Friday, May 25, 2012

Fabrics for Prairie Star

You know, just as I wrote that heading, I realized that this will be another quilt with "Star" in the title!  Oh well!

It is only a couple of weeks since I received the pattern for Judy Niemeyer's Prairie Star quilt.  I think it took me less than 24 hours to come up with the colour scheme!  For me, that is by far the funnest part.  Although, the fabrics arrived today, and that has been pretty fun too:

This quilt will be for my dad, who loves bright colours, and fortunately is ok with flowers.  He has been very clear that he wants a "lively" quilt!

You may recall that the original pattern looks like this:

Judy's design is done with batiks, but I knew that my dad wanted red and yellow, and I didn't like my options for batiks in those colours.  Once I decided on prints I went to the Collecting Threads website just to see if they had anything I could use, and they had just posted their new Riviera II collection.  I knew it would be absolutely perfect.  Talk about synchronicity!  So most of the fabrics above are from that collection, with a few from their older Folk Heart collection, which I'm glad to include because I loved it too.  And there are a couple of lights from eQuilter to round it off.

Judy very kindly included a blank layout of the quilt so we could do our own colourway.  I LOVE it when designers do that!  So here's the plan:

You can see I have gone back to a more traditional Lone Star colour layout.  I think it is going to be pretty amazing!  Fortunately my dad likes the fabrics, so I'm off to a good start.  But not right away, hopefully!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Finishing Projects

Mary Corbet has been waxing philosophical about the purpose of hand embroidery over the past couple of days, and I have been in a philosophical frame of mind too, although in a slightly different direction.

My position is that the main reason to do anything, and especially a hobby like handwork, is for the joy of doing it.  The final product is completely secondary.  I think the value of the project is largely used up by the time it is done.  So it is no surprise that I am not a great finisher of projects!

Anyone who has been stitching for a while knows the challenge of figuring out what to do with all!

So I have been wondering recently what the benefit of finishing a project might be.  Many of you are probably laughing because it seems self-evident.  But for me, there is a lot more life in the potential of a project than in the finished product.

My answer has come from two different directions in the past two days.  First, I realized that if I could get some projects finished and out of my sewing area I would have room for more new ones.  Then today's Daily Word was on this topic as well:

"Around this time of year, students graduate from colleges and universities. It is significant that the ceremony marking the completion of their studies is called commencement. All that they have worked for and looked forward to completing becomes not an end, but a beginning.So it is in my life. Every time I achieve a goal, I find myself at a place of beginning as well as completion. Before a new chapter has a chance to unfold, I may feel I’ve come to a standstill. Yet as soon as I realize I am ready for something more, a new door opens."

So I think I'm beginning to realize that a finished project is as much a beginning as an ending, which let me tell you, is a much better feeling thought for me!

These three butterfly pictures were cross stitch kits from Lanarte a little over ten years ago.  Fortunately, I still like them!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Taking Stock on Sedona Star

This weekend I was feeling like things were finally starting to motor along on Sedona Star.  Maybe I will actually catch up this month, I thought!  LOL.  I made a quick list of everything left to do:

Will I catch up this month?  Probably not.  But the list is actually kind of amusing, so I thought I'd share it!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mail Call

Are you familiar with "haul videos" on YouTube where people share the results of their shopping trips?  It kind of felt like that around here today, so here's my version!

I had all kinds of goodies in the mail today.  From Stitchin' Heaven, the foundation papers and instructions for Judy Niemeyer's Prairie Star:

The people at Stitchin' Heaven are super nice.  I called them right at closing time because I always get the time zone in Texas wrong, but they very kindly stayed and answered all my questions, and then sent this out for me the next day.  I love their newsletter too!  Now that I am such a paper piecing fan I had to try this quilt.  It will be for my dad, but in different colours, which I still have to work out.  It will be a few months before I get started on this.

And for the other kind of paper piecing, the pieces for my Botanic Roses quilt arrived today from Paper Pieces:

I also ordered these huge 3" hexagons (6" across) for yet another project:

The 1/2" hexagons are beside them so you can see the scale.  The customer service from Paper Pieces has also been excellent.  They gave me the heavily discounted sale price on the large hexagons even though I placed the order before the sale started.  I think that is really admirable, and I am planning another order from them soon!

From Nordic Needle I received my perle cottons for Sedona Star:

I had a weird exchange with Nordic Needle this time, which I'm hoping was just an aberration, because they've always been good in the past.  These are Size 8 DMC perle cottons, which were actually finer than I expected.  They will probably be excellent for quilting, but I am considering ordering some of the heavier ones for the seam treatments and embroidery.  I really want something chunky that will show up well on the quilt.

And to top it all off, my issue of Inspirations 74 arrived today:

As you can imagine, I haven't had time to even open it up yet!  But, I think this will all keep me busy for a while!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

First Month 5 Ring

I have been very productive, but it has largely been more of the same, so there hasn't been much to show.  All my Sedona Star Month 3 and Month 4 rings are complete, and I've started on the paper piecing for Month 2.  The templates and fabric strips for Month 2 have been sitting on my sewing table for over a month, and I have to move them every time I sew, so I am really looking forward to getting them done and out of the way!

Yesterday we had a free sewing day at my guild Rouge Valley, and I finished a lot of the units for Month 5.  This morning I put the first ring together:

I did manage to fix my wobbly Month 4 a couple of days ago, it is now completely flat.  So once again I was feeling confident this morning as put together this ring.  And sure enough, it has a wobble too!  But I don't think it is so bad that I have to redo anything.  The overall size is just a smidgen small, so it will fit into the outer template fine.  I am finding that it is so important to stay focused on this quilt!

All these points are supposed to be the same size.  The reason the light yellow ones look longer is due to the way the seam allowances are pressed.  I am pretty sure it will look fine once it is sewn into the outer block.

I really love all the fine sharp points on this block.  And I realized when I was cutting the fabrics that this time I actually followed the instructions for the colour placement!  You won't see that very often on this quilt.  Anyway, there is still lots to do.  Happy sewing!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Botanic Roses Quilt

As I mentioned yesterday, a new English Paper Pieced project is in the works.  It has been growing in my mind for several years now!  The idea started with this old UFO of mine:

This is a design that was on the cover of Australian Patchwork and Quilting several years ago.  The blocks are made up of what I now know are called "kite" shapes.  Each block is 18" across and has 72 pieces.  It was made by tracing the template for each piece, carefully cutting with a 1/4" seam allowance added, and then hand piecing in the usual way with a running stitch.  It was very slow and painstaking work!  I really hate piecing from templates, by machine or by hand - never again!  The project ground to a halt four or five years ago mainly because the white on white background fabric is printed with a gummy paint that is very difficult to hand sew.  I had wanted to hand quilt it too, and I realized that it would be impossible with that background fabric.

Just over a year ago I learned about English Paper Piecing and that it is possible to buy pre-cut paper pieces.  It was quite a revelation!  No more templates, no more worrying about seam allowances, what a relief!  I almost restarted the project right then, with plain white fabric for the background.

But, somehow I didn't want to do exactly the same thing that I had already been doing.  I felt that I hadn't been disciplined enough in my fabric choices and strayed from my original plan.  I wanted to narrow down the colour scheme.  In my mind, these blocks had always reminded me of roses.  One day I was looking at my favourite dishes, and I had an idea!

Botanic Roses by Portmeirion

I decided to reproduce the colours of the roses in the blocks.  And, I thought, why not add the leafy border from the plates around the whole quilt?  I wanted to keep it to a lap quilt though, so I also decided to shrink down the blocks to 12", which would require 2" kites, which were readily available. It seemed like a good plan.  But still not perfect!

I had a close look at the plates and thought about how to convey the impression of roses with the fabrics.  I noticed that the roses on the plates have a lot of detail in the middle, while the original quilt pattern is kind of blocky in the middle.  I realized that the English Paper Piecing technique would allow for smaller pieces and more detail, so I decided to subdivide the centre hexagon into smaller pieces like this:

The very centre will be a solid 1/2" hexagon, surrounded by 1/2" half hexagons, surrounded by modified kite pieces.  I can buy the first two, and the modified pieces will be easy to make by trimming the regular kite pieces.

The final piece of the puzzle was fabric choice.  I did not have enough of the right colours in my stash.  About a month ago I realized that it would be beautiful to do all the roses in batiks.  Another revelation!  I spent a considerable amount of time playing with various fabrics on the eQuilter design board.  They are great, you know, I find the colours are generally very accurate.  My one worry was that my fabric choices would result in a very low contrast colour scheme, and all the detailed piecing would be lost in the final quilt.

So, I took the lowest contrast set of fabrics from my cart (for the pale pink rose), printed them, cut them, and made a paper mock up of the final block to see how it would look:

It IS pretty low contrast, but you can still see the piecing.  And it will be fun to play around with different arrangements of the same fabrics, because each rose will be done two or three times.

Sold!  Now I am back to my usual routine of waiting for packages to arrive.  I have no pressure on myself to finish this project quickly.  I have found that English Paper Piecing is a great thing to do when I am unwinding in front of the tv, so I will save it for my quiet times.  Although, I do have the feeling that I am going to be extremely keen when the fabric arrives!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hexagon Progress

I have made a lot of progress on my English Paper Pieced hexagons:

All that is left is to finish the top and bottom rows, and insert half hexagons along the sides.  This section will measure 10.5" by 14".  You may recall that these are 3/4" hexagons.  It will be the centre panel of a 16" by 20" wall quilt.  There will be appliqued borders added all around.  I love the colours, and I think it is going to be a very happy quilt!

By the way, there has been no problem with running short of paper pieces.  As I described in my first English Paper Piecing post, I am basting the pieces without going through the paper.  So as soon as a piece is sewn in on all sides I can just pop it out and reuse it several times.  I have only had to discard four or five so far.

This first project has gone so well that I have decided to go ahead with a large original design that I've been mulling over for quite some time.  I just ordered the fabric yesterday, and I'll share my plans tomorrow!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

New Direction

I apologize for the radio silence that's been going on here for a while now.  Recently I've been doing a lot more thinking than sewing!  And a bit of experimenting:

As I mentioned a while ago, I was very inspired by Sandy Lawrence's fusible appliqued and machine embroidered quilt.  I particularly liked the way the thread was a design feature of the quilt.  And I really loved the way she used more than one colour on the edges of the appliques.

I, however, do not have an embroidery machine, or even many decorative stitches.  But I did think that with careful sewing I would still be able to get some interesting multicolour effects.  You can see that I had mixed success with that!  There are some good bits, but there is no room for error.  This is all 50 wt thread, and my plan was to use 30 wt for the "blanket" stitches so they would show up more.  But it turned out that my local quilt store was closed for the Creativ Festival the day I went to buy the 30 wt thread.  So I had more time to think!

The other thing I've been investigating is quilting techniques for both machine and hand.  I came across this website where she hand quilts big stitches with pretty perle cotton thread.  I've seen this before, but this time, with Sedona Star on my mind, the whole thing instantly jelled into a plan.  I can do both the seam treatments AND the quilting with some nice colourful perle cottons!  My sewing machine does a decent satin stitch, so I will start by satin stitching all the appliques, and then embellish them by hand.  It will also allow me to throw in a little embroidery here and there within the shapes as well.

I am VERY excited about this plan!  I can finally see how the whole thing is going to come together.  And I am pretty sure this will be a unique approach!  Right now I am waiting for my threads to arrive, but there is plenty of piecing to do in the meantime.  Happy sewing!
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