Friday, November 21, 2014

When Plan 'A' Doesn't Work and An Update on Mom's Happy Mail

Believe it or not, I don't always blindly follow my muse where ever it takes me. Part of the time there are real ideas formulated and sometimes even plans scratched out on graph paper in blue ink {at least for the initial phase of a quilt}. The key is knowing when to ditch those plans and move to Plan B, the plan that really is no plan at all.
Auditioning the cornerstone blocks
Originally, I was going to have a cream colored star around my eagle centerpiece. Which then made sense to have cream colored (at least for the background fabric) cornerstone blocks. But, as much as I love these particular cornerstone blocks, they were falling just a bit short of what I expected from them. So I moved to Plan B. The only thing I know for sure about Plan B is that it involves using a lot of this cheddar colored fabric {let me introduce you to the new cheddar background cornerstone blocks!}. The cheddar was definitely intended for use in this quilt, but not quite this much, and definitely not so much in the main part of the quilt.*sigh  We must do what the quilt demands of us or suffer the agonies of something or other. Probably sleepless nights or an endless rehash of what 'could have been'.
Playing with color and bits of applique
Using so much cheddar at this point in the quilt created other issues. Like my pitiful offering of fabric all stacked up together thinking they were the fabrics of fabric for the quilt. Apparently, I now need a strong green to hold down my center. GREEN? Where exactly is this quilt taking me? I never, ever expected to be using more than a smidge of green in my Eagle quilt!

Which led to the next thought: Does my Eagle centerpiece now need a touch more applique work to jazz it up? It IS the star of the show, so to speak. {Please, let's not forget the intent of the entire quilt....} And this is where I remembered my applique parts-and-pieces totes and started digging. I love these part-and-pieces totes. They save me every single week from arbitrarily chopping up bits of fabric and leaving them to die a slow death in the trash can.
Digging for good stuff in the applique parts-and-pieces tote
Luckily, I found these leaves and berries in the proper colors. It makes it all the more apparent if something will or will not work when they are in the appropriate colors to start with. And sometimes it even helps to throw up a fabric that will possibly be used in the next border. Does it all play together nicely? You'll notice that I took the two leaves off from the Eagle centerpiece. This quilt is telling me to have leaves on the border, or leaves in the center--not both. There can be too much of a good thing you know.
Auditioning some more applique bits and a possible border color
So wonderful that for once I figured this out before the entire thing was sewn together as it made stitching down the applique that much simpler. Auditioning applique bits is often a head scratcher for me. Basically, I'm viewing the pieces 'as-is'; ie, before the seam allowance is turned under. I just love how bold the applique looks at this size. The big decision then is this: Do I hunt for similar fabrics in the totes and cut them out this particular size PLUS seam allowance? Or do I call it good and use what I have?
Making the decision to move forward or not...
I used what what was there. Sewed them down and lost a bit of the 'punch' that the larger applique had. Hmm...  Will it work? I guess we'll see!

p.s. For those of you that have been following along, my mom has still been receiving the occasional package/envelope of happy mail! I am just flabbergasted to see them still arriving! Sorry, I'm such a slacker about posting the details, but in the last 2 1/2 weeks or so she has gotten mail from North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Washington, Kansas, Ohio and several from Texas. One woman sent her quite a few older quilt books which has been especially lovely to receive. What would we do without our patterns and inspiration? And for those that ask occasionally, she is still working some on her small economy squares quilt and now she's started a jelly roll quilt too. Better watch out or she'll end up with a pile of WIPS like the rest of us.*wink

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Thought I Was Just Crossing Another Quilt Top Off the List

Time to work on my St. Paul quilt! I cut out the tumblers for the border awhile back, just guessing about how many I might need. Easy peasy stitching to assemble the border lengths.
Working on the St. Paul quilt
Then, I dithered and wrung my hands over the inner border colors. Nothing looked good. Nothing looked right, blah, blah, blah. So finally, I decided to forget about that proposed skinny inner border and just go with it. Why do I always think every quilt needs an in-between border anyway? It's a place I get stuck at a lot. So ridiculous really. I often question the reasons behind the way I assume.... 'things have to be done' all of the time. Eventually (thankfully), I always come to my senses and think 'quilting doesn't have a rule book!' And so here we are....
The entire quilt top....
Kinda busy isn't it? In a perfectly charming sort of way of course!*wink  The corner piecing was a result of my inadequacy in figuring out how to turn the corners with the tumblers. Not even sure it's possible!
St. Paul quilt top finished!
There might (or might not) be a plain one-fabric reddish border added on later. You know, to extend some of those rich autumny colors out. That totally remains to be seen. It also depends a lot on things like finding a luscious larger print that speaks 'St. Paul quilt' to me because there is nothing in my stash I like for the job at the moment. At this point... I'm chucking this particular quilt off the UFQ list! Yay!! {Shhh... Don't tell anyone, but I think it might have gotten a wee bit boring after all the complicated piecing was done.}
Just playing with tumblers--a very high risk situation....
And then I slapped the extra tumblers up on the wall. You know, just for fun. And because I can't resist playing. I was lacking one blue tumbler which only took seconds to take care of. Hmm... Definitely some possibilities going on there at the wall! Diane over at Butterfly Threads Quilting sells these wonderful tumbler templates if you want to play too. They make the sewing part super easy! 

And now I'm totally in awe at how quickly this has happened. Another quilt top done and me being so very good at winnowing down the UFQ list. Ha! Now it looks like another quilt might have cropped up in its place and with no pre-planning on my part whatsoever. I did not do this! It was all the fault of the orphan pieces looking so pitiful and sad....

Monday, November 17, 2014

Latest in the Hoop and a Finished Quilt Top!

A little bit of hand quilting on my Quarter Circles quilt. I am stitching around the inside of the circles and then doing a 1 1/2" cross hatch throughout the 'background' of the quilt. Looking at it like this, I can see that I may have to go back and fill in another couple circle repeats as it is looking a bit puffy in the circles. Not sure I like that.
Quarter Circles getting hand quilted
And then of course I worked on my Random Sampler quilt over the weekend. Are you getting tired of this quilt yet? It really needed to get off the floor of my quilting room and out of the way. I finally got all the blocks sewn into five big units--4 vertical ones and one that goes about three fourths across the top of the quilt. Sorry I couldn't spread the quilt out a bit more so you could see it better. Maybe if you click on the picture, you'll get the idea?
Random Sampler sewn into 5 big units
The only place I needed to add more piecing was at the top right corner. Not surprising as that is the panel I started with. Since I didn't graph it out on paper, there had to be a starting point for ascertaining length of the entire quilt. By the time I moved on to the other panels, I was already sure the original unit would be a little too short. Much easier to fix it at the end though, then fix it again and again as the quilt develops.
A little short on the right unit. What to do, what to do....
I was worried that my block placement wouldn't properly camouflage where the vertical units began and ended, but the end result seems fine. The last thing I wanted was a random sampler quilt with 4 obvious vertical rows. Ughhh!
And finally it's all sewn together!
If I had a large enough design wall, there definitely would have been blocks that I would have turned 90 degrees etc. during the quilt making, but those are the sorts of things that it's difficult to 'see' while working on individual units. The block I really regret not turning is the tree block on the right bottom of the quilt. How cool would it have been to have the tree block in the top left facing a totally different direction than the one on the bottom? Oh well. Not getting the seam ripper out again for this quilt. I don't think we're on speaking terms at the moment.*wink
Random Sampler a finished quilt top
And now it's done. {But not ironed.} A finished quilt top! Big sigh of relief to get this one to this particular stage of completion and off the UFQ list! Crazy of me I know, but some day I think I'll try to make one with more complicated piecing....

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lots of Irons in the Fire as Usual

Still working on my Random Sampler, although more in bits and pieces now. It's right smack in the middle of where I walk into the quilt room, prodding me all the time to work on it. I try really hard not to fall into the trap of working on something 'I don't wanna' because that seems to suck all the creative juices right out of me. That being said, there are ahem!, ways to increase the interest....
More to do on the Random Sampler
And really, it's not nearly as difficult as it was in the beginning. Which helps tremendously. There is a rhythm to the effort that helps take away most of the frustration. Sew a few blocks together, fill in with a couple squares or random strips and then sew together the larger parts. It all works because the more that gets done, the more obvious it becomes that the little bits are just background, and therefore less important.

For something different, I sewed the binding onto my Scrap Attack #2 quilt, moving it ever closer to an actual finish. Just taking this picture though, I saw an area on the binding that needs a bit more stitching. Just a square shape there to the right on the border. It will probably take more time to match the thread than to do the actual stitching!
The first step for the binding 
I've also been slowing pecking away at the applique on these two units of my Fire Quilt. I'm not entirely happy with the flames on the Pateros part, but for now it will have to do. If it keeps bugging me, then changes can be made later. I find it interesting that at times working on this quilt makes me feel agitated and stressed. It took me awhile to realize it was the memories and I don't always want to 'go back'.
The first two parts to the Fire Quilt
I played with ideas for the rest of the quilt, throwing fabric around in wild abandon until I felt comfortable moving ahead. There is already a 'foundation' fabric sewn onto the bottom of the green/blue center of the quilt and next I need to make two foundation panels for the two sides. I say 'foundation' because they will be having more applique pieces stitched onto them too. On the left I intend to do some sentences in reverse applique {some feelings about what took place} and on the right, a compilation of simple shapes. Then there will be more applique work on the bottom as well. Whew! This is turning out to be a very labor intensive quilt. I just hope I can do it justice and maybe even have it ready for the annual town quilt show next year? Fingers crossed that I can sustain the momentum.....

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Making a Random Sampler is Not For the Faint of Heart

I am not entirely a happy camper working on this particular quilt. Mostly because it's a very frustrating way to work. So many options and variables, it just makes my brain spin. And even though it looks all random and casually thrown together, that is so far from the reality. Gah! I've second guessed myself until I'm quite positive brain tissue is melting.
Two sections (mostly) finished up
I had to go back and refresh my memory of WHY I thought this quilt was a good idea. Oh yeah. I actually like these kinds of quilts. Go figure. My heart still likes to have this {naive} idea that random samplers are refreshing and honest looking.*sigh  Having had a (little) experience with these types of quilts, I divided the quilt into five sections to start with--making sure the larger parts were somewhat evenly spread throughout. That decision being made, I try to work solely on one section at a time thereafter. Best to establish boundaries for the chaos right from the start.
Working on another section. Had to stop when I ran into a set-in seam...
Some parts go together very well and I have big smiles on my face and beautiful humming sounds coming from the sewing machine. Other areas are a morass of obstacles. Think quicksand. Chunks of blocks getting sewn together upside down. Or sideways. Times I suddenly run into {dare I even say it?} a set in seam. grrr... Best to look at it like it's just a big puzzle to sort out, starting at one end of a section and sewing down or sideways. Wherever I have empty spaces, the challenge is how to best fill them without making the entire quilt look like a lump of scraps that the baby was playing with. And no I don't have a baby.
If it could all go together this easily...
Here's a pictures of the layout I finally settled on after about two hours of brain cells fizzling and I'm sure, dying. It didn't help that the carpet is so dark underneath, but my design wall is not near large enough to accommodate this quilt. Honestly, if I had that big of a design wall, this quilt would be soooo.... much easier. I could work off and on for days and weeks. And probably years knowing me. This way I feel very motivated to finish up and get it well out of the way.

It isn't going to be exactly like the picture of course. Too many little bits added in and seam allowances getting scrunched into the piecing. That's the beauty of laying it out (ta da! it works!) and then after. Trying to piece it all together like what I imagined. Those lovely disappearing seam allowances... I have a stack of 2 1/2" squares ready to use as filler (experience is good for something), but I've already had to make one little pinwheel block. Chances are I'll make a lot more as the balance of the quilt demands. Love that word 'balance'. It almost makes me laugh like a crazed hyena, but I'm sure the little bit of balance I do establish will help make the quilt look a lot more cohesive in the end.
The original layout
Because I have a family and they like to use the living room too, eventually I had to pick up all the parts and pieces and move them out of the room. I so did not want to do that but already, the youngest son was making long jumps over the right corner of the quilt. First I made myself a quick hen-scratching-type-plan of attack. Less than two hours later, I could barely make out the code and started sewing the right section of the quilt according to the instructions scratchings for the top part of the quilt. Don't even ask me how that happens.
My plan of attack. Sort of.
But things are going better now. I'm definitely getting in the flow of things and taking less time to agonize over the itty bitty details. And as soon as I recover the lost seam ripper, we'll be right back in business.*wink

Monday, November 10, 2014

Random Sampler Parts and Pieces

I've been not working on this quilt for a very long time. It's probably the UFQ that hangs over my head the most-- like a dark cloud of reproach. I don't have a problem with unfinished projects in general {check out this great post if you want validation that it's perfectly normal}, but there comes a time when it is time.
Working late in the evening
You know, finish it up or send it down the road? So.. since I still love the fabrics, am intrigued by the (un)pattern and think there are still things to learn from this project, I've established a deadline for finishing the quilt top: Thanksgiving weekend. If I still can't get motivated to pull it all together by that date, then I will fold in the towel on the entire project.
Making a couple more sawtooth stars just because I like them....
I also managed to finish up the applique stitching on my eagle centerpiece. I like how the flowers frame the eagle and yet soften it too.
The Eagle Centerpiece
After putting it up on the wall, I spent over an hour trying to decide what my next step will be with the eagle quilt. The colors are not cooperating with me at all! For some reason, everything I thought was happening with this quilt is suddenly in a free fall. Oh well. Some of the best quilts can come about because of re-design. I just have to be patient while it all gets sorted out....

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Few More Tree of Life Blocks

I just got back from a few days in Oregon visiting my brand new little niece {Remington Price}!  Love that sweet little girl, but it's good to be back home too.
The forest is growing
I now have a small forest of trees growing on my design wall. So far the ones that I like the very best (see the two blocks below) are not the ones that show as well from a few feet away. But that's good. Every quilt should have interesting details up close as well as from a distance. In theory, we plan really well for that to happen. Right? Uh huh..... In reality, it's mostly a lot of luck and having some wonderful fabrics to back us up!
A couple of my favorites
I have definitely found out that the trees seem to need a little time on the wall before being sewn together too. All the leaf pieces need to be carefully but also casually planned out. lol  Is that even possible? Anyway, the point being, if the sewing is rushed, then hello! seam ripper. Which, of course, I despise. Weird leaf placement (like the one below on the right) just gets under my skin and I will not rest until it gets properly taken care of.
Playing with them on the wall...
I am so hoping for a big chunk of quilting time to happen this weekend, but we shall see. There are issues that have been sadly neglected around here lately like oh.., house cleaning? Grocery shopping?
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