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!


Friday, February 10, 2017

No Triangles Allowed

168 half-square triangle blocks, sashed on two sides only
This week saw the finish of a quilt made with the 21 squares from Island Batik's Seashore collection by Kathy Engle for Tamarinis, which were included in the November Quilty Box curated by Tammy Silvers.

All sashing was cut from my Hoffman batik stash.

The design is called Half-Square Triangle Variation, by Rita Hodge of Red Pepper Quilts, and is in The Quilters Planner 2017 by Stephanie Palmer.

For me, this is as close as it's come to working with triangles in a quilt project--something I've said I'll never do--and of course no triangles were actually cut or sewn here. Yay! And, whew!

Using the pre-cut squares, I was able to cut smaller squares that were still 1/4" larger than the pattern specifications. This only added 3 inches of width and 3-3/4 inches of length to the quilt, but I wanted it as large as possible without making the sashing any wider.

One of my favorite parts of planning the layout was arranging 1-inch paper copies of the blocks--all 168 of them, plus a dozen blocks cut from some undersea fabric in my stash, totaling the 180 blocks called for in the pattern (12 x 15 blocks)--on paper with a 1-inch grid (hand-penciled with my quilting ruler).

This arrangement didn't make the grade.

This one did.

A photo of the final arrangement was taken for piecing order reference, and printed out on a full page. That worked really well for keeping track of the blocks as they were sewn together, because I'm very visual (aren't most quilters?) and for me this works better than choosing the right block from numbered stacks. (I am guaranteed to get something out of order doing it that way.)

As the blocks were sewn together, they were checked off on the paper photo, and the white paper 'ruler' was moved down to the next row. And so on.

(I did letter each sewn row with one little piece of masking tape.)

All in all, this quilt was a quick one to piece. And there's no border...just binding.

60 by 75 inches

This is probably headed for The Center for Women and Families. I'm thinking it might be a child's quilt, for a twin bed.

Have a great weekend!


p.s. No doubt I'll wind up working with triangles at some point just because I said I woudn't. Also, after going to all the trouble of penciling a 1-inch grid with a ruler, I remembered I have a whole tablet of 1-inch grid paper. Doh! and Duh!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mystery Solved!

Last time, I posted these photos of some strange designs that showed up on one of my fabric pieces when I was painting skies.

This was quite a mystery, as it was the only piece out of the six painted that was left to dry in the bedroom, and it was the only piece that ended up with these diamond shapes on it. My theory was that maybe the quartz crystals hanging in my windows projected refracted light on the fabric, moving across it as the daylight shifted and changed. After all, the paint (Setacolor transparent) is light sensitive. The more light there is on the fabric as it dries, the more intensely the color develops.

And then, one of my blog readers, Vicki W., left a comment that really got my attention. She said the pattern reminded her of paper towels.

BINGO!! I had completely forgotten until then, but coincidentally this was the only piece that was too wet when I finished painting it. Thinking there wasn't much to lose, as it looked pretty bad anyway, I had blotted the excess moisture from it with paper towels.

So, after seeing Vicki's comment, I immediately checked my paper towel roll...and sure enough, there it was...the same dotted lines in the shape of diamonds! (The fact that they were dotted was, admittedly, a flaw in my crystal theory.)

So, mystery solved. Thank you, Vicki--not only for coming up with the solution, but because now I have some new (for me) ideas regarding deliberate manipulation with painted wet fabric. Also, I just might play around with sunlight projection through those crystals and see what happens!


Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Mysterious

Last week some sky fabric was painted.

Here are the last three pieces (roughly 18 x 26 inches), out of a total of six. I'm pretty happy with them.

As for the first three I painted, In my defense, I've only painted sky pieces once before, and that was two or three years ago, so I expected a re-learning curve...and I got it. Pretty bad, huh.

What I did not expect was this, the very first piece I painted last week and the only one that was left in my bedroom to dry:

Here's a closer look:

Do you see what I see? A diamond-like pattern formed on this piece of fabric as it dried. And for the life of me, I can't explain how it got there.

This piece was painted on fabric cut from the same bolt as the other pieces. Beneath it was a vinyl-covered foamcore board identical to the ones under the other pieces.

The only difference is, again, I left it in my bedroom to dry. All other pieces were left to dry in the basement under fluorescent lights.

At this point I should mention that the paints I used are heliographic....light sensitive. They must have light as they dry, or they will turn pale and dull. And in my bedroom, only a little natural light was coming through the two windows, and no sunlight--it was a very overcast day. This easily explains the pale, lackluster appearance of the painted fabric, as far as color. But what caused these diamond-shaped patterns to develop...patterns which would require extra light to appear more colorful than the background? Your guess is as good as mine. There is nothing I can find in my bedroom that would account for this spontaneous design--which would have to be caused by a specific pattern of light shining on the fabric. No sun, no direct light anywhere in the room, and no patterns like these anywhere in the room to bounce any extra light onto the fabric. And no one, not even I, had been in the room the entire time.

A thought just now occurred to me. There is a quartz crystal hanging high up in each window. Each crystal is about 2 inches long. Could the daylight, which is always changing and moving, have been refracting through the crystals and projecting a specific pattern onto the fabric (which was roughly ten feet away and lying on the floor)? Then, moving on as the light shifted, projecting that pattern again and again across the fabric? Some of the shapes do appear to overlap. If that's what is going on here, it would mean that these light patterns are in my bedroom all the time--but I can't see them. Wow!!

Any thoughts?

Have a great week.



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fall-ing Behind

With the holidays behind us, there's been a little more time to work on quilts. Two bed quilts are currently being pieced with Quilty Box fabric selections (more about those another time).

In the meantime, some progress has been made on the woodland landscape shown in my last blog post.

Branches and shading will be added after the foreground is covered. Can you spot all three critters?
All of the batik at the bottom will be covered eventually. It's been slow going, not just because of the holidays, but because there aren't nearly as many appropriate fabrics in my stash as I thought there were for a fall scene. But I'm determined to make it work without buying more fabric.

As VVHH begins his recovery from spinal fusion surgery this week, it's hard to say how much studio time will happen in January. Fortunately there's no deadline on any of these!

Happy New Year!