Saturday, February 27, 2016

Basking in the Sunshine

It's Improv Week again over at the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters link up. I was so busy quilting Mod Trips this month, that I had no time for improv. But, I figured, why not start now?

For this week's trick, I'm using Sujata Shah's Cultural Fusion techniques to make curvy half square triangles...

...and curvy rail fence units...

...and combine them into curvy churn dash blocks!

A churn dash quilt has been on my to do list for several years. Then when my guild started its crayon challenge, I hoped for a yellow crayon so I could make a yellow and white churn dash quilt. I got purple, but I liked this idea enough to make it anyway.

And, I've been thinking for a while that Sujata's elements could be combined to make interesting traditional blocks.

So, this is Modern Utility Quilt #2, which I'm calling "Sunshine." It's possible that this could turn into a series. And it's also looking likely that these Riley Blake ginghams will keep showing up:

I went to a lot of trouble to get the complete set of those ginghams in all 11 colours and 3 sizes when they were released. I thought I would put them all in the same quilt. But once they arrived, that seemed uninspired, and they sat in a box in the basement. Now I think several quilts will be better!

All the fabric is stash, like my first Modern Utility Quilt, and it seemed like a good chance to use all those large and small scale florals I used to buy. These are the first two blocks I made:

I have to say, I was feeling some doubt at this point. But I had the fabric cut for the first eight blocks, so I kept going:

It was all darker and browner than I expected. And was that citron Mini Pearl Bracelet really a good idea?

In improv theatre, the formula is to always say "yes, and..." So I squelched my doubts and thought, "ok, where do I go from here?" Most of the really pale yellows I'd pulled went back in the stash. The rest I pinned right up on the wall with the finished blocks:

This seemed like a crazy idea at first, but it turned out to be really helpful to sit back and see how everything was working together. So on Monday, I'll be linking up to Design Wall Monday as well!

All the fabrics fit into that range between the citron and gold of the first two blocks. I think the pure white fabric makes the dark fabrics look darker, so there will be less of that combination in the remaining blocks.

I've been looking at this pile of yellow fabric on my sewing table for a few days now, and I'm feeling good about where it's going. But, I promised myself I would get some more things quilted before the hot weather returns, so I will have to pack it up soon.

And before I go, look what I found when I logged into Blogger this afternoon:

I always enjoy these little synchronicities, which I know is why I keep finding them. This is a particularly good one. And it's probably why I "accidentally" logged into Blogger before I had my photos edited. And, check out the rest of the page:


Don't forget to check out the rest of the improv quilting at the February link up, right here. Happy quilting!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mod Trips Finished

First finish for 2016! This is my version of Bonnie Hunter's Scrappy Trips Around the World. I call mine "Mod Trips."

Mod Trips, 60" x 60"
I started this project on a snowy day in February, three years ago. No snow today! But, it's predicted again for tomorrow.

My goal with this quilt was to make a version that was different from all the others out there. I think I succeeded!

It is straight-line quilted in a diamond pattern on my home machine with the walking foot:

I didn't mark it, just sighted along from corner to corner by eye. There was 28 wt white Aurifil thread in the top, and 40 wt in the bobbin. I used a longish stitch ("3" on my machine, and I usually piece at around 2 1/4), and I was happy with how that looked.

But it was not smooth sailing! I was very tempted to title this post...

Dratted Walking Foot

Three weeks ago I had about a third of it quilted, but the back looked like this:

You can see I originally planned twice as much quilting. But, why was it getting all bunched up like that? First, I thought I did a poor job basting it, because I had to do it on a smaller table than before. Or, somehow the fabric stretched out.

Eventually I realized the problem was the feed dogs. I had them on the highest setting, and they were pulling up the back as they worked. My machine has a pin feed, so I switched to that. Then everything flattened out and the walking foot chugged along beautifully.

But, I couldn't have half of it bunchy, and half of it flat, so I spent a day and a half pulling out all the quilting and re-basting it. I was very glad I'd used a longer stitch!

Except for a little cross in each corner, I decided to leave the quilting at every other row the second time.

It's been so long since I finished something, that I totally forgot how fun it is to sew on the binding! It really is satisfying to wrap up all the raw edges and close out the project.

I don't know how practical this scrappy white binding will be, but it felt like the right choice.

So, yay! One done. The pillows are also quilted, but still need backs and binding. To read all the posts about this project, please click here.

Although I didn't make any formal New Year's resolutions this year, I do kind of have one:

One old
One new
One flimsy
One quilt

Since this is an old project and now a finished quilt, I'm free to start something new! And yes, I already started today:

It is so nice to get the walking foot off the machine, and get back to regular sewing!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

World of Inspiration

I am in great danger here of sounding like I am stooped over and creaking out, "when I was young..." I will try to keep it in check!

But I do think it is older generations who can best appreciate how dramatically different, and improved, life is now. Personally, I love the "United Nations" of stitching that we have available to us these days. It is so interesting to see what stitchers around the world are making, and get a glimpse into how they live.

Clicking through some of the blogs I follow, I came across the brilliant work of Russian quilter Ksenia Shlyakova:

"Snow Queen" by Ksenia Shlyakova
used with permission
It is a long time since I've shown other people's work on my blog, but Ksenia's quilts inspired me so much. And so does Ksenia! She is 22.

Here comes that creaky voice. What were you doing at 22? I was coming to the harsh realization that after four years of grinding through a science degree, the last thing I wanted was to spend the rest of my life in a lab. Several more years of "finding myself" ensued. Ksenia studied lace making at her art school, but realized after graduation that her passion was making these stunning art quilts, and she dove in and works on them full time.

I still can just hope that I may do something as good some day, but the thing that inspires me the most is Ksenia's commitment and focus. I love to read about people who are completely committed to their art or craft, and when that art is quilt making, that 's even better! It really motivates me to dig in deeper.

Click here to read the whole article, and see several more of Ksenia's quilts.

Don't read Russian? I certainly don't. Google's Chrome web browser will translate it for you. After the web page has fully loaded on your computer, you will see two small dark squares appear in the upper right corner:

Click the squares and the page will magically translate for you. Brave new world! (...creak...) Some pages translate better than others, I've found. Ksenia's name is spelled a few different ways, and the gender shifts around (the author's name is Alexandra), but it's still relatively easy to understand.

Don't have Chrome? It is a free download here. Blogger works best with Chrome. But in any case, the photos are universal.

I am always interested to see where my photos end up as well. My favourite is this South Korean website, which used my very first practice bullion rose, done on scruffy muslin and a little unravelled at the top, in their stitch dictionary! Well, I was pretty proud of it, I must admit. And I appreciate all the traffic. :D

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Old and New Stars

...or "This and That"
...or "Still Sewing, Thanks!"

I know I've been absent from the blogosphere for a while, but I'm just resting my typing joints again. I've still managed a little sewing!

I put together two of the enhanced star blocks for Bonnie Hunter's Allietare:

Now it is just the steady work of putting together all the remaining Allietare blocks.

For a change of pace, I tried out one of the "feature" stars from Sue Garman's Stars for a New Day:

I'm going to be making dramatic changes and simplifications to Sue's design on this one. The fabric I bought for this project has a very low thread count, and a fairly large printed design, so I've decided to enlarge all the feature blocks from 6" to 9". That's a 9" block above, and you can see how much it is fraying, even with minimal handling. It's also quite stretchy. Sue's pattern uses mostly paper-pieced HSTs. My plan is to reduce the number of seams, and use the F&P half and quarter square ruler (that I bought for Allietare) to cut and piece it traditionally. It worked well enough.

Despite the low thread count, I still really like the fabric. I know that with washing it will get nice and soft, and a cozy brown quilt for late autumn is what I have in mind. Scaling up the blocks means I'll need fewer for a queen-size quilt, and a couple of the borders have to be eliminated too. So hopefully it will go fairly fast! (Once I finish all these other things...)

And, I've also finally finished off these old star blocks:

Mysteriously out of focus
Truly, a "soft focus" is a blessing on those blocks! I realized over the holidays that this is now my oldest UFO, started in November 2010 and intended as a Christmas present that year. Chuckle.

I've been itching to clear out some old projects, and this one is maybe a day and a half away from a finished flimsy. Each block will get a jade green border...

...and then the eight blocks will be set with some wintry sashing and borders and it'll finally be done! So as usual I am spoiled for choice around here. I've noticed that every winter and summer I'm in the mood to finish things, and every spring and fall I tend to start a bunch of things. So I'm hoping to make room for the new projects that are inevitably around the bend!

Monday, February 1, 2016


I know it looks like I've done very little hand stitching since my summer break, but it's not true! It's just that most of my hand stitching time has gone into my English Paper Piecing project, Texas Star. I'll be glad to see the end of that one!

I've been dying to get back to some embroidery, so when Ann (Fret Not Yourself) mentioned that she and Cathy (Sane, Crazy, Crumby Quilting) are doing a Kaleidoscope of Butterflies link up this week, I immediately thought of this project, Down in the Garden by Leanne Beasley. (Click here to see all the posts on this project so far.) Last spring I finished the four birdhouse stitchery blocks, and the large centre panel is also stitched. Now I have the four watering can blocks to do. I finished the first one yesterday:

The big hold up on these has been the needleturn applique butterflies. You can see that I fussy cut the wings from a variety of Kaffe fabrics -- Roman Glass, Millefiore, and Paperweight. So that is a little trickier, but the main challenge has been the applique stitch. I want it to be invisible, and after some trial and error I settled on ladder stitch with 100 wt silk thread in light grey. I can't do more than one butterfly a day. And then I wonder if it's worth the effort, and that slows things down more. But, now that I look at it again, I do think it's worked well.

Once the applique is done, it's a relief to fill in the rest of the stitching:

In some light it seems to me that the Tsukineko ink that I used to paint in the design is starting to fade. I don't mind, because I do want the stitching to stand out. But as I write this, I'm thinking that maybe it's just the white fibres in the Kona PFD fabric that are starting to get fuzzy while I stitch. I will say the fabric is really holding up well to stitching. I don't use a hoop, and it hasn't puckered at all.

Who knows? If the butterfly link up continues, I may get the next three blocks done too! Two butterflies per block. In the meantime, you can see a whole variety of butterflies in the Kaleidoscope of Butterflies right here. Gotta love that name!
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