Saturday, January 30, 2016

Picnic Flimsy

The Ad Hoc Improv Quilters link up is on again! Like Audrey, this week I have been diligently sewing the improv quilt I started in November. I finished the flimsy today!

At about 86" x 93" (218 x 236 cm), the darn thing queen size quilt is too big to photograph in one piece. This is almost all of the centre:

Modern Utility Quilt #1, "Picnic"

And this is the border fabric I chose:

The white dots are 1" (2.5 cm). I was thrilled to find something that matched the colour and scale of the blocks so well! The fabric is a Riley Blake wide back, which conveniently let me cut the borders in one piece. And it will conveniently be the back, too. After much thought, I decided that the most forgiving way to cut and sew the border would be to have about 3/4 of a dot showing on the inside and outside edges.

Since the quilt is "improv," I was unsure if I should sew the blocks with matched corners. At first I thought I wouldn't worry about it. But then I decided that I would quilt it myself on my home machine. So I thought it would be better to match the corners, spin the seam allowances on the back, and reduce the bulk in the corners.

In December I finally bought Sujata Shah's book Cultural Fusion Quilts. This quilt is inspired by the "Windmills" quilt in that book, although I see now there are quite a few differences in mine. But, Shah also matches the corners on her blocks!

I know most of my regular readers bought the book long before me, but if you haven't, you should! It is excellent, and I have more projects planned that are inspired by Shah's techniques.
So, this is my first improv flimsy, and my first bed-sized flimsy! To read all past and future posts about this quilt, please click here.

I do plan to quilt it myself, but I have many others to get through first, so it likely won't be until the fall. After my big "scope creep" insight during Allietare, I've simplified my plans for the improv letters that I made last fall. At some point I'll get back to those, and I have a couple more ideas that I'd like to get started. Right now, though, I am quilting Mod Trips, and then I really will finish Allietare.

In the meantime, check out all the other great posts at the AHIQ link up here. I highly recommend Cathy Perlmutter's post, which you can read here. If you are wondering how to get started with improv, Cathy will get you going! Or at least, laughing. :D

Monday, January 25, 2016

Allietare Stars

All those Allietare Week 4 sets that took me so long to make, will be used to make black star blocks. Here are my 25 sets, laid out and ready for their centres:

Bonnie Hunter's instructions call for 4" squares of our gold fabrics in the centre. I decided to make 4" gold stars instead:

My theory was that with the large variety of gold, taupe and brown fabrics that I've been using, sewing them into stars with a consistent background would give them some uniformity, and hopefully a little pizazz too!

Some of them are quite a bit darker than I expected.

It's funny how my camera sees those blues differently on different days! Anyway, some of these stars are a little risky...

...but I hope they'll be fine in the end!

Now the layout for the 25 star blocks is also done:

It is all darker than I expected, but....I think once the blocks are all sewn together the blues will tie in well to the blue in the red blocks. In any case, I'm not changing my mind now!

I think sewing them together will keep me busy for a while. :D

And today I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times. Click here to see what everyone else is up to!

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Today I have a choice of musical accompaniment for you! Vintage:

Or new:

Cline's voice is just liquid, but personally I think the second track is a good cure for the first! It's not healthy to spend too much time that blue. :D

But, why am I writing about cheating today? Because I've done a lot of things that aren't Allietare, that's why!

It started with those Hourglass leaders and enders. I forgot how long it takes to prep them for sewing! With the first step done, now I have to cut them apart, iron them open, and draw the line for the second step...

...300 150 times. (300 blocks, 150 sets.) And then I realized that I should keep up with the final cut and iron too... I don't have it all left to do at the end. So, the leaders and enders did get me a little sidetracked, and they're not quite as unobtrusive as I first thought!

To clear my head, I sewed four more rows on Aloha Kisses:

Then I thought that if I'm going to cheat on Allietare, I should do something that really needs to be done. So I finally sandwiched and pin basted Mod Trips:

That's a very traditional back for a modern quilt! I was going to make a pieced back for it, but when the mood struck me to baste it, I didn't want to stop and make the back. So this is a wide back that I bought for something else. Now I know that if I have a specific desire for a pieced back, I should make it at the same time as the front!

AHIQ is next week again, so I've also been making a push on the "modern utility quilt" I started in November:

I am definitely naming this one "Picnic." This week I joined the rows in pairs. Then I just have to sew together the pairs, and add the border.

Next, while I was working on Allietare in December, I decided to join in my guild's Crayon Challenge. This is the crayon I got:

Long time readers know that I have a blindspot in the fabric store when it comes to purple, and I have hardly any in my stash! But, it was a good excuse to shop. The idea of the challenge is to use a wide range of values in your colour. These finally arrived this week:

They are gorgeous! I already have all the blocks made, and the layout finalized. Now I'm afraid that's the last you'll see of it until after the last guild meeting in May.

I also received my Kaffe border fabrics for Allietare. They are gorgeous too! In fact, I like them so much that I decided to make the borders wider, and cut a row of blocks. Instead of a 5 x 6 layout of the black star blocks, I cut it down to 5 x 5. Now I only need 25 black star blocks, and 16 red blocks.

Reducing the number of blocks, however, has not saved time. I felt it would be a good opportunity to "optimize" the blocks, and make sure that my most favourite fabrics stayed in the quilt. The red blocks went back on the wall:

The four finished blocks are on the left, and I chose my favourite pieces for the last 12 on the right.

I also had to optimize the fabrics for the black star blocks. It turned out that most of the Week 4 sections with blue backgrounds, like this...

...were the ones that didn't make it into the quilt. Now that the mystery has been revealed, I see that the white backgrounds work better there. So that is one advantage of being slow!

Now, all the Week 4 sets are done:

Next week I will finally get to the layout of the black star blocks. I'm hoping that once all the decisions are made, it will go fast from there!

I certainly recognize that all this fiddling around with the colours and layout slows down the finishes. But, I have also realized that the opportunity to play with the colours and patterns is the main appeal of quilting for me. So as the saying goes, I'll keep "following my bliss!"

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Allietare Red Blocks

Well, this is the last link up of the main phase of Bonnie Hunter's 2015-16 mystery quilt, Allietare. I feel like I've been working steadily since the reveal on New Year's Eve, but I don't have a lot to show for it yet. I do have a random selection of photos and reflections on the whole mystery process, and I hope they'll be in some kind of order by the time I finish writing!

While many people have already finished their flimsies, as you can see in the link up here, I know many more have not, so I don't feel too bad about that. I hoped the challenging pace of the mystery would shed some light on why all my projects take so long. It sure did! My lesson about scope creep, which you can read here, has led me to rethink many of my projects.

I admit there is some more scope creep happening now. But I hope it's justified! Fussy cutting many of the red squares, which you can see here, was one extra bit of work. The other "issue" is these star blocks:

I folded up one of my gold fabrics just to lay out the block, which is why it looks lumpy. Fortunately, I don't like the way it looks at all. The bright gold makes the red look dull. And in other blocks, the bright reds make the golds look dull. So, I say fortunately, because now I have the excuse to make the pieced centres that I wanted to make before the final reveal.

It's funny, too, because I went to so much effort to make sure the reds and golds looked good with my blue batik, but I didn't consider how they looked together! So, that's a hint about where things are going, but you'll have to wait until the next post to see the outcome. :D

Even though I don't like my golds with my reds, I was surprised at how nice the block looks when all the light backgrounds match:

I won't be able to do that every time, but it will be a fun thing to keep in mind when I finally lay out the star blocks.

Laying out all the red blocks was the big job this week. First I put all the Week 2 matched sets up on the design wall. Then I put in all the centre squares:

It seemed ok at first, and I thought that was pretty easy. But then I added all the corner units, and a lot more tweaking ensued! Some blocks never changed, and some changed several times:

My goal was to show off the fabrics to their best advantage. As I learned with the stars, not every Kaffe fabric looks good beside every other Kaffe fabric! But I think I got there. I quite like this combination of the Herringbone and Shirt Stripes patterns:

I also lucked out with those red hearts -- I think they tie into this block perfectly. It felt a little lazy to cut all those black squares from the same fabric, but it really worked well this time.

I wanted to use that same red hearts fabric for the black border, but I couldn't do it without making the border a lot narrower. So I went online. Both the Herringbone and Shirt Stripes shown above come in a great dark blue that would have been a nice, calm finish for the quilt. In the end, though, I went with a more exuberant scheme. I can't wait to get the package and see how it looks!

In the meantime, there is still tons of sewing to do:

After these 20 red blocks, I have all 30 of the star blocks, with many Week 4 sets still not finished, and the extra piecing as well. Plenty to do! But, I am sticking with it until it's a flimsy.

Overall, this mystery has been a great experience, and I really appreciate the time Bonnie takes to publish this free design and organize the link ups each week. It's like a design workshop where everyone else does the work! It's so interesting to see all the different variations. Even though I'm still sore, I would certainly consider doing another in the future. I envy those quilters who can sew all weekend! "Run your own race," is what I keep telling myself.

And even though the link ups are over, I'm sure I'll have plenty more to share. (Edit: Click here to see all the Allietare posts before and after this one.) I know I've added a few more followers, so welcome! I'm sure everyone can squish up to make room for a few more. :D

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Finally Fussy Cutting Allietare!

At the same time that I was writing my post for Week 5 of Bonnie Hunter's 2015 mystery quilt, Allietare, Bonnie went ahead and did the final reveal early! For the next few weeks you can see it here. I had already figured out that we would need some type of 4" square in the middle of all the blocks, and I had my heart set on some fancy piecing in there. So I was actually a little disappointed when I saw they would be plain 4" squares. But then I came to my senses! I realized that those big squares were the perfect opportunity to do the fussy cutting that I decided against in Week 3:

This was my chance to showcase all those larger prints from my collection of Kaffe Collective fabrics. So, first thing yesterday morning I hunted high and low through my stash for everything Kaffe and reddish.

Some things I knew I had, but were hard to find, and some things were a nice surprise. In Week 4 I was sighing over my last strip of red Kirman. Yesterday I found almost a yard more!

These red squares will be used in 20 of the Allietare blocks. When I finally rounded them all up, I had more than 20. Charms!

I laid out a couple of blocks to see how they will look. I think this combination will be too tempting to resist:

And, best for last:

It's like this quilt was designed for my stash. I am so amazed at how well it's all coming together! That first flash of inspiration to use my Kaffe fabrics, based on Bonnie's photo of the gold hotel walls, has totally paid off. I'm glad I listened to it!

Now I am loaded with fun things to do. Soon I'll get these 20 red blocks up on the design wall to find the best points for each middle. And I am still making the Week 4 "bowtie" units, after I had to take a rest that week. Only 8 sets are done -- 22 left! I really like the shape of those, and they go together well, so I will probably do that first.

We certainly won't be looking at a flimsy here on Monday. But, I'm going to stick with it until it's done!

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