Monday, February 24, 2020

Moving Things Along

Directions From a Local is a true blue finish! The hand quilting went very quickly and then it was just a matter of getting the binding properly attached. A quick look through the stash totes, and no worries, plenty of fabric to choose from for binding possibilities. 
Directions From a Local is finished!
Not surprisingly, I ended up sewing scrappy pieces of odd blue fabric together for the binding as that color seemed to have the very best effect. Some of the fabrics had been in the totes for a very long time and I had begun to question why they were ever acquired. But that's exactly why we buy the odd/interesting/unusual fabrics as our instincts nudge us to. So they are there waiting for us when the perfect opportunity crops up!
Love the feel of this quilt
Most of the fabrics used in this quilt are not solids, but a very subtle print or tone on tone. One fabric in particular, the brown and white gingham, is not 100% cotton and seemed to want to warple and wave at the slightest provocation. Still, I absolutely love the vintage look of it mixed in with the quilt.
So happy with the fix-it corners in the middle...
The choppy, cut up corners of the log cabin are a result of sewing the first part of the quilt together without ever measuring strip lengths. Just sewing them on and cutting the excess off at the corners. Eventually there came a time when the quilt began to misbehave entirely too much and it just had to be addressed. I am so in love with how that turned out, there is absolutely nothing to regret!
Hard to see, but some of these fabrics are very sweet...
This quilt was started as an attempt to recreate or rather, interepret, one of the lovely quilts in 'Unconventional and Unexpected' by Roderick Kiracofe. You are probably so very tired of hearing me talk about this book, but it is one of the best buys that I have ever made, quilting-wise. Still finding lots and lots of inspiration within the covers of this book, sometimes just enough to pull me out of a slight mojo slump.
Probably could have added more stitching, but I wanted
to keep it loose and drapey....
I am still kind of in awe that these colors came out of my quilting room, much less, that they all came together in such a successful manner. Playing with color is one of my very favorite things about quilting. Building a different 'to us' color palette often feels easier when trying to base it off an already finished quilt and using it as the ultimate guide.
Whimsical touch to add the 'white line' piecing
Creating a 'mood' in quilting just feels ridiculously fun too. 'Cuz of course, that's exactly what we're doing. Oh sure, it can be a bit anxiety inducing during the attempt {so many decisions}, but after? If it turns out well? High fives all around!
So happy with the Turn Right arrow effect
The next quilt in the hoop will be Vintage Coxcombs. It's been a finished quilt top for a couple years now and one that lately I've been itching to get into the hoop.
Vintage Coxcombs getting sandwiched and pinned
I actually took the time to pin it between all the rows for machine, stitch-in-the-ditch sewing. Ughh! Takes so very long and it was while I was feeling pretty rotten too. Totally underestimated how much energy I had and how much time it always takes. My general optimism about how easy it would be to get it all ready was probably rooted in the idea that it is completely unacceptable to have an empty hoop. My goodness, however would I survive without a hand quilting project warmed up and ready to go?
Still happy with the pieced backgrounds
The unfortunate saga continues as I discovered when eventually getting back into the sewing room to actually sew. Somehow I totally forgot to engage the dual feed with my special Stitch-in-the-Ditch foot, which basically eliminated the entire walking foot effect as hello? There was no 'walking foot' apparatus engaged. Oh yes. You guessed it. I ended up having to rip out some of my machine stitching and start over. Fun stuff.
Going to keep the hand quilting very simple on this one...
Thankfully I didn't have to rip everything out. Apparently the benefit to quilting with low ebb energy is that I was moving the quilt slower through the machine than normal. Wonder of wonders, that helped everything behave better than it should have/could have. While the stitching didn't end up looking fabulous by any means, the quilt is in the hoop now and there's no looking back. I refuse to be a slave to perfection and choose instead to just pick my battles. Stitching lines meandering a bit over the top of seams? Fine and Dandy. Wavy outside sashing? Time to pull out the seam ripper!

My husband and I are both feeling loads better these days and even got to see our grandkids over the weekend. He will be taking a bit longer to recover to absolute full health, but if spending time with the granddaughters doesn't help accelerate the feel-good endorphins, I don't know what could! Still working on some hand applique when time allows and feeling very optimistic that this is the week we mostly return to a 'normal' routine....

Monday, February 17, 2020

Love Seeing the Abandoned Bits Come Together

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

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Getting Caught Up On the Big Basket Series

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

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

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

Thursday, January 30, 2020

A Tale of Two Applique Quilts

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Always Trying to Get it Figured Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 17, 2020

Finish It Up January

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

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

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

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