Thursday, March 21, 2019

The New Quilt Top Finish and a New Addition To the Family

So I finished up the squirrel project that jumped on board all in a hurry. I can't remember the exact measurements, but it's around 56" x 72"? Something like that. Decent size for a lap quilt for sure.
I Am A Maker quilt top is finished!
It felt good to use parts and pieces that in some cases were over 10 years old. The most complicated new pieced units were half square triangles. Though I used every bit of the parts and pieces with yellow {no matter how green-yellow}, I ended up throwing out other units that had too much green fabric in them. And I didn't use the cut red squares at all, just the coral pink ones. Interesting how it all shakes out in a project like this!
Adding a little bit of applique, of course....
Yes, the applique flowers did end up staying for good. I just cut out similar sizes to what I was auditioning and made sure to add seam allowance. I kept the shapes very simple and naive looking on purpose. This isn't a quilt for fancy schmancy detail.
All the different parts and pieces...
The quilt states that 'I am a maker', but this last week I have been primarily a 'grandma'. Miss Reagan Anne made her appearance on Tuesday morning and we couldn't be more happy. Such a joy to be a grandparents to our sweet little girls!
Sweet little granddaughter
This is a picture her daddy took that I stole off Instagram. For some reason I always forget to take pictures and just concentrate on the snuggling! I love how he took off her little cap so we could see her fuzzy little hair. Ahh... My heart just melts. Since they live just up the road from us, we are trying to help as much as possible in the first weeks of trying to adjust to the new 'normal'. Don't expect to see much quilting out of me for a little while. Priorities!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Out With the Old, In With the New

This quilt was a great choice for putting in the hoop this time of year. I don't even remember the last time I had this much cabin fever! It's not that we've been housebound or been without electric etc., it must just be the long, never-ending winter getting to me. I'd obviously never survive living in Alaska like some of you hardy souls who seem to do just fine up north!
Improv. Postage Stamp Basket quilt is a finish!
Improv. Postage Stamp Baskets quilt has been like a breath of fresh air. The word I keep coming back to when thinking about this quilt is 'restful'. So very relaxing to stitch on this quilt. It's been much needed! I can't wait to throw this one one the bed and see how serene it makes our bedroom feel.
A little bit of basket handle stitching in the setting triangles
 As usual, the decision about what to stitch in the sashing part of the quilt was quite painful. I feel incredibly un-creative about sashings and one-fabric borders and just generally sort of panic at the thought. This time I went with my gut {although when do I ever really not do that?} and did what seemed easiest. It definitely helped when I saw that Lucy had made the same choice in her most recent finish. Her work is always so beautiful that no-one could possibly ever complain that she was taking the easy way out!
An odd color palette for me, but I'm loving it!
Though some say that these postage stamp baskets don't immediately show as baskets, I kinda like the subtle impact of the design. They were made in the improv. style which means they are not perfect at all. All the strings are varied in size which makes me like them all the more.
There's just something about hand quilting....
Originally I thought to mix up the baskets so that each block had baskets with all vertical strings or all horizontal strings. That just created a very confusing medley of conflicting blues and greens and so it seemed safer to keep all stringy baskets the same per block. In the end I found that I rather liked the way those aligning strings met up at the cornerstones, creating an indirect, secondary design. Not hugely impactful, but still, very noticeable when examining close up, such as when it might be lying across someones lap.
It acts like it needs a snuggle....
The only thing that I'm not sure that I like love, is the half cornerstone blocks on the outside of the quilt. They were deliberately chosen to sort of fade away, in direct contrast to the darker fussy-cut flower ones. There's just a question niggling at me, because it almost seems to leave the edges of the quilt looking undone. Or does it? I do love questions and mysteries in a quilt! Oh well! Keeping that in mind, I just doubled down on that particular thought and made sure the binding was extremely soft looking and wouldn't detract in any way from those busy, bossy looking baskets. Overall this quilt would readily go right into the success column, if I had any such thing. Not exactly what I started out thinking it would end up looking like, but now? I just want to cuddle up and take a nap with it. That's a very good vibe in my humble opinion...
Folksy Flower Medallion next up in the hoop!
Next up in the hoop is the Folksy Flower medallion quilt. It was started sometime in 2015 and was in the works for about two years before reaching quilt top completion. The original inspiration was lost to me for the entire time that I was working on the quilt. It was terribly frustrating when starting this quilt as I wanted to reference the picture my brain was trying to re-imagine. Though I searched and searched, I could not find this stupid picture that I KNEW had been saved somewhere in my Pinterest boards! It wasn't until the other day that I finally stumbled upon the picture, way down in the bottom of one of my boards! So crazy to see the similarities between the inspiration and my ultimate interpretation. And I wonder, what would have been different if I could have been viewing the picture all along?
Looking at the center
I do think it very important to give credit to whatever and wherever our original inspiration comes from. If we can. Sometimes we really don't have a clear answer for that and that's probably okay as long as we aren't trying to gain profit from a potential 'copy cat' design. Maybe our idea is even a conglomeration of lots of stimuli. Being awash in social media influence definitely exposes up to lots and lots of different ideas, designs and approaches. Perhaps the seed of an idea is buried so far in our subconscious we begin to think the idea is completely unique to us! You know that could happen to any one of us!  Regardless, I find it fascinating to see how far inspiration can take us into our own spin on things, then turn around and view the two results side by side. 
Getting started with the stitching!
I wondered if this quilt was a little bit too fall-ish to be working on this time of year, but no. We're doing just fine. So far there's very little precision involved in the stitching and that always makes me feel happier to dive into the hand quilting towards the end of the day. Did you notice that one of my clamps on the hoop is cracked? I'm treating it very gently and hoping it holds up for a very long time. Interestingly enough, that's the best side to slide over the bulk of the applique work. Less stress on those stitches when it's not as tight!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Baby Quilts and a {Sanity Saving} Random Sampler Attempt

Making baby quilts is generally fun and easy peasy. This time I allowed it to stress me out a little because I am making 'for a special someone'. Not that I asked them for specific colors etc., but still, I'd like to feel that they will appreciate the final product.
Baby boy quilt
I used this photo as inspiration for my baby 'boy' quilt, but you know me. I had to add in a printed fabric somewhere. I also changed the look of the star and went with a sawtooth style instead of the pointier version seen in the original. Then later, just because I wanted to.... That little panda family didn't look quite right without older sister being included. Where's our little Lucy? 

I believe this is called Broderie Perse when you cut an element out of fabric and use it for your applique shape. The whole thing looks so sweet up close, but from a distance muddies up the look of the star a little too much. So disappointing. It might have to be unpicked and stitched onto the label at the back of the quilt whenever I get to that point. I've told you and told you before, that sometimes it's possible to go too far with applique additions? Now do you believe me?*sigh
With an added panda bear...
The little girl quilt {I had to have both ready to go just in case!}, was made out of leftover strings from the Dried Flowers quilt that I'm still working on. Trust me to get the secondary project finished up before the original one is even close. Though I measured and cut the string strips to equal sizes, it's obvious there is a bit too much 'ease' in the quilt. Hope it doesn't make machine quilting a nightmare. As you can see, a bit of applique jumped on the front of this one too...
Baby girl quilt
After wading through the baby quilt dilemmas I felt stuck in limbo land--not wanting to sandwich and quilt either one before I find out for sure which is needed! So the very next day I woke up and it was snowing. Ughh. No more snow! I think something inside me sort of snapped because I immediately headed for the orphan totes and started digging out parts and pieces. Yep, it's one of those 'squirrel' quilts that pop up out of nowhere.
Leftover sashing bits
Seriously, though Why not have a little fun with something that has zero expectations? I put together a nice little pile of leftovers, including blocks, fabric squares and hst units. Anything in this color palette was fair game. And don't ask me why these colors were chosen. It just was.
Orphaned blocks, units and fabric squares
I sewed leftover sashing bits together, finally put the letters for I am a maker into one unit {originally intended for the back of another quilt}, made four patch blocks, sewed units of leftover squares together, and just generally doodled with all the available bits. Some of these pieces could have long ago went into the scrap bin, but it's terribly hard for me to toss similar sized stacks of squares. What a waste of time and effort!
Sewing together the parts
While working along, I quickly realized that I was trying to force it into rows much like the Patchwork Doodle went together last year. No! Not going to work in this case at all. This is more of a Random Sampler, utility sort of quilt, going together like a big 'ol {fiber} puzzle.
Trying to figure out a piecing layout
The next day, I took everything off the wall and started over. This time I approached the layout exactly in a random sampler way, taking care not to gallop off into medallion quilt territory--my current comfort zone. I tried to work quickly and intuitively, mostly aiming for a measure of balance and calm. Charting the unknown is hard enough without over thinking things, lets not go there!
Starting over
Ahh... This felt so much better. Okay. Time to divide the quilt into sections and address them one at a time. I started on the left side of the quilt, at the top floral fabric surrounding 'I am a maker' and have worked through to the section directly underneath that middle statement. That leaves me with two sections left to figure out: straight across the top of the quilt and down the entire right side. Though I want to fill in the quilt adequately, I also don't want to spend weeks on this particular quilt. Honestly, the only real goal is to have fun and not let the sewing get too complicated.
Sewing the pieces together in four sections
I always have to laugh when my readers wonder where the applique is going to go in the latest quilty attempt. Why does everything have to have applique? Not every quilt looks good with it {as my baby boy quilt earlier in the post suggests}. But yeah... you know me too well. I almost always have to at least try....
Contemplating some applique
I have to admit, the flowers did made my heart go pitter patter immediately. If they end up staying, then I have to unpick the applique circles from the centers of those blocks. That might be a deal breaker.*wink  I kind of liked having four of those red circles contrasting with all the busy piecework in the rest of the quilt  too. Hmm... When those are gone, it does changes the entire balance. Probably gonna have to finish filling in {sewing} the top and right side of the quilt before I make a final decision. Some it just comes down to what we like best, no other rhyme or reason required! Linking up to Wendy's Peacock Party!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Lattice Quilt at the Quilt Top Finish Stage!

So this is what I finished up with for the #AHIQRED and combined #UANDUQAL challenges. It's been difficult to get a good photograph of this top as all the very lightest of the green/blues and grey fabrics end up looking white. In reality, there is only one fabric used that is truly white based.
Red is a Neutral challenge quilt top
I spent quite a long time rearranging all the blocks and trying to get a good 'flow' going. There was a brief space of time where I almost tossed one complete row of blocks just because the corners weren't playing nice. That's the inherit risk of making limited repeats of each block--how hard it is in getting similar blocks to cozy up to one another in a sort of seamless look.
Looking a little closer....
Finally it got to the point where it felt like this is it! Overall, I'm happy with the shade changes in the background of the quilt and the lattice design definitely keeps the eye happily moving around the entire quilt. That's always an encouraging sign!
Really enjoying the background color variation
Now that it is sewn together, there is a velvety look that has sort of surprised me. I was really crossing my fingers concerning how smart it was to try marring tomato reds with deep crimson and cherry reds. In actuality, it seems to help create layers of interest and a lovely, subtle background play. At least in my eyes! I suppose I'm too deeply invested in the idea of making truly scrappy quilts to want single fabric backgrounds for every single quilt.  It's even hard to believe how much the more obvious printed background fabrics disturbed me before, as now they are just part and parcel of the whole.
Looking at the upside down view
Though picture number one is what I consider the 'right' view of this quilt, I turned it upside down and looked at it from another angle. It seems like everything works nicely from this view as well. Just asking out of curiosity, but what do you think? Did I make a mistake adding the large floral gray print like a couple of my kids questioned? Does it need a border? Does the red truly function as a neutral? The more I thought about that question, the more confused I was!

I'm very much inclined to call it good, fold it up and put it away until it's time for quilting. As always, being directly inspired by the 'Unconventional and Unexpected' quilts is always a wonderful adventure. I especially love that there's no way to know what the outcome will be until we're finally staring at the finished product! So very glad that I went with my instincts and drew directly from the depths of the stash totes, including using fabrics that were marginally {or completely} 'iffy' in terms of that sly, sneaky question our creative subconscious loves to throw out: 'Is this a good idea?' So much to learn about playing with fabric and color. On to the next quilt.....! 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Getting Started On the String Blocks

Lori, over at Humble Quilts is having a Stringalong this year. I missed the first linkup even though all the scraps were sorted and the papers were cut to size. This month I was determined not to allow procrastination to win.
String blocks
There's something about foundation piecing that just gets under my skin. It's super easy, the end results are wonderfully accurate and I thoroughly dislike doing it. But I have my reasons for why I determined to follow that piecing path for this particular quilt. So be it. This little stack of string blocks represents approximately a quarter of all the string blocks that will be needed for my projected string quilt {a decent start}. It will have every other blocks of some yet-to-be-determined fabric as well. 
The last basketball season for this  #4
Saturday afternoon found us in Tacoma. We were there watching our sons last high school basketball game as they lost out in a regional game. He wanted to choose #4 for his uniform, because it's the same number his older brother wore. It's been great fun watching him play, but wowsers, this mama is a wee bit tired of the basketball whirlwind of games! He's pretty much decided to bail on baseball this year and will probably end up joining the tennis team 'just for fun' instead. Senior year is tough. We are just enjoying watching him grow up and become the wonderful young man that he is. I'm really curious though, wondering if he was the only kid to bring along a quilt for the bus ride? Ah... a kid after my own heart...

Friday, February 22, 2019

I Love Applique. The Round-up Post You Didn't Know You Were Waiting For

Just kidding. You can skip the reading and just skim the pictures. It's no secret that I love applique. If it even comes close to a time where all the applique projects are finished up, then you can be sure that I'm quite, quite busy in the quilt room trying to get yet another one prepped and ready to go! This time of year it is especially nice be doing hand work while enjoying the gorgeous afternoon lighting, a direct result of all the gorgeous snow on the hills and mountains around us.
Just a little ways downriver from where we live....
I can't take credit for that fantastic picture above, but that, my dear friends is often our winter wonderland this time of year. Isn't it beautiful? Though I'm starting to get weary of winter, it's hard to be upset by our views. You can see more of my sisters very talented photography over here if you like, she's really got the skills. In the meantime, I humbly asked to borrow her photo as mine are not proving to be very exciting. Ha! Not telling you anything you didn't already know!
Dried Flowers progress
I went ahead and attacked Dried Flowers {which looks way better than the photo might indicate}, getting the string columns all figured out and attached to the flower blocks. There ended up being a little more of the blue/greens included than I originally thought would be necessary. Still, I'm fairly happy with the results, especially the old time look of the scrappy lighter strips. It took me a couple days to {cut and} sew the large slab blocks together and as always, I was perturbed by all the excess. No matter. I simply drew up a simple baby quilt to use up all the leftover narrow string columns. It just hurts to throw away that much fabric!
An applique addition
Now that the three largest parts of the quilt are sewn together, then it was time to address the horizontal applique strips. I've been envisioning these in my head for quite awhile and was puzzling over how to put it all together. For now, I'm only planning on sewing two of these and placing them between those larger sewn units.When the hand work is finished, they will be stitched onto darker strips and then, possibly? extended into the outer border by a smidge. Still working out the details of that.

I'm pretty sure the original applique design was sparked by a piece of fabric somewhere along the line, but at this point I'm not sure if it was in a quilt or maybe even a shirt that I've worn. It was something that sparked an interest because of the repeating pattern, not because of the specifics of the flowers or leaves. Those elements were drawn and redrawn freehand, until I ended up with something that I feel will work and blend well with the rest of the quilt. Amazing how frustrating it can be to draw simple leaves and/or flowers sometimes! Pretty much the only thing that you can be sure of is when the drawing looks terrible and when the shapes aren't right! Perseverance though, and eventually you end up with something you're originally shooting for. More or less....
Antique Crows before
Speaking of which... Sometimes you just can't get it right no matter how you try! I previously failed to mention that the two bird templates used in this Antique Crow quilt were directly from Cheri Payne Saffiote's 'Wednesday's Best' pattern book. After drawing several different bird fails, I went looking for the person who did the best primitive-look birds ever. She was an incredible Folk Art/Primitive quilt inspiration and always will be. Wouldn't want to deny her any well deserved credit!

Already folded up and put away in the drawers, that quilt just kept nagging at me. Every time I looked at the pics from the last post, the missing leaves on the largest flowers bugged me. Okay, fine. FINE. Have it your way!! And now the largest flowers have their leaves and all is well again. The main reason I left them off in the first place was because all that green felt 'too bright'. Well, now it has more of it and suddenly, it looks more 'right'. Go figure. 
Antique Crows after
Another one of the applique projects lurking in the background is the Melon Patch blocks. They've been around now for a couple years. There are 20 blocks with four stacks of four petals per block. The other day I grabbed the third layer of petals and assigned them to appropriately matching/blending top petals. This means that I am almost ready to start stitching on them. Some day. Do not lose hope. Eventually this forever, slow, mind-numbingly tedious quilt will be seen to be making progress once again. It's really too late to back out now.
Melon Patch petals
And that quilt might be the main reason I have not started on the quilt below, even though I have have fabric picked out and the photo bookmarked for approximately three years.*sigh  One of my aunts {since deceased} bought me this book years and years ago. The Oak Leaf quilt was my favorite quilt in the entire book and I've been quite determined to sew it together one day. Well.... I've recently decided that those particular fabrics stacked up together and simply languishing in a tote {for three years} makes me a little queasy. I could be doing something good with them! There has got to be an answer somewhere for how to accomplish this without marking and cutting out the oak leaves.... and then leaving them languishing in the applique bag for another three to five years.*sigh again

You see my dilemma? I really feel that I want to make this quilt as it will be a lovely reminder of one of my favorite aunts; however, it's also clear that my get-up-and-go is not going anywhere very fast these days. At least as it pertains to this project. So the latest solution I have stumbled upon is to take out the entire center of the quilt and maybe do a centerpiece of sorts. Keep it basic, but intriguing enough so that it will hold my interest, then only sew two rows of those leaf blocks. It might sound crazy to you, but knocking the number of applique blocks down to 40 from 49, sounds a bit more manageable to me. We'll see. This is still in the contemplation stage for sure. I might even do an every other oak leaf block thus cutting the applique down even further! Do I really need more medallion quilts? Sure, why not? And speaking of medallions....
Oak Leaves quilt pondering
When a person loves applique like I do, it's easy to see possibilities everywhere. Do you remember the large cut-out circle from another applique project I posted about back in January?  Well, the other evening when I was hand quilting, this flower shape on the background fabric specifically caught my eye. It's there inside the bottom basket handle, partially cut off if you want to take a look. So my mind starts spinning and I'm thinking about how cool that would look in a quilt. My mind goes to repeating blocks and all those sorts of traditional settings and then, bam! I'm suddenly wondering about taking that large circle cut-out and somehow turning it into one of these gorgeous {similar look} flowers!
Improv. Postage Stamp Basket in the hoop
Can I? Should I? Dare I? Oooh, I just live for these sorts of connections! Once the inspiration was sparked, then I just couldn't hardly wait to get started. But of course, my quilt room is through my sons bedroom and it was late, late in the evening and how rude would that be....  So I had to patiently wait until the next day just to see. And yep! It's going to be a big 'ol seedpod flower for sure. After about 2 hours of drawing and cutting and drawing and cutting, it got to this place.*whew  Those leaves, the proportions of everything.... You certainly didn't expect it to be a walk in the park, now did you?
Seedpod Flower Quilt start
And that's exactly how it works in my crazy, wonderful quilting journey. One thing leads to another and another and then yet another. Lots of work and just 'putting in the time to make things happen', intermixed with wild, fun moments of lightbulb-like inspiration. These squirrel quilts...  So restorative and beneficial to our creative selves when the right one comes along. Too bad we didn't know in advance which ones were most important to pay attention to! Linking up with Wendy's Peacock Party!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

It Finally Has a Real Name Now

We've been having our winter storm weather for the past two weeks. Lots and lots of snow, which makes for gorgeous scenery, and also, whenever it stops snowing, lovely, lovely light shining into the house. Thankfully it looks like it will melt off rather quickly and not stick around for too long. We don't care to drive in those conditions on a regular basis!
Antique Crows a completed quilt top now!
Feeling quite home bound when the snow is doing its worst, I have dedicated myself to finishing up the quilt top for Quarter Circles, hereafter to be called 'Antique Crows'. I'm not sure when this one was officially started, but I think it was sometime in 2017? As all the blocks were applique, it's something that I took time with working on, never making it a top priority. And in fact, this project was more of a 'squirrel' project as the little cream quarter circles were cut-outs from behind the applique on a previous quilt. Waste not, want not!
Looking at the top border....
It always amuses me how one quilt project can so extemporaneously spark yet another idea or even, at times, turn into an unplanned series of quilts created with similar elements. The ideas just keep flowing and with this one in particular, two ideas somehow joined together: the chunky New York Beauty blocks {leftover quarter circles} and the interpretation of the Antique Crows applique. So efficient when it works that way!*wink
These blocks just make me smile
The inspiration photo really made an impression on me when first seeing it. I so wanted to add it into one of my quilts some day! How to do that? Start from scratch and design a quilt around the idea? Like a lot of other great ideas, this one was probably better in theory than in actual practice, but whatever, had to try! And this was the quilt it landed on. If you looked at the photo, the whole design was a little bit short for the top border of a quilt, unless perhaps all the pieces were made really large. Putting the entire design in the center of a quilt? Maybe a better idea, but nah! I wanted these blocks to be a unit. Not every quilt is destined to be a medallion style.

So yeah, that's the real reason this particular design ended up being extended lengthwise. All about where I decided to place these larger birds in my quilt. Rather than absolute repeats of the original, I just determined to add on to the 'story'. I'm sure there are a lot of great ways this design could have tinkered with, but this way makes me smile. Plus it feels right for the fabric choices on hand. Lets not forget how important that is!

And just so you know, originally I wanted the crows to be anything but black {just to try something not as traditional looking?}, but, hmm...,  it just didn't make sense. I already had the blocks made for the base of the quilt. That part was NOT changing! No matter which fabric/color I auditioned with, those birds were determined to be made out of the darkest fabric. Okay, fine, have it your way! Who am I to argue with a quilt! In an effort to make that black look a little less stark, I made the smaller birds out of similar fabrics too. That's kinda the rule of thumb. If something stands out a little too much, then simply add more of it. Easy peasy. It's not like there's a lot of black in the quilt otherwise, right?
A close up
So no, its not identical to the original. I'm not one to worry much about accuracy in interpretation, you know that. Its more about successfully translating the feel of it all--that part that resonates so well in our heads for whatever reason. The green stems and leaves are possibly {I'm still considering} a little too florescent looking for my taste, still, they were the only greens that I could find to properly blend with all the other colors. 

Overall, I'd say this was a good ending, somehow keeping with the primitive look while at the same time leaving off most of the dark and broody elements. There was a time that I adored the darker look of most traditional primitive quilts. Now, however, I tend to want something with that same, lovely, lovely naive look {feel?}, but with perhaps a lighter, happier vibe. You know exactly what I'm talking about.
Strips sewn together for Shimmer Quilt
I also ended up sewing together all the strips for Shimmer, the strip quilt that was started during Diane Knotts book blog hop. As usual, I am looking at my fabric choices and wanting to poke my eyes out with a big stick. How could this have been a good idea? Just kidding! I'm not really that much of an emotional basket case. Mostly I'm just a wee bit concerned that I didn't use enough variation in the color palette.  I seem to have this comfort zone of two colors, an accent, and then lots and lots of neutrals that behave themselves and play very nicely in the background.

This is a common theme with me--getting all excited about my original stacks of fabric, cutting into them and then at some point, having a form of buyers remorse. Questioning myself. Doubting everything. Wanting to turn back the clock and make a small correction. Thankfully, that's usually a very brief stage of the process and honestly, it's not even very stressful anymore because I just figure it comes with the territory! If I was a complete and total control freak, it would be easy enough to reload Electric Quilt 7 on my computer and do a computer generation. They say it can be done in color and with actual look-like-the-fabric swatches. Oh my goodness, how boring would that be? Knowing exactly what our quilts would like like before we ever sewed up a single stitch!