Friday, April 7, 2017

Fall Finish

This week, at last, a finish for the fall woodland scene. This is one of those that came from my head. No photo involved---although that would have been extremely helpful.

42" x 35"  The right-hand side was slightly in shadow when photographed.
This landscape will stay with me. It's the only one I've kept other than my very first, and it will hang in the same room, on the opposite wall.

Here are some (slightly blurry) closeups:

There's more than one deer here. I enjoyed somewhat camouflaging most of the creatures in this quilt.

And for the first time in a landscape, I used some of the decorative machine stitches on my Janome 8900. (Other than those, everything was stitched in free motion.) Here are a couple of bad closeups of those:

I enjoyed the quilting far, far more than the piecing--which gave me all kinds of headaches. At left is an in-process shot, showing many of the threads being used. Also shown are some of the paint markers that came in handy for touch-ups that are necessary when stitching landscapes. For example, crossing a skinny tree branch with the light-colored thread you're using to stipple the sky...hardly worth breaking thread for. After stitching, just darken that section of thread with a brown or gray or black marker, and immediately it blends in and disappears. Despite these shortcuts, there are still literally hundreds of stops and starts in this quilt.

Below is an idea that sped up my binding handwork a bit. A sock hanger from the department store worked great for reeling my thread off the spool and threading it through the needle at the same time. Just clamp a little binder clip on the open end to keep the spool from falling off.

Have a great weekend!


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Fall into Spring

It's always obvious here when a landscape quilt has been pieced on the design wall...

Tracking all around the room (and down the stairs)

...and this was after all the larger scraps were picked up and thrown in the can! You can't worry about the fallout when you're in the middle of fussy-cutting and piecing, but the larger pieces do drive me crazy.

This project (see old post about it) has been a struggle from the get-go. Notice how long it's been since the start! I think that's because for the first time I'm making something that came from a self-imposed sense of obligation, instead of inspiration.

I knew better. And now I really know better. The entire project, every step of the way, has been like pulling teeth, with one obstacle after another, and has taken far longer to piece than it should have. But as has been mentioned before, I'm nothing if not stubborn, so finally it's basted and ready to go under the machine.

What turned me loose to make actual progress? Well, I gave myself permission to experiment with many different threads and some decorative machine stitches, and to leave knots on the back instead of burying them (there are sometimes several hundred knots to bury on a mid-to-large size landscape---which can be difficult at best due to very dense stitching, and extremely time-consuming).

Something tells me this quilt is destined for my own wall, over the twin bed (which used to have a cool poster hanging over it, but is now blank). The colors are perfect, and fall is my favorite season.

Happy spring!


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bats and Hats

This week, it's a finish for the quilt based on the String-Me-Along block pattern by Dodi Lee Poulsen. Hers has pretty borders and a more fun block arrangement than mine, but I'm fine with this pared-down, slightly-off version. (See previous blog post.) This was partly quilted with a dual feed foot, and partly in free motion. The top was quilted in three separate sections, the backing and batting in one overall piece.

I like to look at the black fabric as negative space and focus on the diamonds.
Okay, stay with me here, this is not really a segue. The mini- baseball bat pictured below, which is a souvenir from The Louisville Slugger Museum here in my hometown, has long been languishing uselessly in my studio on top of other, more useful wooden items...

...until this week. Who knew it would finally find employment as a seam mallet? If you've ever tailored a garment, you know what I'm talking about--a wooden hammer-type tool used for pounding thick seams into submission.

The mini-bat totally did the job--which made it much easier to quilt over the four-point joins. No, I didn't use steam, though you would definitely do so on a tailored garment.

I knew there was a practical reason to keep this bat in the studio! It only took a few years to figure it out (and Negan had nothing to do with it. Yech!!  :).

And speaking of Lucille...some finishes for the Lucy drawer (for my 2-year-old granddaughter--whose name is actually Lucy, not Lucille).

All yarns except in the green and blue hats are Serenity Chunky yarns by Deborah Norville. They're 100 percent acrylic (wash & dry), self-striping, very soft, and fast to knit.

These two hats match previously posted sweaters.

These two hats don't. Just felt like making some hats!

Matching the striping pattern is an iffy
proposition after breaking yarn. This was a little
more off than most of my efforts.

Lucy turns two years old this coming Saturday. Happy birthday, Sweetie! You are our pride and joy.

I didn't make the hat, but I love the photo!
Have a wonderful weekend!


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

99 Blocks of Beauty on the Wall

...the design wall, that is. If you didn't get the "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" correlation, don't worry, it just means you're not as old as I am.  :)

On to the point. In this case, a wedge point.

Anyone who regularly watches Fons and Porter's For the Love of Quilting show has probably seen the quilt called "String Me Along," by Dodi Lee Poulsen. (Click on that link to get the pattern.) This lively, colorful quilt really got my attention.

From two yards of a black and white polka-dot fabric, you cut wedge-shaped pieces that fit exactly in one corner of a foundation square (muslin, lightweight permanent stabilizer, tear-away stabilizer, or paper) and extend just through the opposite corner. (I used a 7-1/2 inch square, which is larger than the pattern. I cut my own wedge template and barely got all my wedges out of the yardage; in fact I had to shorten four of them. That's what I get for trying to guess at the directions before I bought the pattern--which I've now done.)

Then you sew a strip of fabric down each side of the wedge piece with a 1/4 inch seam, making sure each strip extends past the edges of the foundation square before you sew it down. Finger-press each seam away from the polka-dot fabric.

Oops, obviously not the same block as in the first photo!

Keep adding strips to either side and finger-press the seams away from the center, until the square is completely covered.

TIP: If you are using paper for the foundation, which is what I did (it's a good way to recycle used printer paper) keep the paper on until the block is finished so you'll know how long your strips need to be, but don't sew through the paper after the first two seams. Just fold the paper back to sew the rest of the seams, unfolding it only to check the length of each additional strip.

You'll be glad you only sewed through it twice when it's time to tear the paper off--which is the next step.

After that, trim your block by lining up a square ruler with the polka-dot corner.

Now is the time to press your block, with a dry iron.

UPDATE (correction): Reverse those last two instructions. I pressed the un-trimmed block nice and flat, THEN trimmed it.

I used up all kinds of scraps on this project, ending up with ninety-nine 7-1/2 inch square blocks, for a quilt that will be 63 x 77 inches. That's not quite according to directions in the pattern, which ends up with 96 slightly smaller blocks. I would strongly suggest using the pattern. It would have saved me some guess work and yardage shortage.

This is as far as it's come, but I'm liking the look of it. It isn't the same block arrangement shown in the pattern, and I've seen two other arrangements, as well, on the internet somewhere. All are lovely.

Just a note: When joining the blocks and the rows, I did press the seams open instead of to one side, and it was the only time I used steam. Pressing, not ironing.

Another tip: For quick preparation of paper foundation squares, use the square ruler you'll be using to trim your blocks AND a rotary cutter set aside only for paper. (I keep a used, dull blade in that one, as it cuts paper just fine--two squares at a time!) That rotating cutting mat is super helpful, too.

Have a great week. Spring is starting early here in Kentucky, and we are loving it!