Showing posts with label Cardinal Stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cardinal Stars. Show all posts

Friday, October 27, 2017

Cardinal Stars Finish

It's almost exactly seven years since I first cut the fabric for this quilt, and Cardinal Stars is finally finished!

It's one year since I sewed the red binding and extra yellow flange to the front. I learned how to do it from Mimi Dietrich's book Happy Endings (Martingale 2013), which is practical and helpful.

I thought that machine sewing the high contrast yellow flange nice and straight would be the hardest part. But then I wrecked my back, which changed my posture, and it turned out that hand sewing the binding to the back of the quilt had become extremely painful.

I don't have arthritis, the problem is excessively loose joints and pinched nerves. Every couple of months I would try another few inches of binding, and the pain would return. I used to hand sew every day, and for the past year this binding is the only thing I've even attempted.

But, over the last month I've been working on my shoulder, and whatever was out of place seems to have corrected itself. Yesterday I was able to finish the last side and the last corner in one sitting! So that is a considerable relief.

I'm not going to jump back into a full schedule of hand sewing, but at least now I know I can do it once in a while.

Cardinal Stars, about 62" x 62" (158 x 158 cm)

After all that drama, the finish feels a little anticlimactic to me. But, I think all my experiments -- retrimming and remaking the blocks, "floating" the blocks on the background, my first time renting a long arm, and the flanged binding -- were quite successful. I have learned a TON, and I think part of the reason why this quilt feels out of sync to me now is because I've come so far.

So, yay! A second finish for 2017, an ooold UFO off the books, and some hand sewing hope for the future. :D

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


It's over two weeks since my last post, so I think I will do a general update today. A little of everything -- embroidery, hand piecing, machine piecing, quilting, and binding!

As many of you know, I badly wrecked my back last fall. Now, it's healed very well, and I would say it is better than it's been in years. But a strange by-product has been that hand stitching is clearly bad for my back -- somehow I sit and tense in very awkward ways when I hand stitch. So I can't do it. An unfortunate casualty of this new situation has been my guild challenge quilt, that I started in September. You can see the challenge fabrics here. It was due yesterday, so I think it is now safe to show you what I was doing before my back went out:

I started by embellishing the large scale print with hand embroidery. Stem stitch around the petals, pistil stitch in shaded tones around the centre, and I have some silver lined, forest green glass beads for the centre.

Here is another one:

My plan was to make six "vignettes" like this from the one fat quarter. Four are mostly done.

Then I also started fussy cutting the smaller white print... make hexagon rosettes:

The small ones on the right are the finished size. Half inch (12 mm) hexagons! I wanted 20 rosettes in total.

What's the plan? A half-scale version of the first two rounds of Brinton Hall:

Last fall I was going flat out with my full scale version of this quilt. I already knew the pattern well, so I thought it would be doable in the allotted time. It will be awesome, I thought, to have both the big and little versions together in the show! Well, as I said in December, "Woman plans, God laughs."

Nevertheless, eventually I AM going to figure out a better ergonomic approach to hand stitching, so this is all packed away until then.

And my machine sewing projects are really coming together. The centre of Allietare is down to four pieces:

This is my "quadrants" strategy for a diagonal-set quilt. No seam is longer than 5 blocks. I plan to fussy cut the borders, so there is still a way to go.

Then those muscles were getting sore, so I decided it was time to finish quilting the border on Hen Party:

You can still see the shadows of the previous straight line quilting that puckered so badly. It took me weeks to unpick it, months of dithering, and one day to quilt it again! I like this fat, free form stipple a lot better. And, I think I've finally got the hand/eye/foot coordination figured out for free motion quilting. No stitch regulator here!

In my stash I had a striped fabric that I knew would be perfect for the binding. It ties together all the main colours of the quilt:

Imagine my dismay when I pulled the piece out of the box, and it fell apart! I thought I had yardage, but in fact I had three fat quarters left over from kits. But nothing else works as well, so I'm piecing it all together. This binding will be machine sewn.

The binding on my Cardinal Stars quilt, however, is still only half done:

This was about one quarter sewn when I wrecked my back, and there is no way to switch to machine stitching it now. Long sessions with it have proven too painful. Now I'm thinking that maybe if I set myself to do no more than two threads a day, I will eventually get it done.

In any case, Allietare is going well, Hen Party is finally going well, other projects to be updated separately are all going well, so it's not like this focus on machine sewing is a big sacrifice. My tentative plan for my summer break is to put new effort into figuring out machine applique, both raw edge and turned. But for now, I have plenty to do.  :D

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Save this Space

So, it's been another frustrating and painful week here at Casa Monica. This is the last day to link up with the finale of the Gwennie-Inspired Medallion quilt along. This is where I am:

The theme is "Something Fishy," so it was a great opportunity to repeat the wavy background from the centre block. Fish are also designed and will be appliqued onto the waves. I'm happy with how it's all looking. But, my back is seriously wrecked again, for the third time since the start of the summer, so no progress there. Soon, hopefully!

You can see all the posts on my Gwennie Medallion here, including the finish when it's done.

My One Monthly Goal was to sew the binding on my Cardinal Stars quilt. And, this is where I am:

The hard part is done -- the yellow flange and red binding are both machine sewn to the front, and they are straight too! But, I strained my hand sewing the binding, so I'll have to take it slower. Frustrating! And, when it's done, you'll be able to see the finish here, as well as all the other posts on this quilt.

So, that's it for now. I can't wait to get back on track!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

OMG for October

Just a short post for today. One Monthly Goal (OMG) has been going since January, but this is my first time participating. This month I really want to get the binding sewn onto my Cardinal Stars quilt. I quilted it six months ago, and it has been languishing because a) summer is too hot to sit with a big quilt in my lap, and b) I want to make a fancy two-colour binding, and I haven't been 100% sure of how I want to do it.

But, now the weather has cooled off, and I think I have a reasonable plan. The binding strips were cut long ago, and when I opened the box, I was surprised to see that I even ironed the red ones in half already! So I am primed for success. :D

Here's the before photo:

Check out all the other goal-setters at the October link up, right here.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Adventures in Quilting

Many of my posts in March included some whining about the machine quilting that I was doing "behind the scenes." I was finally quilting Hen Party. This quilt has 6" snowball blocks made from my collection of chicken-themed fabrics. Many of the blocks were framed around one large chicken. After literally years of creating and dismissing quilting plans for this quilt, I decided to use a bonded batting that only needs quilting every 10", so I wouldn't have to worry about quilting around the chickens inside the blocks. I straight line quilted in the ditch, and free-motioned a little clover motif in each corner:

Some of those first clover motifs were pretty dubious:

That was when I was getting tired at the end of the day, and the weight of the quilt was making things tricky. But, I got better:

I didn't mark anything, first, because I hate marking, and second, because I do like that "freehand doodle" look. So, I'm not going to unpick any of those wobbly ones. And from the back, it looks surprisingly good:

Just ignore the fold lines and loose threads for now!

What I couldn't ignore, though, were the problems with the border. "I'll just straight line quilt a few lines around the border," I thought. "I have mastered straight line quilting," I thought. "Fast and easy," I thought. But strangely, while two sides looked good...

...two sides bunched up terribly:

Whyyyy? I thought I had this figured out when I changed to the pin feed. Somehow the top and bottom layers are feeding through at different speeds, and it must have something to do with the crosswise vs. the lengthwise grain of the backing fabric. But, it is practically ruffled, so it must come out, and that has been taking forever. Once the straight lines are unpicked, I'm going to do a free-motion stipple, which I think will be more forgiving. And at least, after all those clover motifs, I am feeling better about my free motion abilities.

In February, when I was having similar trouble quilting Mod Trips, I said to myself, "this is the last large quilt I am quilting at home." But you know, it turned out well in the end, and everyone liked it, so basking in the glow of success I forgot all the pain! But in March, facing all the same trouble again, I really started to resent the time that quilting was taking from my other projects.

I decided it's finally time to invest in some rental time on a long arm quilting machine. Yesterday I took my Cardinal Stars flimsy to a local long arm dealer that offers rentals.  And after about one hour of class time and three hours of quilting time, it is quilted! By me!

On the back here you can see the pantograph I used, Cloud 9. I am not always the biggest fan of pantos, because they can be a little uninspired, but I have to say they are quite forgiving even when you are never right on the line! It is a good way to build your skill and still have a decent result.

On the front, the panto's flow of curves and arcs blends together the blocks and background:

The polyester thread was my biggest hurdle in deciding to try a long arm. (And the money, of course, but I decided to re-allocate my fabric budget to quilting for a while.) I deliberately took these photos to highlight the thread. It is shiny polyester Glide thread, but not this obvious in every light. I can see why longarmers like it, because it is perfectly smooth and even, with no fluff, even after quilting the whole quilt at high speed. I like it better than I expected, and in future, I will have the option of bringing in my own cotton thread.

Now that it is home I cannot believe how much quilting I did, and that it is reasonably good looking to boot! I am sore, but not any more sore than after a day of quilting on my home machine. And, with one day on the long arm I accomplished more than a month of quilting at home!

So yes, I'll be doing that again. For me, the "aha moment" was when I was basting the edge of the quilt before following the panto across the middle. When I baste the edge of a sandwiched quilt on my home machine, it stretches and puckers and slides around and generally tests my patience to the limit. On the frame of the long arm the edge of the fabric doesn't move at all, and it is easy to sew a scant 1/8" from the edge. Everything stays straight. Amazing!

Now I have a list of new things to try on the long arm, which should use up my stack of flimsies, including Collector, It's Warm Inside, Picnic, and Circa 1998. Although, now that I see how easy it is to quilt a large quilt this way, I am once again considering adding a border to Circa 1998 to bring it up to queen size. We'll see how it goes!

(Hen Party, though, I still have to finish at home...)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Cardinal Stars Flimsy

In 2009 my local quilt shop had a bolt of this gorgeous "Wild Wings" fabric:

I think it sold out in about 3 weeks. Fortunately, I bought 3 metres! I had a vague plan of using it for a border for a lap quilt.

In November 2010 I finally started the project. The plan was to make a pieced centre with alternating yellow stars and red/black diamonds, and use the cardinal fabric for the border. But, my piecing was not very accurate then, and it didn't go well. And the design felt uninspired.

So, I redesigned it a gazillion times (more or less). In 2013 I decided to take apart those first blocks, trim the units more accurately, and re-sew the blocks. In 2014 I decided to make the units into star-in-a-star blocks.

The setting idea is from a quilt in an old Quiltmania, possibly named "Les Roses Bleues," but I can't swear to that. That quilt also had a large background print, a floral (with blue roses), and they framed each block in a narrow border like this and "floated" it on the background. Although I planned to, I never made it. So, I was happy to use the same idea here:

Cardinal Stars, 64" (163 cm) square
Since the background is almost the "focus" of the quilt, I used most of my 3 metres. The borders were pieced, because I wanted to break up the repeat on the fabric, and try for a more natural distribution of birds. You can see that the centre, though, is one 20" square of fabric.

Overall, I think my plan worked better than I expected! I was worried that the block colours wouldn't match the background, or that the solids would be too jarring against the print. But, I think the blocks are balanced with the print, and neither is too dominant. I was very careful when I chose that jade green solid, and took the print to the store to match it.

Most of all, I am glad to have the flimsy done! And I do not plan any further delays on the quilting. Suddenly I'm in a finishing frame of mind again! Let's hope it lasts. :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!

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!

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Now that Edward's quilt is finished, I've been thinking about this project, which I started at the same time in November 2010. The last time I pulled it out I had taken apart all these squares and I planned to wash them, re-cut and re-assemble them. This week I decided to skip the washing and go straight to the re-cutting.

All the red HSTs went from 4 1/2" to 3 1/2":

And all the yellow HSTs went from 2 1/2" to 2":

Is this a good idea that I would recommend to others? NO! This is pure stubbornness on my part. I have been using the June Tailor half and quarter square triangle ruler, which is very accurate, but still awkward and tiring to use. I started with a plan to make four blocks in a single batch, and I ended up just managing the one, because I simply couldn't cut any more HSTs.

The block is now 12 1/2" unfinished. It's not perfect, but it'll do. I have redesigned this quilt at least a dozen times, and I am ready to see the back of it. As it stands now, I will only need eight of these large blocks. Hopefully I can manage that!

I am worried, though, that I may have to buy more of the purple and black background fabrics. Those corner squares weren't in the original design! It's Kaufman Kona, so at least more will be easy to find.

Monday, February 18, 2013


This is an old UFO that I started in 2010. Recently I've been tossing around ways to rework it, so I dug it out again today. It had a variety of problems:
  • The fabric wasn't washed
  • The HSTs were not cut accurately
  • The design didn't use its feature fabric to the best advantage. These blocks were so bold, they drowned out the border print.
Because the HSTs were inaccurate, the blocks were a bit of a mess too. The red one is not too bad, but you can see the yellow one is worse:

So, I have a new design, and my plan is to take these 8" blocks apart down to their square units, wash them all in lingerie bags in the machine, and then square them up to make 6" blocks and re-use them. Fortunately, there are not that many finished blocks to deconstruct.

The seam ripper is not usually my friend, but this time I am enjoying it because I am interested to see how my plan will turn out.

Think it will work? I'll let you know!
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