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.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Wrapping Up 2019 So We Can All Move On

I always think this end of the year retrospective should be a quick post, but somehow
it never quite works out quite that way. Oh well. Time for a glimpse of whatever finishes 
managed to come to fruition during the past year! It always surprises me how it stacks
up. Never quite what I imagined somehow!
2019 Finishes (1)
It's been a surprisingly productive year. So many times it felt like I was just sort of spinning my wheels, or at times, chasing after ever single squirrel that popped around the corner. Some of the oldest quilt tops did get checked off the list, but it felt arduous at times. 'I don't wanna' was not an uncommon feeling at the start of some of these quilting/stitching finish-it-up endeavors.
2019 Finishes (2)
A surprising amount of larger quilts were completely hand quilted. Well, maybe not so it was a terribly stressful year here on the home front. So happy to see 2020 roll around with the all the possibilities of a fresh new year! When life's troubles start to get extra heavy, I tend to have a habit of ending every evening nose deep in the quilting hoop. Well, right after finishing off the popcorn and catching up on Blogger and Instagram.*wink  Helps me sleep ever so much better, that hand work. Seriously therapeutic. If I didn't have so many hot flashes, I'd probably pile on about six quilts every night when I go to bed. Just bury myself in them. You know, for the good vibes?
2019 Finishes (3)
Lots of baby quilts were made and finished up, plus quite a few little bitty ones. Very fun, fast quilting sessions which felt kind of rewarding. I don't think that would be good for me full time though. The feeling lasts only a little while and then it's gone. Poof! Almost like it never happened.
2019 Finishes (4)

So now it's time for the stats. 23 Total Quilt Completions last year! Woohoo! {If you count the Barbie quilts.} But lets not. Leaving off those smaller, quickie quilting projects, it's really more like 18 for the true total. Not too shabby. And because I like to break things down even further....

  • 9 Bed sized quilts finished up
  • 5 Lap quilts
  • 4 Baby quilts
  • 5 Doll, Table Runner or Barbie quilts
  • 9 of these quilts were completely hand quilted
  • 8 quilts were completely machine quilted
  • 5 quilts were a combination of both machine and hand quilting
  • 1 quilt was a combination of machine quilting and hand tying
It was a good year. Also a good year for giving quilts away! 20 different quilts, including the 5 mini quilts, but not limited to completed-in-2019-quilts, were gifted to a hopefully happy recipient.Two or three other quilts should have been given as well, but I'm sort of dragging my heels about those. Not quite ready to give them up just yet. Still having pangs about a couple of the quilts I gave to my daughters!

Some thoughts about looking ahead:

I'm still very invested in keeping lists as per usual. The most important one is for the quilt projects that have been started, but are still in the works. These are ongoing, in many different phases, but most importantly, they have fabric cut out though not yet a completed quilt top. Its not just a fabric stack of dreamy potential! I'm committed, hopefully engaged and generally always pushing forward toward a conclusion. 

There is also a list for the finished quilt tops that are not as yet quilted. Totally separate lists for different categories of UFO's. That's because the 'in progress' quilt project list fluctuates all year long. What I've finally found to be an optimal balance {for the way that I work} is somewhere between 6 to 10 projects. Anything over that and it inevitably starts stressing me out. Anything under that and I start feeling incredibly bored. Good incentive to cross projects off the list and then promptly dive right into the new!

The 'finished quilt top' list has been slowly shrinking from a high of 28 several years ago, to this past year where I seem to have regressed. These tops are listed in order of when they were completed with a vague idea toward quilting the oldest one firsts. Ha. For now I'm going to ignore the fact that quilt tops are multiplying like rabbits and just keep on doing my thing. I really don't know what else to do.I tried severely limiting quilt starts, but that was stifling. There's only so much a person can do to put the breaks on creativity/new starts/inspiration before all momentum comes screeching to a halt. Some day maybe I'll be able to afford having a few tops long armed again, but what probably needs to happen is for me to work a little harder at {being open to} combining machine and hand quilting. That's where I seem to gain the most ground.

Last year saw me taking an even more intentional look at the fabric stash. Many of you know that I truly love digging deep and coming up with interesting or unexpected combinations of fabrics and colors. I'm super pleased to have a 20-30 plus year range of quilting fabric colors/prints, but to be frank, some of those fabrics are stale dated now. Over time there are fabrics which have somehow become bland or completely and totally uninspiring. It's kind of sad, but mostly it irritates me because every single time I've tried to earnestly address these dated 'colors', the ideas crash and burn. The quilting plan seems lackluster and pointless so I give up.

On a whim late last year, I tore through the green fabric totes and pulled out most of the worst offenders. Some of them really aren't that bad. Truly. They're just dated. They've sort of gotten lost in the trends of colors changing. Marketing.That sort of thing. When digging through for fabric choices, they are easily pushed aside and ignored because they don't always play nice with the new additions and then, of course, the situation compounds itself through time. Take a look at the Sherwin-Williams 'Color Through the Decades' to see what I mean. I'm totally stuck in the 70's, 80's, 90's and 2000's in regards to over half of the fabric stash! What to do?

At somewhat of a loss, I took these annoying {green} fabrics and put them in largish clear plastic bags and purposefully left it all out where I couldn't fail to look. See. Be reminded and think about solutions. Eventually I came up with a personal challenge that involves using these 'So Tired' fabrics. The first phase of that saw me making a really weird {okay, it's ugly}, purple and green comfort sort of quilt top, and since then, I've incorporated quite a few of these less-loved fabrics into the Christmas quilts. Other than the first quilt {totally an experiment}, I don't really intend to waste a lot of time making ugly quilts though. Finding a good place for them is the ultimate goal. That and using them up so they aren't in the way anymore!

The most awful of all these fabrics have already been sewn into a large quilt backing for one of the recent Christmas quilts. Extra time, but hey, the fabrics were put to good use and I save money on a backing. One way or another, I totally intend to sneak these troublesome colors/fabrics into quilts and find a way to love them again. Maximize their potential. Then I'm going to move on to a different color and start all over again. Yes! Loving this challenge so much. Look for the 'So-Tired' label at the bottom of  posts moving forward. This challenge could last for a long time.

If somehow the hours can be found, {crossing my fingers}, I plan to put together a 'Hand Quilting with Perle Cotton' tutorial this year. Yikes. So intimidating. Several people have inquired and seem to want to know how to get the 'Quilty Folk' look and feel to their quilts. Deep thoughts here. Please don't get in a rush expecting anything. My life is full of crazy ups and downs and I often barely have time to proofread current posts for misspelling, much less organize an intelligible tutorial.

Yay. This is also the year when I will be turning 50 years young. See how excited I am? Just loving the gaining-weight-at-warp speed and experiencing my lack of mind/mouth coherence due primarily to hormones. How is it that I'm thinking a specific name in my mind, but what comes out is totally different and sometimes I don't even realize?*sigh  My kids think this is hysterical and I just feel stupid. This has turned my thoughts to perhaps making a celebratory quilt such as Lori and Barb both did in years past? Why not make turning 50 into a good thing? I want to walk more and take better care of myself for sure. Will keeping thinking about Jubilee quilt ideas though. It's not a terrible idea.

And last but not least, I plan to keeping on making interpretations of antique, utility style quilts and also, continue to follow along with the AHIQ prompts. Both of these challenges, while difficult at times, seem to feed my creativity in a way that helps me to flourish as a quilter. As a maker. Very important during this particular phase of our life! Thanks so much for following along with me along the way. It wouldn't be nearly as much fun without you....

Monday, December 30, 2019

Last Project for 2019

In June of 2019 we were issued an #ahiqflowers prompt that basically said, 'Make a flowery quilt--all design perimeters are up to you'. Well, since I make a lot of quilts with flowers popping up here and there, it actually felt like a pretty tough challenge. It took a long time to get started and then only progressed in fits and starts. So good to wrap up the year having this quilt top out of the way!
I love to over analyze things and then unintentionally wade into really deep waters. It's a particular charm of Virgos. After envisioning all sorts of super complex ideas, I ditched all the crazy and settled onto making an interpretation of this scrappy, make-do quilt pictured below. As mentioned before, it's from the Kiracofe book, 'Unconventional and Unexpected'. Anytime I had ever flipped through the book, this quilt would catch my eye and that jumbled up LeMoyne star block in the bottom right {do you see it?} would want to stand out as a flower. Only it wasn't. But it could be with a little work, right? Easy, peasy.
#Unexpected&Unconventional quilt
Though the quilt looks deceptively simple with it's pour-out-the-scraps-from-the-scrap bin look, there's really nothing simple about it at all. Oh no. The color palette for one thing, is just all over the place. So many yellows and golds, clashing merrily with each other, muddy tans, strange gray fabrics and lots of murky blue/greens. And if that's not a strange enough combination, the obvious blues in the quilt are bright baby blues all the way to country blues. It's just odd. The pinks range from bubblegum to coral and then back to mauve. There's some lavender in to shake things up even more, and don't forget the in-your-face reds and then those greens and bright whites.

This was HARD for me to get a handle on until I finally started going through the stash totes color by color, pulling out anything and everything seemed likely for the quilt. Honestly, I didn't even really like the combination all that well. But whether they matched, clashed or sat in a big sulky pout, the fabrics needed to be settled in, nice and tight together, ready for me to reach in and say, 'eenie, meenie, miney, moe!' And boy, oh boy did it help to have that part out of the way. Sometimes it was a choice of 'this is better than that', but most of the fabrics ended up finding an important place in the quilt.
Starting to come together
During the first part of December, I had most of the left side of the quilt sewn together, and from the gray vertical divider strip over, was playing with a basic outline for the remaining vertical, pieced units. Up to that point, the picture in the book had been open for constant referencing. Though I didn't stick to the design 100%, it felt important to stick closely to it, in order to retain the look and feel of the original. When I got to that busy area around and above the LeMoyne Star, things got really hairy. Just too cluttered and well, ugly. Couldn't handle it at all.

Finally, I closed the book up and set it firmly aside. It was getting in the way of me truly 'seeing' the quilt which meant all decisions were becoming abnormally dissatisfying. I really had to take a big step back. Leave the quilt up on the wall and play with other things while 'thinking' about it. It only took a couple days, but helped enormously when I came back to fiddle again. And believe me, I didn't include the book from that point on unless I wanted to compare what was already sewn together with what the original maker had done. Then there was no 'Well, I should have done that.' It was more like, 'Hmm... that was an interesting difference.'
Finally seeing the foundation for the first flower
Back to the top I went and replaced fabrics here and there, cleaning things up, sewing unit by unit until I finally got down to the Star area again. All the darker greens were tossed, brighter pinks were included. The black and white piano key strip was moved up and changed to a vertical, rather than abutting horizontally into the Star area. {You can barely see it in the original photo, but it felt like important energy.} The base of the Star area was majorly cleaned up, but the area below needed a little more going on than the original photo indicated. I tried more piecing and another hst. It was painstaking, relentless, focus-till-your-eyes-burn sort of work. Late, late into the evenings.
The full finished quilt
The yellow flower ended up being appliqued onto red star background, with the extra red triangles appliqued onto the middle edges of the square after the entire vertical strip was sewn together. It felt kind of like cheating not to figure out a way to piece it, but finally I just threw up my hands and went with what felt obvious. And easy, lets not kid ourselves. But who really, truly cares how it goes together, the important thing is to bring it to the point of being together

The flower 'stem' was a random piece of fabric I had picked up off the floor. Yep, straight out of the junk pieces, a very thin cut-off from when I used the fabric earlier in the quilt. The curved edge {a remnant from some other completely different project} was absolutely perfect for the look I wanted. It sang to me in all it's unpretentious glory. Thankfully there was enough of that same exact fabric left to copy the cut-off and add the necessary seam allowance, as well as cut out a leaf and the flower center too. I was so, so glad, because nothing else would have worked nearly as well as that odd blue fabric with the yellow flowers. Perfect! How does that even happen with a quilt like this? 

All of that was stitched onto the quilt before the long pieced units were sewn together side by side. The bottom dark red fabric had to be ripped out and replaced with a longer piece of the same fabric later, when I ran into trouble finishing up the left side of the quilt. Just piece by piece, puzzling things out until it all made sense and flowed well together. If I stood back, looked, and something bothered me, I would go back and fiddle and fiddle until something looked better or yeah, it all looked a lot worse. lol  From a place of a lot worse, it had to start looking better eventually, right?
The extra flower
At some point after getting the yellow and red flower on the right figured out, I decided to play with some of the floral yellow diamonds abandoned for being too small. When I threw them over on the big gray chunk of fabric {a place that sucked up all the light in the quilt and annoyed me}, things started coming together very quickly. I mean seriously, it was like billboard shouting at me, 'Find the best eclectic mix of yellows and make it SCRAPPY!' And then it was hilarious, because I cut out the blue center fabric three times until I finally got it large enough to make the impression it was demanding. It was exhilarating, exacting. So very much fun. Yes! This quilt finally started making sense as regards to a 'Flower Challenge' too!
I think this flower is better than the other one...
I'll say it again. So much fun. I just love when incubation stops being stubborn and turns directly into illumination. It's the best part. The crazy thing is, sometimes you have to be DOING in order for it to happen properly. Which all just feels so silly, because how do we know what to do? Well, sometimes we won't actually know until it's happening and it's really just that simple and really just that complicated. Like getting to use more of that yellow texty fabric. I threw it out of the quilt, decided not to use it 'cuz it didn't look right. Yes, I had the sads about it. Then, in a blink of an eye, it was the only fabric that would work because it needed to be in the FLOWER. All of a sudden, it had a purpose.
Very scrappy
I don't regret following along with the book and starting out from a place of confidence. Knowing that up to that point, my interpretation looked strong. The original quilter made a striking quilt, what an honor to learn and gain from her creativity!

Starting out, I never did graph out the quilt for measurements or try to do anything other than guesswork at a finished size. Maybe that's insane, I don't really know, but it's how I have to work when it comes to improv. The entire quilt grew from the first older, cream, floral piece that I cut out and starting joining other pieces too. It felt marvelous to add in all the rest of that little bit of floral fabric until it was all gone too. It felt intentional and very personal. Just because I'm doing an interpretation doesn't mean this quilt can't reflect me!
That lavender stripe saved the day
The left side of the quilt was not completely angst free. The red and white column of rectangles was where I first realized that my measurements were not going to accurately reflect the original quilt. My oh my, what a shock! The rectangles ended up being much chunkier and shorter than they should have been. Did you even notice? There was a choice to be made right at that junction of the quilt. Make a shorter, fatter column of red/white or chop off some of the work that was already pieced to go well above. Hmm... Choices, choices. I chose to basically 'fake it'. The tall, skinny red/white piecing unit was thrown out and I played around with the adjoining fabrics, cheating here and there with proportion. When I got the correct amount of {wider} rectangles to fit into that area without an awkward 'flow', it felt like a victory. The design was well represented, but I didn't have to sacrifice any prior piecing or bits of color. I'm not even sure this quilt could be made without that very important focal point so it was absolutely worth the effort. Not all areas deserved that much time, so I worked out different sorts of compromises. Super easy in some ways. Mind boggling frustration in others!
The original floral square that started the entire quilt 'size'
There was also some fabric seam-ripped out at the bottom left to make way for some colors/fabrics to be introduced again. I can't help it, colors and values need to be well balanced in my quilts, that's just the way it is. Plus, the left corner of this quilt isn't cut off on an angle, so there was more piecing to be added into that area. Because the right side of the quilt was all but finished when I focused on the bottom left, there was a little, tiny, horizontal strip of fabric having to be added to even the length out on the left. You can probably barely see it in the 'full' pic of the quilt, but it was terribly irritating. I couldn't believe that I need literally 3/4" of an inch of fabric squeezed in, or face cutting off some very important {to me} small chunks of quilt balancing color.*grrr  I ended up cutting and piecing that skinny little length into four different pieces of fabric, three various creams and of course, one lonely piece of a red. Good redirect from the 'oops'! Such a forgiving quilt though. How could anyone ever tell where I cut too short or had to piece more in? It actually happened more than once. Shh...., don't tell!
Gonna be fun to hand quilt this one...
This entire quilt was sewn together with fabric pulled straight out the stash totes. Nothing was bought new for it and in some cases, I couldn't find a fabric light enough or dark enough etc. Maybe the fabric didn't quite have the proper 'vintage' vibe that I was looking for. Regardless, I just pulled from whatever was available, and it felt like this quilt almost thanked me for it. Like it honored the original intent of the quilt.

On that last vertical unit on the right side of the quilt, I almost dumped the stash totes upside down looking for something that would cooperate instead of the green that simply WAS NOT WORKING OUT. The blue/green plaid was serendipitous. Truly. Definitely not perfect, but close-enough to call good and just keep moving things along. That is probably the only area of the quilt that I worried and fretted about until everything was totally sewn together.*whew! It actually did do the job it was meant to do!

This ended up being a very intense quilt and I have to say, it felt absolutely wonderful to sit down and hand stitch the various parts of the flowers onto the quilt. I've noticed that before in other quilts where I add just a tiny bit of applique. After all that focus and seeing almost beyond what our eyes are reflecting back at us, it feels incredible to have quiet time using our hands, not the machine to do some of the work. It feels like paying respect to the quilt or maybe even signing our name in fabric. Saying, 'This is important. It really does matter.' What a fabulous challenge this turned out to be. Thanks again to Ann and Kaja for their thoughtful, interesting AHIQ prompts. I definitely feel more prepared to play with the the Scrap bin bits and pieces again! Okay, that's it. Last project for 2019!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Tis The Season!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone! We have the sugar cookies and caramel corn taken care of and now, it's time to start baking the pies. Don't you just love tradition?
Making sugar cookies
All my packages have arrived except one and thankfully it was just a few stocking stuffers. Out here in rural America, the package arrival dates can be less than as promised. In whatever spare time that I could find, I've been working on the Christmas Stars quilt.
Christmas Stars
All that's left to do is a pieced border of flying geese, which is already cut out. Loving the look of this simple quilt so much. Very 'country living' and cozy looking which is really all that I'm wanting it to be right now.
A closer look
Why oh why haven't I made more holiday quilts in years past? You're going to laugh, but I've cut out two more. They are very simple and nothing that screams cheesy Christmas. Some year I intend to have enough to put on all the beds during the season. A girl can dream!

The quilters who have posted these sorts of pictures this month have made me sigh with envy. Apparently it's time to join the party! Even if I run out of fun sewing these together this year, I will have them prepped and ready to work on when the holiday cycles around once again. Like I mentioned before, I'm never in the mood to work on Christmas quilts until Christmas! Though I intend to work on them a bit leading up to New Years, I sincerely doubt the momentum will hold for much longer. Again with the best wishes for a wonderful holiday, however it is that you spend your time!

*Update for those who are curious about the pattern. This quilt is based on a picture of an antique quilt I saw in the June 2011 American Patchwork & Quilting magazine. It has been in my inspiration binders for years! Super easy to make up your own version.

Make 20-9" {finished} Sawtooth Square blocks. For each block cut out:

  • 1--5 3/4" square of background fabric. Cut on diagonal and then crosscut again making 4 triangles total
  • 4--2 3/4" squares of background fabric
  • 4--3 1/8" squares of star tip fabric. Cut on diagonal once
  • 1--5" squares of star center fabric
Sew together blocks according to normal Sawtooth Star directions. Might have to trim slightly.

Cut red fabric for adjoining red squares and setting triangles:

  • Cut 12--9 1/2" squares of red fabric
  • Cut 4--14" squares of red fabric. Cut on diagonal and then crosscut again. Will use 14 of these triangles
  • Cut 2--7 1/4" squares of red fabric. Cut on diagonal
Cut pieces for flying geese border:
  • Cut 27--5 3/4" squares of red fabric for inside flying geese units. Cut on diagonal and then crosscut again.
  • Cut 108--3 1/8" squares of green fabric for flying geese points. Cut on diagonal once
Have not tested the flying geese units to see if they actually will fit properly, but according to the math there should be 22 flying geese at the top of the quilt {flying sideways} and 28 along the side {flying in the vertical orientation}, plus two more at each of the corners flying vertically as well.

Good luck! 

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Finishing Up the Last Minute Christmas Makes Was Great Fun

Well, here it is! Playing with Scale #2 is a true blue finish. It's been hanging around for awhile, just waiting on the binding stitches. While hand quilting this one, I decided to gift it to our oldest granddaughter. This seems to have a happy, youthful vibe plus it will match with the decor in her bedroom. Not that it matters to me, but it will probably make her mama happy!
Playing With Scale #2 is finished!
It's large enough that she should be able to use it for years and years too. Personally I have a fondness for quilts that will grow with children. My own children very much cherished the ones given to them by me and others, when they were little. By the time they were old enough for a change, those quilts were often faded and many times mended. Three times is the charm. Time to put them up for good!

I have been stressing over making a princess quilt or something equally appealing to this sweet little charmer, but never felt any major inspiration strike. Finally, I tried to look at it from the position of just being gifted a quilt 'from grandma'. Okay, that works too! She's only four. I could probably make her a frog quilt and she would be delighted, she's just that easy.

So glad I added the applique flowers.
I have to say that it was an absolute joy to hand quilt this particular quilt. No pressure whatsoever, no marking, and no thinking really, except for whichever thread I had picked out for each specific area. Love that so much! It makes me realize that I need to keep making scrappy, improv. quilts to mix in with the other more ordered quilts that I make, even if just for the hand quilting love.
The hand quilting really added to the quilt....
It was difficult to get proper pictures with the winter light being so variable these days. I actually had to get the quilt out for two different settings because so many pictures were just too dark the first time around. Now there's a Christmas tree right in the middle of the best-lighting-in-the-house, so pictures are going to be getting more and more problematic until the end of the month.
Love the vintage fabric addition {in green}
Not quite sure when this quilt was actually started, but it's not been much more than a year. The entire quilt was started based on an AHIQ challenge, Playing With Scale. This was the second attempt at this challenge and yes, I know the large and small triangles are different types. That was totally on purpose. The concept of scale still works and was actually quite fun seeing it all come together. In spite of the nerves 'cuz there's most generally a wee bit of anxiety when doing improv. around here! That's just part and parcel of trying to work free of a script, but always so thrilling when things start to 'click' properly and you can see some momentum happening.
A different color palette, but lots of fun to work with!
One of the things that makes this quilt work, {in my mind} is that it mostly has the same background fabric throughout. This light green/white print was one where I bought the rest of a bolt of clearance fabric {for a backing fabric} and then switched quilt tops and only used up about three yards of it. Then I was like, 'What am I going to do with all this leftover fabric?'  Hmm.... That may have been what jump started this entire fabric stack!

You'll find that I rarely, ever intentionally buy a great lot of a single fabric for background fabric usage. Instead, I rely on pulling enough similar feel fabrics together from the stash to fake it or else, don't care if they blend less than perfectly together. Truly, in my mind, it's {usually} much more interesting if they don't work fabulously well together, and even more intriguing if one or two of the fabrics squawk a little about the ultimate pairing. More of that utility, make-do siren song that speaks so well to me?
A few strips of shirting fabric added in here and there for character
It's just funny that whenever something like this happens, on those very rare occasion, it's totally by accident. I mean seriously. What if I bought oodles of some odd print and brought it home and absolutely hated it in the potential background fabric position? Then I'd be out all that money and end up having to use it as a backing fabric. The horror! In this case though, I found it very refreshing to keep reaching for the same fabric over and over, knowing it was going to be the 'calm' area in my busy, scrappy improv. quilt. I know this is the way a lot of quilters work, but it's the opposite of how I normally do things!
Wonky quilts are the best
Lots of pictures of the same quilt, but well, you gotta remember that this is my quilting journal. That's really what this has been about from the start. The chronicles of Quilty Folk if you will, and I've invited others to take a peek as I travel along.
All free cut strips
As of this weekend, all of my {soon-to-be-gifted} Christmas makes are finally done! Yay! The two little doll quilts, below, ended up being such a blast to put together. Both of these were started from leftover bits in the orphan totes which totally makes me smile. Such a good idea and also, excellent procrastination from what really should have been happening around here. For some reason, the season came way too early this year...
Doll quilts for some of my nieces
The first little doll quilt used up the very last blocks from a project I've previously turned into two different baby quilts, one that happened just last month. These blocks were right on top so an easy choice, and wowsers, am I glad to see the last of them used up.The first two went for little baby boys and now the last, is a doll quilt for a young girl. Really versatile blocks depending on the colors used alongside! Now I just wish there was record of whether the original project used up one jelly roll or maybe two? Cannot remember those details just now. 

The second doll quilt came from the abandoned bits from the earlier Improv. Wheels quilt and also just a day playing with free cut Drunkards Path blocks a long while ago. Was terrible at it and they mostly ended up being wrinkly and not lying flat at all. Love the look, but hate the massive amount of fabric waste too. Will have to try again some day in the future when I have a mountain of fabric that needs to go.*wink  Weren't we just sort of talking about that?

And then there was also this quilt, you might remember, which was made from literally, the cut-offs from those same, original Improv. Wheels blocks. It's always endlessly fascinating for me to see the similar but oh-so-unique look derived from exact same pieced units or fabric pieces. It's silly, but sometimes there seems to be more of a thrill from the second or third time around quilt than the first! Orphan blocks/units are just too much fun to throw out, don't you think? So many possibilities and then lookie, lookie! Super fast doll quilts all because I had something easy to start playing with. What it does is eliminate that initial step of decision making. What color does this need to be? What fabrics should I pull? The Orphan blocks lead the way and before you know it, you're already halfway through with a project!
 Machine quilted in straight rows, nothing fancy
And last but not least, are the matching {Barbie} doll quilts for the granddaughter. Of course. It's not like I ever did this for my own girls! So sad, that, but it's too late for that now. I couldn't stop at just one right? And before even making an attempt to check myself, was also making matching pillows. Pillows? I am smiling so much as I'm typing this. Just too funny! They perfectly match the little charmers Christmas quilt and should bring her oodles of fun for all her dolls living in the three-story play townhouse. See, now she'll like the larger quilt even more because it will 'match' the Barbie quilts, which is a very important thing. Our granddaughter is a details girl at heart. Aha! There's actually a method to my madness!
The Barbie quilts, all washed up and ready for play
My daughters rolled their eyes at me and my husband agreed that I was a bit crazy. Totally drawing the line at making Barbie clothes though. Not gonna happen! So that's that. Other than one long afternoon ordering Christmas presents online and buying a couple little baby dolls while doing the grocery shopping, there's not much Christmas organization going on here yet. Will have to step it up and stop with all the fun, quilty procrastination! Who knew last minute Christmas projects could be so enjoyable? 

Monday, December 9, 2019

Needing a Creative Lift

This past weekend was a rare, quiet pocket of time for us. I took full advantage and was able to get this #AHIQFlowers challenge quilt up on the wall. If you look closely, it's obvious that the left side is mostly sewn together while the right side is still in a state of flux. And yes, some of it is pinned well above the design wall. We do what we have to do, don't we?
U&U quilt interpretation for #UHIQFlower challenge
I've been craving a good boost from creativity time, so it felt absolutely wonderful to piddle around on such an oddball, no-pressure sort of project. In the lower right corner there is an empty space where 'the flower' should end up. Normally I've tended to work on one long strip at a time, but at this point in the quilt, I thought it best to look ahead and plan out/balance the colors in advance. For comparison to the inspiration, I posted a pic back in August at the end of this post.

Parts of the design {can we seriously call this quilt 'intentionally designed?'}, are driving me crazy and so I'm ditching those particular areas. Skimming over them or just cleaning them up a bit. It's mostly the areas that look super chaotic and don't even make sense to re-create. It's my quilt so I can do that! It's at a point now where I want to leave it on the wall for a day or two before sewing. There's something that feels out of whack but I'm not sure exactly what needs to change in the mock-up.
Only two more new starts....
Lately I've been thinking longingly about the potential of having, literally, stacks of Christmas quilts, but that would be absolutely absurd, even for a prolific quilter. Right? So instead I decided to just make two--to go along with my other two sorta, kinda Winter/Christmas quilts that get pulled out during the season. It's pretty insane timing and who knows how far I'll actually get. The fabrics for the first one, based on the spotty quilt in the 'Unconventional & Unexpected' book pictured above, having been stacked up and hanging around for well over a year.
Definitely gonna add some green after the blocks are sewn
The problem is, I'm never in the mood to make Christmas quilts until December {if then}, and then there's even more crazy going on than normal. At the same time that these thoughts have been swirling around in my brain, I've also been thinking deep thoughts about those pesky oldish quilting fabrics which seem to want to swallow my stash whole. In an impulsive moment I dug through the green totes and pulled out three different, very tired stacks of green fabrics. They definitely need to be used up or just go away. I am so very weary of seeing some of these float around unused and unloved. For the first pile, I gleefully challenged myself to incorporate them into a Christmas quilt, which, yep! Is very good timing. See? Just have to work the angles and then we can easily convince ourselves any brand new start is a fabulous idea!
Already prewashed and soaked the reds!
But first! I made myself cross something off the list. I do have a tiny bit of discipline in this freewheeling quilty world of mine, believe it or not. The Roman Stripes quilt was started back in September as a result of a problematic stack of fabrics that was giving me troubles getting off the ground. It seemed to demand a complicated quilt pattern, but then could never quite gain any traction. Finally, I used a free Sharon Holland pattern {unfortunately not available any longer}, put out while she was promoting her latest book.
Uh oh, getting a lot of quilt tops on the to-be-quilted list!
I had thought to use it in a baby quilt and then couldn't get her instructions to cooperate with the way that I tend to buy fabric. Oh yeah. Same problem with making the throw quilt. But I didn't let it stop me, just kept cutting fabrics and making sure there were plenty of 'pairings'.
The smaller Roman Stripe quilt
Which led to enough blocks for two quilts! They are both the same length {76 1/2"}, but the first one, above, is only 59" wide while the second one, pictured below with an extra vertical row, is 66 1/2". It's really hard sometimes to make these quick scrappy-look quilts with fatquarters {the most frequent size of fabric I buy}. Instead of agonizing about it or trying to determine which fabrics would work better, I just made more sets and determined to work it out later.
This one is wider
There's something about this 'coins' pattern that really intrigues me. It's all very formal, yet the way that Sharon encouraged a light/dark fabric pairings, it has a wonderful flow to the stripes. I especially like the repetitive stacks of like fabrics with the occasional scrappy 'make-do' element mixed from using smaller pieces of fabrics. See? Nothing wrong with adapting a pattern to fit what you have available!
Loved adding the easy borders to wrap it all up
One thing that I've been wondering about lately is whether strips are pre-cut or free-cut, is there always going to be a certain amount of seams coming lose at the edges or long lengths of the quilt top? I thought it was mostly a free-cut strip issue, but no. Anytime there are lengths sewn and then cut or trimmed later, I'll have to go back here when joining the long rows and re-sew random seams starting to come loose. This is something I had forgotten. It's just part of quilting because even when you back stitch, if the fabric ends up being cut in the middle of the lengths, there goes the reinforcement. Ughh! Oh how it annoys me! But now maybe I won't isolate it to free-cut, improv. sewing and let it hinder me from new starts. There's just something about wonky strip sets that make my heart go pitter patter but I was starting to get a little resentful of the extra time that it takes to clean up those coming-loose seams.
So happy with these fabrics!
I'm not at all sorry to have two of these quilt tops {instead of one} as they should make wonderful comfort type quilts for friends in need of a quick pick-me-up. The colors are just that warm looking, with a cozy and comforting  vibe that should only improv. with quilting texture. So glad I didn't throw these fabrics back in the stash totes! It's good to have a couple comfort quilts out in front of me for once, and not have to be all in a rush one day throwing something together!
Kinda boring to sew together, but great fun seeing the top finished!
Now I'm thinking about making some quick little Barbie quilts for my granddaughter and possibly a doll quilt or two for the nieces. I really, really hate last minute DIY Christmas gifts, but sometimes with quilting, it's just pure fun to sew these little bitties. Especially when there's no expectation whatsoever. I think the first place I'll look is in the orphan block totes. Doesn't that sound fun? lol