Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Firing myself up!!

Firing myself up consistently has been a bit of an uphill struggle for several months.  The achiness of osteoarthritis was taking it's toll and finally I relented last month.  After a long talk with my physician and some blood tests, I'm trying to manage the pain with medication.  Early returns are encouraging although as those of you who have the similar issues know, just taking a pill doesn't do the entire job.  We'll evaluate the benefits against the side effects the end of January and in the meantime I have to modify and find routines that minimize aggravating my body.
At this point, I'm delighted to be feeling more energetic!!  Saturday morning, I was inspired to set up George for a morning of machine quilting and tackle one of the stack of layered quilts that has been waiting patiently for me!  I was headed to a Therapy Balls Workshop at my yoga studio in the afternoon and thought a morning of being hunched over my machine would set me up perfectly to see if the ball therapy would give me relief from the upper back tightness. 
(Yes, I know I'm not suppose to "hunch" but it's proving to be a hard habit to break.)
The easiest piece at hand was a Christmas wall hanging that I put together a couple years ago.  Rather than struggle with "how to quilt" the fussy cut motifs and balance that out with the pieced stars, I went for a simple approach.
I turned the quilt upside down and quilted it from the back with simple wavy lines that followed the contours of the fabric design.
Since the bands of "sand" were narrow, I quilted along each side of them. 
Then I came back and added a line through the mid-section of the "sky" areas pausing every so often to stitch out a funky little star.  There's one in the picture below just behind the wiseman's head - they were disoriented at that point  (-;
I'm pleased with the results -- it was fun, it works with the design of the front, and it only took about 90 minutes which is the upper limit of the time I can "hunch".
I left for the workshop with aching shoulders and the beginnings of a crick in my neck.
Happily, the ball therapy worked and when I returned home, I was able to bind the quilt.
That evening, I added a casing and it's ready to sell!! 
I listed it yesterday in my Etsy Shop (which I'm currently revitalizing) along with two other small quilts.  Wanna' take a peak?
There's only one and I've set it up with FREE shipping!
Today I'll be back at the machine -- my group still has a handful of quilts to finish quilting by mid-December to gift to children at The City Mission!!
You can check out the Yoga Tune-up Therapy Balls HERE and see if your local yoga studio is offering workshops with them.
Happy Thanksgiving!!
Mary Huey

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Trunk Show Fun!

This morning while catching up on blogs I've missed while traveling last week, Julie at Pink Doxies shared a link-up for a trunk show organized by Whims And Fancies that is happening right now!!
Online Quilt Trunk Show | Whims And Fancies
Since I'm unpacking and putting away a huge pile of stuff and up against a wall for a topic this morning, I'm in!!
I was teaching Set-In Piecing Simplified this past week in upstate New York so all those samples are at the top of the piles.  These are just the finished ones -- there are half again this many that still need to be quilted!!

My journey started four years ago while teaching this workshop for the quilt guild in Watertown, NY with a student named Mary O'Keefe who figured out how to chain piece through set-in seams (y-seams)! 
Back in my studio, I started this scrappy tumbling block quilt and worked to make it a teachable skill to share with my students.  It's one of my favorite quilts.   I just love it -- so much in fact that there is a second one in the works.
This is a close-up of the quilting -- lots of continuous curve with some leaves thrown in. 
Then I tackled hexagons by machine -- these are 1 1/2".  It's a large laprobe size and was made with the intention that it will be a gift to someone one of these days.
I made this giant tumbling block with 4" diamonds to use as a workshop project that was manageable.  It only uses 6 prints plus the conversation print.  It's crib quilt size -- another gift in waiting!
By the time I finished those three quilts, I was feeling confident enough to do something more challenging.  The Kaffe Fassett Collective print in the border inspired the color scheme and was the only "new" fabric I purchased for this quilt.  It's a wall hanging and might pop up for sale this winter when I rework my Etsy shop.
There are a couple other projects between these two, but they aren't quilted.  This one, Pieceful Constellations is my masterpiece.  It was rotary cut with Marti Michell's Template Set G and pieced by machine.  The inspiration was Kerry Dear of Australia's Candied Hexagons.
This workshop sample finishes up as a tabletopper.  (The worksheet/cutting guide is available in my Craftsy Shop -- http://www.craftsy.com/pattern/quilting/home-decor/hexagon-tablemat/123114)

When Marti Michell introduced the Kite and Crown Template Sets, I launched into an assortment of new samples -- this bed runner is perfect with a vintage woven white spread I use on my bed in the summer.
And my most recent finish was this table topper for the Kaffe Mini Quilt Swap on Instagram -- it also gave me another opportunity to test a block, Dresden Star, that I'll be offering as a workshop this winter during the 2016 Lake Farmpark Quilt Show.
Time to go finish unpacking the travel bags and spread the quilts out flat on the guest bed until the next time we hit the road together. 
 If this is your first visit to my blog -- thanks!!
I hope you'll come back again and again to see more of my y-seam obsession!!

And click on the Trunk Full of Quilts icon at the top of this post to enjoy some more quilts!!

Mary Huey

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Quiet Mary

That's who I've been for the past couple weeks -- quiet Mary.  No particular reason, just feeling quiet.
But of course, I've been busy.
We've had a week of rare beautiful, mild November weather and there has been lots of woods walking but I finally finished quilting this piece for my younger daughter.  The only table with available work space was out on the patio so that's where I trimmed it for binding. 
She pieced and appliqued it at least 10 years ago and I noticed it wadded up in her knitting supply closet earlier this year and offered to bring it home and quilt it for her.
I might have quilted the border too densely for the interior of the quilt, but I'll wait to make that final decision until it has been washed -- it would be easy enough to go back in and add some more quilting.  I'll bind it this weekend and take it to her next week.
My studio time has been used cutting and organizing Rose Star kits for workshops this coming week in upstate New York.  It provided another opportunity to test my cutting strategy for this block -- you can read about that HERE
I'm even "marking the dots" since it's only a half day workshop and I want everyone to get the entire block pieced.  No two kits are exactly alike and I'm a little nervous about everyone liking my choices but if they don't, they'll have a holiday gift almost done when they leave the workshops.
This little spot of color in the garden caught my eye yesterday morning from the office window.  The new fall crocus bulbs were up and blooming.  I took some pictures to remind me where they are planted so I don't dig them up next summer while planting something else.
And my red witch hazel shrub is absolutely glowing.
A friend remarked that it would be a good color combination for a quilt.
The handouts are ready, the quilts for my lectures are almost piled up, and this weekend I'll assemble the workshop supplies and review everything for an early launch on Monday morning!
Maybe I'll see you in Syracuse?
Have a pleasant weekend!!
Mary Huey

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

More birding -- no stitching!!

Just a bit of knitting this weekend but oh, the birding was good!!
I'm just home from a long birding weekend in Cape May, NJ – a bit tired so this may be a bit short.  Cape May is at the southern tip of New Jersey between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cheasapeake Bay in the eastern USA.  For many years, it has been a popular birding destination during spring and fall migrations.  We drove about 1200 miles and birded more or less from dawn to dusk Saturday and Sunday with a morning of it along the coast on the way home yesterday.  Whew!!
This has to be one of my favorite images – mental and photographically – of the trip.  Those are all tail ends of Pintail ducks feeding.  There are over 40 in this picture and there were probably 400 altogether in this area – same position – hardly coming up for air.  I found it quite humorous.
Here'a a picture of what they look like when they aren't bottoms-up -- quite a handsome creature!!
We had a total of 84 species – pretty good considering most of the small song birds have already migrated out of the region.  Fall is almost as challenging a time to bird as spring since the majority of the birds seen are migrating meaning that identifications can be more work since they are birds I don’t see every day.  We were pretty pleased with ourselves as we had to puzzle out about a dozen species that are pretty non-descript at first glance like these shorebirds – gray blobs?  One can tell there are two species because of the size differences but the best field mark at this time of year is the beak – do you see a beak?  We did finally get a peek at their beaks after 5 minutes of watching them through a scope and after lots of page flipping in three field guides, we ferreted out what we are pretty sure they are.
There were still a surprising number of butterflies out and about in the area – the location moderates the climate allowing for a longer insect season that we have here in Northeast Ohio.  There were quite a few Monarchs floating around and lots of these which are called Buckeyes.  The interesting thing about these was that I rarely see one so seeing dozens was astonishing to me.
As I was reviewing my photos this morning, I am as pleased with the background colors around this creature as I am with the clarity of the butterfly!!
These are snowy egrets – very pretty – about half the size of a great blue heron if you know that bird.  I was a bit tired by the time we spotted them and could not think of their name -- out popped “fluffy egret” so for the rest of the day, we referred to them as “fluffy” egrets whenever we saw them.
This great blue heron didn't look as awake as the egrets -- he actually looks like he would rather be somewhere warmer don't you think?
 It's back to the studio and the garden.  Today's goal is to finish quilting a small piece and start getting ready for a teaching trip in November. 
And there might be a walk in the woods, too!!
Mary Huey


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Torn between Fall and Stitching . . . . .

It's fall here in Northeast Ohio, USA!!
We are lucky because we just need to step outside to enjoy beautiful autumn color. 
The changing light and the leaves makes everything glow on a sunny day.
Even an overcast day can has it's own special charm.
Combine all that with mild temperatures, dry weather, and the urgency of knowing this won't last, it's hard for me to stay inside.
So for the past 10 days, there has been more walking and gardening than stitching. 
My bird feeders are back up for the cold months and this red-bellied woodpecker was the first to rediscover a local source of raw shelled peanuts (though he's fine with unshelled, too).
The pileated woodpeckers have also returned to the neighborhood.  This large (the size of a chicken) bird is something of a gypsy but the large trunk of a neighbor's dead oak is just what he likes.
One shout from this bird and I'm out the back door with binoculars or camera in hand!
There are now daily walks in near-by woodlands to enjoy -- scuffing through the leaves, looking for the red leaves of sassafras, black gum, and sugar maple.  It reminded me to put this small piece up in the living room.  The label says I pieced it in 2004 after a lovely morning deep in the woods with a light breeze that was showering me with falling leaves.  I came home and spent the afternoon recreating an image of how the floor of the forest appeared -- mostly yellow leaves with a scattering of reds and greens on top of the brown leaves that had been down for several days.
Looking at this piece conjures up tangible memories and I strive every year to recapture that morning again returning to a woodland at this slightest hint of a breeze.
And while I was hanging the piece, I made time to tidy up the quilt cupboard in the living room which had been torn asunder by lecture prepping for my fall teaching gigs.
When I did get into the studio, I focused on setting the blocks from my orchid kaleidoscope quilt together.  At this point, I have them in four quadrants and need to decide if this is the point to stop, layer, and quilt or do I do two more seams so that I'm quilting two halves.
I found enough of this fabric on the "big hunks" shelf to make the backing.   Actually, it's more like it found the quilt -- it was laying on the floor in front of the work wall -- must have been there from a previous audition?? 
I used some odd moments of free time to cut more of the pieces needed for the Drunkard's Path UFQ that is my October APQ Resolution Challenge. . . .
. . . . so that I could assemble more of the needed units as my "sew-offs" while setting the kaleidoscope blocks together.  Net gain is everything needed is cut and 30 of the 118 units are pieced.  Progress in spite of myself!!
The threat of a frost around here is a great spur for me to get the plants that I winter over cleaned up and moved inside.  This year, it seems there are more plants than last (but I expect that's the case every year) and some earlier tidying in the basement reunited me with this shelf unit that I used when I was vending at quilt shows back in my shop keeping days.
Perfect, perfect, perfect expansion of the sunny south bay window in the dining room.
Even my son noticed it and commented on how good it looks!!
The big success of the week is the front door!!  Wednesday was the last day predicted to be warm enough for the third coat of urethane to dry quickly so it took precedent proving once again "there is nothing like a deadline"!!  I had to sand off the old finish, re-stain the lower half of the door (bleached out by the daily dose of western sun) before starting the three layers of new urethane.  My Dad was likely looking down and rolling his eyes at my lack of perfection, but I'm pretty content with the job.  After all, I'm a piecer?!?
There is still lots of cutting back to do in the gardens but I don't need nice weather to do that so I'm off for a weekend of birding in Cape May, NJ with my science nerd, dentist friend. 
Taking some knitting along (momma needs new socks).
I hope your weekend is devoted to enjoying the transition of the seasons in your part of the world --
autumn or spring!!
Mary Huey



Friday, October 16, 2015

Retreat UFQ Stitching

Several years ago, I took this beautiful orchid print to my winter retreat to have Kathy and Syd help me "stack and whack" it.  They are geniuses at it and since I do it infrequently, it's easiest to lean on their expertise.  Kathy could probably say exactly how long ago it was, but I'm going to guess 5 years.  I cut it with Marti Michell's Kaleido-ruler. 
Here are some scraps of the print -- forgot to take a picture of the big piece I had left before cutting it up for the border pieces.
Almost immediately, I decided I had ruined the fabric because I couldn't find any other print to use with it for the setting pieces.  This year, I put the project on my APQ Resolution list and it's number was drawn in August.  It's been sitting on my work table ever since as I strained to audition compatible fabrics.   For six weeks or more, it has haunted me so as I packed for the fall retreat last week, I decided to make it my priority project. 
The plan has long been to use Marti's cover pattern from Kaleidoscope ABC's and my first thought was to work with solids for the other fabrics.  After weeks of not making that click for me, I started pulling prints out of my stash that more or less matched the colors in the orchid print.  Two days before I left for the retreat, everything finally fell into place and I was able to pack a stack of possible prints and make a sketch of a potential color layout.
To my great surprise, I was the first to arrive -- look at all this space!!  I entertained myself by contemplating what it might be like to have this entire room as a studio . . . .
I got to work cutting piles of light greens into wedges
and medium greens into corner triangles. 
My sketch had lots of blank spaces and I started stitching with a flexible attitude expecting the values and color choices to become clearer once I saw the kaleidoscopes stitched together. 
The carpet presented a visual challenge as you can see but the sketch kept me on track.  I wouldn't have enough of the kaleidoscope blocks so I added five "stars" in pinks and golds.
Marti's instructions are very specific and piecing these blocks is a breeze when you follow them exactly.  This is the third quilt I've made using her tool and instructions.  At one point, she encourages you to "stop at the dot" and in the past I've struggled with this step.  (She offers an alternate strategy.)
But this time, the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique enabled me to negotiate that stop perfectly!!
A quick pivot and I was all set to stitch onto the next piece. 
What a difference it make in the flatness of the center to be able to swirl the seams and I'm delighted to find another application for the technique!
By mid-day Saturday, it was all coming together and I was excited with the results.  The greens were perfect for setting off the kaleidoscopes which are beautiful!
Here are a few close-ups!
 I've taken pictures of them several times and must not have a steady hand so the pics are a bit blurry.
I'm so delighted with the results, I started daydreaming about cutting up another hunk of fabric?!? 
By the end of the day Saturday, I had everything cut and over half the blocks pieced.
Once I got home, I finished the piecing and arranged the blocks on my workwall (and the floor).
I'm currently setting the blocks together -- thinking I will assemble it into two "halves", then quilt those sections (easier to wrestle with at my machine).  Once they are quilted, I'll join the halves, finish the backing, and quilt the central area.  I use Marti Michell's book, Machine Quilting in Sections as my guidebook when doing this.
It is currently 70" by 90" and I don't think I'll add another border though as I look at the picture, if I could find just the right stripe???  We'll see?
It's a delight to move forward with this quilt and find that I didn't ruin the fabric after all.  I'm also reminded that my "style" is to work with a large variety of prints and not get too tight about the exact shades of color -- close is good for me because value is what makes or breaks the design in my work.   I'm glad I scrapped the solids idea.
I'm so excited about the progress I've made on this project that it just might push ahead of several other pieces and get quilted next!!
Have a pieceful weekend!!
Mary Huey