Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Project - L'Herbier

Here is my first new project for 2014 (Highlands Houses was started in 2013). L'Herbier was the 2010 BOM designed by Nathalie Méance of La Fée Pirouette. I saw it advertised in the back of Quiltmania and contacted Nathalie, who kindly agreed to include me in the distribution. It has been "maturing" in my stash for over three years! But this year my plan is to unite my quilting and embroidery projects more, so this project is finally ready to uncork!

The embroideries feature a wide range of threads, ribbons, beads and sequins, and the fabrics are lovely too. All the fabrics are "shot" -- with different colours in the warp and weft threads. The grey and charcoal background fabrics are a slubby linen, and it looks like the circle fabrics include some silk, cotton and rayon:

I think the main obstacle for me on this project was constructing the blocks. I blenched when I saw the templates:

But these are misleading, because in the instructions Nathalie suggests that you construct four patch blocks, and then reverse applique in the finished embroideries. Now that I've realized how easy applique is, I have decided to applique the circles on top of the four patch blocks, and then do the embroidery.

The BOM materials include a very stiff butter coloured stabilizer to use behind the embroidery, but I can't imagine leaving that in the quilt. Maybe it softens after washing, but you know me, I have to wash everything before I stitch due to the chemicals. So I am going to back the embroideries with plain muslin. I have been lining my BFF blocks with muslin, which has worked very well, so I plan to do exactly the same thing for this project.

Today I strip pieced the 16 four patch blocks:

You can see how nice the textured fabric is. But, I knew it was going to fray, so I cut the squares large. I sewed with a 3/8" seam allowance, and then I zig-zagged all the edges!

I know it seems painstaking, but each block will be both appliqued and embroidered, so they will be handled a lot. When I'm ready to assemble the blocks I'll trim off the zig-zagged edge.

You can still buy a complete kit for L'Herbier at La Fée Pirouette's website. The 2014 BOM, featuring embroidered Dresden plates, also looks amazing. And, Nathalie has a beautiful new book out from Quiltmania, which is extremely tempting. "One at a time," I tell myself! Nathalie speaks very good English, but both the BOM and the book are written in French. (Update - no, I am wrong, the book is both English and French.)

I am dying to start the applique, but I have a backlog of housework to do tomorrow. Then again, maybe the laundry can wait until Saturday...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Homegrown Kitchen Set, Part 2

Here, finally, are the three completed tops for the Homegrown placemats that I started before Christmas! We only ever use three, so that's a complete set for us.

I finished the last seam on them today with just 7 inches of thread left in the bobbin! Don't you love it when that happens? "Clean living," is what I always call it. :D

To refresh your memory, here are the two co-ordinating potholders as well:

The next step will be to quilt them, with a combination of straight and free-motion quilting. I'm hoping to buckle down to that soon. It's several years now since I last did any FMQ, and I was never more than a beginner, which is why I want to practice on these placemats before I do Highlands Houses. It's always the first step that's the hardest!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Maybe Next Year...

Well, it was a hard fought game, but it didn't go our way. The 49ers are done for the year, unfortunately. Sure, the officials made a couple of bad calls against us, but were they game changers? We'll never know.

At least I got some stitching done! Two red stars finished...

...and 16 of the centre hexagons basted and ready for the next batch:

My machine is back from the shop, so tomorrow it is back to the regular programme. It's amazing how much I missed it, even just for a few days! But I'm keen to get a couple more finishes under my belt, so hopefully you'll see those soon!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Go 'Niners!

It's just under two hours now until kick off in the NFC Championship Final between the San Francisco 49ers (yaaay!) and the Seattle Seahawks (booo!). In addition to winning the championship, the winners go on to the Superbowl, so it's a big game!

You can see I am all ready with some red and gold Texas Stars to put together while I watch. How many I finish will depend on how close the game is! Maybe I should rename them California stars? San Francisco stars?

Anyway, go 'Niners!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Houses Flimsy

Today I was finally able to get back to my sewing machine and finish up the flimsy for my plaid houses. I've named it "Highlands Houses" in honour of the plaid.

The roofs turned out to be quite challenging when it came to matching the angled corners, even with the paper pieced units. They are not all up to our strict Ontario Building Code! The words "close enough" could be heard frequently around here last week.

I also want to show you how I paper pieced the chimney units. Since they are just a narrow strip, I decided to strip piece them on a paper foundation.

I drafted a foundation with solid sewing lines, and dotted cutting lines,

Sewed on my strips,

Trimmed up the block,

Cut along the dotted lines,

And voilà! Nine skinny units. Click any of the photos to see them larger.
After considerable debate about how to quilt it, I have decided that just a simple machine stipple will be best. There are already plenty of lines with the plaid going this way and that, so I think just a few subtle curves will be the best way to keep it balanced. I'm not sure when that's going to happen, though! I really need to get my machine serviced again.

Regular readers may have noticed that I am off to a terrible start with my New Year's resolution. This quilt was both a UFO and entirely machine sewn! My resolution was not at all intended to be reverse psychology, but it has proven to be much harder to decide to let my UFOs go than I expected. So I will still tie up a few more loose ends this month. But, I did manage to start a new hand embroidery project as well last week, so you'll see that soon too.

Here's a final photo to see you on your way!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wrong Way

Previously on Lakeview Stitching....

Click here to catch up on the story so far.

So, I had mistakenly drafted the patterns for my houses backwards! Argh!

"Well, does it really matter?" I thought.

"Finish it in one day," I thought.

"Just keep going," I thought, and I made a start on the roof pieces:

I had decided right away that I wasn't going to worry if the grain was straight in the pieces, because that way insanity lies, but I did want the plaid in the roofs to follow the angle. I made myself a cutting template for the roof pieces to get the angle right, and I was rather amazed at how well it worked.

But, while I was sewing the roofs, doubt crept in. I was hoping to hang the finished quilt in my bedroom, and I didn't want to look at it every morning and think, "that's wrong." That wouldn't be a good way to start the day. I packed it up.

Then I started to see other quilts made from shirts around the blogosphere. Isn't it funny how that happens? Diane at Butterfly Threads made a lovely keepsake quilt for her mother from her father's shirts. I met a new quilter in The Great Canadian Blogathon, Ilene, who showed a wonderful quilt made from blue shirtings and red hearts.

So, I decided to start over with a correct pattern. There was enough fabric left if I went with a straight binding rather than the bias binding that I had originally planned. I labelled all the roof pieces above as "wrong," but saved them just in case I needed the fabric. The four front pieces went in the bin, because there was no way to reuse them.

I made all nine side pieces in one batch:

I could have used the old foundations for these, because the sides are the same either way. "Hold on," I thought. "the sides are the same either way! I could use these with both the right houses and the wrong houses. Five right, four wrong, the quilt is done, and I won't even have to cut any more fabric!"

I fished the first set of fronts out of the bin, which fortunately had nothing else too bad in it. I still had to pack it up again for the Christmas break, but for the past three days now I've been sewing steadily. I can't believe I thought I could do it in one day! Smaller isn't necessarily faster, I'm realizing. But, it's like it was meant to be this way all along -- not one wasted stitch.

The wrong way...

...and the right way...

...soon (hopefully) to be joined as one. :)

Monday, January 6, 2014


Back in October I rescued this shirt and another from my Dad's charity donation pile. I never saw him wear it. I think he really doesn't like plaid, but I love it! It's pure cotton with a textured weave in the solid red squares. "I'm sure I can do something with this," I thought. I put it in my washing pile and waited for inspiration to strike.

Less than two days later lightning struck and I thought it would make some super cute houses. Didn't I see something like that somewhere? Yes! Over at Paulette Doyle's Sweet P Quilting and Creations blog:

Wee Schoolhouses by Paulette Doyle

You can still see it in Paulette's sidebar, and she tells me it hangs with pride over her fireplace at home. Paulette's is wonderful with all the different reproduction fabrics, but I thought it would also look good in just two fabrics -- the red plaid and solid white.

I got out my trusty 1/4" graph paper and drafted it out. It is based on a 9 x 9 grid, so if each square is 1/2", the block will finish at 4 1/2". I added a door and an attic window to my design:

There was no way I was going to piece 1/2" strips from templates the way Paulette did, so I knew foundation paper piecing would be the best plan for me. A while ago I showed you my low tech method for drafting foundations with 1/4" graph paper. A few months later I read how Sue Garman uses the draw function in Microsoft Word to make her foundations. I have Microsoft PowerPoint, and I thought that would be even easier. It was!

You can set PowerPoint to "snap to grid" at 1/8" intervals, so it was easy to draw all the lines exactly where they needed to go. I printed out 9 copies on my Carol Doak Foundation Papers (which I quite like), and set them aside for the next day. "I bet I can finish the whole thing in one day," I said to myself. (Yes, I really said that.)

The next morning I cut apart the three units to get ready to start piecing, and I thought, wow, these are really small! Out came my ruler and sure enough, they were quite a bit smaller than they should be. It turns out that PowerPoint doesn't print to scale. Argh!

I saved the file in .pdf format and printed it again using Adobe Acrobat. It's still a little off, but close enough for this project. But it wouldn't work if you are combining paper piecing with traditional piecing. Acrobat usually prints perfectly, the problem lies with PowerPoint. So, NO, PowerPoint is not a good solution! I'm not sure how Word will behave for me, but I am going back to my tried and true graph paper.

(Update Feb. 2014 -- Actually I think PowerPoint does work. The trick is to save the pdf in Standard Publishing Format, not Online Publishing Format. I'll post a correction to my method soon!)

With that problem out of the way, I merrily started to sew. I had watched the Carol Doak video when it was available on The Quilt Show and I learned a couple of useful tricks. She production sews the same piece on several blocks at once, so I decided to do four in the first batch, and five in the second. I know I could have done all nine at once, but I wanted to give myself some leeway in case something went wrong.

Sharp paper piecers out there may have already caught it:

When you paper piece on a foundation, the finished block is the mirror image of the printed side. Everything I'd paper pieced before had been symmetrical, so I forgot to "flip" the image. My houses were going to face the wrong way! Noooo...

It's a cliffhanger! Read the next instalment right here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Clean Slate

Happy New Year! As promised, I have some clarified intentions for my stitching activities this year.

For the past three years every New Year has started with a list of my UFOs (UnFinished Objects, for any non-stitchers out there!), and a plan to finish them. So every year has started weighed down with last year's baggage. Not this year! This year I'm starting with a clean slate.

Usually I tend to think UFOs are like this:

Doesn't that look like a disapproving aunt? LOL. "Finish what you started!" "Don't waste good fabric!" I've already rid myself of most of these.

It's the innocent-looking ones that are trickier:

"This would just be a quick, fun project," is what these misleading UFOs say. Soon it is a Trouble with Tribbles situation...

...and you never get any serious work done again. Or at least, I don't.

It's clear that I have to make some choices, narrow my focus, and start to work with a goal in mind. I want to get away from projects that are 100% machine sewn, and do more work that incorporates hand applique, hand embroidery, and hopefully hand quilting too. Which ones will make the cut? Right now I'm going with the projects that I will be most proud of when they're done. My WIPs page has been updated accordingly.

And, hand over heart, I firmly resolve to start more new projects this year!

Many thanks to Microsoft for their instructive clip art.

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