Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sashiko Inspiration

Best Friends Forever Month 5.4

Back in July I was just starting Month 5 of Best Friends Forever, and looking for a new way to fill in the large circle in the centre of this motif, when my blogging friend Jillian took a class on Kantha embroidery. The criss crossing running stitch of that technique reminded me of some Japanese sashiko stitch designs:

I reviewed this book back in 2012. I decided to try out one of my favourite sashiko patterns for this motif. The grid was marked with a water erasable marker:

I stitched around the circle with stem stitch first.  This gave me an anchor for the lines of sashiko:

The stitches look loose here because I tried to blot out the blue ink before I took the photo. Not very well! But they are fine after a proper rinse. The back is cute too:

You can see how I was able to weave the ends into the stem stitch border.

This was the first part of Month 5 to be stitched, and then the motif languished while I stitched all the others. I really was low on ideas on how to colour and stitch the rest of it. In the end it is a little different - the first motif that doesn't have any yellow - and I am satisfied with it.

Plus, after my six week holiday from this project, I am refreshed and full of new ideas for Month 6! Three months left. :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Semi-new project - Down in the Garden

Darn, darn, double darn. I'm rolling along, sewing my circles for last week's new project, Jacks and Cats, when I catch a glimpse of a familiar project in the Sweet P sidebar, which takes me to Kaaren's blog, The Painted Quilt. The familiar project is Down in the Garden by Leanne Beasley, which I bought at the same time as Best Friends Forever (and Scandinavian Rose too, which is still in my stash), and which I have been working on now and then for the past nine months.

I showed it to you here, without properly introducing the project. There's been a lot of waffling since then! I said as much to Kaaren in the comments, and she encouraged me to just start anyway. I sent her a considered reply, explaining that I had just started a new quilt, and that although it was tempting, I could not possibly pick up this one too.

But here I am! With another new project to officially add to the books.

This summer I did most of the herb pots (two are left) that are scattered around the quilt, in addition to the Dresdens that I previewed back in March. I have used the same floss for all the herbs, DMC 4047 from their Color Variations line. I tried to differentiate the herbs by using different stitches -- fly stitch for the rosemary, stem stitch for the chives, round detached chain stitches for the basil, and backstitch on the sage.

I've been thinking about it constantly since I saw Kaaren's blog post.  She has started with Block Five, which has been the source of all my angst.

The designer has written a number of thoughts that are meaningful to her and framed them in the centre block. I'd like to keep this wall quilt in my studio space, so I thought the words should be meaningful to me. The core fabrics for my quilt will be Tamara Kate's Flight Patterns collection...

...which include a lot of butterflies. Four of the other blocks also have butterflies. I really want to include bees as well, because I think they will be a good industrious symbol for the studio. After many searches on keywords like "butterfly," "bee," and "garden," I've finally settled on two quotes. Andrew Marvell for the Block Five centre:

And, as it works,
the industrious bee
Computes its time
as well as we.
How could such sweet
and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers!

...and this great contrasting quote by Tagore for the surrounding blocks:

The butterfly counts
not months
but moments,
and has time enough.

Sometimes decision paralysis is the biggest obstacle for me. Now that's decided, maybe things will start to move along!

And hey, since it's still Wednesday, I'll link up with WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network as well.

Friday, September 19, 2014

New Project - Jacks and Cats

A funny thing happened to me back in August, while I was working hard to stay on schedule with Best Friends Forever. I ran out of ideas! That's never happened to me before, and it was kind of disturbing, to be honest. I know it was rushing through the project that did it.

So since my last post I've been taking a break. On Wednesday my Mom and I went out to the mall, and I said we need to look at different things in different stores for a change. But of course I still bought three quilting magazines, including the latest AQS magazine and this one:

Primitive Quilts, Fall 2014
I keep saying this magazine, Primitive Quilts, is not my style, but somehow this is the third one in a row that I've bought! Then, since we were in the neighbourhood, we stopped at Art of Fabric and I bought a few fat quarters and a half metre of this, just as something useful for my stash:

At home I spread out my spoils and sat down to read my magazines. I love magazines, but I have been trying not to buy too many, because there is always a new project that I must make. Sure enough, when I opened the page to this project, it fell on fertile ground:

"Jacks and Cats" is a flannel lap quilt designed by Emily McGlothlen of The Little Red Hen. All the background fabrics are fairly dark, and if you squint your eyes all you can see are the white eyes and teeth of the cats and pumpkins. Click the photo to see it larger. I think it is genius!

I meant to say now that I intend to make the quilt pretty much as written, but I've realized that I've already changed quite a bit:

  • I scaled the blocks from 8" up to 9" to make it a bit larger
  • I changed all the fabrics
  • I changed the technique on the applique blocks
  • I changed the border
BUT, hopefully I've kept the spirit of the quilt the same, lol!

The pattern calls for 6 different shades of mostly solid orange flannel. I quickly realized that I might shop for months before I could find six different solid orange flannels, and I remembered some fall coloured plaid homespuns in my stash that I bought from Keepsake Quilting a couple of years ago. I was going to make these stuffed pumpkins, but I never did. A quilt will be better! In fact, almost all the materials will be repurposed from my stash. Instant gratification! 

I matched the homespuns with some co-ordinating quilting cottons:

I still had that black fabric out while I was playing with these, and I thought it would be really interesting to use it for the applique background, instead of the solid black in the pattern. So I had to buy another metre the next day. 

Actually, none of my fabrics will be solid! I'll use the leafy green Asian blender in the photo background for the inner border, and I'll have to piece the outer border.

The pattern calls for fusible machine applique, several layers of it, with a few hand stitched details on top. My hands hurt at the very idea of stitching through all that! Plus, I have some really nice felted wool in fall colours in my stash, from another unstarted project. So the faces will be felt applique, the stars underneath will be the homespuns, hand appliqued, and the circles under that will be quilting cotton, sewn into my new black fabric. At most there will only be three layers to sew through.

That gives me several new techniques to try with this quilt! I've already made a start on sewing in the circles:

I think the fabric mix will work! It looks like a harvest moon, doesn't it? And the black could be stars, or it could be spider webs. 

The circle is 8" across, and I used 32 pins to coax it into the background:

The AQS magazine I bought conveniently had a good tip for sewing curves. They suggest that you cut the curve that has to stretch, in this case the black, with pinking shears. Then you don't have to clip it:

It worked really well. My first one, the one above, came out nice and flat. The second one is never as good as the first one, I've noticed. Does that happen to you too? But I love the fabric:

Not much of the gold background will show once the applique is on, and I don't think it will detract from the glowing eyes. Plus, most of the rest of the circles will be quite dark. I'm really glad that the hardest part of the project, the sewn in circles, will be first, when my motivation is highest! After they're done, everything else will be easy.

I'm under no illusion that this will be done by Hallowe'en, but it is fun to work on a seasonal project in the right season, for a change. They say a change is as good as a break, and now I've had both!

Monday, September 1, 2014

25 Trips

I finally finished my last four Scrappy Trips blocks today. This brings the total to 25 of the 12" square blocks, which will make a comfortable 60" square lap quilt.

I started these blocks on a snowy day in February 2013, after seeing them here and there around the blogosphere. 19 months ago! It was the great quilt at Nifty Quilts that started me thinking. Her quilt is 96" square, or 64 blocks. I feel like I have been sewing and sewing and sewing, and I am relieved that I only wanted 25!

Remember that pile of off cuts from last time? I used 6 of them for the 25th block of the quilt:

I've learned more about my preferences while making this quilt. Repetitive machine sewing like this is not my thing. I'd rather have more challenge, or at least more variety, as I go along.

And although I love scrappy quilts, I've realized that I don't much like actual scraps. All of the strips for this quilt were cut from yardage in my stash.

There's only one fussy cut square in the whole quilt:

I just had to tweak it a little to get that seated figure to fit in the square.

The layout is the whole raison d'être for this quilt. I'll show that next time, when the blocks are joined. When I had it up on my temporary "design wall," it was clear that I'd have to put it together very carefully, without rotating any of the blocks, or the pattern would be lost. So, I labelled each block in the upper left corner, so I'd know which way is up:

I noticed that not all the blocks were as square as they should be. Let's hope it goes together well!
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