Showing posts with label Hanami. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hanami. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

18 in 2018

Ok, so yes, just a couple of days ago I remarked that resolutions about UFOs have not historically been successful for me. But, I know several people had great success with 17 in 2017 last year. And, having now read the "rules," I see that 18 doesn't mean 18 different projects, it could be 18 milestones in one project. So that sounds reasonable! And since I'm sewing anyway, I may as well join in. Click here to read all about it!

It's been quite difficult to whittle down the list, actually. I did have to add some "bonus" goals. In any case, these are the projects I will be happiest to get finished. The biggest challenge will be the projects that need quilting. There are also a few easy wins and old stinkers that I'm ready to see the back of! So, in no particular order as far as scheduling goes...

1. Bind Homegrown placemats. Yes, I still haven't bound these dratted things, and I think they qualify as both an easy win and a very old stinker.

2. Finish quilting and bind Picnic. This quilt has been occupying the "chair of shame" beside my sewing table for at least six months. I'm keen to start looking at something else!

3. Under Picnic on the chair of shame is my old yoyo project, Spring Planting. It's half sewn, and getting it to the flimsy stage is its first milestone.

4. Quilting and binding Spring Planting will be the second milestone on that project!

5. Quilt and bind Sunshine.

6. Quilt and bind Nettie.

7. Quilt and bind Daydream Baskets.

8. Quilt and bind Circa 1998.

9. Sew borders on Allietare to finish the flimsy.

10. Finish sewing together my Technicolor Turkey flimsy

Bonus -- Quilt and bind Technicolor Turkey. (That's definitely a "stretch" goal!)

11. Finish the Aunt Millie fused applique, piece the alternate blocks, and assemble the centre.

12. Piece, applique and attach the Aunt Millie border to finish the flimsy.

13. Finish the Moth in the Window blocks.

Bonus 1 -- Cut the sashing, lay out, and assemble the centre
Bonus 2 -- Design, make and attach an applique border

14. Make a final decision on the border, then piece and attach it to finish the Hanami flimsy.

15. Finish the 49 Cheddar Broken Dishes blocks.

16. Cut the sashing, lay out, and assemble the flimsy.

17. Finish the Rose Boll sawtooth blocks

18. Finish the alternate string blocks for Rose Boll and assemble the centre.

Bonus -- Piece and attach the Rose Boll border to finish the flimsy!

I didn't put links in for all the projects, you can click the labels at the bottom of this post to find more information on any of them. My New Year's resolution to make four new, small wall quilts is still the top priority. But, I would certainly like to make progress on all of these. And also a few that didn't make the list!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Decision Time

More HSTs for Hanami

I am not a good multi-tasker, but this winter I needed about 2000 HSTs for three projects, and that is a lot of repetitive work. (About half are done now.) So, I downloaded some of Pat Sloan's podcasts from All People Quilt. There was a great interview with Gwen Marston on February 6, which I recommend. What's the difference between liberated quilting and improv quilting? None. There is no difference, says Gwen. I love her common sense approach!

I also enjoyed Pat's discussion with Linda Thielfoldt in the same podcast. Linda has been cleaning out her studio, and has some helpful thoughts on how to make decisions about what to keep and what to let go.

Since I finished Hen Party I've been thinking that it's time to stop jumping on every shiny project that comes along, and to get real about what the quilt is for, and how it will be used. So, I've pared things down to two basic categories:
  1. Quilts for Use -- throw quilts and bed quilts
  2. Quilts for Art -- wall quilts
When I thought about my requirements for those two categories, several of my projects started to change, and some dropped away. Quilts for Use have to be durable and not too precious, with no fragile embroidery or applique. Quilts for Art, on the other hand, have to be non-trivial, there has to be something special about them. And, they have to be smaller! There is nowhere in our house where you can hang a bed sized quilt on the wall.

Improv quilts will work well in both categories. My Gwennie Medallion is something that I will be quite happy to hang on the wall...

...when it's done. ;) One of a kind, original, graphic -- improv sounds like art to me.

Two recent projects are going to the orphan block box. The first is the half scale version of Brinton Hall that I started for my guild challenge:

I just don't think this will hold its own as an art piece. You have to be very close to see the embroidery, and when you stand back it feels drab. Plus, I still have the big one for the bed.

The second one to bite the dust is the 150 Canadian Women quilt along, which is not feeling good to me any more. 30 blocks are done:

I was not thrilled when I realized that this quilt was excluding important women in Canadian history, such as Laura Secord and Elizabeth Simcoe, because they were not born in Canada. I admit I did not read that part of the introduction very carefully! But last week's inclusion of Helen MacMurchy was the final straw for me.

The challenge of history is that when you go back far enough, you will almost always find something unpalatable by today's standards. MacMurchy was a significant figure for women's rights in Canada, so I understand why she was chosen. But she is not my choice, she does not represent the Canada that I want to live in going forward, and I don't think it is sufficient to say "those were the times then." This would be a quilt that I am making today, for the future. I don't want to spend the rest of the year turning over rocks in Canadian history, and making excuses for inexcusable things, so I'm going to let this one go.

On a brighter and completely different note, I've implemented a new plan for all my hourglass blocks. Last time you saw this project, I was sewing the hourglasses as leaders and enders on Allietare. That worked great, and all 896 of them were finished last year. BUT...

...the vast majority of them still required trimming. And I baulked.

I think I made a big mistake when I decided to make a large, time consuming project from fabrics I didn't like. For six months I've been thinking of ways to make it nicer. Different settings, applique... nothing seemed worth the effort.

Then last week I was thinking deep thoughts about improv, and I thought it could be a great solution for the hourglasses. Before I could change my mind again, I started to sew:

I just sewed together the untrimmed hourglasses, and used scissors to clean up the seam allowances. It turned out that a row of eight untrimmed hourglasses was about the same length as nine trimmed ones. I like those offset rows quite a bit!

My "plan" is to play around with different settings of the hourglasses, and make brick-shaped blocks like this. I've been admiring the green in Kaja's latest work, and I think I'll use something similar for narrow sashing between the big bricks. We'll see!

I've been keeping some of the hourglasses in a project box on top of my wardrobe, for "easy access."

This has been the situation for six months. Maybe there has been some creation going on up there when I wasn't looking! The Improv box has some of my early improv letters and words, and I've decided to stick them in this quilt with the hourglasses too. Would the embroidered roses from the Brinton mini work as well? Probably not, but we'll see.

Anyway, I'm still aiming for queen sized with this quilt. I like it so much better now, that even the fabrics don't seem so bad!

And I'm glad to be back at AHIQ. Please check out everyone else's work at the link up right here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top 5 Posts of 2016

WOman plans, God laughs

Each year that I've blogged, my list of resolutions for the new year has become shorter and vaguer. I've realized that for me, concrete goals and the creative process are basically incompatible. This year, my resolution is three words:

1. Follow the fun.

Over at Meadow Mist Designs, Cheryl is running a linky party where bloggers can share their Top 5 Posts of 2016. This got me curious about my stats, so I had a look at the numbers. I looked at most page views, most comments, and then added my own preference to the mix. Let's count them down!

#5 -- Sunny and Derivative. This was my two cents on the whole "derivative" controversy triggered by the Modern Quilt Guild this summer. Since my blogging focus is largely on the creative process, the issue was close to home even though I don't consider myself a modern quilter.

#4 -- Allietare Red Blocks. This post ranked second by page views for the year. Allietare was my first time participating in Bonnie Hunter's annual mystery quilt. It was a challenging project, but completely worthwhile. And it's inspired me to start a few more of Bonnie's quilts as well.

#3 -- 13 Cherry Trees. This post was ranked third by page views, and the one before it was second by comments, so I've combined them into a third place overall finish. I've been both surprised and gratified by how popular this quilt has been!

FYI, I've decided to make it bigger, and a wide border has been planned.

#2 -- Little Wooly Baskets. This post is #1 in page views, with more than double the page views of the runner up Allietare. The Woolie Contingent is large! Dawn Heese's quilt along was hugely popular.

My photo of Block 2 here, with the white basting threads all over it, seemed to hit a chord with people, and it was widely pinned on Pinterest. Very flattering! For a while I was concerned that it was more popular than the finished block, but I've realized that a) readers have to wait a long time for finishes around here, and b) I am mainly writing a "process" blog anyway!

And, drum roll please...

#1 -- Gwennie Medallion Month 1. This first post in the Gwen Marston-inspired medallion quilt along is definitely number one by comments. I've rated it as my best post because I certainly value comments more, and I think it is an entertaining story about the creative process. Plus, it's all original and I love how it turned out!

2017 looks now like it will be more machine sewing and less hand sewing. But, eventually I will figure out a new, ergonomic hand sewing set up too. A more supportive chair, to start with. All those people who told me to sit up straight when I was young are laughing now!

In any case, creatively, 2016 has felt like a very good year. God willing, my plan for 2017 is more of the same!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

13 Cherry Trees

My 13 Cherry Tree of Life blocks for my quilt Hanami, have been done for a couple of weeks, and this week I finished sewing together the main body of the quilt. I've held off posting any progress photos, because I wanted to wow you with the full impact of the pieced setting:

The plan was to blend the trees "seamlessly" into the background, and I am really pleased with how that worked out. It's the random distribution of background fabrics in the blocks and sashings that makes it work. But in fact, the sashings and setting triangles were made from carefully managed strip sets:

The strips sets required careful management to make their repeating pattern look random. That involved a lot of labels and total focus, which is the other reason why there are no progress photos!

The idea with the strip sets was that it would be more efficient, and I suppose it was. But it was still a heck of a lot of sewing. And a lot of pinning too. But it was all worth it, and I'm very happy with how it has come together.

From close up, or from the side, the trees tend to disappear, and it is just a mass of pink and white florals.

I even managed to fit in a couple of butterflies:

If I was starting over there are a few of things I might do differently, but the benefit of leaving a lot of it to chance is that it stopped me from obsessing over the little details. Somehow you just relax and accept it the way it is. I think that helps the quilt bypass the logical mind of the viewer somewhat, and connect on a more emotional level. An unexpected benefit!

It still needs a border. I'll trim off the points to square it up...

and add about 5" (13 cm) around. My original plan was to make just a narrow sawtooth border of green HSTs, but I changed my mind on that a while ago. It felt too hemmed in. The green HSTs are already made, and I thought I may need to put them aside. Then today a better plan for the HSTs occurred to me, but it will require more cutting too.

So once again I have to put it aside for now, while I finish up a couple more urgent projects. My secret purple guild challenge quilt just needs a binding now. I have to say that it looks pretty good, but they are a competitive bunch at my guild, so we'll see how it does! And I still haven't completely unpicked that terrible puckered border on Hen Party. My mom's birthday is less than a month away, and the quilt is almost four years overdue. I think the embarrassment has dragged on long enough!

But never mind, for now let's just relax among the flowers...

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Back in Season

The cherry trees are in full bloom in Tokyo right now. Here in Toronto it is snowing, thanks to another visit from the Polar Vortex. Although, one forecaster called it a "Siberian" air mass, which I guess implies that it is even colder, lol. In any case, a little snow is normal for us in April, and fortunately, I'm prepared for spring with my blossoming cherry tree blocks:

It's almost a year since I've shown this project, Hanami.  It's my own adaptation of the traditional Tree of Life block. Most of my inspiration came from Audrey's trees here, except I changed the trunks to make them entirely from HSTs. Unfortunately, my first few attempts at the block came out distinctly rectangular.

So, on my summer break last year I took the first blocks almost completely apart. The seam allowances were not consistent, and my setting will require precision. This time they look much better!

And while I was at it, I changed the fabrics in the tree trunks too:

Old Trunk

New Trunk
Some of my pink florals are very light, and those dark browns completely drowned them out. I chose dark beige and light silver grey instead, because I want a very light, misty feel for this cherry orchard. I remember plenty of misty days in Japan!

A couple of the trees are almost all white:

I think this will still work, because the pattern is set by the darker trees, so the eye will fill in the gaps.

This quilt was my DIY Mystery Quilt, where all the pieces for each tree were drawn semi-randomly. Each block is a challenge! You can read more about that process here.

Now I feel like all the bugs have been worked out. Six blocks are done...

...and there are just seven more to go.

Of course, my plan last summer was to have this flimsy finished by now. But, on my first day back in blogland last fall all my plans were thrown out the window when AHIQ came along, and they were ground further into dust by Allietare in November. And, going "off script" has been exactly the right thing to do, because both Allietare and the ongoing improv challenge have dramatically improved my quilting. I am amazed at how much easier these blocks seem now!

So, there are no wrong turns. And, fingers crossed, I can still get this to the flimsy stage before this year's blossoms have fallen. After two months of frustrating machine quilting, it is nice to be piecing again!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

DIY Mystery Quilt

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...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Hanami is the Japanese word for "flower viewing," and it is generally used specifically for viewing cherry blossoms. Right now the cherry trees are just starting to bloom in Japan, and, after a big push this week, I have managed to get a tree to bloom right here in Toronto too!

I started making half square triangles (HSTs) for this quilt in December, but then other projects took over and I thought that I'd missed the season. I'd actually banished it to the basement until Mary Ellen left me a comment about an HST exchange last week. After some online research I realized that I still had time, so here I am!

Today I'll talk about my inspiration for the quilt, and in future posts I'll discuss my method.

In 2011 The Quilt Show had Edyta Sitar as a guest for episode 802, to talk about quick, paper pieced HSTs and quilt designs for them. Some TQS members organized a big HST exchange, and TQS member Wilma Moss made a Tree of Life quilt with her triangles that really caught my eye:

Big Thicket by Wilma Moss, adapted from an Edyta Sitar design

Thanks to Wilma for letting me post the photo! You can read about Wilma's quilt in the TQS quilt gallery here, and she also has a website, Brick Cottage Quilts.  I loved the mix of fabrics and those flashes of bright colour in Wilma's quilt, and I started to think about using up some of my large scale floral fabrics in a similar way.

Then last fall Audrey at Quilty Folk created her own version of the Tree of Life block:

Tree of Life blocks by Audrey at Quilty Folk

Many thanks to Audrey as well! I really love the compact trunks on her trees, and the round shape of the crown. Her colour scheme was quite inspiring too! Once again I thought about flowering trees...

Then the Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt Grand Illusion started at the end of November, and many bloggers started sewing masses of HSTs. I am unlikely to ever do someone else's mystery quilt, because making and/or tweaking the design is half the fun for me. But I thought, how could I surprise myself?

The answer was to incorporate some random elements into the design, and a Tree of Life seemed like a perfect opportunity for that. I reworked Audrey's design, keeping the outline but changing the construction so I could make it entirely from HSTs:

For about ten minutes I even considered making the whole background from light/light HSTs as well! I dug into my stash looking for a mix of bright florals, but I soon realized that I had enough pink to make all the trees pink, and the cherry blossom orchard idea was born:

I thought, wouldn't it be cool to get it done by the start of the hanami season? Well, it IS cool, and I am pretty stoked.

And it will be even cooler if I can get the top finished by the end of the season in early May! One down, twelve to go. :D

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