Monday, June 30, 2014

Planning the Basket Quilt

I am thrilled with how these big prints* are working with the little baskets so far! And I am realizing that the whole quilt will be fussy cut...even the backgrounds!

It just doesn't seem right to leave the large background prints to chance, when the baskets are so carefully composed. The dotted fabric above, and the zig zag below, are all scissors-cut. It's not actually that bad. Easier than trying to line up the rotary cutter, I decided.

The quilt will not be particularly scrappy. I have four background fabrics in the "dove" colourway -- the dots, zig zags, some butterflies and stylized flowers. I also have four main basket colours -- green, turquoise, orange and pink. Since everything is already so structured, I've decided to use a consistent formula matching up the baskets and backgrounds. All the zig zags will have green baskets, and all the dots will have turquoise baskets (although the fabrics themselves have a lot of variation).

I expect that this will make the final layout a breeze. Plus, it will reduce decision paralysis along the way, while making it easier to keep track of where I am. Especially since I don't have a permanent design wall.

So, 8 down, either 171 or 305 to go!

*Note that the green bamboo fabric is my stock, photo-background fabric, not part of the block. It's so useful for photos that I may never put it in a quilt!

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Now that Edward's quilt is finished, I've been thinking about this project, which I started at the same time in November 2010. The last time I pulled it out I had taken apart all these squares and I planned to wash them, re-cut and re-assemble them. This week I decided to skip the washing and go straight to the re-cutting.

All the red HSTs went from 4 1/2" to 3 1/2":

And all the yellow HSTs went from 2 1/2" to 2":

Is this a good idea that I would recommend to others? NO! This is pure stubbornness on my part. I have been using the June Tailor half and quarter square triangle ruler, which is very accurate, but still awkward and tiring to use. I started with a plan to make four blocks in a single batch, and I ended up just managing the one, because I simply couldn't cut any more HSTs.

The block is now 12 1/2" unfinished. It's not perfect, but it'll do. I have redesigned this quilt at least a dozen times, and I am ready to see the back of it. As it stands now, I will only need eight of these large blocks. Hopefully I can manage that!

I am worried, though, that I may have to buy more of the purple and black background fabrics. Those corner squares weren't in the original design! It's Kaufman Kona, so at least more will be easy to find.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Finally Finished!

Black, White and Read All Over, 64" x 64"
Edward's quilt is finally finished! Started in November 2010, the flimsy was finished and the quilt was basted in 2012. I started the quilting on my old machine, which had to be taken for repair and cleaning twice during the process. And it still wasn't until I got my new machine this spring that I managed to finish the quilting.

It is straight line quilted:

I like quilting double lines like this, because it fools the eye into thinking the lines are straighter than they are!

In the close up you can see that all the fabrics have some kind of kanji script, either real or imaginary. So theoretically, you could "read" the quilt. Hence the title:

You can see the label was optimistically stitched in 2012, lol! The design is from Carrie Nelson's Schnibbles Times Two book. She sews the label to the back before it is quilted, which I tried here as well. I worried about it catching during the machine quilting, but it didn't. With all the problems I did have on this quilt, the label wasn't one of them.

The backing is a new flannel sheet that I got on sale. It really was too heavy for my old machine, but the new machine handled it fine. I like the masculine Buffalo check!

So, Edward's quilt is my second finished flimsy, and my second finished quilt. While we were out taking photos, I took a better picture of Nine Patch Jubilee as well. That was my third finished flimsy, and first finished quilt:

Where is flimsy number one, you ask? LOL. Packed away. Maybe I will get it out some day, maybe not.

Anyway, it feels great to finally have this one done. I even have a 3" scar on my forearm from one of the basting pins that came open when I started the quilting in 2012! But it's fading...

Best of all, now I have room for a new project in my sewing area! Home Sweet Home will get the nod, I think.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I'm claiming my blog on Bloglovin, at last:

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I've had the Bloglovin button for followers in my sidebar for about a year, but I'm finally making the switch myself to use it as my main blog reader instead of the Blogger dashboard. The dashboard reader has been very unreliable lately, some posts have been late or missing. And the Bloglovin reader is very clean and easy to use, with nice large photos (the most important part!).

Otherwise, it's been a steady stream of birthdays and holidays all spring, plus several trips to the garden centre, so I haven't done much sewing lately.

And, I finally got rid of my guild's historic archives, which were stored in my basement for the past two years. Now, though, I have no more excuses to avoid cleaning out a lot of my own old stuff, so I hope to do that in stages over the summer as well.

On a side note, one interesting offshoot of my effort to use more purple in my projects is that I've become obsessed with purple flowers this spring! These Johnny Jump Ups, or small pansies, seed themselves between our patio stones every year:

They look a little worn, but the colours are inspiring!

Back to stitching soon! :D

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Snowberry, Part 1

In early January, while I was busy with my little Highlands Houses project, the 80th issue of Inspirations magazine finally arrived at my house. I'd begun to think it had been lost, because it must have been two months in transit.

I was immediately enamoured of Yvette Stanton's Snowberry biscornu, which uses a variety of traditional Mountmellick stitches on white jean fabric. I realized that I could adapt it to my current needs with supplies that I already had on hand, and I started it right away!

I wanted a general purpose pincushion to replace this poor chicken, which I bought to support Quilts of Valour at the Trenton quilt show a few years ago. Somehow I always feel bad about sticking needles in animal-shaped pincushions! But, he has been extremely helpful, because the fabric is loose enough to hold both embroidery and tapestry needles.

I didn't have any Mountmellick thread or white jean in my stash, but I did have some leftover pieces of 28 ct flax-coloured Cashel linen, and a ball of No. 8 perle cotton in ecru, which I thought might work instead. I stabilized the loose Cashel linen with a knitted polyester fusible interfacing, which has been working very well.

I like that my old chicken is fairly compact and doesn't take up a lot of space on my side table while I sew. That's prime real estate! So I reduced the Snowberry biscornu design on my photocopier from 4 3/4" down to exactly 4". While I was at it I changed the number of berries from five to three, to make the whole thing more symmetrical:

I drew my changes right onto the photocopy with a pencil, and then fiddled around erasing and re-drawing until I was happy with the layout. Then I re-drew the final outline with a Sharpie. Sharpie ink seeps through to the back and gives a clean outline to trace onto the fabric. No one will ever know that it is a mirror image of the original!

With the loose weave of the Cashel linen and the dark lines from the Sharpie, I didn't even need a light box to trace the pattern onto the fabric. I traced first with a pencil, and then again with the blue water-erasable pen to give a clear line. I hate it when the lines disappear while I'm stitching!

Then I jumped right in! The flowers in the first picture were pretty straightforward, stem stitch and padded satin stitch. The berries were a little different for me, though. Some of the French knots in the centres have eight wraps! I think they would look better in proper Mountmellick thread, which makes a smooth knot. But overall, I like the way the flax linen and ecru perle cotton look together:

At this point I had to stop, because the edges were fraying and my sewing machine was then in the shop. So I packed it away until recently. But now I'm making progress again. One set of leaves is outlined with Cable Plait Stitch, which is a bit of a stinker. I'll talk about that next time!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Making Lists

I believe this image (from here) of Andy and Sam in Rookie Blue is from season two, but I like the way Andy looks like she is not quite sure if Sam is right -- in the scene, or for her at all. In last week's episode, now season five, her friend Traci asked if Andy and Sam were back together, and Andy replied that she was making lists. Lists of pros and cons, trying to make the list justify what her heart wants, which is Sam.

In a completely different context, I realized that I have been using lists in a similar way, to try to impose some left-brain order on the right-brain chaos that is my creative life. Just one day before this show I wrote a detailed "project plan" that would get all the quilts that are promised to others finished by the end of the year. In my corporate life developing new products and services I never missed a single deadline, and I was known for keeping my eye on the ball. Sometimes it's hard to understand why I cannot seem to meet a creative deadline to save my life. But recently I've been remembering that it was like this in school too. Problem sets -- on time. Essays -- consistently late, but usually worth the wait.

So, I give up.

Goodbye project plan, goodbye UFO lists (again). The heart wants what the heart wants. You'll be seeing lots of new projects over the next few weeks. Let's see what happens when I let my intuition drive for a while. :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Starting the Baskets

As I hinted last time, you can see that I went in a completely different direction on my new project, Trick or Treat, designed by Barb Adams. For now I will just be calling it my baskets quilt.

I started out looking online at reproduction shirtings, and somehow I ended up on Hawthorne Threads (my new favourite fabric website), looking at Heather Bailey's True Colors collection. I've had a green and grey colour scheme on my mind for over a year now, and this time it clicked. So I clicked too, and bought mostly this collection and a couple of other fabrics here and there to fill it in.

I know some of y'all are looking at this with doubt in your heart, wondering if the whole thing is going to be too busy for words. I feel that doubt too, but I also have a really good feeling about the project, so it will be interesting to see how it develops!

I do like how some of the baskets, like the top one, will be clearly outlined, while others, like the second one, will blend a little into the background. Because there is such strong repetition in the pattern, I think this will give an added dimension to the final result. Hopefully!

The original pattern had a diamond cut out in the body of the basket. The diamond would be lost in the large prints on my fabrics, so I left that out. The pattern also has the basket handle and body cut separately, but I joined them in one template to preserve the continuity of the fabric design as much as possible.

I thought about different applique techniques, and even cut out a bunch of freezer paper templates, but in the end I went with one template plastic template, and regular needleturn applique. Template plastic lets me position the template on the fabric to the best advantage.

I was hoping to stitch the project with cotton thread, but when I searched through all my different thread boxes, this Kimono 100wt silk thread was the only one in the right colour. So that's what I used, and it's completely invisible, so I think I am committed to it now. It is a bit of nuisance to work with, but, you can't argue with the result!

Previously I've stitched this silk thread with a #9 applique needle, but I found these longer #10 sharps from Clover, and they are working very well too. They are not as long as a milliner's needle, which I find awkward sometimes, but are still long enough to smooth out the seam allowances when needed. I'm sure I've said before how much I love Clover needles -- they are so sharp and smooth that you hardly feel them go through the fabric.

The whole queen-size quilt calls for 313 of these 5" blocks. I am already considering a large lap quilt instead, which would still be 179 blocks. I have enough fabric either way, so I'll see how it goes!

And, I'm linking up again with WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network.
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