Sunday, October 25, 2015

Letters, Leaders & Enders

Here's a shot of our maples in the late day sun last week. It was windy, which is why it's a little blurry. This week it's been either sunny and windy, or dark and rainy, so this is the best I've been able to do. This year their colour has been the best ever, which I think is partly due to the dry summer. But mainly I think it's because they are getting a lot more light since we cut down the ash trees that were damaged in the 2013 ice storm.

The moon was up early too:

Yesterday it was really dark all day, so I was happy to be inside and working on my next batch of improv letters:

I was going to put them together today, but here I am blogging instead, so it may not happen!

I also decided this week to see if I can add a leaders & enders project into the mix. Bonnie Hunter has a good description of the process here. I've avoided an L&E project up until now, because I didn't want to sacrifice the quality of my main piece by being distracted by a second project. But with all the short seams in this project (and also in My Country House), I've been using up a lot of thread anchors, so I thought I would try it.

For about an hour I wondered which new project I could start that would be appropriate, until I remembered my hourglass quilt! I ran out of steam on this project in early 2014, because it is super boring. But, boring is perfect for an L&E project, because I don't want to have to think about it at all.

I still need at least 300 more hourglasses, and all the fabrics are already cut and marked. I set up the rest of my lights and darks, right sides together, and piled them up:

I don't know how many are in there, but it is 4.5" tall!

So, can I improv and sew leaders and enders at the same time? Yes! In fact, with all the small fiddly seams on these letters, it was a relief to put in an hourglass set and just rip down the middle of that. Somehow it feels more balanced. At the end of the day I had the first two seams done...

...on 23 hourglass sets (which will be 46 hourglass blocks). It feels really good to get that project moving again. Hopefully this will be a painless way to eat up a lot of the preliminary work on this project.

I admit I've been having one of those "what was I thinking?" moments, about my decision to make this a queen-size quilt. Sure, the hourglasses are easy to make, but I really didn't think much about how long it would take to sew them all together as well. Now I'm starting to think about that too! Hopefully I can do at least some of that in L&E fashion as well. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Few Words

Following on from last time, I've managed to join up my first batch of letters into words:

The missing first word is "believe," which will be the next thing to sew. This is post #300 today, and the quote is from the Bob Ross Remix video that I shared in post #100. There is plenty of inspiration in that video, so yes, this is just the beginning!

Now that I'm starting to understand the strategies for making the letters and joining them up, it's moving along pretty quickly.

Last time I was worried about the legibility of the c's, u's and i's,

which came from these fabrics.

When I looked at them again I decided that there wasn't enough contrast in the two c's and one i, so I made new ones. Plus, I thought the c's should be bigger to go with those large a's:

The old c's are on the left there, and the new c is sewn in.

It was unplanned, but lucky, that I used the same background fabric for many of the letters that went together in the same word, like the h, a, and n. I think it is easier to read, so I'll remember it for the rest of the quilt. The first "happy accident" of many, hopefully!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Starting to Improv

In early September I was full of enthusiasm for Ann and Kaja's new Improv Quilting link up. I knew immediately that I wanted to make one of those improv word quilts, and the whole concept came together quickly. But then I didn't think I would have time for it, so I pushed it to the back of my mind.

This week I had scheduled the completion of that star quilt from last week, which I believe is now my oldest UFO, but I just couldn't face it. I pulled out my scrap box instead and decided today I would do something totally new. With my oldest fabrics!

I had no idea what was in the box. A few years ago I planned to keep neat, pre-cut 2.5" strips, hence the label. But I gave up on that eventually. So it was a little exciting to open the box and see what was in there!

Plus, I recently pulled all the leftover fabrics from Circa 1998 (when I was considering making it larger!). So, I'm going to supplement with them, too.

There are a few books out there on how to sew improv letters and words, but I figured I could just wing it. I chose a light green/dark green colour scheme, which I hoped would be forgiving, and a less important part of the quilt to practice on.

"t" seemed like a straightforward letter to start with. I just jumped in, cut some strips and sewed them up!

In general, I kept the thickness of the letters to around 1/4" to 3/8". I want to keep the whole thing wall-sized, and there will be a lot to fit in! As I progressed I realized that these first t's are a little large, but they will be easy to cut down.

My only plan was to start with the easy letters and progress to the trickier ones. "o" seemed like a good letter to do next, and these circular patterns felt appropriate.

I discovered that a log cabin style of strip piecing works well for making letters. It's the same technique that I used here for my snowman quilt, only these strips are narrower at around 3/4".

I cut almost everything with the rotary cutter, because it's easier, and a ruler, because I want to keep my fingers! But I didn't worry about perfectly even cuts.

I may or may not round off the o's later. I'll see how it looks as I progress.

"c," "u" and "i" are also all pretty straightforward. I'm not so sure about these fabrics, though! We'll see how they look when they are sewn in.

"h" and "n" are almost the same shape. I used the nearly solid dark green (leftover binding strips)...

...for the tiny triangles that round off the arcs. They had to be well defined, so the solid was safer than a print there.

With just "d" and "a" left, I forgot about the camera and focused on the construction. No music on today! It went pretty smoothly, and I only needed the seam ripper once (on an "a").
I was determined to get at least one word done. Ta da!

Except "y," all the remaining letters are done, so hopefully I can put them together next time. It will be interesting to see how big it is. I really have no idea!

I knew that I would like improv sewing, and I do. I was afraid that I might never go back to regular sewing, but I don't think I'm in danger of that...yet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Goofy Fun

...West Covinaaaa...

Did you see the series premiere of Crazy Ex Girlfriend this week? Love it! I would not have watched it if I'd known it was a musical, but I'm glad I didn't know. When that first song came out of left field, I was already hooked. It is so well done, and the lead actor Rachel Bloom just owns it.

A workaholic who moves to California is a character I found easy to relate to. :D Now I keep singing that song!

Otherwise, I'm still in a "get it done" frame of mind, so I pulled out another UFO this week. The first block has been finished for quite a while:

Ack, since June 2014! Longer than I thought. Today I finished up the remaining seven yellow stars, which made me think of the Pleiades (Seven Sisters). I tried to lay it out, but I don't know how successful it was. Anyway, the real experiment will be the setting, so I'm keen to get the red parts done so I can move on to the next phase. Onwards!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Country Cat

Here's a nice, peaceful cat, just minding his own business.

Or is he?

This is the third applique block from Lynette Anderson's My Country House. Another ambiguous one!

In Anderson's design the cat is looking a little away from the bird. In my experience, when a cat suddenly turns his back to wash an itch, that is when he is deciding if today is the day that he will finally eat you.

So I thought it might be friendlier if the cat was turned towards the bird. What do you think?

Cats always seem to have an ulterior motive.

In the photo you can also see my trusty bamboo background fabric, and the dark pink flowers are a weed that pops up between our patio stones every summer. This spray hung over my "photo shoot" in a convenient way.

Ten days ago it was still hot and humid outside when I photographed the first two Country Critter blocks. This morning I had to put on an extra fleecy layer, because it was only 8 C (46 F). Suddenly I'm in the mood for warm, cozy projects! (And carbohydrates...)

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