Friday, September 23, 2022

Another Good Finish, Much Better Than It Set Out To Be

 I've been buried in the back office lately, working on the paperwork for my husbands business. I'm always determined to better keep up on it. And then I don't. He's not a paperwork guy whatsoever, which makes my job harder. Whenever I try to get everything in order and wrangled onto the computer or into reports etc., it's a frustrating time for both of us. Sometimes I think we'd both be better off if he could just pay someone else to deal with it, but I know we really can't afford it, especially now with the 2022 economy.

A little whacky, but so much fun!
Ughh. Anyone go to buy groceries lately? It's totally freaking me out, how high the prices are these days! Anyway, it feels like there hasn't been quite as much time for quilting lately. I did manage to get the binding sewn onto Chrysalis--all in scrappy reds. I'm always surprised when I use red for binding, but I do adore the look. It totally fits with the vibe of this particular quilt!

Loving all these colors together
This 2nd Roman Stripe quilt went together better than the first one. Of course I'm partial to the applique on it, and I did go ahead and do just a wee, bit more hand quilting on this one too. It really does make a difference!

Turned out very happy looking!
It's a super simple pattern and goes together very quickly. Would be great for a baby quilt I'm sure, will have to keep that in mind. It looks very soft and cozy now that it's washed and properly crumpled, like a good quilt should be! I'm actually very relieved to see this one rise above it's rather blah beginnings.*sigh  Some quilts are just more demanding about making extra time for.
Looks like a good one!
For now it's rolled up and languishing in a little basket in the corner of the living room. Weird I know, but I have a feeling this one is going to be used a lot in our living room!

Ignore the dust behind the basket, it's that time of year!
Speaking of which.... I went a little crazy this past week and sorted through all the plaid flannels that I tend to live in during the late fall and winter months. There was a whole stack of shirts in good condition that felt a little too snug, too short or even in the case of a couple of them, way too wide and boxy. Those extra wide ones were the Walmart ones I think. Just never felt like an attractive or comfortable fit at all. Shouldn't have even bought them, but I fell in love with the colors! And I don't know if anyone else has noticed this issue, but the nice Eddie Bauer button-down shirts that I've bought {for years and years and years} tend to shrink badly anymore. I'm getting very tired of it. I've gained a little weight since 2020, but the shirt shrinkage is very real. For the moment, I'm on a shirt buying hiatus from Eddie Bauer and searching out other brands, mostly second hand. 

De-constructing/ Re-constructing flannel shirts
I sewed up almost 2 inches at the sides of the largest, boxiest shirts and now they feel and look much better. You'll probably think this odd, but I took one nicely-made flannel shirt {rarely worn because the buttons looked like eyeballs} and replaced those buttons with other, plainer looking buttons. Rescued from previous upcycled shirts I'm pretty sure. Amazing how much better I like the shirt already! 

I took one of the 'too-small' shirts and cut some of the bottom half off in order to make a contrasting ruffle to one of 'too-short; flannels {one of my comfy faves}. The 'too-small' one was tailored very well with great, double stitched seams throughout. I thought these details would help to make the ruffle length look better than it might have otherwise. After that was done, it looked like it needed a contrasting pocket too. That was sewn on with the fabric edges exposed so that they will fray and look pretty shabby eventually {just like I want them to}. Overall, I was super happy with the look, though my daughter kind of smirked at my enthusiasm for the 'boho boutique' look. Probably won't do any more like that, but it was kind of fun to try my hand at something new!

Both the red and the green flannel shirts {in the above picture} have had extra flannel sewn into the sides of the shirt--under the arms--kind of a gusset I suppose. One of the flannels used for the addition was another 'too small' cut-up shirt, and the other, just some fabric that rescued from the flannel stash tote. There are at least 4-5 other shirts that I can play with still, but that has definitely took a chunk of my time these past several days. Great for distraction from the bookwork! My sewing is not the absolute best, but it's getting the job done. 

There's something incredibly annoying about wearing too snug-under-the-arms shirts around the house. Just can't handle it! I seem to have lots of hot flashes off and on these days and the unfortunate thing I've noticed is, wearing tops that won't swing and move easily with my everyday motions tend to set me off extremely easily. I have went and changed clothes after wearing them for less than half an hour before! One of my sisters has teased me quite a bit about wearing oversize tops, but what to do?  This was an easy fix, playing with these shirts, and hopefully it will get me through another winter without having to buy much else.
Hand quilting on the border
Still getting a bit of hand quilting in during the late evenings. Went ahead and marked out a rough crosshatch grid on the border of the tulip quilt after all. Just didn't have the inspiration for anything else so why not?

Gonna answer a couple quick questions for the 'Reasons for Quitlmaking' and then close up for the day! 

4. How do your family, friends, and community feel about your quiltmaking and your quilts?

I think my immediate family and probably even my siblings and parents are proud of my quiltmaking efforts. The broader family gets that my quilts are not just cookie cutter replicas of mass marketed patterns, but don't really understand all the reasons why that might be. Which is totally fine. We all have our fascinations! Overall they just seem to enjoy getting to be the recipient of any of my random quilt gifting. They often have a joke at my expense, something to do with 'watch out for your shirts' kind of thing and laughing at my constant prodding to my husband about leaving time in the schedule for quilt store stop offs! Which he does not do very often these days. Somehow we're always leaving too early or too late on the longer trips. Wonder why that is? lol

My daughters and husband have heard me babble on about the creative process {and all of my various challenges} more than they have wanted to through the years. That being said, they are probably the most invested in making sure that I don't ever give away quilts unnecessarily or to anywhere they might possibly be 'under appreciated'! Kind of frustrates me on occasion but it is super sweet of them to feel so possessive. I argue with them on occasion that I am not some exceptional quilter in the whole world-wide scheme of things--they are just looking at me through a very narrow lens! It's wonderful to have carved out a good spot in the cozy, come cuddle-up-with-me quilting niche though. Once in awhile I'll share a sweet blog comment with them and they always seem to appreciate the love and support.

 As to the community? Some people know that I quilt of course, especially after they saw the Fire quilt. It's just not that big a deal around here. The artsy people live up the valley and actually make money off of their interests! Which, to be fair, years ago I was offered a chance to sell quilts in a shop up the valley. Just don't think that's something I'm interested in doing at this time of my life.

5. What are your feelings about quiltmaking compared with other household activities?

Ha! I think we all know the answer to this one. Quiltmaking is vastly more entertaining and interesting than almost anything else around here! I have to work hard not to get frustrated and upset when life throws a curveball at my quilting 'schedule'. Unless the grandkids are visiting. That's a whole 'nother ballgame!

**On a different note. I have gotten a few requests again for making a hand quilting with perle cotton tutorial. At first I just thought 'No! Don't have time for this!' But then, I reluctantly reconsidered. It's something that I have probably gotten more requests for than anything else. Have been writing down some notes and thinking it through. Will make up my mind here in the next couple weeks about whether or not it's something I feel that can be properly or adequately done. Have always hesitated and decided against because I didn't feel like I was the right person to address this subject. Lots of little quirks, just doing it because I love the look and the process. Not the expert!!

Friday, September 16, 2022

Finished Quilt Tops Always Feel Good

It's been a good week. I wrapped up two more quilt tops and dropped the number of open-ended projects down to three! Yessss.... That means I can start some new ones now without any guilt whatsoever!

A little bit moody with the gray-text backgrounds
This quilt top was started in the 2021-22 winter. I got motivated to trace the wedge segments and then they just sat for a very long time. Finally in July, the sewing started happening. Some quilt projects progress very slowly, sit for awhile, progress slowly and then seem to come together all in a rush. This is one of those kinds, but it always surprises me when the end comes together so quickly!

Not the strictly traditional layout
Last Saturday found me doing the auditioning for layout and let me tell you, it took hours. I couldn't believe how unsatisfied I was with the overall look to this quilt! Though I adore almost every Grandma's Fan quilt that I've ever seen, for some reason this was the actual impetuous for starting on my own. I know, I know. So modern looking with all the white backgrounds! 
Too much?
It seemed like a great use for my text print fabrics, and also some of those brighter fabrics that I often find so hard to use. Altogether these particular blocks just hit me as very 'bland' and fairly underwhelming though. Cue the disappointment. I kept leaving the room and coming back to fiddle with blocks until something made me decide to turn a couple of the blocks into partial or even full circles. Hmm... Now we're talking!
Looking across
Not at all what I was hoping for initially, but definitely much more interesting than anything I'd seen before while attempting this layout. I like the whimsy of only having some of the blocks joined into circles so then of course that took awhile longer to figure all the details out. Where in the quilt? Which colors? Bold impact? Or a softer, fade-away look, where, if you didn't look closely, you might miss the fact that something else was happening in the quilt? So many questions!

A partial circle on the side of the quilt
Eventually I sorted it all out and then it was only a matter of getting the rows sewn together and finally, the quilt top as a whole. It's a super sweet looking quilt and right now, I'm leaning hard toward no borders ever. Or applique. We'll see. I'm not very good about sticking to those sorts of decisions! It was hard to sew the last bits of the quilt together because I was enjoying seeing it draped over the totes as I walked into the quilt room. Every quilt room should have something special to draw you inward, right?

Welcome home, it says!
Next up in the quilt hoop is the 4-Block Tulip Medallion, a finished quilt top since April of last year. Clearly, I'm in a yellow state of mind right now, so don't mind me while I positively wallow in it.

Next up in the hoop!
This is already a wonderful quilt to have in my lap in the evenings. So soft and warm with lots of good cuddle vibes. Why is it then, that I'm already trying to figure out who this quilt is destined to go to? Ha! Sometimes it feels like I have to justify all the reasons why a quilt might end up being mine, all mine....

A sweet, simple feel to this one
After lots of pondering, I'm probably going to mark some sort of cross-hatch for the outside border stitching. Just don't think I want to echo stitch on top of all the flowers {or just outside of them} and then have all that empty space left to fill up. Still thinking and thinking. Definitely don't want to do anything very fussy.

Stitching in the hoop

The other completed quilt top is one that I thought for sure was totally done back in May of 2021. So hard to believe that it's been hanging around for that long! It was an AHIQ Challenge that almost threw me. I'm still convinced that the color palette itself has been behind every difficult decision in the entire quilt!
Ooh, loving that darker blue border finish!
Needless to say, at some point this year, I determined that this finished quilt top was actually NOT finished at all, and instead, was stomping its petulant little feet wanting a border. Anyone following me for any length of time knows this is not the first time this has happened, nor will it probably be the last.

So much better now!
And now that the little basket handle appliqued border has been stitched down and added to the rest of the quilt? It's perfectly obvious something was lacking before. I mean, can you believe the difference in overall look and vibe to this thing? So much more rich and cozy looking now! Something interesting to think about--it took approximately two hours to hand stitch down each border, and then of course, it all needed sewn on by machine when attaching to the center part of the quilt. Would that have been worthwhile to you? And that's not even counting the applique prep time. Am I crazy or smart?*wink

Kind of a lacy-look border!
So next up for the ongoing quilt questions is a set of questions pertaining to 'Reasons for Quiltmaking'. The first three have a lot of the same answers, so I'm going to answer them all in a jumble.

1. Why do you quilt? What does quilting give you?
2. Why do you spend so much time on such a craft?
3. Why do you enjoy quilting? What do you like most about it?

I quilt because I adore the look and feel of quilts and I love the process. Might even be obsessed with the process in fact! There's just something so good and heartwarming about using our minds and our hands to think about and/or work with color and textiles. It's simultaneously relaxing, therapeutic, stimulating and comforting all at the same time. 

There's a puzzle to be figured out. The time and effort it takes our minds to work this out, can shut out all but the worst of the world has to offer. So that's a relief and balm to the soul. When our minds get finished sorting out the various and assorted details involved in making a set look or design, then there's a rush of satisfaction and all those happy endorphins to thoroughly enjoy.

People say that it takes on average, 10,000 hours of experience to master a skill. Whether that's true or not, there's nothing to take lightly about the journey of getting to a stage of proficiency in our chosen craft. Within those hours is a roller coaster of highs and lows--learning to trust in the core of ourselves and have a confidence in the things that we want to express through the makings of our hands. There's a great pride in being able to finally produce an outcome that resonates to the very depths of our being. When I randomly stumble upon one of my more favorite quilts {that I've personally made}, there's this leap to my heart. 'Is that one of mine? Oh, I know that quilt!' And of course I'm already smiling before the recognition even truly hits!

The journey {and joy} of creativity keeps me going, day after day and year after year. I can't wait to find out what happens next! In all the years that I've spent quilting, I would have never dreamed that I could make the kinds of quilts that I do now. Mostly because I couldn't envision where the passion would take me. It boggles my mind that my voice could so clearly be reflected back in so many of the quilts that I've made. How wonderfully real and warm and cozy that voice would be. It makes me want to cry because I'm such a reserved person. How is it that my quilts are not?

When I hand quilt, it quiets my mind and soothes my being. It sorts out the tangled mess in my brain. I've said it before so many times, but it's still true. Quilting makes me a better person. When I give a quilt away, it feels like I'm offering comfort, a hug, or perhaps a little ray of sunshine. And yes, we can buy or give other things to people to help them in their time of need. A quilt just feels extra special. Especially if it's made with heart and soul and not just out of feelings of expectation.

So that's why I quilt. Because I can and also, because I can't not make quilts. 

Thursday, September 8, 2022

A Whole Lotta Yellow

 It's been a struggle to make time for this post. The days have finally started getting cooler around here and it feels like I've just sorta collapsed into an end-of-summer fugue state. Don't wanna do much of anything!

Looking very cozy
We had dinner with some friends the other night and during conversation, I complimented Jessica on her beautiful, intensely detailed tapestry type print she had hanging on the wall. She is a wonderful, successful artist with many followers on social media. Super talented! Anyway, long story short, she said that the tapestry was one of her favorites, but she hadn't sold very many. Most people seemed to prefer another version in the series. Then the conversation riffed from there into how true it is that so many of the things that we personally make and LOVE end up not being someone else's favorites. How ironic in fact, that a lot of times the vast majority seem to prefer something we're not even feeling oodles of love for! I mean, we don't hate it. It's just not in our 'top 10' so to speak.

Love Apples is a true-blue completion!
We ended that conversation agreeing that it's a very good thing to mostly make for ourselves. That way we can continually shore up that feeling of satisfaction and personal validation at the close of a project. Be inspired enough to keep on making the good things that resonate with our inner spirit. Don't you just love conversations like that with people who get you? Who speak much the same language even though our formats might be different?
The Love Apple Blocks
And that's how I realized another thing besides summer fatigue was holding me back from writing this post. This latest quilt really isn't destined to be a favorite with very many people. It's sort of an odd color palette and the structure/layout is a little too formal for the quirky blocks. Maybe. I rather enjoy the sense of not knowing for sure! 

This one started on a whim, me hoping to use up some peachy pink border discards and wanting to dive into a long-marinating stack of fabric. It's also got a whole lotta yellow in it. Which might just turn certain people off. Technically, probably not more than the amount of pink or gray used in the quilt? It's just that yellow has a way of shining very bright and bold in whatever spot it's used in.

Loving this texture
Oh well! You know me. I've been bird dogging the color yellow ever since I ran out of interest in pursuing the oldie moldy greens {and after that, the color orange which somehow didn't inspire much of anything}. It's a surprisingly hard color to play with. So bright and sunny, you'd think it would be easy breezy, but it can quickly look fake or hard in quilts. I don't usually love combining it with black or gray. Hmmm... Still pondering. This is probably my best effort yet, though I do intend to keep working with the color from many as many different angles as I can imagine. 

In an interesting twist, the free-style Baptist fan stitching looks especially great here. Don't you agree that the yellow and white checks here just soak up the comfy vibe from the repeat stitched arcs?  Will have to remember this for future quilting endeavors. Don't bother getting too fussy with the stitching when it comes to yellow...

The free-hand Baptist fan look
So...., you're probably not surprised to hear that this stash tote has been extremely full for a long time now. I buy the fabric {or have it donated to me} and then only tend to use little bits and pieces. It's a wonderful, warm and cheery spark in quilts, but alas, a little bit usually goes a very long ways. 

The problem is, there's a lot and I'm tired of the lid not wanting to close properly. I've been seriously trying to work toward winnowing down the sheer amount without throwing anything away. Again and again, I make a quilt and then toss a thick stack of yellow fabric right back into the totes.*sigh  I've been putting it on the backs of quilts and that helps a bit. Truly. Must do something about this fabric that is starting to get so stale-dated that it's starting to get on my nerves!

The first go-round, before borders
I don't know if you can tell from the pictures, but the shades in this quilt top are more along the lines of 'cheddar'. Deeper, richer, orangish shades of yellow. Which I love! Might be my most favorite version of yellow, this cheddar thing. At this point {with the layout in above picture}, I could have probably said 'Ta-da! It's a finish' and gladly moved on. This quilt though.... it just kept nagging at me for a border. For more attention. Something simple, right? You're not really just gonna slap some blocks together and waltz away?

It's too big for a proper picture!
Right....  See how well I'll sleep after that happens! As most of you know, I have a penchant for half square triangles, especially in quilts. Or borders in quilts. Thinking along the lines of KISS, I cut up pretty much all that was left of the blue fabrics from the original stack, added a cut-up plaid shirt and rummaged around for complimentary yellows and just pretty much went with the flow. Some of these were cheddar shades and others, more of a yellow gold or gold brown. Whatever it takes as long as it blended well.

Had to change out the cornerstones in the center
Then, after I had the border idea starting to take shape, I remembered to double check my measurements. Yeah. About that. That's when I had to make a judgment call on whether or not to severely chop into the last hst unit on each vertical border? Or perhaps add another small strip of 'coping' border before sewing on the hst border.

Lillabelle is a completed quilt top!
I fell down on the side of adding a coping border, choosing a very late 90's strippy floral print. Easy enough to fussy cut it to meet the correct measurements and hopefully see it 'disappear' into the overall scheme of things. I should mention here that it was 'close' to correct measurements. Since I wasn't intending to trim down all those hst's, ha! I knew there could be a certain amount of 'fudging' that probably needed to happen anyway. Just didn't want to lose three-fourths of a  5 1/2" hst on this particular quilt! And don't ask me why it's okay on some quilts and not others 'cuz I really don't know....

With the coping borders added to top and bottom of the quilt, I went ahead and sewed on the hst borders to the vertical sides of the quilt too. Measurements for the top and bottom hst repeats looked good, so no additional coping borders needed. Woohoo! Moving on!

While I was auditioning the hst borders for the top and bottom {something I often do for the sake of good color transition from light blue hsts to darker hsts etc.}, I reluctantly decided that the cream cornerstone squares in the very center of the quilt needed to go. I'm not sure if it made a huge difference to the look of the quilt, but having those blue squares inserted instead of the cream just makes me much, much happier. It's the little things. Hey! It only took an hour or so to seamrip out and change over. 'Cuz of course I ended up sewing part of the quilt right into the new seams.*groan.... 

A small, almost hidden coping strip
Hst borders successfully figured out, I was left with one last question. Was it done now? Well no, the quilt wanted more yellow. Can you believe that? Personally, I thought we were parked a little too close to the corner of 'overdone' and 'tacky' and you know how that goes. Nobody will ever want the quilt except for grandma with the bad eyesight. 

That stash tote though!! Might as well take advantage of this opportunity. And so it happened. A scrappy pieced 3 1/2" addition of more yellow to the outside border of the quilt, making it 85 1/2" x 97 1/2". I do think that it served to emphasize the old fashioned vibe of the entire quilt somehow. Could it have actually toned things down? I know, I know. That doesn't even make sense. How could adding MORE of the overblown, in-your-face yellow simultaneously give off a softer, more delicate energy? Go figure. There are some things that I will never understand and that's perfectly okay. I'm still learning and that's the most fun of all!

Enjoying this look!
More questions for the quilt history:

6. When do you normally quilt? Time of day, year?
Such an interesting question. I am not a morning person on any day of the year, so the quilting process that takes place in the quilt room is more likely to be late afternoons {depending on my schedule}. Or, if that doesn't work out, my best, most efficient quilting time is immediately after dinner. Hand quilting takes place at about 9:00 - 11:30 pm while I'm curled up in the corner of the couch, winding down from the day. Perhaps, if I'm lucky, for several hours in late afternoon and evenings on most Sundays. I obviously quilt all year long, but like most quilters, more intensely during the fall and winter months. 

7. Do you belong to a quilters' guild or club? If so, for how long? What groups?
Nope, never belonged to a quilters' guild, for many, varied reasons. Either I was comfortable with the quilting group I had, or I intimidated by the {thought of a} guild, or it met during a bad time for our schedule, or they didn't have a style that I enjoyed, or whatever. I'm not actively opposed to the idea. The groups that I belonged to were always groups from our church--just us gals getting together with a shared interest during some of the winter months. I'm a bit of an introvert in my own way and this was probably more of a comfort thing than anything else.

Currently {and since prior to 2017}, I am part of an online group I love called AHIQ:Adhoc Improvisational Utility Quilting. It involves loosely structured, group challenge projects headed by Ann from Texas and California and Kaja from the United Kingdom. We've slowed down a lot since inception, but I still find it immensely valuable to my creativity as a whole.

8. Do you know others who quilt in your community or parish?
Years ago I would chat with a lady quilter or two in our community. Usually when we bumped into each other at a quilt show or at the fair. Most of the ones that I knew were about 20+ years older than me with a very different style. 

There has been several quilter friends in our church throughout the years, but the numbers have thinned considerably in the last decade or so. I have found myself seriously dialing down my outwardly expressed enthusiasm for the craft in an effort to not come off as strangely obsessed and/or fixated. Uggh. So exhausting talking about quilting with people who don't care the slightest about the creative journey of it all! {Which makes me sound very snotty.} I have had a  tiny bit of interest in doing the quilt meetings again this winter so that might happen again. Am trying to wrap my brain around a way to make it interesting for all involved, including me, as it does take quite a lot of my time!

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Little Pieces Usually Add Up to Bigger Pieces With Time and Patience

Quilting has been pretty erratic for the past week or so. Lots of applique here and there whenever I have a free moment and so far I have about 60 of the grandma fan blocks stitched down. Been working on them for well over a month. Since I didn't use the proper pattern pieces, the sides of the fan will eventually have to be trimmed to square. It should only increase the wonkiness factor which of course is a big plus for me.

Always more hand work
I've also been working on the layout for Lillabelle. It looks like I'm going to go ahead and do the same thing here that I did with the previous Circle Game quilt. Just want to see how it looks in different colors! Once the center area is sewn together then I will figure out the borders. I'm sure they'll be quite, quite different. 

Getting ready to add the sashings
Finally got Love Apples quilted and first phase of the binding stitched down. I did something a little unusual for me, using the same fabric for binding as used for backing. Nothing else in the stash totes looked remotely good, so why not? It always tends to make the back of the quilt feel more boring {matchy, matchy}, but in this case, I think the texture of the hand quilting will show up and distract from the other issue.

Ready for the hand stitching on the binding
Next up in the hoop is the Roman Stripe quilt, now called 'Chrysalis'. It's not the quilt that I thought would or should be next, but it should be a great no pressure quilt for the time-being. Dog days of summer and all!

Current quilt in the hoop!
I managed to spend some time in the quilt room contemplating the latest AHIQ challenges. There was just something about the first of the year #AHIQColorPalette prompt that didn't 'spark ideas' with me at the time. I think it's because I'm almost always working from a color palette first and then the design second. How to make this prompt work for me in a way that still feels like a challenge?

Another fabric stack
After months of thinking maybe it was just never going to happen, I saw a painting on one of my sisters walls. Hmm... I've worked with a similar palette before and know exactly how tricky this one could be. I love how the flowers in the painting pop against that blue background. They looked so joyful and carefree! The green makes me wince a little, but hopefully I can find the proper amount to use, so as to work hard but not dumb down the look? As per usual, I intend to use only fabrics that are found in my stash, so that pic above is the current fabric pull. Crossing my fingers the design will start to seep into the corners of my brain soon. Mostly I want to end up with something that has the same vibe as the painting, not necessarily a replica of the elements involved. We'll see if that's even possible!

An inspiration pic
More questions for the quilt history coming right up! My answers have been very long and wordy, but feel free to skip it all. This is just for my own amusement and I'm happy for those who choose to follow along!

4. How many quilts have you made in your life? Are there any special times when you made more quilts? When did you make your last quilt? Did you make more quilts when you were younger? If so, why do you make fewer now? Do you make more quilts now? If so, why?

When I go back through the various lists of completed quilts, gifted quilts etc. for the 27-28 years that I've been quilting, the count is at about 230 quilts. Not counting doll quilts or quilted pillows etc. Pretty mind boggling actually! 2013 was the first year that I completed a total of 12 quilts in one year and that number slowly increased until my average a year is now somewhere between 15-18. You can go to my Quilt Gallery to check out the last decade of quilt finishes if you like! 

The quilt stacks are getting a bit out of control!
I tend to complete more quilts in a year when I'm gifting baby quilts {of course} as they are so small and can come together quite quickly. Mostly, I pay more attention to prep work and making the most efficient use of my quilting time than I used to. It's amazing how consciously utilizing that precious time {so, so much better} and having better habits, has paid off for me in the long term. Do you really love quilting? Gotta put the work in or you'll just piddle away your year and never accomplish very much! Working on several different phases of 5-8 quilts all at the same time, I can have finishes on a regular basis throughout the year, keeping my quilty energy going and also, spark all kinds of ideas and solutions. 

A dark corner of the bedroom works good for this quilt stack

My last quilty completion was just last week, another one of my famous {or infamous} tulip quilts. It's not the most complicated quilt ever made around here, but I think you'll agree that it's not a carbon copy of anything else you'll find floating around on the Internet! The 'keepers' get stored in darker areas of the house unless I'm decorating with them. When the piles get too high, then I have to seriously think about which ones I'm ready to send off to another home. 

5. What other crafts do you practice? How does quilting compare with these?

Before the quilting bug hit, I sewed some of my own clothes and also, I enjoyed a little cross-stitch. Sewing clothes was fun when I was young, had a little bit of a 'style', and oh yeah, the body was in better shape. After having kids and trying to hide problem areas, it didn't seem nearly as interesting! Meh! Much better to go try something on and just say yes or no rather than put a lot of time into something and still feel very dissatisfied.

The cross-stitch was also a great hobby for those years before having kids because I never had to worry about the floss containers being dumped out onto the floor or tangled up and dragged off. Another thing that I struggled with after having children, was the big fat oops that happened as a result of too much distraction. And happen it did.... 

As I've said before, the quilting efforts started off slow around here. At the time when I really, seriously started getting into the details of piecing etc., I was feeling desperate for something artsy and crafty to do with my hands and ahem! my brain. Years of young children? You know exactly what I'm talking about! With quilting, I could lose myself in the love of colors and ponder quilting ideas, problems and possible solutions while I was washing dishes or cleaning house. Cross-stitch didn't have design problems, it just was! It was also easier to justify the expense {on our very limited budget} when many times, the intended quilt project was intended to be a gift.

Later on, as my family grew, quilting was an excellent way to fill my time in a positive manner. While waiting on kids during those long practices, tournaments or getting home by curfew, I learned to do something that calmed my mind and helped me to be a better mom and wife. Somehow the hand quilting {especially} was more meditative and therapeutic than anything else that I had ever attempted! At some point, I also recognized something very interesting. My time with the hoop also seemed to be a wonderful time for my teenagers to unexpectedly pop into the living room to have a little chat with mom. I figured out that they didn't feel so much like being under a microscope when I was seemingly 'focused' on a quilt instead of them. Little did they know!

Along with my intense, growing interest in the craft, these were the sorts of things that helped me continue to make space and time for them in our busy lives. With the other crafts, it was really all about the finish, at least in the way that I approached them. Quilting turned my ideas of crafting on its head, helping me to realize that this could be so much more. Even now that my children are grown and raised, I greatly value the calm and clarity that the entire quilting process brings to my life. Yes, I dearly enjoy all the warm, cozy finishes, but more than that, I cherish the gift of getting to play with colorful textiles and doing very good things with my heart and hands!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Another Completed Tulip Quilt!

Here we are, more than halfway through August and I've barely finished my 8th quilt this year! Just not getting as much done this year. You'll probably have a hard time believing this, but I have went almost two weeks now without any hand quilting. Can you sense how itchy my fingers are getting? It was totally worthwhile as we got to see a lot of family, but wowsers. It's always so lovely to come back home!

Glory Be is finished!
It's been a long time since my husband and I have managed to get away together, so we were grateful for the opportunity. Clear up to leaving time though, I was working on this list of quilting things that I didn't want to leaving hanging. You know how it is when you get back. Usually a little hard to jump right back into the rhythm again! Thankfully I had finished up Glory Be just before leaving, but never managed to get it washed and well crumpled like I prefer for pictures. 

So simple yet so interesting!
This quilt was started in early 2020, back when I still thought the world was somewhat sane. lol  Anyway, the project went a little sideways when I somehow messed up the hourglass units intended for the sashing strips. It all came together in spite of the initial challenges and now it's become one of my many favorite quilts. {Is it okay to have stacks of favorites?} 

Keeping the hand quilting very basic as usual....
I adore the unconventional, asymmetrical layout and also, the charm of the oldy moldy star fabric used in the red tulip block backgrounds. How could a fabric be so stale dated, and yet, work so very, very well in the right quilt? Details like this always encourage me to keep on trying!
Looking across
As per usual, the hand quilting is not absolutely marked-on-fabric perfection. I sort of eye-balled the marking lines over the tops of the tulips and here's what you get! Some of the grid work in the sashing looks good and some of it is a bit wonky. Which actually makes it look pretty great to me, so yeah. That does appear to be a 'me' thing these days! 

I was smiling pretty big at the finish of this quilt, it's just so cozy looking. If you've been following me since the beginning of my blogging years, you'll know that 'red, white & blue' quilts used to be kind of a default position for me. I've made several of them through the years though there usually isn't a speck of white in them. More of a cream, tan or brown, and now in this one, a gray-beige? Here's a few of the older ones if you'd like to see. And one more?

Love this block!
In other news, I received an amazing e-mail the other day. Completely made my day! Deborah from Brooklyn NY said that her church hosts a {youth} vacation bible school every summer. Last year {with help} she hosted a workshop using my Autumnal Tulips template. The kids were able to create their own blocks honoring a beloved, long-time member, friend and church gardener. This is the quilt she was able to put together using those blocks! Isn't it fantastic? It sounds like the unveiling was a beautiful event for everyone, and I'm so happy for these kids and their experience! Quilts are incredibly heartwarming and all the more so when you understand the effort and feeling involved in the making. Loving all these happy smiles!

So sweet!
On our vacation, we went to a family wedding where we spent a long weekend having good visits with almost all of my siblings and their children. So many littles! The family just keeps growing and growing! After that, we were able to head north and stay five nights with our oldest son and DIL, plus our youngest son lives in the area as well. We couldn't get enough of our grandkids! Here's a picture of grandpa letting the older girls sit on the excavator for a few minutes before he got back to work. 

While we were there, he dug out a large portion at the front of our sons property. The next time we go visit, the guys intend to build a retaining wall, compact the ground and then lay in gravel for a RV spot and other parking. The rain down there just creates problems and they have pine needles falling all over their driveway too. Makes everything horribly slippery in the winter. While I took a bag of hand applique to keep my hands busy, grandpa was busy working with much bigger and louder equipment. Funny how even a working vacation can be such a good mental break for people of our age and stage in life!

Grandkids are the best!
And now we're on to question #3 in the Quilting History. Here goes!

3. Were there special people or circumstances that encouraged you to begin to quilt? How did you learn to quilt? Who taught you to piece and to quilt? Did you have one special person you learned from, or were there others who influenced your quiltmaking? Where did they learn to quilt? Who else quilted in your family?

As mentioned in the previous question, the circumstances that really encouraged me to pursue quilting was when a group of women in our church started meeting in the winters for quilting. My mom ended up being the ring leader of that when she initiated the first meeting. Basically, everyone took turns talking about their personal knowledge & skills {or lack of} and then we all discussed what was wanted out of the meetings. 

The first year found us making basic exchange blocks for each other in preferred sizes and colors. The next year or two we added in optional blocks for each meeting with an anonymous vote, and then winner-takes-all challenge. At every meeting we would bring books and magazines to share. It was very informal and more 'information gathering' than anything else. Lots and lots of opinions offered! Oh my. We argued and debated 1/4" seams, the benefits of tearing fabric on the grainline, the proper way to put binding on a quilt, plus color matching and every other thing you could think of. If/when someone learned something new about quilting {had taken a class or learned from a book}, they would usually organize a tutorial. Sometimes it was super helpful and other times, it felt like the quilting police were busy establishing the RULES. In this way, we taught each other and ourselves to quilt! Whatever and however we learned, it was new skills and/or tips to add to our quilting toolbox.

During this time, my husband and I moved away to Redmond, Oregon. I was starting to branch out a little and get more adventuresome. The library had become my best friend and I was pretty much inhaling everything I could learn about layouts and setting individually sewn blocks together. How to deal with blocks that ended up being 1/2" smaller than others and how to successfully sew colors together that clashed. It was a area rich in quilting influences, quilt stores and an awesome outdoor quilt show in the summertime. 

One of moms discarded projects that I rescued
During the few short years in Oregon, I desperately missed our winter quilting meetings but didn't have the confidence to join a local quilting guild. In an effort to keep learning, I begged all my family for abandoned quilt projects to experiment with and slowly started challenging myself to learn new important-to-me skills on my own--like applique and hand quilting.

 The applique I painstakingly learned on my own--all different methods, mostly from book and pattern instructions. It was absolutely trial and error and I hated most of the methods. Ughh. So frustrating! Finally I settled on a favorite. That, funnily enough, from a quilt shop owner just telling me tips and tricks for plain old needle-turn applique! She was a little impatient with endless questions but honestly, the very best help. Very matter of fact. She thought it was easy and absolutely nothing to be scared of. Buck up. That sort of thing. I still think of her fondly.

The first person to teach me about hand quilting was a cousin, doing me a big favor. She worked in a quilt store and considered herself to be quite artsy! She was very precise in her instruction though she seemed very doubtful of my ability to ever flourish in the craft. Kudos to her though, she was very patient in teaching me how to get started and properly tie off my threads etc. I don't necessarily do things the way that she taught me, but hey! She got me started! 

Another friend {a mother figure} had learned from her aunts, mother and sisters in quilting-bee style gatherings. She was not super perfect as to her stitching length {which I adored}, but preferred feather patterns etc. and was more comfortable quilting from a huge floor frame. Mostly she just talked about quilting and her finishes were few and far between. Because my husband and I visited with her often, I consider her a big influence in encouraging me to keep trying with the hand quilting. Don't worry about it being perfect. Enjoy the outcome. Hand quilting is slow but it's so rewarding etc., etc.. Looking back, I honestly think she would have had more fun with a wholecloth quilt, she was that disinterested in anything but the hand stitching!

A mystery quilt with terrible looking trees
The person who probably made the most impact on my future hand quilting efforts was a friend in our church who had learned the basics from her mom. She pretty much forced me to help hand quilt on the church raffle quilt though I frantically assured her I had barely started learning. No matter. Everyone was helping and that was that. Everyone's stitching was to be gratefully received and at the end of my miserable week of stitching and ripping out, stitching and ripping out, I could finally see and feel real progress.*sigh  So painful. I kinda hated her during that moment of my life--for her bossiness, pushiness and general lack of compassion towards my quilting insecurities, but later on.... Yeah. I could totally see the real value of what she did for me! The funny thing was, she ended up years later with a professional quilting machine she adores and I am the one still with a hoop in my lap!

A Round Robin quilt. I made the 4 center blocks
and added the outside green scalloped border
When I moved back to Washington, the attendance at the winter quilting meetings had dwindled quite a bit. Mom had moved on to a project a year sort of theme, in similar-but-different outcomes. She intentionally set out to 'teach' something new with every project and we found ourselves making mystery quilts, round robin quilts, and whatever else she conjured up. I helped proofread the instructions she would type up and walk through the intent of the new projects in advance of the first meetings. We were an eclectic group of women with many different approaches to our quilting, but the camaraderie was a beautiful thing that I quite frankly treasured. This went on till about 2011 when finally, there just wasn't enough interest to continue. 

My grandma quilted, though I was too young to learn anything but the love of quilts from her. All of my sisters started out quilting, but now it's just me and mom and as you know, mom had a years-long hiatus. I started this blog in 2010 in an effort to have people to chat with about our shared love of quilting. People who are genuinely interested in quilting and not those whom you can obviously see their eyes glazing over in deep boredom! Lots and lots of influences and challenges from other Internet connected quilters through the years, the fun never stops!

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Flower Power is a Completed Quilt Top!

One of the things that I was determined to accomplish in the past week, was to get to completed quilt top stage with 'Flower Power'. There was an idea or two from the initial scribblings, but in the end, as usual, the quilt made all the decisions.

Improv. strip sets
First up, there needed to be some space between at least some of the applique blocks. It was easy to decide on some easy, breezy improv. strip rows. As you can see, I made short little stacks of sewn together, free cut strips. Not too off kilter, but just enough to give a bit of character.

The reason you cut strips longer than needed
The wonkiness can usually be increased or decreased depending on how the strip set is lined up for cutting. For these rows, I decided to let it be a subtle thing. In determining the colors for those rows, I have to say, it was mostly about percentages. Less than 10% of the darker blue and darker pink/reds and lots and lots of the very light pinks and blue/white shirting stripe. I wanted a very light, airy feel to that part of the quilt in order to help make the moody blues look richer, and hopefully, *fingers crossed!, make the tulips pop even more. Mission accomplished!

Not quite done it says.....
The entire color palette was based off of the floral fabric pictured below. Here I was auditioning the fabrics for a possible outer border. Such a bad idea. Uggh! The quilt practically screamed in agony. It was so sad. I seriously longed for a scrappy sawtooth border before adding the floral 'cuz it just seemed meant to be, but yeah. Sometimes you just have to move on.

This is not a good look
There was not going to be any floral anywhere and the sawtooth border idea flamed out quickly too. Name a single color that might possibly work well in the pieced border position without seriously challenging the tulips preeminence? Uh huh. I couldn't do it either.

Keeping the borders intersting
So there you have it. Super simple border addition or nothing at all. You know me, the gotta-love-a-good-border-gal. I had to do something! In the final ruminations, I impulsively started cutting up all the leftover blue fabric pieces. Anything that was 4 1/2" wide or better was cut and eventually joined into long pieces for the outer border. 

Feels good to use up the scraps
I like the subtle detail in piecing of the blue solids verses the one dark striped shirting. Just makes it a little bit more interesting than if it was cut and sewn on out of a single yardage. And I basically used up all of the leftover shirting too! Score!

Love the look of the improv. strips
In fact, there was a total of three upcycled shirting fabrics used in this quilt, which felt kind of awesome. The darkest stripe had to be soaked for close to three days prior to cutting anything out as it bled and bled and bled. Gotta watch out for that with the darker hues!

Looking cozy
In the end, this quilt ended up looking similar, but different, to the original inspiration. My border {almost not a border} makes the tulips float a little. It gives them space to breathe and feel comfy. I love how Flower Power definitely also looks like a sibling to LeAnn's lovely quilt. So sweet! We each took elements of the original to make up our own version, while striving to keep a lot of the first quilts joy and charm intact. Obviously, the strings in my quilt are in the sashing rows rather than the tulips, but the scrappy vibe still remains true. And no, we didn't come up with this idea together. We just both happen to have a great love for antique/vintage quilts and often use these as a jump start for our own projects.

Flower Power quilt top is finished!
53 1/2" x 68 1/2"
Another item checked off the list is the Lillabelle applique blocks. Only nine blocks total, so it didn't really take an enormous amount of time. Very happy to have them moved on to the next phase though, 'cuz I really am soaking up the yummy color palette on this one!

All ready for the next step!
Next up for a quilt top finish is the Roman Stripe quilt after the spontaneous applique renovations. I have been feeling so very blah about this top. No ambition whatsoever to get it in the hoop and bring it to a true blue finish. Now that this applique has jumped on, all of a sudden I'm thinking it might could be next in line?

Looking so much happier!
What? The applique is over the top, silly and really kind of awkwardly primitive looking. Still, it fills my heart with gladness and makes me smile just looking at it. Will others feel the same? Who knows. The important thing is, I feel lots better about getting it to a finish someday and potentially gifting it. Yay! 'Chrysalis' is starting to come into it's own!
Chrysalis applique detail
The current quilt in the hoop is actually Love Apples. I know. It's only been in the drawers for a year or so! I just wanted needed something virtually decision-free in regards to the hand quilting. This definitely does the trick. Free-style Baptist fans are such a good over-all texture to any quilt that won't necessarily soak up detailed, fussy looking quilting stitches. 

Latest quilt in the hoop
This is one of those quilts started in an attempt to use up something abandoned by another quilt. In this case, it was the peachy pink scrappy rows that didn't have a home any longer. Many of you would have probably dumped them entirely, but I just didn't feel right about that. Too many good fabrics involved! Before the hoop, the overall effect is a fairly gawky looking quilt, but wow! Look at how quickly things change with the Baptist Fans emerging. Now, all of a sudden, it's looking like it could be one of your best friends snuggled up for a good coze!

Love Apples getting sandwiched and pinned
Okay, on to those Individual Quilting History questions I'm trying to answer with every post this summer.

2. At what age did you begin to learn to sew? Do you remember at what age you began to piece? When did you learn to quilt? How old were you when you made your first quilt? Why did you learn at this particular time? Were there any special difficulties?

I learned to sew from my mother somewhere around the age of 10, perhaps younger. For sure, I learned to sew on buttons etc. before she ever introduced me to the sewing machine work. By the time I was a teenager, I could competently sew my own dresses etc. It was mostly due to her endless patience in answering my questions and always encouraging me to try every more complicated patterns! As explained in the previous question, I first started quilting when I was in my early 20's. The absolute first quilt was a baby coverlet and the very first, full sized real quilt, a rail fence style quilt. Then I promptly returned to making very simple baby coverlets.

I didn't truly learn to 'piece' until later on. In the late 90's, when I was 28 years old, a few ladies that I spent time with asked for pieced blocks for a wedding quilt. That effort mostly baffled and frustrated me, as I was still using scissors to cut things out. It did lead to making a couple small children sized quilts, mostly with big squares of denim, corduroy and/or flannel!  Then, when I was 29, there was a group of ladies in our church who started gathering to swap quilt blocks and/or make 'challenge' blocks in the winter months. 

Home Sweet Home
My mother promptly bought me a rotary cutter and rotary mat for Christmas. Woohoo!! Quilt piecing horizons were flung wide open! Except that I was a fraidy cat and kept all piecing efforts very basic for the longest time. So dumb. Squares and rectangles for me, thank you very much! 

The quilt in the picture above, was probably the fourth full sized quilt I had ever finished. This was 2001 when I was 31 years old. It was the first time for making the effort to piece blocks to join in with any swap or challenge blocks that I had won. And.... this was my first real attempt at making blocks that included triangle shapes. Well, I had to use a triangle shape to make my Home Sweet Home challenge block didn't I? And then, notice the house blocks in the borders? Yep! I was inspired to add little town houses and cottages along the edges of the quilt. Uh huh. The border stuff happened early on too. 

This is also when I started seriously dabbling in my love for applique. Playing with different techniques. Along with the little stars and heart block, every single house 'challenge' block has a little applique addition {or two} done by yours truly. Some people had already added a bit of applique, but I didn't let that stop me from adding more where I thought needed! I had to do it on the down-low too, 'cuz some of those gals would have been offended. My thinking was, 'The blocks are mine now. I can do with them what I want!'

I'm super glad that this quilt is still hanging around as it ended up being a showcase for everything that was being learned up to this point. Making and swapping blocks with others definitely pushed me to learn good coping strategies in regards to ending up with equal sized blocks. Also, it quickly pushed me into learning how to make individual block colors play nice with all the other tricky colors in a group setting. Getting those blocks wrangled into an interesting looking quilt pushed and shoved me to get the whole finished-quilt thing properly figured out.*whew!  No more sewing three sides of a quilt and turning it inside out and putting ties in to hold things down! How to make things lay flat and square. What batting to use. How to make and sew on binding! Things like that. Good times!