flying geese were the most work, and they seemed to match, I decided to use them. But, this kind of large scale foundation paper piecing requires the iron at every step, so I planned to restart it when the weather cooled off...

Last week I finally opened the boxes and looked at it again. Gosh, were those red flying geese really going to work with the aqua? Hmmm. Where are those coloured pencils? Maybe I need to think outside the box. What about something totally different?


No, that would be terrifying on the bed! Like a hippie tie dye.

What if I just carry the red of the flying geese through the star, I thought? With lots more white. And that lemon yellow fabric I originally planned for the squares is already cut. So how would that look? Hey, I like it! Now, what about fabrics?

No more shopping, I said, let's see what else I can find in my stash. Well, that turned out to be no problem at all. So, I have scrappy greens for the "grass," the original geese and melon spike units that I made in 2013, the original lemon yellow print for the squares, and a range of fun stash prints for the Lone Star. Freeze the plan! I cut the fabrics, and now I'm committed. :D

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Pi Day

So, it's Pi Day (3.14), and I think I will take the opportunity to do a little catch up. First, here's a photo of new progress on an old, old UFO -- with circles -- that I've been working on again this winter:

This was the first project that I shared on my blog, back in 2011. I am amused to see that I also thought it would be my first quilt finish! One of the best things about blogging is that we can look back and see how we ourselves have changed over time.

It was a lot of fun to make the yoyos, and it was even pretty fun to applique them all to the batik strips. But, sewing those strips together with all the lumpy yoyos is quite a stinker, and I was completely stumped about how to quilt the big bulky thing. I think it may be the most impractical quilt ever! How will I wash it?

But the instructions are excellent -- the designer Terry Atkinson must have spent days doing math to get the yoyos all spaced so evenly. So that is a good fit for Pi Day! And as it comes together, I can see that it will be gorgeous, even if it only spends its time folded on the edge of a couch somewhere.

I'm halfway, and I've decided that two rows a day will be manageable. Right now, though, I am putting the borders on Allietare. And it's looking good too!

After I sewed the last seams and spread the centre out on the bed, I got out the tape measure. The moment of truth! The length and width of this square quilt were exactly the same, so that is the quilting equivalent of a "drop the mike" moment. I immediately put the tape measure away again!

And hey, aren't these cherries a good fit for Pi Day?

They are one of the easier blocks in the 150 Canadian Women quilt along, in honour of Canada's 150th birthday in 2017. I've been relaxed about this project, because so far it's been easy to sew two weeks' worth of blocks in one sitting. But I've noticed that the blocks are getting harder! So I want to get a little more caught up.

I've really been enjoying this project, and learning so much about significant women in Canadian history, who were never mentioned when I took history in school.

This maple leaf, with the light sky blue background and two kinds of stars, is for Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman in space.

Mostly I am sticking to the red & white colour scheme of the quilt, with just a few exceptions. These light grey and red floral fabrics just happened to be piled together in the cupboard. I liked how they looked, so now they are together in a block!

At the end of the day, another seven are done:

Pi Day will be a Sew Day here, in the deep freeze with some superfine, cold blowing snow. Not bad for us, since the worst of the snow is south and east of here. A Snow Day for many, so stay warm and stay safe, wherever you may be. :D

Friday, March 3, 2017

Hen Party Finish


Hen Party, 60" x 60" (153 x 153 cm)

Started around this time in 2012, finished today. Five years! And really, three years of collecting chicken fabrics before I started sewing. It is a big, big relief to have this one done and dusted. To see all the posts on this quilt, please click here.

Does your family support you as a quilter? Mine really does not. I know another quilter at my guild who says that her family "are not quilt people," which I suspect is a touch of the Canadian gift for understatement. It is soul sucking to make a gift quilt when the response ranges from disinterest to active discouragement. And I know a lot of quilters, and stitchers and embroiderers, and probably knitters and crocheters too, have that same experience. We have to stop doing it! Older, wiser women warned me of this situation years ago. But, I always seem to learn things the hard way.

Today, though, I feel amazing! This is the last family quilt, the last quilt I "owe." From here on, it is my quilts, my way. I can see very clearly now that it has been bad for me creatively to try to second guess someone else's taste. Especially when it is a losing battle, and they don't really understand quilts in the first place.

And the truly ironic thing is that this quilt has ended up being my taste anyway, and it took me five years to justify doing it the way I wanted to do it. How crazy is that? But, now I know, and I don't think I'll forget again.

Somehow I miscalculated the width of the binding, and I thought I was going to have to hand sew it. But when I looked at it again today, I was able to trim the seam allowance, finagle the corners a little, and machine sew it from the front, same as the Mod Pillows. Whew! Now I am wondering if I can do the same with Cardinal Stars. I'll look at that tomorrow.

But right now...

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