Friday, October 9, 2015

Making Time For Hand Work

Sometimes I feel like nothing is ever really getting done around here. All I do is piddle. First on one project and then, on another. Mostly that feeling persists because my life gets very chaotic, but really, trying to keep up with all the demands on my time {by husband, kids, other assorted family members and yes, tending to the maintenance of life} tends to kill my superwoman efficiency powers.
Big Stars
There was a window of opportunity to sandwich and pin a couple quilts the other day. {I'm doing it in pairs these days.} Of course I had to rush to piece together the backs because I don't plan ahead for these things. By the time the quilt backing was taped to the floor, I was a hot, sweaty mess and it was dark outside. Lovely lighting don't you think? It really doesn't do justice to these quilts that were lucky enough to make it to the top of the queue.
Muddy Creek
This Big Stars quilt has been nagging at me for a very long time. I have definitely shied away from this one. So proud of it when I finished, but now a little less than thrilled with the quilt top. Sometimes I experience a great deal of trepidation in my own ability to stitch something that could make a quilt shine--bring it to it's fullest potential. That can make me like my quilt top a little less than it probably deserves. Such defeating thoughts and I actually allow them to cause a bit of paralysis. Grrr....  I'm not making heirloom quilts, nor do I feel that we have to. Quilting is whatever we choose to make it and serves a very individual purpose in all our lives.

So in the hoop it goes so I can start stitching what makes sense to me. I don't need complicated. Right now I don't even have the brain power to worry about the 'best' stitching pattern. Mostly I just need something in the hoop to quiet my mind and relax my body. The end.
In the hoop
In the little bits and pieces of time I gather throughout the day, there is also applique. It never feels very important as I'm doing the actual stitching, but it definitely adds up to something huge to me. Having applique in my quilts gives a little more to love about what I make. Because I connect with it. It feels right and true for me. But if I stop and really think about it, there is never time in my life for that. Never. And that can be overwhelming. So I just get everything prepped and then I fit it into my life however and where-ever I can.
Completed Vintage Red blocks
Like with these latest projects. I have slowly, steadily, persistently, tenaciously stitched until I have all of the Vintage Red blocks completed and now all my basket handles are done too. This is the only way to ever move forward with these sorts of projects because when you're stitching a bit here and stitching a bit there, the time never 'counts'. In fact it feels rather pitiful if you look at it that way and your progress always seems quite pathetic. It's best to change our thinking. Think of this kind of stitching as filling lost time or even taking advantage of little moments.
All the Summers End basket handles are done!
Stitch when there is opportunity and then put it away when someone or something pulls you away once again. Be willing to stop mid-block. No resentment, no irritation at being pulled away because we're not counting the time. We're making use of opportunity until the day comes when 'ta da!' our blocks {or pieces} are ready for the next phase. And it always comes, no matter how difficult the project or how tedious the process. No matter how simple, repetitive and/or silly it seems. And who cares if it takes an entire week to finish one block? Every stitch counts, not the time because that kind of time can't be recovered anyway.*wink

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Always a Basket or Two Around Here....

I've been steadily stitching these basket handles down, one little piece at a time. First the inside curve, then the outside. One after another they slowly stack up.
What's in my applique bag....
It helps fill the time while I'm helping out with an aunt who had a stroke about two weeks ago. She might think I'm crazy, but she never says it out loud. I don't think she quite understands my quilting passion though.
Working through a stack of basket handles....
It looks like about three quarters of them are done now, but I haven't counted. There's only 56 {total} of them and I'd like to be surprised when the last one pops out of the bag. It might be time to make sure there's another applique project prepped and ready to go along with this one. You know, just in case. There's nothing more devastating than having time on your hands and nothing left to stitch.*wink
What's on my design wall...
And this is what's been hanging out on my design wall. Still. The pieces are slowly coming together. So I guess that means I've made a decision to keep it? I think some things are just too intriguing to let go. But I might have to fix the right {chopped off} hst's by the basket. I was trying to sort of 'line up' the half square triangles. Now I'm thinking it's too forced for this style of quilt. Hmm....

Friday, October 2, 2015

Another Experiment With Both Machine and Hand Quilting

So here it is, my Happy Geese quilt! It's been through a lot of changes since I first started it almost ten years ago, blocks completely un-stitched and reset etc.. I was also experimenting with a wonky placement of geese, but wasn't quite as successful as it could have been. I'd do a lot better these days that's for sure!
Happy Geese
The applique is all my own idea, dreamed up from somewhere inside my crazy brain and influenced by my {leftover} applique bits and pieces tote. This quilt has a sewn together, chopped off style {something not everyone appreciates}, but it warms my heart once in a great while. I like to call that my Gwen Marston influence.
All quilted and bound
I machine quilted around all the geese, along the edges of the borders and around those quarter triangle patched squares. Then I left the pointy rectangles alone. Which makes for a sort of puffiness in the quilt after I washed it. In fact all the plaid area in the quilt ended up looking puffy. Hmm.. I guess I could go back and hand quilt those areas, but why? This quilt is going to get sooo much use from my kids. I can already see the hand writing on the wall.
The top dogs (er.. birds)
It just has that sort of informal I'm-begging-you-to abuse-and-misuse-me look doesn't it? Like mom won't notice or care if this one has Cheeto stains on it.... My daughter do love to make sure all their friends have a quilt to sleep with whenever they have a sleepover and some quilts are just more fun than others.

Big stitching around all the applique with Perle Cotton. And wowsers did that go fast! But it adds just a little bit 'more' to the quilt. Glad I took the time. There's just something about that Perle Cotton that gives instant texture. Instant yummy texture I might add.*wink
A primitive look....
One of my daughters told me she loves everything about the quilt except for the plaid fabric which she said was hideous to her. And no, she wasn't being snotty, just honest because I put her on the spot and asked her to critique my quilt. Personally I adore the plaid element as it was one of those fabrics that was given to me years ago instead of being dropped off at the Goodwill. In fact, all the background fabric in this quilt were those sorts of fabrics. Gotta love that thrifty little thrill we get from using them up, challenging ourselves to make something good with them! And too, I think the quilt would be boring without the sparky plaid. Isn't it funny how we all have our very different opinions?
Want to see the stitching on the back side?
Here's a picture of the back of the quilt. You can see where I wrestled the quilt around to machine quilt around the geese. First one half of the triangles in a long row, and then the other half. If the quilt would have been any larger I'd have given up after the first try. I hurt my elbow earlier in the year and it was complaining instantly from all that back and forth stuff. You can see the plaid border where there isn't any stitching. Good thing it's not going into a show where the judges would complain about uneven quilting throughout the quilt. lol  It's all good. I used some leftover dark brown binding and found the same fabric to add the length I needed to finish this quilt. It's done, it's done, it's done!!! And I wanna snuggle with it already.....

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Struggling With a Different Process

I need to approach what I'm doing from another angle occasionally. Have a different starting point and look at things from a fresh viewpoint. I guess that's why Kaja and Ann's AHIQ series is so interesting to me.
My starting squares
I really thought this improv. attempt would be about strings, but no. I took my long narrow strips of leftover cream backing fabric and started cutting them into random sized squares--large and small. Then I took some older pieces of blue fabric and did the same. All my cutting was made without rulers so the square sizes are all over the place.

Then, feeling faintly guilty {because this did not feel like true improv.}, I sewed them into half square triangles the efficient way. I did NOT mark the center lines though. It was all sort of eyeballed and so yes, some hst's are a bit more on the rectangular side than square. When I cut them apart between the sewing lines, I used my scissors and roughly cut off the extra fabric if one or two sides needed trimmed.
Doing what makes sense...
Then I ironed the hst's open and started lining them up on the wall. I played with them going in different directions and then went to bed. I was feeling sort of let down and yes, confused about how to go forward.

For clarity, I want you to know that these are the 'rules' I started out with:

  • Only use fabric on hand, the older the better
  • Cut entirely without rulers
  • Start with one basic shape
  • Only use 1-2 colors of fabric to begin with
  • No 'finished quilt' planning allowed
  • What if, What if, What if?

A starting point
Today I decided to play with the idea of an old fashioned 'utility' style sawtooth quilt. It wasn't doing it for me though.
Where my brain takes me....
I went back to my basic mass-of-wonky-triangles and changed up the row by fabric print. Much too subtle to make any significant difference.
A subtle change....
Then I introduced some brown strips. Thought about using red, but ughh! This does not need to be a red/white and blue quilt in order for me to appreciate it.
Adding strips
 I rather liked where it was going with less strips....
Maybe less?
But still... What exactly am I trying to achieve here? What is improv. exactly? Sherri Lynn Wood has this to say about the subject 'improv is a process of discovery. More specifically self discovery.

Then she mentions that 'It's a practice of being present'. So I'm thinking, what is it exactly that makes me feel connected to these wonky hst's? Those feel like me somehow. But it doesn't look, smell or act like what I've seen called improv. The fabrics are old fashioned and non-improvvy looking. You and I both know it's not the least bit bold, bright and splashy looking! I'm pretty sure this is exactly the kind of structure that will help me with my quilting and yet I'm struggling to find a true connection between what I do now and what I {vaguely} know needs to happen to some of my future quilting. I really feel that my {quilting} voice needs some of this whimsy occasionally, this old fashioned utility quilt style of I-don't-care-about-the-rules. Why oh why is so hard to go back to this style of sewing, when you've proved you can match up all your points and keep everything square and plumb?
Just seeing hst's, that's all....
I kept thinking of what Kaja said about taking a simple shape and seeing where it leads you. And so I kept playing. Until I came up with this: using the wonky hst's to frame a vintage basket block. Doesn't this look more like me already? I'm starting to feel present already.
A personal connection....
Will I keep it? Sew it together and call it my own? I'm not sure. These hst's may just be for playing and waking up my brain, saying what if? Right now the plan is to leave it up on the wall and keep looking at it. I feel like I jumped a major hurdle today and melded some different ideas together in a way that yes, I feel very connected to. Is it truly improv.? You tell me. It definitely feels more like a self discovery than a copykat improv. session! Linking up to AHIQ today. How about you?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Prep Work and Some Slow Quilting

I started the centerpiece for my Folksy Flower quilt. Just cut long rectangular chunks of black fabric and then used my rotary cutter to make the curved 'petal' end. All freehand of course. Why bother making an exact pattern or trying to be precise when I'm trying for a 'folksy' look?
Folksy Flower quilt
After getting it pinned into a rough looking circle, then I trimmed it up some with the scissors. There's more overlap in places than I'd like, but what I don't want is gaps at the top of the petals. I'm not much into basting my applique into place, pins generally work well for me, but this is a big piece. After some consideration, grumbling and metal warring going on, I went ahead and took the time to baste. And see? I pulled too tight on some of the stitches and now have some ruffling at the edges. grrr... People say that basting saves the individual pieces from shifting, but I have seem to have the reverse problem. Oh well. This way I should have a lot less trouble with pins dropping and worries about people randomly finding them in their foot. For some reason that makes people unhappy.
All basted and ready for the applique stitching....
I've also been slowly plugging along on my Scrap Basket and Rolling Stones quilt. I've reached the outer rows of blocks, but just when I started to think 'woohoo! There was sure a lot done', I counted. Yep. There's 18 blocks left to stitch. That's more blocks than there is in the center rows! Gotta just laugh and go with the flow.
Scrap Basket in the hoop....
One frame at a time and the stitching slowly adds up--it always does. I did go ahead and lightly mark the outside border thinking I'd squeeze that into the frame at the same time as the outer blocks. It's just a smidge too much quilt for one frame though, so I'll have to come back around and stitch the outside border all by itself.
Starting to stitch the outer blocks...
None of the stitching is very fancy in this quilt {is it ever with me?}, but I'm happy with the way it's adding some nice texture to my quilt. And btw, the only big stitch quilting is in the centerpiece. Now I'm stitching with a turquoise Gutterman hand quilting thread. Just keeping it sweet and simple.....

Time to link up with Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Shop Hopping and A Local Best of Best Quilt Stores

Do you shop hop? Yesterday my mom talked me into doing part of the North Central Washington's Quilt Shop Hop. Ahh... So much fun, but so very dangerous. We live in a rural part of Washington so the quilt stores are spread apart by so much as two hours or more. It's pretty much impossible to make all the stores in one day although some people talk like they're trying!
Looking at some pink and red fabrics
 And that is only one reason why I rarely ever take part. The fuel, the food and then the fabric...... It adds up {with me} to something that is just flat our perilous to my wallet! So I judiciously do my shop hopping all year long. Take a long drive on a Saturday via a town that has a quilt store. Go to the second hand store I love up the valley and drop by the quilt store. Make a grocery run and hit the quilt store. Do a stock-up Costco type day and check out the new fabric in the local quilt store. Much safer for me really and then I'm doing my part to support the brick and mortar stores all year long.
Starting to buy more gray than brown these days....
Before we got started yesterday, I thought it would be fun to do a post about the various quilt stores we dropped into. Then something happened that kind of put a damper on my enthusiasm. Let's talk quilt store employees {and owners} for a moment here. Every store has a personality {do you agree?} and the help is definitely is a huge part of that very unique experience. Some stores are very fun, vibrant and welcoming.
Always love a good neutral....
Others are a bit dour, reflective and maybe even grumpy, especially concerning cutting fat quarters or dealing with a large stack of fabric to cut. I've had quilt store owners treat me like an absolute moron who barely even knows quilting 101 {to the point that my daughter was furious}. Some are pushy about the merchandise. NO! I do not want to work with wool. I am allergic to it, thank you very much! Does that mean I have favorites? You bet I do. But that doesn't mean that I'm unable to appreciate the merits of my less favorite quilt stores. Maybe they have a fabulous thread selection or stock the only text fabric for hundreds of miles around!

Yesterday I had a very odd experience. A clerk appeared shocked and even somewhat titillated by how many fat quarters I was purchasing {and the total amount of my purchase}. She kept talking and talking and talking about the amount of fabric I bought until I started to wonder myself if I was making a huge mistake. Maybe I should return it and leave? Then when she was ringing up my mother, she told her, in a big 'I'm-telling-you-a-secret' sort of way, the amount of my receipt. Frankly, it made us both feel very uncomfortable.
Can never get too many greens and blues...
Now, just so you don't get the wrong idea, my mom and I have went fabric shopping together for years. Sometimes she spends more and sometimes I do. We don't ever comment on or judge each other about the amount of fabric we buy because, hello? We are quilters! I buy more in the fall than throughout the rest of the year. If I drive two hours to a quilt store, I am a whole lot more likely to spend MORE than when I drop into my most local quilt store on a grocery run. When I actually make it to a store that has fabric I love and adore, can't buy anywhere local to where I live, I tend to go a bit crazy. Who doesn't? I love stocking up on discount fabrics for backing etc. etc. which can quickly add up to a big receipt, but the point is, who cares? If I don't have money, then I don't shop, even if that means months without going into a quilt store. Does a clerk ever have the right to even comment one way or another though? Maybe, maybe if she knows me very well and we have a relationship. Maybe it's okay then.
A couple backs and some border fabric...
I guess the thing with me is that I don't like any judgement or implied criticism whatsoever. I buy fabric and stock my stash when I can. No, I rarely have a pattern in mind. No, I don't know what I'm doing with these fabrics, but don't you worry, I do use my fabrics and will figure it out as I go. And if I don't end up using this fabric? Frankly, that's none of your business. Am I buying more fabric today than normal? You betcha. The vacuum sweeper money I've been socking away is coming in very handy today. I'll worry about getting a new one next month, but really, that's none of your business either. Oh, you don't think these fabrics work well together? Hmm... How many quilts do you make or is that just your art degree talking? Because I really don't recall asking....

Haha Mostly I just shake it off, try to get amused rather than irritated and keep to myself. Yesterday I actually emailed a quilt store owner and told her about our experience. I'm glad to say that she wrote back very quickly with a positive response. Now I'll go back to that store in a heartbeat if I'm ever in the area. Some quilt store employees {and the owners} are actually a joy to chat with. Then I leave in a great mood, wanting to come back when I have another opportunity.

So without telling you all my various personal pro's and con's to each quilt store in our area {I'm sure you'd have a different opinion than me}, let me just give you my absolute top five quilt stores. The best of the best. If you are ever in the area, you won't regret it!

  • Woven Threads, Chelan Washington
  • Experience Quilts!, Odessa Washington
  • Leavenworth Quilt Company, Leavenworth Washinton
  • 3 Bears Cafe & Quilts, Winthrop Washington
And one more that isn't on the shop hop this year, but well worth a visit:  The Fabric Patch, Ephrata Washington.

Go forth, buy beautiful fabric and enjoy.*wink

**For those who are dying to know, these fabrics were not all purchased in a single day.....

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Try, Try, and Try Again

I must be ill 'cuz I'm trying it again--combining some machine quilting with a little bit of big stitch.  It may just be a go with this quilt too. I'm feeling good vibes in the air and of course, {metaphorically} keeping my fingers and toes crossed.
Working on Happy Geese
All I can say is, I must be in a finish-it-up mood or someone pushed my determination button.....
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