Thursday, May 26, 2016

#MMminimini Instagram Challenge

Are you on Instagram?  I started using it last fall and find it very exciting.  I enjoy the spontaneity and quick reactions to photos and short messages.  There is lots of visual stimulation and it gives me access to other "genres" of quilt makers that is broadening my interests.  I enjoy following the small challenges and swaps and every now and then I'm inspired to join in the fun! 
 
Last week, Make Modern Magazine (click HERE for their website) issued a challenge to make "minimini" quilts (less than 6") between May 20 and June 20.  It's a digital magazine based in Australia and focused on modern quilting.  The hashtag for the challenge is #MMminimini and Make Modern's Instagram name is @makemodernmagazine.  So far 109 quilters have posted minimini quilts. 
 
Since I've been focused on planting most of the week, there hasn't been much stitching so yesterday afternoon I retired to the studio and cut a couple blocks -- last Saturday's Camelot Star for the Morris Hexathon and a smaller version of the same block for the minimini challenge.  I'm using the 1" hexagon template group from Marti Michell's Set G for the Hexathon but there is a small template in Set N, so out that came.
At first glance, the 3/4" jewel template seems to be missing the necessary hexagon and diamond but in fact all the pieces needed for the star can be cut with this one template.
Let me show you how!   I began with the center hexagon -- notice that I leave most of the paper backing on the template (it's a built in gripper) and just cut out a "window" for easier "fussy" placement.
Once I've cut four or five of the six sides, I need to turn the template and realign to cut the sixth side.  I took this picture to show you a frequent mistake I make when using my rotating cutting mat.  I lay my work close to my body for the first cuts and then when I rotate the mat, the work is too far away to reach without stretching and that's when I make miss-cuts. 
Much better to start at the center of the mat so my reach is never over extended.
In this photo, you can see the purple line going through the purple triangle -- that is the "match-up" line for one side of the hexagon!  The other purple line is used to cut equilateral triangles that will fit around the hexagon.
The "jewel" shape (the entire template) is cut from a strip and there is a little waste as you can see.
It's fastest to use the template itself to measure the width of the strip needed.  Here I'm cutting the strip for the background diamonds.
Since there isn't a complete 3/4" 60 degree diamond, it's necessary to work a little magic.
Begin by trimming the end of the strip taking off the tip, too. 
By twisting the diamond 180 degrees and lining up the right and left edges with the strip and the lower edge with the trimmed end, a complete diamond can be cut.
The tip is trimmed and so on up the strip until there are enough diamonds.
This time there were not enough diamonds -- one of the perils of working with scraps.
But also one of the stimulating aspects of working with scraps!!  There are always more scraps at hand in my studio, so I trimmed three of the diamonds into jewels and cut six new background diamonds.  Ta-da!!
I worked back and forth between the two blocks -- it took about 20 minutes to get to this point and it was time to organize supper.  The chain piecing technique I teach via Set-In Piecing Simplified eliminates the typical stop and go aspect of y-seams!!
(At $15.95 for the DVD, this is an economical workshop that will give you the courage to be a Y-Seam Warrior on your own!)
There is no pressing yet -- the seams are easier to push out of the way if you wait to press them!
Now it's time to press them before the final three background diamonds are inserted.
Another 30 minute session in the evening yielded two finished stars!!  This one is 5 1/2" tall and 6 1/2" wide so finished it will fit the minimini guideline of 6".
The Camelot Star for the Morris Hexathon is ever so slightly bigger than the first two blocks -- "sigh".  I'll worry about that another day -- too tired to recalculate.  I am cheating by using the rotary templates instead of making templates from the blog so this isn't a complete surprise. 
However, as I'm sitting here looking at the picture, I think I see a solution that won't require any ripping or re-cutting . . . . hmmm . . .  but I'll leave that for another day.
 
We are heading into a holiday weekend here in the USA -- Memorial Day -- usually regarded as the beginning of summer!  Happily we are expecting warm weather in this area so I'm confident that I'll get my planting finished and my patio ready for a summer of alfresco dining!!
Enjoy your weekend!!
 
Mary Huey
 
P.S.  I just ordered issue #9 of Make Modern (because the cover quilt caught my eye) and it was so easy!!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Y-Seam Warrior Link-up #3 -- Indulging in the Morris Hexathon!!

I'm not sure why I even thought about saying out loud that I wasn't going to begin any new projects in May?!  That resolve only lasted until I read about Barbara Brackman's new Morris Hexathon.
You can be sucked into it too just by going HERE.
It's only three blocks along so far so you won't have any trouble catching up!  The weekly posts include the patterns for hexagon.  I'm pulling fabrics from my stash of reproduction prints.
 
I'm using Marti Michell's Set G templates (a little case of the "lazies").
They are a little smaller than Barbara's templates and I'm machine-piecing (of course) instead of doing EPP (English Paper Piecing).  So far my blocks, though smaller, are the same size as each other -- hopefully the others will match as well.
 
I used G44a (a half diamond)
and G44 (the full 60 degree diamond) 
to cut the pieces for the first block, Westminster Star.  Because Barbara is a historian, she is also including narration pertaining to Englishman, William Morris and his design work which is the focus of her newest fabric line, Morris Earthly Paradise Prints. 
I pieced this block as I would tumbling blocks, stitching three pairs of diamonds together and then inserting a half diamond into each pair.
I know some would piece two sets of three diamonds together making two half stars.  Then after setting the two halves together, go back and set in the six background half-diamonds.  But I've found that I get more accurate centers on 6-pointed stars with this approach.  I suggest you try both and see which gives you the best results. 
I think it's because I can rotate the center seams in a swirl more easily giving me a flatter center.
  Once the three sections are set together, I add the last three half-diamonds.
For the second block, I used the 3 1/2" triangle on Marti's 60-degree multi-size Diamond Tool.
Love this tool because I can use it to "measure" the strip, 
for the triangles needed for the Crystal Palace block
I pieced the two blocks while working on my Scrappy Tumbling blocks project.  I'm being spontaneous about the fabric pull as you can see -- might work, might not work?
The third block is named Camelot Star -- Barbara shares some of the Camelot legend.  Several years ago, I had lunch with a walking group near Dorchester, England on top of the flat hilltop reputed to be the site of King Arthur's magical court.  This is my fabric pull for that block and it will come together this week  as I continue to finish setting the Scrappy Tumbling blocks quilt together.
I was gratified to read Carole's comment on last Friday's post.  She purchased my DVD, Set-In Piecing Simplified and I directed her to also read the posts from my 2014 Diamond Star Playtime series (they are all gathered together under the tab at the top of this page).
"I also want to say thank you for the diamond star tutorials. I'm playing along with Barbara Brackman's hexathon, and your tips are proving invaluable. I wouldn't even have attempted it without your excellent tips. Thanks!!"
 
So have you tried something with y-seams in the past month?  If so, let's see it.  I've started the link-up off by sharing an older post from my Diamond Star Playtime series showing how I piece this week's block. 
 
You can share from your blog, Flickr, or Instagram -- just link-up below!  Doesn't matter if it's hand or machine-pieced, EPP -- I just love to see quilters taking on the challenge and enjoying it!!
 
Thanks for sharing!!
 
Mary Huey
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's Finished!!

At long last!!
It's a finished quilt.
It's called Folk Art Cats and the pattern is still available from The Stitchin' Post in Sisters, Oregon.  It was originally a block of the month with fabric kits so none of the choices are mine. 
Once I had accumulated all the kits, I had the gals in my Friendship Quilt group prepare the blocks -- they pieced the backgrounds and fused the appliques when it was my turn to provide the "work of the month".
Then I began the (arduous and lengthy) task of completing the (miles and miles) of machine pin stitching to secure the edges.  It's not a task I enjoy so it literally took years.
Finally, I had to face the sashing assembly.  It's difficult to see in the pictures, but the sashes are all black and dark rust pieced checkerboards of 1" finished squares not to mention the twenty different 3" blocks for the cornerstones.  I ran out of the dark rust, so substituted a lighter rust.
  Ahhhhhhhhhh!!
The cats have quite a bit of personality which is true of real cats as those of you who have owned more than one cat  know.   (The safety pin is to remind me to go back and tie off that thread end!)
I started quilting this in two halves and then realized that it would be a challenge to merge the quilting across the center join area.  So I stalled for two weeks trying to decide how to continue.  In the end, I added the second half of the top and then the backing and layered it up as one large piece.  It made it a bit more challenging to maneuver at my machine but solved the finishing dilemma.
The backing fabrics have been stuck in my stash for quite some time so it was fun to use them up!!
Once the backing and the top were stitched together, I layered in the second piece of black Dream Poly batting.  I like the black batting on dark quilts because it keeps the colors looking richer.  Trimming the edge straight makes butting the two pieces together easier.
This herringbone or catch stitch does a good job of holding the edges together (but it's a pain in the neck to do).
Now the only thing keeping me from finishing the job was this . . . . Gordon loves the chair at my APQS George quilting machine and he's so old that I let him be.
I've had cats almost continuously since I was four years old -- on those few occasions when I've been without one, I've been on the lookout for another one!!  The swirling Baptist fan-like motifs worked out very well.  Now I'm wondering what took so long to start the quilting.  And it was easy to do.  It's very "organic" with inconsistent spacing between the lines and different size swirls but I'll be repeating this quilting strategy on future quilts for sure.
My current feline sidekick, Willie is seen here "holding up" the back corner of the quilt.
The quilt goes to my oldest daughter (Gordon's person and my housemate).
This weekend, I'll finish the binding and layer up another piece.  It would be good to ride the current quilting momentum and achieve a second finish for this quarter's 2016 Finish-A-Long goals!!

And if you are having trouble building up confidence about your ability to machine quilt your own pieces, Craftsy is having a 50% off sale on some of their most popular classes through 5/21/2016.
I just grabbed the Machine Quilting with Walking Foot class!!

Enjoy the weekend!!
Mary Huey

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Tumbling Blocks Progress Report

After an awesome spring day on Friday, we had to endure a wet, cold weekend that played havoc with lots of outdoor activities like the plant sale I managed for my church mission team and the early morning bird walk on Sunday which I co-lead.   I should have painted but after wet, cold mornings outside I was too tired to do anything except sit at the sewing machine.

I decided to finish making the units for my tumbling block quilt.  I verified that everything was in the right place and then counted up how many side units were needed.
I found the bag of scrappy diamonds quickly (lovely to have something organized)!  There were even several finish tumbling blocks and soon I was underway, laying out the remaining side units and stitching them together.  The little stack of diamonds and half diamonds on the left served as "leaders and enders" so I could keep the chain going through all the y-seams.
Have you noticed Barbara Brackman's new follow along project -- the Morris Hexathon?
I have and it's only one small block a week and I can machine piece it and so I failed the resolve "not to start a new project in May" -- more about that next week!
Once all the side units were finished and added to the design wall, I focused on making the top and bottom edges straight.  I use half hexagons like these to achieve that.  With straight edges on all four sides, adding the borders is simple.  I show how I do this in a previous post -- HERE. 
I needed 10 of these units.  One of the habits that makes chain piecing easier and keeps me focused is to lay out the pieces in the positions they will occupy in the finished block with the right sides up.     
Of course, that doesn't guarantee I won't make a mistake but it's generally foolproof.
One of these isn't like the others!?! 
The chain piecing technique enabled me to fly through these units.
Here you (barely) see them across the lower edge -- I can't reach the top of the design wall so the remainder will sit beside the machine until needed.
Before I left the studio, I chose border fabrics.  Now to get back in there and finish setting the top together!  I love that I can use just about any border fabric that suits me that day on scrappy quilts like this! 

If you are also playing with y-seams during the month of May, I'll be opening up another Y-Seam Warrior Link-up next week on Tuesday, 5/24/2016.  It will be open for five days and you can link from your blog, Flickr, and Instagram!
The spring garden weeding is progressing slowly and on my daily "walk-about" the yard, I noticed this mob of tiny just hatched spiders scrambling around the end of my window box -- pinhead size.
And I love the composition of this picture of the chives coming into bloom -- total accident -- no editing!  Might have to print some notecards using this one!
Time to do some more painting!!

Mary Huey