Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Little Bit of Adhoc Improv. Quilting!

So.., big step for me with Improv. I actually cut into good pieces of fabric, not oldy moldies at the bottom of the stash totes! It seemed easier to go the 'baby quilt' route for my first time. Lesson the panic a bit and work on a smaller scale.
The initial stack of fabric. Later on I added more blue and some yellow
I used Sujata Shah's 'Cultural Fusion Quilts' to make wonky looking flying geese {she calls them tipsy triangles}. First I cut 6" squares with a ruler, then I started making my free form blocks, cutting and re-stacking as the directions state. Love that her book makes it easy to find directions for making units, learning the process, instead of having to wade through specific quilt directions for everything.
Getting started with the free form part....
Eventually I ended up with stacks of free looking hourglass units. I've been looking at these in her book for months {for another project} and just couldn't quite bring myself to cut into the fabric. This little baby quilt was an excellent trial run. I love some of the hourglass units and others, not so much. It obviously depends on how gentle or steep a curve you cut. Something to think about!
Free looking hourglass units
On to the trimming. How I do hate thee....! It's just so tedious. I wanted to run screaming from the room, really I did. But... lots of breaks over a period of a couple days and finally it was all done and out of the way. And though I'm not a big fan of waste, what was leftover seemed very reasonable.
Trimming, trimming, trimming, trimming, trimming.....
Finally I ended up with my wonky geese units. Exactly what I was wanting! Sujata suggests mixing up the squares in order to end up with a more interesting blend of fabrics. I thought about it, but in the end played it very safe as I really wanted a calmer arrangement of geese {lots of repeats} for this particular quilt.
Wonky geese on the wall
Eventually I found my way to this fun little arrangement on my wall! This is only the first layout audition, so it's not exactly set in stone yet. There are about 40 geese that still need to find their way into the quilt and of course those oddball geese with the wrong color backgrounds need to find a home as well. When it's actually sewn together, there will be many, many points disappearing, but I think that's one of the charming things about this style of quilt. Ahh... Sujata, you don't disappoint! The directions are very clear with lots of pictures, something that I for one, rather appreciate. My brain doesn't always compute well with the way people explain things!
The beginnings of a baby quilt
Then I jumped over to these little units made from my scrap bin. I'm starting to get an idea about how they need to be joined together.
Scrappy improv. units
I cut some 1 1/4" strips in a light colored fabric that will hopefully help make these blocks 'glow' a bit. It's not something I focus on very often, but when I see it happening almost by accident, it's time to take advantage!
The new unit
And last but not least, here's the last Adhoc Improv. arrangement all put together and ready for pinning. The vintage block has a little bit of rust staining and the basket wasn't hand stitched very well. Keeping it small means I can use it for a wall hanging--still enjoy my efforts without stressing over how well it will hold up to normal wear and tear.
Vintage Basket quilt
Somewhere along the line I decided it was perfectly acceptable to have two different quilts being hand quilted at the same time {two different hoops of course}. I can still hardly fathom why and how this came to be, but apparently this is my new 'normal'. Check me for a fever....

Linking up with Kaja and Ann today for lots of Adhoc Improv. fun! 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Doing the Things We Love to Do....

Imagine my surprise when I noticed the leaves outside my quilting room door had the same colors as my latest circles! Hmm... I do love fall and all it's gorgeous colors. These circles represent days 27 and 28 for Quilty 365, for a total of four weeks! Yay me! So many people are joining in, being artistic, thoughtful, playful, frugal and/or just plain dedicated. Love it! Quilters really are amazing!
2 more circles for Quilty 365
I'm going back to the smaller needle and regular hand quilting thread for this quilt. At first it was hard to make the transition--that big stitch quilting requires a much larger needle! I started with the very light pink thread, ripped it out, tried every other color in the picture and then went back to the light pink.*sigh  Sometimes it's hard to know what to do. I switched to the soft gold thread for the little half square triangles and finally, finally it's starting to click for me. Some quilts just have to be cajoled and talked into a bit of stitching it seems....
Muddy River in the hoop
I also picked out a fabric for the binding on Big Stars. A bold blue was the obvious choice and I was so grateful to find enough lurking in my stash. It's a Peppered Cotton, so quite a different texture from my usual binding fabric. Now the batting needs cut off and then it's all ready for the hand stitching. If I don't get to it tonight then it will be something to work on later. Always nice to have mindless hand work to plug away with during family holidays.
Initial phase of binding on the Big Stars quilt
People keep saying that this quilt was hand quilted very quickly. Hmm.... Maybe, maybe not. I sandwiched and pinned this quilt on October 8th, put it immediately in the hoop and started stitching. The thing is, I hand quilt for an hour or two {sometimes more} almost every day of the week if time is available to me. Plus I had one day I was sitting with my cousin, helping her out and keeping her company. That was probably a five hour quilting day? The stitching pattern is merely an echo style quilting or something extremely simple and it's big stitching done with Perle cotton, something that really does move along at a faster pace compared to regular hand quilting.

Perhaps someone more dedicated to hand quilting would have doubled the stitching done on this particular quilt, but I'm feeling quite satisfied with the amount done. This is not an heirloom style quilt because I for one can see every flaw in the quilt made from my inexperience with sewing curved seams! Not that I don't appreciate the effort and skill building this quilt allowed me to undergo. I am definitely more accomplished and less frightened of this type of sewing now that I've tackled something this adventuresome! However, I am a huge advocate of putting my time into the things that will most appreciate my very intense and personal labors.

Hand quilting is my thing and yes, I do love the results. But not every quilt needs or will even look better with intensive stitching--not to my eyes or thinking. And really, what else would we base our decision making on? Some people make quilt tops just so they have something to hand stitch amazing patterns and designs on. That's not me. I hand quilt because something needs to anchor the quilt together for future use, I adore the look, appreciate the {mostly emotional} benefits, and well, honestly, it suits my lifestyle and pocketbook. Did I say that I adore the look? If I didn't, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

So glad I have time today to link up with Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Here, There and Everywhere

It's been a crazy couple days. Amazingly enough, there's been progress made, but it's usually in the evening, not exactly optimal time to be taking pictures. I hauled all my Vintage Red blocks downstairs and played with some layout ideas. Will have to let it simmer and see what I think because nothing is making me delirious with joy.
Vintage Red layout fun
But maybe that's just my mood this week? I have company coming, my husbands been sick and for some reason I decided that today is the day to do my pre-Thanksgiving shopping. Have you noticed the price of groceries these days? Sure, I got the olives for 99 cents a can and a free turkey, but wowsers! It takes a lot to feed a family through the holidays!
Hand quilting all done on Big Stars
Guess that's why I've been hand quilting in the evening. Got to lower my adrenaline levels and do some meditative exercises just to get through! lol
Lil' Red Riding Hood
This top may or may not be finished. I kind of like it sans contrasting border--the sort of floating look it has now almost seems to be enough. Almost.
Maybe it's done?
Something else I'll have to think about before I pack it away for good into the quilt top drawers. It's hard to believe this quilt was started with the remnants of two different quilts and five little fat Red Riding Hood fat eighths. I have a special fondness for quilts that allow me to think I'm being thrifty and creative all at the same time!
A different view
My eldest daughter really made my day when she asked about the 'vintage' quilt hanging over the railing upstairs. Oh yeah! That's exactly the word I was looking for with this quilt! But like I said, will have to think about the border a bit more before I know for sure. You know me and how I like the border treatments. Plus, it's not exactly bed size which I usually prefer. Guess that's where the decision needs to be made--to respect the quilt if it's done or try to force another border. These things can get kind of tricky.
More Quilty 365
And of course I'm still sticking with Quilty 365. These are days 22-26! It's not as Christmassy as you might think from this picture. I have a deep coral red along with a raspberry red here in the pic. Still haven't totally figured out why I pick certain colors the way I do and obviously things are not usually radically different from day to day around here. More of a gradual change I'd say!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

An {Overflowing} Trunk Show

Love the trunk show over at Whims and Fancies so much! Have you seen it yet? I'm still working my way through all the entries, but enjoying the show tremendously. I'm almost too late for the party myself, but decided to be very indulgent {it's a long post} and show off a couple several of my favorite quilts too.

The sawtooth quilt was made out of blocks given to me by friends I was moving away from. They made me the simple looking blue and brown stars and then several years later I added the red stars. It made all the difference with bringing the quilt to life when I added the red! It took a long time to come up with the best fabrics to set them off with, but once it happened I was absolutely delighted with the result. It drapes across one of my living room chairs year around and still feels very special to me.
Sawtooth Stars of Friendship
This baby quilt was a result of me experimenting with a fat quarter bundle of solids. Ach! but that was difficult for me. Finally had to incorporate a tiny bit of a print in order to move forward, but felt absolutely no remorse in breaking the 'all solids' rule. It had to be done! And it's probably one of my most 'modern' looking quilts yet and definitely my favorite baby quilt I've ever finished.
Lil' Retro Baby
Love, love, love how this scrappy log cabin quilt turned out! All the blocks were made directly out of my scrap bin, my first attempt at a truly scrap attack sort of quilt. I finished it up with simple borders and gave it to my son while he was living in Oklahoma attending college. I felt that he needed a piece of home in his teeny tiny dorm and this fit the bill perfectly. The last time I saw this quilt, it was very well worn. Such a compliment to momma!
Scrappy Log Cabin
Dutch Comfort was started during a very 'down' time in our life. I wanted to make something that was cozy, warm and comforting. I used a Blackbird Design block pattern for the middle and then sort of copied the Dutch look for the rest, using different colors of course! I've always had a very fond spot in my heart for this quilt. It feels so good to see it being used.
Dutch Comfort
Ahh... This basket quilt. Such a long project for me! Five years from start to finish, but well worth the time and effort involved. I thought it was a lunatic sort of project for me to start, but was immensely proud of myself for actually getting it finished. Wowsers, long term quilts take a different mentality altogether! But who cares how long something like this takes to make? Now it will be enjoyed by our family forever!
Worry Baskets
This Broken Dishes quilt was such a fun quilt to make. I was wanting to make this very old fashioned block, but experiment with a blend of modern to reproduction fabrics all in the same quilt. I'm kind of funny that way. Always pushing the boundaries of what goes with what even when I'm thinking it couldn't possibly come out all right in the end! I ended up finishing this for my oldest daughters senior graduation and I don't think it's left her bed yet.
Broken Dishes Part Deux
Quarter Circles has got to be one of my most favorite of all my favorite quilts. I wanted to play with a very low-volume sort of quilt, circles and also that lovely, sparky, red thing that the Netherland quilters seem to be so accomplished with. Honestly, this quilt has been on my bed longer than any other quilt I've made. It finally got shoved off after my very last quilt finish.
Quarter Circles
Yay for Happy Flowers! This one just sort of told me how it wanted to be started and put together. I love seeing this sweet little quilt draped over a rocker in the corner of my bedroom--it just makes me happy. I've almost given it away a couple times but always come to my senses and bite my tongue.
Happy Flowers
Most people don't understand my almost obsessive love for Vintage Reproduction, but this quilt was just a fantastic experience for me. I saw a picture of an antique quilt, hung it on my wall for a couple years and then one day out of the blue thought 'I can make this!'. Okay, it's not exactly the same colors--I changed that a bit here and there. But the pattern is very, very close {except for the center applique} and I had to draw, measure and plan that all by my lonesome. Loooove this quilt so much because it was exciting and fun and just felt so creative. Even though I was basically copying! huh. Quilters are such odd creatures....
Vintage Reproduction
Plain Jane was another one of those basket quilts that just call to me with a sirens song. It started out with the cake stand blocks that just wanted to be made. Then it eventually progressed to a finished quilt that melted my heart--Plain Jane proving that she wasn't so 'plain' after all! I will probably never, ever get enough of basket quilts. Enough said.
Plain Jane
All Grayed Down. A quilt that started out because I wanted to use up some of my gray fabrics that were collecting dust. Then it turned into a personal challenge to dig deep into the bottom of my stash totes and use other fabrics that I considered old and perhaps ugly enough to be unusable. Wowsers did this quilt blossom. I learned so very much during the making of this quilt!
All Grayed Down
This was a quilt I made for my brother a few months before he died. It still makes me sad to think of him, but I'm so very glad I got it done in time for him to actually use it. He always complained that quilts were never made properly for his tall frame and so I made sure this one could be tucked under his chin, wrapped around his feet and plenty wide enough for him to roll up in if he wanted to. I wanted it to be happy enough for him to smile occasionally, but not so cheesy he didn't want it in the same room. I cried a lot of tears while finishing this one up and definitely didn't have time to do much hand quilting except on the borders.
Rejoice Evermore
This quilt was a Pat Sloan pattern that reached out and demanded to be made. I changed the colors a bit from the original plan, but there wasn't any other changes to be made. Love the value changes in the yellow background fabrics especially. I gave this quilt to my sister after their house burnt down last year. My daughters thought I was nuts because 'what was there to be thankful about?' Oh you know... life, good health, a loving family and the fact that sometimes you are strong enough to survive whether you know it or not? Mostly I just hoped it would be the comforting sort of quilt to wrap up in and have a good cry, and then remember the good things too. It's really hard to give away certain quilts, but easy when you know they might need it more than you.
Be Thankful
And now I'm being sappy and weird. Thanks for sticking with my trunk show till the end {if you have!} and go check out those other great trunk shows here! It takes dedication and a great love of quilting to make a quilt start to finish. All of us have quilts to be proud of for one reason or another!
Online Quilt Trunk Show

*On another note, if you're still with me on the Quilty 365, there is something you really should look at. Over at Crazy Mom Quilts, she is making a circle quilt that will give you a great idea of what our circle quilt could look like at the end of a year! Her quilt isn't a daily fabric journal like ours, but it's the same sort of pattern etc. How crazy is this? I'm sure I have seen the beginnings of her quilt before, but honestly never made the connection--circle quilt to circle quilt. I was thinking daily fabric choices, simple units, etc. etc. Gotta love quilting for the way inspiration flows, influences and changes with the advent of the Internet especially!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Handwork Round Up

I was trying to throw together a quick post and then I got sidetracked of course. Trying to catch up on the blog reading will do that to you! It's hard to believe I'm starting the stitching for the borders of the Big Star quilt. Just as I suspected, working on this quilt has reminded me of how much I truly do love it. So much effort and anxiety in putting these big stars together--I'd love it just for my courage in attempting it!
Hand quilting Big Stars
It's been a fairly relaxed weekend after the previous week of some troubles and trials. Things that make you want to hold your kids very close and cherish the family time. Guess I'm ready for some mellow, fairly calm looking fabrics. After today, I will have officially stuck with Quilty 365 for 21 days!
Another two days worth of circles....
There's been a lot of different applique in the stack around here and so I just had to get this border work cleared out of the way. Hopefully later this week I can find time to put it together with the other one and see what my Scrappy Lone Star will look like with borders!
Getting through the letter applique
And Folksy Flowers got a bit of attention as well. I'm trying to do the prep work for the flowers that will be appliqued into the center. Just a bit of free hand cutting with paper and then I have a template to draw onto the fabric. I spent almost an hour trying to find my inspiration photo (the little spark that lit me up for this project) and it's nowhere to be found. I remember seeing a piece of embroidery or something on an odd, random blog a very long time ago. I have it in mind that it was from Denmark? but who really knows and obviously I've been interpreting this as my brain dictates because I've never seen the pic since. Perhaps it was in one of my antique quilting books instead?
Prep work for the Folksy Flower
An interesting thing, the seeds of our quilting ideas. I'm always grateful for inspiration and the things that propel us into a new idea {and ta-da! eventually a new quilt}. I love the process, the what-if's, and of course the hand to heart connection of slow quilting. As I've said before, it calms me. It grounds me and makes me a better person. Time to link up once again to Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Getting Serious About Sewing the Rising Sun Blocks and Other Stuff

So I finally quit procrastinating and started work on the rising sun blocks again. The only one I had sewn was the one on the far right bottom. Things were going well, or as well as you can expect with curved piecing, when things started getting interesting.
Rising Sun blocks
When sewing curved pieces, I generally use the one-pin method as in the picture below. Convex side up means the pieces sew together almost by themselves. lol  If you look at the top left rising sun blocks, the blades are going in the reverse direction as the others. What I didn't realize is that by reversing some of the blocks {I only reversed 7 out 12 blocks}, I would end up with a really tricky situation in doing the curved piecing. No matter which way I tried to sew the blades together, I ended up with two options: either sew them from the bottom up (no way Jose!) or sew them with the concave side up (no way Jose!). Arghh! I cannot believe I got myself into this situation! Anyway, long frustrating story later and lots of 'un'sewing resulted in my doing the two reverse blocks with the concave side up whether I wanted to or not. So now I only have 5 more of them to do. 5 more!! Thankfully, it gets a lot easier after I reach the middle pin and fabric isn't constantly trying to get wadded up underneath my needle! But oh! I am not happy about this at all!
Some curved piecing
Also, I've been trying to decide on a setting plan for my Lil' Red Riding Hood blocks. I think this is what I'm going to go with. It is a bit old fashioned, but still allows for the blocks to stand out and do all the hard work. I bought the pink floral fabric for another quilt altogether awhile back, didn't use it and then found it later in the clearance bin. Yep, I bought some more thinking it would work for a backing and then, well, it starting intriguing me as a sashing fabric. You know how I love to play with sashing in my quilts! Love those scattered darker bits of flowers especially and how they will {easily} add just a touch more interest to these mellow, very sweet blocks.
Playing with layout
And of course I'm still plodding along with my circle a day--picking out the fabric. Stitching is starting to be about a three-circle-at-a-time thing, twice a week or so. I am just completely blown away by all the creativity I'm seeing with others circles though! I keep thinking, 'why didn't I think of that?'
A few more circles
I think that's the best part of quilting, taking a project or an idea and making it very personal and unique. It makes our quilts so much more special and meaningful! If you'd like to know more about Quilty 365, the link will take you to a description of what it's all about. Please feel free to jump in at any time! Love all the interest and support with this project. I think we're getting a good little group to prop us up and help motivate us along the way!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Scrappy Unit Sewing Marathon

I was reminded over at Ann's that scraps play nicely with Improv. Well, that is right up my alley as scraps are always overflowing over in the corner of my quilt room. I kind of circled the scraps a few times and honestly felt a little paralyzed by indecision. What to do? What to do?
Starting to sew...
Then I got a grip and started sorting out the colors that seemed to be calling to me just now. I don't know about you, but I just can't deal with my scraps whole sale--it's way too confusing. First I have to set up some perimeters so I can relax and go with the flow while I'm sewing. I sorted two small totes of scraps, one a yellow, tan, rust, dark brown mix and the other a pink to bright red mix. Yep, been here, done that, but it's important for me to feel the mood of the fabric or I just can't sustain the tedium of the sewing marathon.
A few units on the wall
Sewing a million scrappy, Improv. units is fun and yet not. After awhile my mind kind of zones out and I'm just grabbing, sewing, and chopping. Making a huge mess and just enjoying the color, but not really paying attention to the individual units. Which is probably what I'm supposed to be doing. Oh well. I like to pre-sort my fabric mixes so it takes away the agonizing, the lingering over specific fabric choices. It helps me move through the fabric sooo much faster and well, keeps me on task. Chain sewing was a marvelous invention for us easily bored types!
Looking a little closer
I quickly settled with a smallish unit. A bit smaller than I expected really! I sewed the scraps of fabric together until they were obviously up to size and then my trusty ruler and rotary cutter trimmed them into submission. There is something incredibly satisfying about bringing order to the bits and pieces of scrappy chaos. Nothing too precious or matchy, colors wondering how they could possibly belong alongside each other but somehow with the repeats of oddball fabrics and random piecing, it works out just fine.
Lots of different shades and tones....
After Friday night, Monday night and now today, my yellows are all but gone. And this was after I went through my big scrap baskets {for the second time} with a fine tooth comb, pulling out anything and everything that might work! We got to get away for the weekend and so it was really interesting to come back on Monday with a fresh viewpoint of what I was looking at on my wall. So very glad I got to do that. Where before they were starting to look sort of mushy to me, with fresh perspective I could see possibilities!
Decimating the scraps...
So now I have 170 total {I know, look at those wimpy little piles} 4" scrappy Improv. blocks to work with. There are several ideas pinging around in my head, but I think it best to wait a day or two before diving back in. Maybe I can actually begin to see the colors again and narrow down how best to 'set' these units.
Three stacks of scrappy units ready for play!
And of course I have been faithfully picking out a fabric circle every day possible for Quilty 365. These four circles represent days 13-16! lol  Don't have to wonder why I'm grabbing pinks and reds!
The next four circles
Time to link up with Scraptastic Tuesday with Nicky and Leanne. It feels good to be playing in the scrap bin once again!
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