Monday, February 17, 2020

Love Seeing the Abandoned Bits Come Together

So the Scrapbin Improv. {Wing and a Prayer} quilt top is completed. It ended up being 51" x 57" after I decided to throw on the black print border.
Scrapbin Improv. quilt top is finished
That's barely up to a size that seems properly useful, but I had started running out of anything except itty bitty pieces. Ughh.. Not in the mood to work with those right now at all!
Just trying to see what can be done with the scrappy bits...
The black border is the remains of leftover strips cut off from a backing on some other quilt. Love that it carried on the use-it-up mentality of this particular effort! I'm thinking these were good colors/fabric to use for my first time attempting this style of freewheeling scrapbin sort of quilt. All the bright, happy colors just seemed more than ready to match up to each other with little to no fuss. Eventually I hope to try something similar in a much more subtle or muted colorway. This may be the start of another series, we shall see...
Love all the different pieces that ended up being included
On another note, the last three weeks have been brutal. When I posted last, I was just finishing up with a nasty flu and then promptly relapsed. Probably because I've been having to take care of my husband who had the flu, recovered, worked one day and then started having other health problems. He isn't always a particularly healthy person and has some ongoing issues which this flu has seemed to exacerbate. February has been going by in a blur of coughing, hacking, tending, and oh yes, little pockets of hand work. Not getting a lot accomplished in the quilting room, but it sure feels good to have a needle in my hand elsewhere. So very grateful for a well stocked hand work bag! We are definitely on the mend finally, but I just cannot find time to connect better. Will return when things settle down...

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Getting Caught Up On the Big Basket Series

Gather Ye Roses is the first finish of the year! Yay! This quilt is the first in my big basket series, but somehow the last to be a true blue finish. For some reason, I was intimidated at the thought of quilting all that 'blank' cream space around the basket. After stitching on the other two though, then it all felt so much easier. Amazingly enough, procrastination does occasionally pay off...
These quilting lines are 'eyeballed', not carefully
measured out for accuracy and precision....
And though I liked this quilt, it had become the least favorite of the three. Why in the world? It looks ever so better with the hand quilting than it did as a quilt top! Not sure why that continues to be a problem for me after so many years, under-appreciating the effect that quilting texture can just generally bring to the table. A quilt top can look so well..., lifeless before the quilting. There's just no comparison and really, no possible way to imagine the entirety of the final results.
Gather Ye Rosebuds the first finish of 2020!
Big Basket #1
The whiter areas of the basket handle continue to amuse me. Should there have been an extra stitch or two down the middle of the basket handle in order to dull all that brighter area? I decided not to, time and again. Second guessing just gets tiresome. I decided that it makes for an extra interesting element, having the basket handle fade in and out of the background. In years to come, it will no doubt become another one of those 'what-was-the-quilter-thinking?' questions we all love to ponder.
Gather Ye Roses. Or whatever else flower you might love...
I quickly figured out that making large baskets for a centerpiece would create all sorts of problems in the border areas. Proportion, proportion, proportion! I emphatically did not want these quilts to all be king sized! In the first quilt, I kept to a simple, much smaller basket block repeat on two sides. The purposeful asymmetrical look resulted from adding 1. a different color border on two sides, 2. a larger border width on those two sides, 3. a distinctively different design application in the break from blocks to applique vines. Easy peasy, but yes, involving a lot of different design decisions.  Should do this more often. Love, love a good asymmetrical border application....
A few little flowers in the baskets...
Working with an asymmetrical design idea also totally ended the dilemma of what to do about a long gawky basket surrounded by too-narrow borders. Which just made the basket look even more awkward and weird. So what to do? More borders? One fabric add ons? Ugghh.. I just wanted it to look interesting and somehow maximize the effect of the super large basket. Seriously though, all along I was hinging the entire success of the quilt on the hope that the final quilting stitching would create important depth and texture there in the centerpiece. So, so happy when that came to fruition....

It's hard to tell from the pictures, but all the brown in the applique area is made up of several different brown fabrics. Very subtle difference, but something that I find much more compelling than using all the same fabric. From a distance, the change from medium to darker brown creates depth and movement in the quilt, and close up, it just gives it that utility 'make-do look'. In my opinion, that adds to the sneaky charm of this quilt, the overall coziness, not having everything come off as matchy-matchy.
Possible rosebuds on the vine?
Of course, the fact that I didn't actually have enough brown fabric in any one piece of yardage helped make those decisions come about more easily. However, if it was a truly awful idea {after carefully auditioning whatever there was available from the stash}, I do know where the fabric store is. Rare though it may be, I have taken that option once or twice before in my life! How much more rewarding {for me, can't speak for you!} to find a good use for fabrics languishing away in the stash totes. 

Mixing several different blendy-type, printed fabrics that have a similar color feel to them is a puzzle, but being able to totally use them up and maybe even have to search out more feels great. I love it! I mean, it's not like you'd actually consciously build a quilt around these fabrics, right? Ahem, yeah. Quick disclaimer, I might actually starting to do this very thing, just for fun? lol  For example though,  the brown fabric with the tiny white flower on the corner of the quilt was a 90's look print that I had been trying to use up for years. Why toss the idea of finally getting to use it, when it's an absolutely perfect match for this particular quilt? Oh, there's obviously not enough, bummer. Guess we'll give that idea up. No! Find some fabrics that play reasonably well with that one wonderful print  and make it work
Nothing helps out a red, white a blue quilt better
than the perfect amount of brown...
The sweetest thing about this quilt might be the words with the red flowers nearby. Not all the flowers are rosebuds of course, but the sentiment still makes me happy. Words to live by! The binding is several random lengths from the leftovers binding tote and a couple other scrappy pieces of red fabric that blended well. So easy to go scrappy on a quilt like this. Although it never really, truly reduces the sheer amount of leftover binding lengths does it?  Not in the long run. No matter how much I kid myself, there always seems to be just a little bit leftover to dump straight back into the tote.*sigh  Maybe it's like sourdough starter....
That soft, striped homespun was a bear to work with
but looks so good in the background position!
So there you go. That's the sum total of the Big Basket Series {thus far}. Gather Ye Rosebuds was the first Big Basket in the series to be a completed quilt top, but the last one totally finished up. Improv. Woven Basket, below, was the second quilt top and the first one totally finished up.
Improv. Woven Basket, Big Basket #2
Big Tipsy Basket was the third in the series and the second one to be completely quilted. It's interesting to see the overall comparison at a quick glance. The first quilt was started in 2016 on an impulse {really had no idea that I even wanted to make big baskets}, and that quickly led to the idea of series work. Kind of impossible to stop at one! There was supposed to be a fourth quilt, but somehow that particular idea never got off the ground floor. 
Big Tipsy Basket, Big Basket #3
Never say never! When Jolene shared her beautiful Tribute To Gwen Marston basket quilt earlier this year, it definitely got me thinking again. Hmm... Maybe. Maybe? I might just one more big basket quilt in me. Or two. The series is only over when I say it is.....

Thursday, January 30, 2020

A Tale of Two Applique Quilts

Once in a great while, I have this mad idea to throw some fabrics together and just 'see' what can come of them. This Home Sweet Home was just such a quilt. Only I got derailed by the idea that it might look better with appliqued words on it. Where have we heard that before?
Home Sweet Home quilt top finished!
Then I paused for a very long time in major indecision. Why am I spending so much time on a quilt that I'm not even sure that I like? But something kept propelling me forward with the applique ideas until I finally just gave in. Okay. Time to get moving on the applique list anyway, might as well start off with the easy stuff.
Adding applique usually makes me pretty happy...
You can see from the picture below why the quilt was giving me fits. It was totally out of proportion. That sweet, cream rose petal and leaf fabric was just too much. The length of it was all wrong and made everything else look odd. When I eventually realized that all the applique in the world wasn't going to fix my problems, then the solution finally, finally slunk around the corner and sort of waved at me. Hi? Anybody there? How bout taking some of that rose/leaf fabric out and replacing it with something a lot more interesting? Yeah, I do sort of get mesmerized by applique thoughts and forget that it doesn't always magically make everything look better. But the purple/blue striped fabric sure did the job. Wowsers. What a difference that little strip made!
Not feeling very enthralled at this point!
And then I discovered even more reason to add applique, right? Why not? In spite of various issues with this quilt, it's really one of my favorite ways to play. No pre-determined idea of what the quilt should look like, a quilt top that isn't going to look any worse after experimenting, overflowing applique parts and pieces totes begging for attention.... Justification is so, so easy!

After several of these 'throw-together/experiment type' quilt tops impulsively turning into an applique rescue mission through the years, you'd think I could finally start calling them by what they really are: Intentional Backgrounds. At some point I give these doubtful quilt tops a good long stare and determine they aren't totally un-salvageable, and then out comes the abandoned applique bits totes. We'll see about this. I've been calling them my Uglyoddchangelingquilts for years, but maybe it's time to stop. Some of these do actually turn into quite charming looking quilts, amazing at that may seem.*wink  Hey, don't try to kid me, you know you've winced at more than one of my starting-out efforts!
Loving that striped fabric addition!
That's the main reason that I post even the ugly starting point on the blog, every single time. As much as it hurts. Hmm... I did that? It's just hard sometimes to share a picture of something that doesn't reflect well on our creativity or vision, but if we leave that part out of the story, then we're not being 100% honest with our readers. We're prettying things up to make us look better. Look how smart we are, never taking a wrong turn. And also, there's no point of reference for later, which I personally love, those 'from there to this' moments! For those out there who don't like mistakes being pointed out, remember, growth often comes from mistakes being corrected. If every single time we didn't know have a clue what we were doing, where we needed to go, it paralyzed us into inaction? Many of our best quilts would never even have been started! And if a quilt never gets any better? Oh well. Comfort quilts are useful too!
The green stems/leaves could be brighter, but they were
all pulled straight from the applique parts totes!
After all the applique was done on Home Sweet Home {I was mostly satisfied with the results?}, then I turned my eye to the Ormes Inspired quilt. It's an interpretation attempt so it feels like considerably less room for make-it-up-as-I-go-along type of fun. Or maybe it's just a different kind of fun altogether? Yes. That's it. Love when everything starts to gel and the true feeling/vibe starts to shine through! I had the pink tree and the elephant cut out and ready to sew since before the holidays actually September, but hadn't felt any particular motivation to start stitching. It just happens that way sometimes. This is a big canvas and not the most favorable hand stitching environment as far as comfort goes.
Starting back on the Ormes Inspired quilt
The elephant seemed adequate until right up to the moment it was totally stitched and then I didn't like him/her anymore. Something felt 'wrong' enough that I puzzled over it for several days. Did I seriously need to redraw the entire elephant again? The first time was hard enough for this non-artist person that I am! Ultimately I fell down on the side of, if I don't change something, it's going to irritate me for the rest of my life. What is the best that I can do without needing to start completely over?
Original inspiration. Please know that I have
received permission from the artist herself to do this!
Eventually I decided that if the elephants head could be less curved looking and the eye adjusted slightly, then everything else could probably be left alone.*sigh  Out came the seam ripper and good applique scissors. It's not perfect, never will be, but now I can quit picking her apart. And yes, I've emphatically decided it's a 'she'. My quilt, my elephant!

You can see on the left side of the quilt, the next seven elements added to the quilt. With applique, it's always, stitch from the bottom up when dealing with layers! The upper left black leaf has a partial area of dark magenta fading into the large pink tree and the bottom lower left tan leaf has a green tip where it overlaps the tall green/white Matisse leaf element. These colors are not anywhere near 'correct' of course. {Not according to nature or even to Jane Ormes}. Just my personal interpretation based on what I like and also, whatever fabrics/colors are available straight from the stash totes! And yes, every now and then I cringe a little and think this quilt should have/could have had fabrics bought special for it. It's probably worth it! Oh well....
Adding larger elements
Next up, I cut out and placed five more large leaves on the upper right side of the quilt. All of these leaves etc. taking lots of drawing time. Since I don't have large enough paper for most of them, I am drawing like a crazy woman directly onto freezer paper. Very helpful when the leaf is drawn exactly as I intend to use it, just place it over the top of my chosen fabric, iron and then carefully cut out. If the drawing doesn't work out then I am wasting so very much freezer paper. It's really sad how long it can take me to settle on what is ultimately used! I'm saving all the larger pieces of freezer paper to use in cutting out the smaller elements, but yeah, I'm perilously close to needing a brand new box of freezer paper. Good thing it's not outrageously expensive!
Trying to get the bottom layer stitched into place
This is the part of the quilt that often feels like a roller coaster. Just enough work done to start feeling excited about how it might turn out! Oh yeah, love that! And then just enough done to realize that there are definitely going to be some issues to deal with.... Remember, I didn't end up graphing the entire quilt out and taking a good, solid measurement to start with? As I draw each specific element and consider placement, then I'm constantly seeing areas that are not exactly to scale {as per the original print inspiration}. Um yeah. Poor planning? Or just the only way that I could ever talk myself into starting this crazy project!
Loving this corner of the quilt already
Things not being precisely to scale should not be a deal breaker by any means, though sometimes it does cause me to draw a leaf a little fatter or maybe a tad bit more narrow than perhaps it was meant to be. I'm sure the artist herself was very, very precise! There is more empty space between some of the elements than perhaps should be. These are all things that will be worked out as ongoing layers and progress is made. A wonderful challenge, but one that does give me a tiny bit of anxiety at times. As said before, I don't intend for this quilt to be an exact copy, but hopefully when all is said and done, it will exude the same joy and spirit as the original piece? 
Some of the fabrics aren't exactly perfect...
Anyway, I already went back and 'fixed' the elephant and hmm... maybe a stem on a leaf was listing the wrong way too? Fussy, fussy business and one that could drive me totally insane if I let it. Honestly not intending to do that whatsoever. This is dangerous territory in trying to determine where the boundaries are on get-it-fixed-now-or-forever-let-it-ruin-the-quilt vs. type-a-personality-disorder-taking-away-all-the-joy. I've spent years learning how to go with the flow in quilting. Not gonna let this particular quilt and all my inborn insecurities get me down now!
Green leaf to the right is two different fabrics,
one darker than the other...
I've got to admit to enjoying the easy, simple lines to the applique in this quilt. Once I settle on a particular size, shape, then the rest is just pure fun {minus the occasional hand cramping from too much quilt wadded up in my hands}. It's even nudged the hand quilting down the priority list the last few days, which is pretty tough to do around here! It's a good thing that all the color/fabric decisions were figured out back in the fall, at least for the larger elements. I made sure to take pictures and lots of notes, but it has really helped make this part easier to just focus on drawing the shapes and then placing them. If I had to figure out colors as well, then my brain would totally freeze and I'd be stuck here forever! One thing learned from all the years of quilting is this, some quilts can only be done if you narrow things down: one step at a time is ALL you have to do. Figure out the color. Figure out the shape. Figure out the placement. Stitch. Then it's on to the next round or layer--rinse and repeat. 

If you're worried about the wrinkly look to the quilt, it's always scrunched up in my hand or dragging on the floor somewhere. Not gonna stop and iron it every step of the way just for picture perfect style shots. lol  As if! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Always Trying to Get it Figured Out

Why are you even here? Didn't you know blogging was dead? hehe Don't you just love the people who write a post after being gone for 9 months, tell us how wonderful the blogging community is and how they're recommitting? Then after another post or two they disappear forever. We're like, 'Hey, come back here! We love you!'. But it's no use, they're off over at Instagram scooping up the 'likes'.
Autumnal Tulips quilt
It does seem easier, prettier, and wowsers, so much less time consuming as per the posting. Oh well, you're probably stuck with me at Blogger for the long haul. Just too much to say! And after all, every new quilt has a story behind it, right? It doesn't make sense to wordy people like me to show off the latest fantabulous completion without giving you at least a tiny glimpse of the back story. I am dreadfully sorry for all the problems some people have experienced in trying to comment here. Have done a lot of research to fix things on my end and it appears that we're at an impasse until Blogger addresses the third party cookie issue. Basically you have to allow for cookies when commenting on a site that has threaded comments {such as mine}, and some people just don't want to do that. Or their favorite browser doesn't let them. That's okay, perfectly understandable, but I'm not moving to a site where I have to pay a monthly or yearly fee either. So yeah. Kinda stuck.

I've mentioned before about how strange it is that a bright, shiny quilt idea can occasionally, 'instantly' morph into brand new quilt start. That's what happened here with a previously unintended quilt just this past October. I think it was entirely unintended, but now I have to wonder. It all sort of fell into place so quickly! Captivated by a thought, surprisingly willing to be lead off on a tangent {so shocking}, and then, all of a sudden, there I was, cutting out the parts and pieces to an applique flower quilt. All because I fell in love with the word 'Autumnal'.
A close-up of the blocks
Of course it wasn't quite that simplistic, but you know how it is when a very vague idea, {one that's been hanging around in the shadows of our subconscious}, suddenly steps forward and demands some attention. Of course it had to be tulips, because that's my fave flower for applique. Will I ever truly have enough tulip quilts made to satisfy? Or basket quilts? The mind boggles. So many potential variations!
A finished quilt top!
And now the quilt top is finished up. Just had to plow thorough 30 blocks of applique. Why so many? I seemed to have this yearning for an old fashioned, antique-look vibe. Something like what you'd expect Lucy to take a picture of. Or make. Which means I'll probably have to do an enormous amount of hand quilting too, but we'll leave that thought for another day....

The flowers are all placed just a little wonky and it's only now that I wish that some of the flowers had been made to lean left as opposed to an enthusiastic placement of right leaning flowers. Why did that not happen? And no, we are decidedly NOT talking about politics here, but only sweet looking flowers. The leaf shapes are a tiny bit different per color, but of course the stitching there is very 'eye-balled' and organic. Did not do any of them absolutely identical. And I never, ever use a placement diagrams if a reason can be conjured up to eliminate the need. In this case, I would have had to draw up one of those fussy diagrams from scratch and honestly, I couldn't be bothered. No regrets!
Loving this simple quilt so much...
It was tough to determine the little connector square color between the sashing strips. I originally thought to use navy there. Everything auditioned looked pretty dull though, or took way from the tranquil look of the quilt and created a spotty effect. In the end I kept coming back to a fabric that was a touch deeper than the lighter gold flowers, and a lot happier {brighter} looking than the stems. Not perfect, but available in the stash. Whatever shade it ended up being, the main thing was that it not compete in any way with the flowers.
Crossing another off the list!
People often want to know about the original inspiration. Well.... here it is. A shirt worn {during the fall usually} underneath my sweaters. These flowers are a bit too chaotic to reproduce in a quilt setting, but the colors always sort of melt me. It felt like a fantastic piece of inspiration to pull the likely quilt colors from. Looking at it now, it seems obvious that there should have been more of an effort to use a sharper cheddar color as well. Mostly I was bogged down in trying to decipher the true oranges. Oh no, do I really have to use that color? Up close, some of them are almost ugly looking, but combined with the whole, give the entire color range something important. It was also from intense study of this particular floral print shirt that I came to the decision to keep all {or most} of the fabrics to a solid or very low key print. Not sure how important that was in the overall scheme of things, but for sure, it was interesting. Very nice change-up in how I normally do things and one that I will no doubt return to again in the future.
The color inspiration
Of course, I went immediately to an old book of mine, 'The Collectors Dictionary of Quilt Names and Patterns' by Yvonne M. Khin to find a likely pattern. There wasn't anything that struck my fancy right off, but after cruising Pinterest for awhile, I came back and found this middle block 'Four Tulips'. Though I didn't want the four-block look, it gave me something to start with in drawing up my own design.  

And that's how this particular tulip quilt came to be. Is there too many tulip blocks after all? My quilts usually end up with 20 blocks instead of 30, but these are 8" finished. That seemed like a better size for these blocks. Maybe it should have some sort of border, but for now I'm pleased with the simple floating frame. It feels finished.
A great quilting resource...
Also back in October, I went a little crazy and dumped out one of my scrap bin baskets. Now is a season for 'finishing' but back in the fall, apparently it was a season for chasing squirrels! I didn't dump the basket to sort everything by color and put away. No, I did it to play with all the bits and pieces. Somehow the current U&U quilt on the wall, also known as the AHIQFlowers quilt, made me think of opportunities. It was like the maker of the original quilt had dumped out her very own scrap bin and well, had a play. Like I did that very evening. Initially I just sorted fabrics that looked interesting together and grouped them into similar size piles. Then I ironed and sorted into stacks of squares, strips etc., slowly developing a more focused color palette, all the while cutting and trimming. Basically trying not to get too fixated on what the final result might end up being, and just letting the subconscious do its thing.
The start of something
On a whim, I sewed groupings of similar sized strips together and then sewed a setting of rectangles together, similar to what was in the U&U quilt. Having absolutely no idea where any of this was going, but still, somehow determined not to let this seed of an idea slip away. It was a very fragile idea indeed. The next day I impulsively sew a few 'plus' blocks together and then after several days of nothing, no ideas, nada, zip!, stacked it all up and put it away in a tote to simmer well out of the way.
Trying to figure out where to go from the middle
These sorts of Improv. quilts have always seemed the most impossible to me. How to know what length to cut the strips and if/when it was time to add a different element perhaps? How to control the chaos and make something cohesive? Working on the AHIQFlower challenge quilt {that U&U quilt again}, plus watching Kaja  for years, puzzling out her bits and pieces until she ends up with a masterpiece, had finally given me just enough courage {and insight?} to want to try my own version.
Taking pieces out and trying to puzzle them back in....
After letting it simmer for a couple months! I pulled the project out of the shelves and fondled the fabrics just a bit. Yes, I actually did think they all belonged together in the same quilt! I spent a tiny bit of time dithering over which piece to start with, and then, in total exasperation, just grabbed a length of sewn strips and slapped it on the wall. There. That's the starting place! And then I started placing different fabrics and/or sewn units around it until something eventually clicked. Okay, that looks fine. Maybe this is better? Then I did more. And more, until ending up with the first smaller pieced unit {See the very first Improv. picture above}.*Whew! That wasn't so bad!
A Wing and a Prayer Improv. quilt in the making.
The next day I found time to play a little more, focusing on the area below the initial, squarish pieced unit. It was at this time that I determined that everything was going to work better if I had something to focus on 'balancing' throughout the quilt. Otherwise, I might end up moving fabric around forever and getting absolutely nowhere!

You might think totally different than me, but when working on Random Sampler, Orphan block or these Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sort of quilts, it helps tremendously to have a base plan. Are the pieces divisible by the same number? That can work, but no, not here. Are the colors working in a very narrow repeat? No, not at all. Is it a copy or a specific look that I'm aiming for? No, no such reference. Okay. How to get unstuck? I mean that seriously. Though just starting the quilt, my brain was already spinning in circles, considering a million directions to go! Nothing concrete you understand, but still, the possibilities seemed rather endless. So confusing. After pondering the initial pieced unit on the wall, I decided that I really, really liked the 'plus' blocks. Out of everything, they spoke to me. How about making more as the underlying theme and using that as a pathway forward? And just that easily, 'The Plan' was formed and I was ready to play again.

Not that it's all come easily. That would be ridiculous! I'm still in the learn-as-you-go stage for sure. But now the entire left side {14" wide} is sewn together now and also the centerpiece {16 1/4"} down to within about 7" from the bottom. None of the right side is sewn as yet. I'm having to partial piece here and there, but not too much as I try to avoid having to do that. Because it's being done in the Improv. method, I am definitely sewing and trimming without regard to measuring. Just making sure the outside width of each larger unit is a set number works fine. That set number becomes fixed only when I particularly like a small part of the much larger unit and say, 'Okay, that particular area doesn't need to be any wider!' So simple!

I can see a couple clunky areas in the larger piece as I look at the last picture, but we'll see if I opt to pick anything apart. The right side is of course, very fluid, as things will change marginally when the seam allowance starts to come into play. Though parts and pieces are overlapped to take into account that seam, it never ends up being totally accurate until sewn on the machine.

So far I'm having a great time playing with my own scrap bin pieces and hope to get comfortable enough to try again at a later date. I greatly admire quilters such as Kaja who have a way of making this all look very easy peasy! So gifted!  I've tried cutting all the scrap fabric down to uniform widths and lengths etc. in the past, but always end up getting burnt out on the sheer time involved. This way takes a short amount of time ironing, sorting, simple piecing, {perhaps longer amount of time simmering if you're me!}, and then it's time to play!

Another interesting thing about this quilt is that it seems to be turning into my own version of a quilt that I've long wondered about making. Never quite found enough oomph to get going on though!  Nancy made this great looking 'Primitive Crosses' quilt that caught my eye years and years ago. I've pondered and pondered making it, but always felt like it was bit more 'mourning' than what I was perhaps comfortable with at this time in my life. My Improv. attempt doesn't have cross blocks like her quilt, but the plus blocks remind me of them somewhat, somehow? It's vague I know, but connections? Quilters have some odd ones for sure! Lots of stuff going on in our life presently that require deep thinking, and I do try to be a prayerful person. For now, I'm calling this my 'Wing and a Prayer' quilt. It remains to be seen if there will also be a bird included.*wink

Friday, January 17, 2020

Finish It Up January

It's amazing how quickly something can happen once we're in the right frame of mind. This quilt project has been on the back burner for practically forever. Then comes January and I'm chomping at the bit to clear off the 'in-progress' list. Gotta free up space to start new projects!
Shimmer is a finished quilt top!
All the blocks were done, but I was dragging my feet big time. All those strippy pieces cut, sewn and then cut again? Yep. Though I pinned at every seam, just the weight of the rows kept pulling seams apart until I wanted to scream. Finally, I hit on the solution to fold the rows up accordion style {while resting in my lap} to take a majority of the weight off. That was way better. And for the record, all the seams nested together wonderfully, could have eliminated many, many pins if the seams had just behaved better!
The full quilt
Love the scrappy look so much and yes, the design is a bit mushier in my quilt than in Diane's {look for this quilt pattern in Strip Quilt Secrets book by Diane Knott}. These fabrics choices pretty much guaranteed a soft look which is very sweet to see closer up. So glad that the red and yellow bits add just enough spark to keep things interesting. I was afraid they might end up being too distracting in the overall scheme of things, but hey, look at that, they might actually help! I spent so many of my early quilting years trying earnestly to make 'blended' quilts, that sometimes I think it happens almost subconsciously, my inborn saboteur. Then I can end up with these terribly muted, 'flat' looking quilts that I'm looking at thinking, 'What just happened here? {Never said my blended quilts were successful, now did I?} Seriously though, have to fight that habit off all of the time.

I had thoughts about adding a border after, 'cuz you know, BORDERS?  but couldn't come up with anything that set my pulse racing. Never say never as it's not quilted yet! There's still time to drag it out of the drawers and slap some fabric along the outside edges if I so get the urge....
Love the scrappiness!
Though it should be way down at the bottom of the quilting queue, I already have someone in mind for this quilt, so that feels good. Wonderful to have a destination already in the works. It just somehow looks like great potential for excellent snuggling and with all the purple involved here, maybe I won't have to intentionally make a purple quilt, which has been stressing me out. Just a little, nothing important. Definitely not my favorite thing though, to try and make a quilt FOR someone, with all their potential likes and dislikes in mind. Not that I ever ask, but we can only imagine?

So much easier to end up with a great 'match' at the end of a enjoyable little quilting adventure that had nothing at all to do with anything, other than the fact that we were just having fun. Did you catch all that? The point is, I'm exceedingly happy to have another stalled project checked off the list and team that up with 'maybe I don't have to make a special quilt for so&so after all, 'cuz hallelujah, this little quilt will work out just fine there.'  There's something about starting a new year that helps motivate me even more towards crossing things off lists and moving them along. It seems to come free with the frosty air around here!
Pattern is much more obvious when it's laid flat..
I put the last {quilting} stitch in 'Gather Ye Roses' quilt just the other day too. I had completely underestimated how much time I would be willing to put into this one. One area would be quilted and then I'd go back and add in more stitching. Just because it didn't look right. There's even more stitching that could probably be done, but I just don't wanna. I'm done. This isn't an heirloom quilt after all, and it's time to move on. The binding was put together from various, scrappy lengths of complimentary red fabrics, though darker than the reds used in the center of the quilt. It's a perfect quilt for the make-do, use-it-up binding look, and much, much easier on my pocket book!
Waiting for binding work
The next quilt in the hoop is 'Directions From a Local'. It has such an old fashioned, serene color palette, perfect for our very cold, winter weather of late. Been itching to get this one in the hoop! So looking forward to the simple quilting too. Nothing complicated about a big 'ol Log Cabin quilt.
Directions From a Local next up in the hoop
This project was started as an interpretation of one of those 'Unconventional & Unexpected' quilts that I so love to play with. Then later, the idea morphed into a blend of that, and also, meeting the Maps challenge over at AHIQ. I obviously went my own direction, but it's something that has made me smile. Never underestimate the power of a quilt that can make you smile!
Getting it sandwiched and pinned
So yeah, it ended up being a 'don't-take-me-seriously'' type of quilt, which is good, as I am absolutely loving jumping into the hand quilting now. Some quilts want to be stubborn and reticent, won't tell you right off what they need for the stitching. They make you attempt several different designs or colors of thread, and basically waste a lot of time with guesswork and what-ifs. This quilt doesn't seem to be the least bit interested in anything complex or different. So relaxing and chill, makes easy to settle into my corner of the couch and dive right in.
Already started with the stitching!
It's been a little challenging to carve out enough time to hand quilt,as my mind has been turning to hand work and attacking the applique projects once again too. You know how I sort of cycle back and forth with the hand work, sometimes expending big chunks of time on it and others, barely pecking away. Lately I've been wanting to do more with the hand work projects {they are starting to squawk loudly from sheer neglect}, but then found myself getting completely sidetracked on the latest Ugly quilt. Was gonna get it totally finished up and then... once I started working on it, decided to play with even more applique. Why do I do this? I have perfectly good applique projects begging for attention! Anyway, the real problem is that my sit down time is about the same time of day most days of the week, and it's usually either or. Either the hand applique or the hand quilting. Do one then their's not a lot of time for the other. I've been trying to squeeze in more minutes there and that does help. Maybe if I could kick myself off the computer more often?

Also, the upstairs has been in a constant state of uproar since sometime in October when our youngest son moved out. I wrote a long segment about that and then deleted it. Suffice it to say that my husband has completely taken over most of the upstairs with all his stuff, sorting, organizing and even tossing. Good stuff, it definitely needed to be done, but wowsers does he take forever. And a day. My brief time with laying quilts out flat on the floor nearby the quilt room has been done and over with for at least 2 months now, and now I'm basically just squeezing through, past all the rubble, just to get back to my area . I'm trying to be patient and supportive and have gained extra shelving in my quilt room as a result. Yay! No extra floor space, but a good place to get stuff up off the floor and help in de-cluttering the counter tops. Pretty amazing. Of course that means a little bit of time sorting and tidying myself. So ready for that chaos to be over and done with, but I keep telling myself, 'At least it's not in the living room'. Right?*sigh 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Christmas Quilt Tops Are Now Completed

So I feel pretty good about these two Christmas quilt tops. Yeah, yeah, the holidays are over. I get that. But in my world, finishing these two tops now means I'm that much closer to having completed Christmas quilts by next season. Yay!
Christmas Stars a completed quilt top!
This background fabric was the only red fabric that I had any serious yardage of and truly, I had my doubts about how well it would work. Normally I would choose out a cheery red for a holiday look and this is more of a tomato red with, if you look closely, a gray smudgy texture to it. Nevertheless, I plowed ahead, being picky about the star fabrics, and ended up with something I really love. This particular fabric {a Basic Grey fabric I had bought on clearance for the backing of another quilt}, surprisingly ended up giving this quilt a wonderful velvety look. How cool that my 'make-do' choice successfully amped up the holiday vibe too. Could never have planned it so well!
Approx. 67" x 80 1/2"
As you know, I had also challenged myself to include some of those older, less promising greens in the quilts too.  These greens did not look very attractive directly next to the background red, but in a loosely stacked grouping of fabrics looked just fine. Ughh. What to do? Telling myself, 'This will work! Cross your fingers, this IS going to work', I went ahead and cut out the flying geese for the border regardless of any internal misgivings.
Flying Geese border
Piecing the flying geese only further deepened my suspicions that the borders were going to be a total waste of time, a disaster in the making. The colors were just too cringy together and what in the world was I thinking??  But you know me, never give up! And later I was so very happy with that optimism. This border really adds to the depth of this particular quilt. If I had given in to all the doubt and went with perfectly matched greens, the quilt would have looked sweet, perhaps?, but very, very dull. This way, it has a great spark.*whew!
Happy with the Christmas look to this one!
Looking at the inspiration picture below {an antique quilt shown in the June 2011 American Patchwork and Quilting magazine}, you can probably see why I first thought that the lighter greens could potentially work for the pieced border. While the original maker used more of a khaki color, all that is required really, would be a color that would sharply contrast with the red background without competing with the much more interesting star center of the quilt. A rich mustard color might work too, it's hard to say. What I do know NOW, is that overly matching colors in the border would have blended a little too well with the inside stars and thus reduced the impact of that wonderful 'framing'. Something to think about if you're wanting to make this quilt for yourself! Basic directions for fabric/ cutting are at the end of this post. *Not included in those directions are the outside red border lengths, of which I'm sure many of you can determine sizing according to personal taste.
Christmas Stars inspiration pic
The second Christmas quilt is a very simple design. The inspiration came after combing through my Pinterest boards in search of something super easy. The design maybe doesn't present quite as sharp looking, sewn in printed fabrics instead of the solids in the original, but it perfectly suited my needs.
The 2nd Christmas quilt
Between the flying geese border in the previous quilt, these 6" hourglass blocks, and a pieced backing, I am making very good progress with using up many of these old fabrics. With the flying geese, all the greens used ended up being light green to very light greens, with the exception of the darker star tips. The greens in these hourglass blocks are a slightly stronger value mix as I thought this quilt needed the interest more. The goal being to get rid of this particular range of colors in the stash totes, in each quilt made, the selection was purposefully limited. I cut till each individual fabric was exhausted, before moving on to the next. All scraps were then dumped into the scrap bin where they may or may not be used some day in the future. We'll cross that bridge when we get there!
Lots of older, tired green fabrics used
As you can see, several green fabrics feature pink flowers. Why toss them? I'm never afraid to blend pink and red in any quilt and in fact, love the surprise of an unexpected fabric choice in scrap quilts. I will say that I was a little dubious about the need for a completely different colored border, but went with it because the theme for this was supposed to be 'Christmas'. Adding red should make that a little more obvious. Okey dokey! Whatever the quilt needs!

As it turned out, adding the red makes all the difference in the world as to how interesting this quilt looks. Why, you ask? Well, before the border addition, the green and cream acted a bit bland. Now the contrasting red gives the lighter greens an excuse to perk up significantly against the creamy white background. It just looks more playful. It's really hard to describe, but trust me. That's exactly what happened. With the bold Christmas floral that will be used for the backing, I'm thrilled with the overall holiday vibe this quilt exudes, albeit in a very serene way! And so easy to make. Do not regret this squirrel at all!
A make-do pieced border
If you look at the border in the picture above, you can see that I had to piece the red border with different fabrics. I loved this leftover red/brown polka dot print, but did not have nearly enough. No worries. We'll make it work! And for a seasonal holiday throw quilt, who really cares?
Approx. 55" x 61"
Sewing together hourglass blocks is not my favorite thing to do in the world, so much bunching at the seam in the center. It's been years since I made anything similar, but this time I remembered to iron by picking the iron up and then setting it back down, not attempting to maul the quilt into submission. Mostly it went fine, but any and all rumples are absolutely maker 'error'!
Very sweet looking quilt....
So that wraps up the two main Christmas quilts I started during the first part of December. Because the design was already predetermined, the work went very quickly. So glad to put them behind me and move on to other projects, but even more, I'm absolutely delighted to have found a good use for these older, tired looking fabrics. It's looking like a positive challenge so far, but I'm expecting to get bogged down at some point. Probably when I have to address the orange fabrics! Ha! Don't even want to go there!

Two more quilts are cut out that could possibly be used during the holiday season, but I don't consider them exclusively 'Christmas' quilts. That should make them easy to work on moving forward. They too have a little bit of these 'So Tired' fabrics, but unfortunately not enough to make a huge difference to the stack. As I have said before though, there's no point in making ugly quilts just to feel good about being frugal and in fact, I have completely tossed two completely worthless fabrics. Not even good enough for backing! It's been a very good time for working to 'finish up' projects. This time of year definitely tends to bring that out in me. There's a couple other projects that have been languishing for entirely too long and maybe now is the time to get them out of the way as well? We'll see how long the energy lasts. Linking up to Wendy's Peacock Party.