Sunday, April 26, 2015
The alternate title for this post is "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back," lol. But, I'm trying to stay positive!
It's been a month since I posted the first block of my "cherry tree of life" quilt, Hanami:
I mentioned then that I wanted to add an element of mystery to the quilt, but still keep some control over the design. Once I figured out the layout of the entire quilt, I calculated how many HSTs I would need. I made them one dozen at a time using my homemade HST papers:
40 dozen in all! My hope with this project was that by doing all the boring work first, and saving the fun part until the end, it would have a better chance of a timely finish. The jury is still out on that!
The great thing about these papers is that they add to the randomness, because with a larger print, you cannot exactly anticipate how the fabric will be cut. Some triangles were quite light, some were dark, some were mostly pink, some were mostly green.
Once all the HSTs were made, the plan was to put them in a big bowl, and have a random draw for each tree. But, while I was making them, I started to think that if the draw is completely random, then all the trees will end up looking the same. If I wanted each tree to have it's own personality, then I would have to add some granularity to the mix. It's like the difference between baking sponge cake or muffins. Sponge cake batter is perfectly smooth, and muffin batter should be a little lumpy. To my taste, sponge cake is kind of bland.
So, I chose 13 fairly solid pink "feature fabrics" for my 13 blocks. Each block uses 22 pink HSTs in total, and I decided that 9 of them should be from the same feature fabric. "9" was a shot in the dark, really. I hoped it would be enough to make the trees distinct, but still allow for a fair degree of randomness.
I set up 13 plastic snack bags, as you can see in the first photo above, put in the 9 feature fabric HSTs, and then did a random draw for the rest of the pink ones. Then I had smaller pools for the brown trunk HSTs, and the light background squares as well.
Now I get to open one bag at a time and see what's in there! I iron open all the HSTs, and arrange them until they look their best:
I'm finding that it works best if most of the matching HSTs go around the outside of the tree to define it.
You can see that the brown trunk HSTs are divided into medium brown and dark brown. There are only six brown fabrics in total, so most of the tree trunks have some matching browns.
And, instead of a solid square in the middle of the trunk, I made 13 medium/dark HSTs to give the trunks the same level of "pieciness" as the rest of the tree. I didn't use the papers for those, I just made them two at a time with different fabric and a bigger variety of prints.
The assembly is straightforward from there. I join the squares into rows:
And then join the rows into blocks. Two more are done...
...I have realized that they are both distinctly rectangular rather than square. My seam allowance joining the rows is too wide. That is not too hard to fix, but it's still frustrating. And it does have to be fixed, or the final assembly won't work as planned.
So, that's slowed things down quite a bit. That's how UFOs happen, but, I'm going to try to get back on the horse soon...
...only, I did start something else this week...
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Here's the first birdhouse stitchery that I've finished for Leanne Beasley's stitchery quilt, Down in the Garden. It will finish at 7" square, and there will be four all together, placed around the corners of the quilt.
Back in November this was the first block that I used for my Ink Week experiment, and the birdhouses were the reason for the ink in the first place. I was very concerned that the flowering vines would over power the birdhouse. So, I thought that colouring it in with the ink would keep things organized and clear. Even though the ink turned out very pale, I think it still helps.
The last time you saw this block, it looked like this:
The leaves and flowers were all in stem stitch, and the purple was DMC 209. Normally I like that shade of purple, but against the almost fluorescent green and blue it looked surprisingly brown and drab. It has been sitting around for months, but this week I took it out in daylight, and realized that it had to change. Here's the same section now:
I changed the flower colour to the periwinkle DMC 340, and stitched everything in back stitch instead. The yellow is true in the second photo, it is very light. I think it was much better to keep the stitching light and fresh too. I've revised the colours for all the flowering vines several times, and I've realized now that it will be best to keep them all bluish and cool.
Now that's all decided, I have fresh motivation for these birdhouses. For a couple of months I've seriously considered redoing them completely in applique to give them more oomph. But I think the real problem is that all winter I was looking at them in artificial light. It all looks different in the daylight, and I think it's finally coming together. (In my head, I mean -- there's still plenty of stitching left to do!)
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Remember those diamonds I made in March (here and here)? Well, this is what they are for. The last time I posted on this project was almost three years ago. Since then, it's been growing!
I have already written
They were stitched on raw linen aida instead of the perforated paper in the kit, and the plan was to stack them vertically and sew them into a long quilted banner. In 2012, the paper pieced borders were going very slowly, and the project got pushed aside.
Over a year ago I thought that a long, skinny banner didn't feel right to me. I decided to line them up horizontally instead, and add a couple of borders to make a wall quilt with some presence. The question was whether I had enough of the original fabrics:
The orange fabric was my main worry, because I knew I wanted it for My Country House too. Fortunately, I still had lots, and after searching high and low I was able to find all the other fabrics too.
So in January I easily finished up the last four of those green flying geese borders. My paper piecing is so much better now! I know it looked ok, but I have learned some things since then. The Quilt Show had a Carol Doak video available a year ago, which was very helpful. Also, the Judy Niemeyer instructions with Prairie Star had a surprising amount of good information, and improved my technique as well.
From the start the tricky part with this project was going to be joining the aida and the pieced sections. I used a narrow strip of dark green fabric to frame the cross stitch and transition to the quilt fabric. I carefully trimmed the aida and left a 4 thread seam allowance. Then I pinned the green strip to the front, and from the back I carefully (and slowly!) machine stitched four threads from the edge. Then I went back and stitched a second line three threads from the edge to anchor it:
By accident I found that if I lined up the pins along that fourth thread, it was easier to stay on course:
Then the last step was to trim the seam allowance down to one thread from the stitching:
So, it was a lot of slow, careful machine sewing, and I ended up taking a one month break in the middle, but I am happy with the result so far:
After I finished the hard part yesterday, I was excited to put it up on the wall and see how it looked with the second and third borders:
Why did that look wrong? It's just because I cut the light green second border oversized, I said to myself. Out came the tape measure. Argh! There's an extra diamond block in the top and bottom borders. How did I manage to make too many? I decided which two diamonds to eliminate and just pinned them under for now:
I'm going to applique some flowers in the light green second border. I spent the rest of the day yesterday auditioning fabrics and cutting out the appliques. That's when I really start to feel creative! After all that, I finally realized that the diamond side borders were wrong too! They should be one diamond longer, which accounts for the "extra" diamonds along the top and bottom. Argh again. That fix won't be quite so simple, and I'll have to juggle things around to keep it balanced.
But, the applique flowers are all figured out, so that will keep me busy for a while!
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Here're some shots of our first flowers, taken on Saturday. These early crocus are half the size of regular crocus, and they are about a week later than normal. You can see the grass is still mostly dead, but there are some new shoots showing up in the next photo:
No, not many!
It seems like spring photos are all around the blogosphere this week. Wanda in Illinois has forsythia blooming already -- we have maybe another week before we see that here by the lake, but they may be blooming in other warmer parts of the city. Daphne in Victoria has full grown tulips, but Victoria had cherry blossoms even before they did in Japan. Rebecca gets the prize -- it is still snowing in Alaska. Although, Christine tells us it can snow at Easter in Greece too!
As you can see, our snowdrops are still holding on. This week will be the first week where every day will be above 10 C (50 F), so they'll be gone soon. With luck, we'll see the full size crocus by the end of the week. Right now though, this is all we have:
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Gosh, I see it is almost two months since I last showed this block! It's the centre block for Lynette Anderson's 2015 BOM, My Country House. I had to re-sew the roof seam on the machine before I could applique the trees. "I'll just wait until I have white thread in the machine," I thought. Did that happen? No. Finally I threaded the white thread specifically for that one seam. It only takes a minute -- silly, isn't it?
Anyway, it gave me lots of time to mull over the width of the strips for the trees. In the pattern the trees are a little Christmas-y, with stars at the top and an evergreen shape. The tree trunks are thicker than the branches. My version is smaller at 3/4 scale, decidedly summery, and I knew I wanted to change the tree shape and put leaves all the way around the top. Finally I decided to make all the stems everywhere on the quilt the same 1/4" size, using the Clover 1/4" bias tape maker. I like the feathery look to the trees. Plus, with the smaller scale I think consistency with the stems will be cleaner, and help to tie the whole quilt together.
The stems started out pretty wild...
...but they were soon pruned down to size. The leaves are big chunky detached chain stitches, done with four strands of floss, two medium and two light green. When you compare this with the first photo, you can see other changes as well. The doorknob was done in padded satin stitch:
While I was sewing the doorknob, the window above the door started to look too empty. As an experiment, I filled the space with the same motif as the gingerbread along the eaves. It seems like the obvious choice now that it's done, doesn't it?
But after that, the original gingerbread along the eaves looked very dingy, and I became convinced that I had used a different, less white, thread. After another day or so of dithering, I took out the original stitching. The new gingerbread was stitched with four strands of floss instead of the original two strands, and fewer "spokes" in the wheel:
I think it is better. With the heavier thread I thought the colonial knots in the original would be too much. Now that I am looking at the photos, though, the knots looked pretty good, so I may still try them. Without the knots, I did have to add an extra red brick on either side to fill the empty space.
The felted wool sheep were the last addition. Two of them are peacefully munching the daisies:
And the one on the far left is looking up...
...at the big blue chicken which will sit on the right chimney. But, the chicken will overlap the top seam, so it is still on hold.
With the trees for landscaping, and the sheep as landscapers, I think the block has really come to life. Given that I started this block on January 2, I am glad to have it done!