Friday, May 19, 2023

Trudging Along

 This is not a beautiful post, just a little update on progress for the past week or so. The pear blocks are appliqued and ready for further work now. Just contemplating how I want to frame the smaller blocks so end up being the same size as the larger.

Probably going to keep this arrangement
All the blocks for 'Old Fashioned' have been trimmed and now I'm sewing the rows together. It's all tedious work when the blocks don't have a lot of variation. Love these two color quilts when they are totally finished up and quilted, but it's a real effort putting them together. Soooooo boring sometimes! 

Starting to come together
All the blocks were laid out and the rows numbered before I remembered that the plan was for pieced blocks to be chopped in half at the top and bottom. Uggh... I almost backed out of the idea completely, but then reconsidered. The quilt will look ever so much more interesting to me if I stick to the original idea! Had to take five blocks, mark the centers, sew a seam on either side of the mark and then cut through the middle. That should hold the cut piecing stable at the edges of the quilt.

Always best to stabilize the outside edges of a cut block
Doesn't look like much, but I also managed to figure out the colors for the sashing on the Primrose Path quilt. Got all the pieces cut out and ready for a big sewing session. Should have cut long strips to sew together and then cut into pieced rows, but the math failed me. It's so much harder to determine when you're dealing with bits and pieces of cut fat quarters instead of larger yardage! I just threw up my hands and resigned myself to lots more sewing time.

Prep work
Yesterday was the day that I set aside for sandwiching and pinning the next quilts in the hoop. Not done with the current one yet, but it's getting closer and I know it's much, much easier to jump right into the next quilt if it's all ready to go once the hoop is empty. Apparently my mind is on the fritz lately as both of the backings were the size of the quilt tops. Uh huh. Didn't add any of the extra needed at all. And of course I didn't find out till the backings were already taped to the floor. It was terribly annoying. Thankfully my daughter offered to help pin the quilts later in the day so at least that part went really fast!

Next quilts up
While I've been hand quilting most evenings of the week, I haven't been putting in oodles of time with it. So many things taking our time and attention lately, I'm really starting to crave some down time.

Working on the outside of the quilt now
Won't be happening any time soon though as were already gearing up to head out on our annual camping trip with our church friends. I'm trying not to feel grouchy about it, but it's hard. Prices of fuel and groceries are gonna make it an expensive little vacay and me? I'd almost rather head to the ocean. It's always fun once we get there though and at least I'll get to see my grandkids there. That pretty much makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Melon Patch Rows is a Completion!

Third finish for the year! It was supposed to be finished up by the end of April if all my planning would have worked out. Unexpected company arrived for a long weekend and that was that. Apparently this is the year for the 'Oh well! What will be will be' happenings! 

It's a finish!
I am so very happy to see this Melon Patch Rows {Jubilee} quilt brought to a true-blue finish! It's an odd quilt probably to some, but it gives me all the feels.

Such a feel good quilt
It makes good use of some abandoned parts from a previous quilt attempt and joins them up with a declaration that just so happens to deeply resonate with me.

Always love the look of words on quilts
The colors in this quilt didn't want to be true in the photographs, but hopefully you can get the overall look and feel from all the of the pictures together.

Really pretty quilt in the right lighting
I found the perfect binding in the totes. I'm sure it's been there for well over 15 years! Really helps lift the quilt with a lighter, happier vibe than a solid would have. And bonus--it's not something that I ever really cared to use in a more commanding spot in a quilt.

Who says old fabrics can't be beautiful!
I'm always interested in how the hand stitching comes through when viewing the backside of a quilt. Does it have a good look throughout or does it just look choppy and disconnected? This one passes muster for sure! Every time I wonder why keep hand quilting? Something like this convinces me to keep on making the effort.

Loving the stitching texture
Next up in the hoop is 'Ode to Joy'. I've been diligently applying myself to the hand quilting ever since returning from our sons wedding. Closing in on the centerpiece here pretty soon! It has been a bit of a pain trying to decide on what pattern to quilt, but this looks okay so far.

Next up in the hoop!
Next up will be quilting the pear blocks and in-between fabrics. Still trying to decide if I want the thread color to pop or if it needs to blend in. So far I'm blending the thread more than I expected to, but that's what the quilt seems to want.

Ready for the pins
We took off for Oklahoma for our sons wedding and were gone about ten days. First we drove to Portland, Oregon to our eldest sons home where we spent the night. Early, early the next morning I flew out of the Portland airport with our DIL, the three granddaughters and her mom. Our granddaughters have never met a stranger {plus have boundless energy}, and so are a LOT of work in the airports. It took both of us moms to help corral them for the two flights to Oklahoma and back a week later. 
The happy couple with me and my husband!
Then, later in the day, our guys jumped in a truck and drove straight through to Oklahoma. They decided to drive out so they could rent a U-Haul trailer and bring back our new DIL's stuff. Us girls hung out at my daughters in Tulsa for a couple days and then met our guys in our DIL's hometown nearer to the wedding. 

Our youngest son is married!!!
Lots and lots of fun visiting, helping to decorate, and of course celebrating with all the family and friends the day of the wedding! The bride and groom were very happy and looked quite handsome and or beautiful! We are feeling very blessed to have a new addition to our family. Both of our older granddaughters got to be flower girls and while they both did an awesome job, this little gal stole the show! Reagan never took it too far, but let me tell you, it was hard to concentrate on the bride and groom when she was busy blowing flower petals off of her fingers etc.

Reagan looking super cute
Lucy has been a flower girl a couple of times before, so she wasn't quite as excited as her younger sister. On the first flight home though, she got her moment. One of the stewardess's asked Lucy and me if she'd like to meet the pilot? And next thing I knew, there she was, sitting in the pilots seat and pretending she could fly a plane! So thrilling for her! The pilot was very sweet and generous about it all.

Lucy having the best of times!
Mom and the other grandmother had went on ahead to their seats and didn't realize what was happening behind them. They had an anxious moment wondering what had happened to us, but all was well. No one was kicking us off the plane! 

That last flight home was rough though. All of the I-pads had ran out of battery charge due to a long layover and the littlest granddaughter was absolutely done with the entire adventure. Thankfully we sitting in the very back of the plane so hopefully not annoying too many people. Except for one flight attendant. She was having a really crabby day and kept taking it out on us. Probably didn't like fussy kids, but hey, she did things like make us wait a long time after serving everyone else their snacks before giving ours to us. Or serving the little girls drinks without the lids and straws on like all the other planes had done previously. Who does that on a plane? Not giving us napkins. Plus, she wouldn't let us sit in the very back row, we had to sit one row up because she said the seat was 'messy' when all it had was a box of gloves in it. Later we figured out that she must have been saving the seat for a friend and then got irritated when it didn't work out because the plane was full? and her friend was late? That's what we managed to piece together. But we survived and nobody got into a brawl.*wink

So happy to be home safe and sound and back to the regular. Took eons to catch up on all the laundry of course. And it's been hard to get back into the sewing/quilting routine. My husband has been constantly wanting me to go with him when he has to make a building material run to Home Depot etc. He says he enjoys my company, but I'm thinking he just wants a nap while I do the driving. haha  

Also, I've been trying to get back into my yoga routine, something that I started up after being so sick this winter. Was a little bit hard after taking almost 2 weeks off to travel, but I really like being in better shape than I've been in decades. Still have a longs ways to go before I'm very good at it, but it makes me happy even when I'm wobbly and/or pathetic at poses. Yoga is a low-impact exercise {Ugghh to the high cardio plans!} and actually very relaxing/soothing to me. Plus I've dropped another couple pounds. Yay me! Our life gets very stressful at times and it's well worth the time it takes to fit this into our busy schedule. I never thought this would be me, but I'll go do Yoga instead of quilting if that's the choice I have to take. Crazy. What is happening to me? But really, I just hated being so sick and feeling like an overcooked noodle afterward. Being so wimpy. Some people get into shape to run a marathon when they turn 50. Evidently, I'm doing Yoga. Who'd of thunk it?

Saturday, April 22, 2023

All the Current Projects

So one of the questions I get asked pretty often is this: how many projects are you currently working on? Well, most of the time, it's a number somewhere between 5 and 10. And that doesn't even count the quilt in the hoop or if I'm finishing off the binding on yet another quilt. 

The new medallion quilt
Right now there are 8 work-in-progress type quilt projects. They have fabric stacked up, blocks started or applique prepped, designs doodled onto paper, or something serious going on. They are the real deal and not just a dreamy little idea for the future! The first one is 'Peace Always Medallion'. Just barely got the centerpiece stitched down a couple days ago. Love, love, love having a free-style medallion quilt in the works!

Needing a sashing
'Primrose Path' is a project based on a textile print that I pinned on Pinterest years ago. Just love the naïve look to these  flowers. Took me a couple years to finally decide that yes, I did actually want to do the backgrounds in dull black colored fabrics. Next up is working out the measurements for the pieced sashing. Really intrigued by the way the sashing forces the applique into being front and center.

Getting ready to stitch these down
'Melon Patch Blossom' is part of the ongoing Melon Patch series. It will be the third one in fact! When I changed direction in mid stream, these petal look motifs didn't relish being completely abandoned. The bright green rectangles are probably going to be a sashing element in this quilt. Maybe. We'll see where things end up.

All ready for the love and attention!
'Improv. Hourglass Abstract' is something that has been nagging at me for a very long time. Really wanted to do something with the leftover hourglass units {wrong size so more like useless hourglass units?} and this seemed like the answer. Will need to be figuring out a larger scale applique flowery vine to stitch down over the top of this. Don't want it to be so small as to not make a proper impact!

Looking pretty sweet!
Then there's the 'Happy Accident' project. Cut out all the Dresden units much too narrow for Ring Around. Are you getting the message yet? Many of my projects seem to originate from leftovers and random mistakes...

Piecing is not my strong suite anymore. Feeling a bit boring...
'Old Fashioned' is just a sappy, mellow yellow quilt that I wanted to make. Supposed to be answering a Sun challenge prompt, but can't quite get there in my mind until I work with these quieter yellows. Don't know why it works that way sometimes, but there's really not a lot of point in fighting it.

Making sure I want to do what I think needs to happen
'Good Vibes' is the next quilt in the Circle Game series. #3 I think. These circles were cut out from behind Lillabelle. It's interesting how the circles are getting less and less truly circular and more obviously lopsided. Do I care? Hmmm... Probably not. I also find it fascinating that the circles really aren't getting substantially smaller with each new set. For some reason that has surprised me more than it should of. 

All prepped and ready to go
And then there is 'Prickly Pears'. Yep! Another quilt with cut-outs from a previous quilt. I thought they would be kinda weird looking pears in the gray, but this is looking rather sweet and spunky to me. Will see how it plays out in the larger layout, but for now, my fingers are positively itching to get started stitching! 

So that's that. Lots of applique as usual which tends to keep my skirt blowing up and the endorphins running at high. Will probably try to finish up another project or two before I dive into more brand new projects. The next ones should probably be something other than orphaned bits and bobs too. The thing is, we should all work on exactly the amount of projects that make sense to the way our quilty ebb and flow work best. I feel very good about this amount. Not overwhelmed and too over stretched, and yet not too tied down or boxed in. Isn't playtime fun?

Saturday, April 15, 2023

A Quilt Top Marathon

 This past week or two found me spending quite a bit of time bringing a couple projects to quilt top stage. The first one 'The Mountains Are Calling', has been in the works for a long time. First, I cut out a whole lotta free-cut strips and started in on the back of the quilt.

Tags quilt
Just wanted to do more improv. strip piecing and sewing plus use up some more languishing fabrics. I had a vague outdoor-ish look and feel in mind for the front of the quilt, but didn't really grab a hold of anything solid until the back was finished a couple months later. The struggle was undoubtedly made worse by the fact that the strips were cut out in red, blue and tan or cream. Isn't that more Americana rather than outdoors? Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself!

A few interesting trees
I eventually settled on a mountains and hiking vibe knowing this had always been intended for my youngest son. I kept thinking about adding words to the quilt, perhaps a hiking quote? Wouldn't that be fun and interesting? And it always felt like a little bit too much. Made it hard to gain any traction on the front as all my ideas just sort of floundered and dried up. Honestly, he just wouldn't care either way. A quilt from mom? Check. Large enough to tuck under his feet and chin both? Check. Not too girly or fussy looking? Check. 

A compass
And so it was a relief to finally decide how to make the top large enough to work with the backing and still give off a relatively simple 'guy' look and feel. Why are guy quilts so tricky when really, the key is to keep them simple? Bonus--I was able to use up most of the leftover improv. strips, plus a lot of that red leaf fabric. It's been in the stash totes for well over a decade! Now I just need to schedule in some time with the quilting hoop sometime this summer and get it handed over while he still loves to hike...

Looking across the quilt
Next up on the list of projects that were nagging at me, was Revised. It's the Color Palette challenge from the AHIQ blog. Once all the applique was stitched down, then it was just a matter of making time with the design floor and the final layout.
Revised is a finished quilt top!
It took a little bit of puzzling to get all the math figured out for the smaller filler pieces, but it wasn't difficult. All the larger applique pieces had been graphed out on paper so I knew the basic layout should work.

Loving these smaller blocks
I'm still thinking that the tulips are a bit more awkward and clumsy looking than they probably should have been, but the whole look is growing on me. A little bit of a prim look combined with utility--a match made in heaven!
Simple fill-in with the directional fabric
Not seeing this with borders, at least not at this point. Shocking, I know, but it feels rather complete already without them. We'll see what happens after it sits in the quilt top drawers for a couple months. Will it be grumbling and starting to want a little more attention?
Rough circles to break up the look of the tulips
The only color in the original inspiration that didn't make it into the quilt was a sharp greenish yellow. Just could not find a good place to introduce it with these tulips, though I tried and tried. I'm actually contemplating adding it onto the quilt in the binding! Wouldn't that be different!
Very brash tulips
After these two quilt projects were taken care of, then I turned my attention to the Improv. Hourglass Abstract quilt. Like I said before, just had to cut and sew another stack of improv. strips and then the top could be puzzled pieced together. It was super obvious after diving into this one, how much the previous two attempts had helped prepare my mind for just this sort of effort. I was already in the groove!

A finished background piece
I ended up working on this for two straight evenings and most of a Saturday and Sunday. Then still another late afternoon and evening after my daughter had come home and reclaimed the floor. It was a marathon! The basic shape was blocked out before with all the hourglass units sewed into rows or chunks. Next up was trying to wrangle the top into big sections of improv. that would sew together with minimal partial piecing attempts. 

Only area with partial piecing
As I sewed, trimmed, measured and sewed some more, It occurred to me that the quilt was becoming more and more square shaped. Uggh. For the sake of the future applique, it needed more of a rectangle shape in order to flow better. So that was an interesting detour, trying to add in a good two or three inches to the length of each larger section, all without making it look like I just plopped it on as an afterthought. 

Mostly though, it was a case of sewing together rows of strips, ironing them, laying them out and seeing if they were wide enough. Trimming. Adding in little piecing attempts in areas where there needed to be just a bit more filled in. Making sure the strips weren't all presenting in the same direction. Though all this is 'background' area, I didn't want it to look the least bit sloppy.
Hard to see the texture in this light
I realize the quilt looks a bit out of balance right now, but hopefully it will all make sense when the applique start coming along. Part of the top will be completely covered up. Part of it will fade directly into white noise. What's important is that the applique has something more than just a flat one-piece of fabric to rest on. Texture. That's the number one goal for this particular phase of the quilt. 

A good attempt!
Crossing my fingers it turns out to be a great looking quilt in the end, but regardless, this 'background' attempt would never be a mistake. Loving the text prints and subtle variations in the combined low-volume fabrics! One of the main repeating fabrics, a yellow-cream with a scrolled text printed over it in an indigo blue, had to be turned over as it was too loud. Yeah. So weird. But it looked a hundred times better when using the back side of the fabric, so that's the way it had to be.

The new cover
Also finally addressed the very sad state of my table top ironing board once again. Couldn't find a smaller ironing board cover here locally without buying the entire board. What a waste. Decided to do what I did last time--take a large board cover and cut it, fold it under and pin with large quilting pins. Seemed to hold up good until the top was worn out, so why not? For some reason, I don't like distracting colors on the ironing board though. Had to pay a little more for this neutral color, but I know it will be much more appreciated. Now to replace the iron. This one doesn't seem to want to get quite hot enough. I am soooo tired of buying garbage irons that just get tossed out every year or two!

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Is this Not the Best Quilt?

Well, I'm definitely going to blow up this post with waaay too many pictures of Ormes Inspired! It's totally finished now, a true blue finish. And wowsers, it looks so much better with the hand quilting! Why does it always, always surprise me to see the difference between a flat looking quilt top and one with yummy texture from stitching? You'd think I'd learn by now.

Ormes Inspired is done!
But you know me, always a roller coaster of emotions from the start of making these beauties, clear up till the final showing! Once again, I want to thank Jane Ormes {a wonderfully talented artist in the UK} for her generosity in agreeing to let me sew up an interpretation of one of her prints, titled 'Welcome to my jungle'. {She certainly took a tremendous risk not knowing me in the slightest!} This was started in 2019 and took approximately a year to bring to quilt top stage. Probably wouldn't have come together even that quickly if not for the pandemic lock downs and all the time in the world for hand applique. Ughh, don't remind me.

Seriously wishing I had some quilt holder-uppers today
While I considered the quilt top finished, my mind just wouldn't leave it completely alone. Nag, nag, nag. Months later, in January of 2021, the missing piece occurred to me out of the blue. I mean, it was SO obvious! Everything sort of clicked into place and finally, finally, the design problem from the addition of a border treatment got to be resolved in a satisfactory manner.*Whew!

Loving the look of the stitching
Why are some quilts so tricky? But you know, it was totally of my own making, all the hullabaloo with the border. I was the one who took a perfectly good design and decided it wasn't quite right for a bed quilt 'as is'. Oh yes, got a lot of feedback about that, which was super interesting when points resonated and also difficult when they didn't at all. And maybe, subconsciously, it was all about attempting to make the quilt a little more mine. Because I've NEVER done that before! hehe  Whatever. It somehow ended up being one of the coolest quilts that I have ever put together! 

So much fun in the details!
I will confess to having a bout or two of insomnia over how in the world to do the hand quilting. Part of me very badly wanted to echo stitch inside everyone of the applique motifs and then perhaps do a subtle cross-hatch etc. stitching across the entire background. Possibly little bit of the antique vibe? The quilt mostly laughed and jeered at that idea and told me it felt massively underwhelmed by that particular idea. Well. If you have to be that way!

Inspiration is always a blessing
It wasn't until the top was sandwiched and pinned that I reluctantly decided on an overall stitching effort, the 'hills & valleys' one in particular. {Baptist fans just seemed a little bit too formal, even done in the freehand method.} Then I got sidetracked by being sick for a couple months, which oddly enough gave me just enough time to properly cement the idea in my mind. Soooo, here it is. Subtle, but seemingly funky and a little bit modern and whimsical too? Definitely nothing to distract in any way from the fabulous design, which was always going to be a concern. Better to push it to shine!
Don't ever be afraid to add the elephant
I want to say that I have had the most fun making this quilt! I'm laughing while I say this, but believe me. All the hair pulling aside, this has been an exhilarating quest, up to and including the last bit of stitching. It challenged me in so many ways that have positively influenced the confidence that I have in attempting whole quilt applique efforts. I'm a better quilter today for puzzlements just like this one

You can take a look at the original print here and compare and contrast the very small changes I may have made here or there. One of the most valuable things I have learned about attempting an interpretation is that the final result will NEVER be exact. And really, why would you want it to be?

The awkward flowers are sooo sweet
The goal {generally} is to take a look at the final interpretation quilt and instantly be able to recognize the original inspiration. But.... not get too caught up in agonizing over where the math may or may not work out or how your color choices perhaps changed things to slant in a 'you' vibe. I'm not saying the original design ever needs improved upon. Not at all! We were impressed and amazed enough to feel compelled to do something with that starting point. It's just that we're all human and inevitably something is going to be different, because for one, our eyes see color differently. Our perception of what is pleasing is tuned individually. Our hands create in distinctively unique ways. It's perfectly okay and it's a beautiful thing.

This quilt ended up being made up in these precise proportions mostly because I ran out of background fabric after making a serious math error. Then I had to pick apart fabric and basically start over. Wasn't going to ditch the starting Matisse looking leaves and well, why not wing it? Make-do with what I had available using the original as the framework and not the absolute. I've always been a little shocked at how closely the quilt did in fact replicate the print! Still shaking my head in disbelief... These are life long lessons that I've already put into good use since the finishing up of this quilt top in 2020. Start out as you map out, then be very willing to adapt, adapt, adapt.

Crumples up nice and cozy looking
I get so weary with quilters who fret and stress about how the original pattern maker will feel if they change up colors or an element here or there. If they will 'like it'. For goodness sakes, just do it!! That's what quilting is all about. Taking timeless quilting motifs, patterns and elements and doing our thing, making it our own. Putting our personal little stamp on it. {In this case, it's an artists' rendering and I tried to give Jane fair warning that the outcome would likely not be identical.} Do we need to give respect and honor to the original inspiration? Absolutely! 100%. Then it goes out into the world and morphs again 1000 more times, and where are you in this equation? Probably being a tiny, little spark to a couple of people you'll never even have occasion to meet! Isn't it wonderful?

The hot pink binding ended up working out perfectly!
Okay, enough about that. At this point, I don't know how I will be able to let anyone ever use this quilt, at least until the shiny wears off. It feels a little too precious and special. I had been thinking about gifting it to a granddaughter, but yeah. It's a lot of quilt and they're pretty little yet! We'll see. I might think about putting it into a quilt show some day. Just not sure about mailing off my quilts these days.
Making a statement in the guest room
In other news, I am still pushing forward on the Improv. Hourglass Abstract quilt. The open floor is only mine for a couple more days so really, I need to get off the computer and go quilt! All the hourglass units are where they will probably remain and now I am working on sewing improv. string units to fill up all the empty space. Right now they are just loosely plopped down into the pertinent space until I can determine how many still left to cut out and sew.

Trying to piece together a background 
There should have been plenty of them, but quickly realized that I needed a whole lot more. So bad at the guestimating! Back to the stash totes to dig for more fabric, grumble, grumble... Improv. strippy piecing takes much more fabric than single pieces of fabric, but if you want that background texture? Gotta do it! Basically, I need the empty areas to be lower volume fabrics because it will provide a nice background for the large scale applique vine I'm wanting needing to do. Uh huh. It's all starting to make sense now. 

And you may or may not know this, but I have a terrible time letting go of pretty pieces of creamy white background fabrics. Yep. I'm usually quite positive there is another much more worthy quilt waiting in the wings and of course it will desperately need this or that specific fabric....

Lots of lighter areas for better flow in the quilt
In case you're interested, here's a picture of what I see when I'm rounding the corner from the quilting 'room' back into the open floor plan upstairs. Back to my design floor. Wish I had a design wall as big as the floor area, but hey! We all do what we have to do to survive. To the right is the back of my husbands desk, which is always interesting when he's working upstairs and I'm just over the partial wall, merrily quilting on the other side. Good thing we like each other, though his music now, that's not always as palatable....

Having fun stitching the details
And here's a picture of the current quilt in the hoop. Making good progress with this one, though the individual hoops are taking much longer than expected to stitch. Somehow I always think that I can breeze through the hand quilting and get a hoop done in an hour or so. Uh huh. Right.... Hoping you all have a great Easter weekend!