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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