Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Discovery!!

I've made an exciting botanical discovery this week -- it's an exciting variation of the Carolina Lily!!
Carolina Lily is the challenge prompt for the second Project Quilt Season 8 project
(read all about it HERE).
Carolina Lily -- a traditional pattern with a difficult memory for me.
Many years ago, I started a Friendship group at my shop to exchange quilt blocks.  We met monthly and there were a dozen of us.  The third member to "present" a block for us to make gave us a Carolina Lily pattern that has some flaws so it was a hard make for most of us.
Then she quit coming after she got her blocks!!
I just have to think Carolina Lily and that memory flares up!
But I do like the look of the block and when done the traditional way with 45 degree diamonds, it involves y-seams -- easy for me to piece with Marti Michell's templates and the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique!
But how to give it a bit of a twist?
That Fierce Feathered Star I tested for Jesse (HERE) back in the fall must have been lurking in the back of my brain because I decided to supersize the block!!
I'm going to drag you through most of the process I used so if you aren't interested in it, just jump to the end to see the (almost) finished result.
I used the large 45 degree diamond template from Set E (8-pointed star) to make eight pieced diamonds.  The actual Carolina Lily (state wildflower of North Carolina) is orange and I raided my precious stash for three prints with lots of texture.
The piecing went quickly thanks to the trimmed points of the diamonds which take all the guess work out of matching. 
I do lay everything out carefully as it's easy to sew the wrong sides of the pairs together. 
No pin poking necessary even at this stage! 
If the seam allowance is accurate, this intersection lines itself up. 
The base of each flower is made from eight assorted green triangles using the large triangle template in Set E.
I arranged the orange prints with the lightest one at the outside points. 
Soon it was time to audition for the background fabric.  I had in my mind a print with a white or cream ground and green figures on it but as you can see here, I threw down as many options as possible and left the studio for the day.
The next morning when I returned, the prints that weren't working were quickly obvious and went back into the stacks.  I settled on a Moda grunge with a snow white base and some brighter white and soft gray highlights (at the top of the picture). 
The quickest way to figure out what size triangle was needed for the background was to lay Marti Michell's Small Diagonal Set Ruler in position -- the seam line on the ruler is lined up with the approximate seam line of the pieced units.  There it is -- no math required -- 7".
The advantage of this tool is that you use strips which often saves fabric -- always good since I'm often working with limited quantities of fabric that is no longer available.  Cutting them this way also assures that the outer edge of the triangles is on the straight grain -- very important!!
Perfect results!!
Time to create the lily pot!  Originally I was thinking green but then decided to try blue which is opposite orange on the color wheel so the best for contrast!  I was going to make it by piecing together 59 half square triangles.  As I was sorting through the blues, this beauty popped out from the bottom of one of the stacks!
Can you believe how perfect it is??
It's old -- a Free Spirit collection named Sarsaparilla -- over 10 years old.
It was easy to give up the idea of piecing all those HST's -- time is of the essence in this challenge!
The stem unit is a combination of piecing (the center stem) and applique (bias strips so they would arc beautifully).
When it was time to cut a BIG triangle for the pot, I realized I didn't have a large enough piece of the blue fabric, so it needed to be made in sections.  I also was concerned that the big floral area would be overwhelming so I made a square in a square block for the center of the pot to break things up a bit.  When I got the main part of the pot assembled it was too narrow across the top edge.
Everything had gone together so smoothly up to this point.
Time to take a break.
When I came back, I could see two choices -- start over or add more fabric.
Time is of the essence so I took the simpler route and added the outer blue strips.
The last thing that needed to be done was to calculate the large background filler pieces.  The 20" right triangles were easy but this large kite shape took some courage to cut. 
Happily it worked fine! 
Tuesday evening I completed the top and took this picture.
It's 59" tall and 48" wide.
L. michauxii subsp Amazonian
I left the studio for the day thrilled with the result but when I walked back in there on Wednesday morning, my eye went straight to that square in square block.
Not what I wanted!!
So out it came and a square of the gorgeous blue print replaced it.
Much better!!
All properly collected specimens must be labeled so I organized a label I could ink onto the background fabric using my light table. 
A little more searching through my stash found a backing fabric and I layered it up to take along to a retreat with friends this weekend.  I hope that by the time you are reading this, I've finished the quilting (it will be simple) and am working on the binding.
It's my hope that I'll finish by the Sunday deadline and get it linked up with the challenge #2 linky but if I don't, it's okay because I've had such a good time creating this piece. 
I intend to donate it to a local organization for a fund raiser . . . if I can bear to part with it!?!
Have a great weekend!

And just in case you ever need to name a new species, you can get the inside story on how to write it out correctly HERE.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Thoughts on Balancing One's Quilting Act . . . . . .

The beginning of any year is a reflective time as we look back at what has been accomplished and forward at what we hope to accomplish.  This weekend as I've been working on machine quilting a teaching sample, my mind has been contemplating how to prevent begin overwhelmed with projects and deadlines in 2017.  Perhaps you struggle with the same challenge? 
It occurs to me that some of my students and readers would be surprised this is a struggle for me.  Readers of my blog who I met face-to-face often mention "how much you get done" and I'm thinking, "yes, but you should see the list?!?"  This is a good illustration of the principle that perception plays a big part of one's attitude.  Others are impressed and we are overwhelmed but it's a mistake to compare our lives with another's because our view of our self is uncut while our view of someone else is the cleaned up, edited version -- the highlights! 
You don't see what I don't do around my house that you do everyday. 
I don't see your "to-do" list. 
You don't watch me cut corners to make things work because I have too many deadlines this week. 
I don't see you start over and over to get that amazing idea out of your head and into fabric.
And so on and so on and so on.
Looking through my pictures from the past two years, I realize how much fun I've had with new projects.  I enjoy scrolling through my Instagram feed several times a day.  I love all the inspiration from other quilters around the world and the encouragement they share with one another!  
And the challenges and the follow alongs and the swaps -- oh my!! 
It's so tempting to join all of them!! 
That's how I stumbled across this project last fall!!
But TIME is finite and so I find myself reconnecting with the decision several years ago to (attempt) to evaluate how accepting/participating in a project, swap, or challenge will benefit my interests.  
Will participating help me build skills or broaden my perspective? 
Can I use the final product to meet a goal or need? 
This coming year, one of my goals is to manage my work load in such a way that it gives me time to be distracted and have a bit of fun with a pile of fabric even if it doesn't seem productive because I might not be finishing a UFO or planning a workshop or writing a new pattern to promote my DVD, Set-In Piecing Simplified.

Perhaps an example or two will clarify my current approach. 

Last week, I shared my response to the Project Quilting Season 8's first challenge.  One of the things that appeals to me is the challenge of interpreting a theme/idea "my way".  I believe the time constraint of one week will be a good exercise to help me loosen up again and regain my sense of confidence about being spontaneous.  So "my" rule for participating is to pay attention to my intuitive reactions to the challenge prompts and go for it without a lot of deep contemplation.  At the same time, I've decided to consider each of the projects I complete as potential donations to my favorite causes.  
When the prompt for the second challenge was announced on Sunday, I was delighted (and a little surprised) at how quickly I had an idea.  By the time I had to watch Victoria on Masterpiece while knitting a pink hat for a friend headed to the Woman's March in Washington, D.C., my idea was sketched out plus diamonds were cut and pieced.  I left my block units spread out with a variety of background prints so that when I returned to the studio Monday morning, the best choice was almost be apparent with my first glance at the design wall.
My excitement with the results thus far might lead to a new workshop or pattern idea but that's not my motivation -- enjoying the process is enough for now.  Ideas are fun but they often lead to more work.  The important thing about having ideas is to realize that one doesn't have to act on every idea.  Some ideas are meant to lead to other bigger and better ideas. 
Some ideas are meant to be merged together meaning less work. 
Some ideas are meant to be passed on to others. 
The trick is to make sure to enjoy that aspect of "having ideas" and not let the ideas overwhelm or create an unnecessary burden!

Another tempting sew along popped up in the past few days.  I've been following Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts on Instagram for 6 months -- I love her playful designs.  If you aren't familiar with her, you can find her HERE and on Instagram.  Lorna did a wonderful and silly sew along in 2016 -- the Ugly Sweater Quilt.  It was mid-year before I found it and I successfully resisted getting caught up in it.  At the beginning of January she started showing peeks of a new Christmas themed sampler -- Jolly Little Christmas -- and I caved! 
How could I resist simple cute fun!!
  I was first introduced to the main piecing technique used by Lorna by the legendary Mary Ellen Hopkins 20 years ago -- she called it "connector corners" and it has spread through out the quilting world to the point that I don't think many know where that egg was hatched.  It's going to be a cheerful, easy quilt so I'm going to make two -- one for each of my grandchildren.  The first set took about an hour to cut and piece.  
Both of these projects run through March and sooooo, I think I'll draw the line and wait to jump on any more band wagons until these are finished.  There will be lots of temptation I'm sure.
Some BIG reminder notes to myself might help -- "Don't clog the schedule" or something like that to remind me to leave space in my goal setting for spontaneity!
And maybe one that says "WHY" to remind me to stop and think?
How about "are we having fun yet?"
How many sew-alongs and challenges can you handle at the same time?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Q1 Finish Along 2017 Goals

Time is running out for me to make these decisions and join the linky!!
With a couple weeks of travel coming up this quarter, I'm trying to be practical about how much studio time I will actually have.
I've also considered what projects have deadlines.
So here are the five I've chosen.

This is my simplest 6-pointed star sample and its going to be the display piece for the Studying the Star Workshop I'm teaching in March at the regional Lake Metroparks Farm Park Quilt Show.  Since I've entered Smitten in the judged show, it will give potential students a better idea of the range of possibilities for their own workshop project.
The quilt is layered and I'm currently contemplating quilting thread and designs . . . . .and trying to find my working glasses  )-;
I'll need to have this plus quilt ready for a graduation celebration in May or June, so hoping to get it finished way ahead of time!!  Backing is ready and I've done some experimental quilting on a smaller plus project.  This will be the easiest finish of the quarter!
I don't enjoy making totes and pouches, but I'm so draw to all the Sew Together Bags I see on Instagram (and no one has gotten the message to make me one) that I'm going to make my own.  The outside patchwork is finished, fabrics pulled from my stash, and I have to make a shopping run for two more zippers.
Please send me good vibes so I enjoy this make!
I came across these improve 9-patch blocks during the winter tidy up of my studio.  The color palette is inspired by lichen. I don't know much about lichen, but I'm always photographing it.  This particular set of blocks were inspired by a winter photo of a tree covered with lichen and plastered with snow.  The blocks have been in my stash for too long!!  I've moved them onto the work wall and am waiting for the inspiration to assemble them into something!!
Finally, I hope to get this set of Morris Hexathon blocks from Barbara Brackkman's sew along last year organized into a small quilt.  I've been playing on the design wall with different layouts and need to work up the incentive to make a few more blocks since I don't have quite enough. 
I'm recording all my layout experiments to share in my Studying the Stars Workshop in March and hope that this quilt will be a top at the very least, but finished would be better.
How about you? 
Any goals for your winter stitching?
I've found participating in these challenges to be more and more motivating.
And that's good!!

If you have been looking at some classes on Craftsy, they are having a BOGO sale this weekend!
Buy a Craftsy class and get a second class of equal or lesser value for free! Use coupon code BOGOJAN17 at checkout. *Some exclusions apply. Shop Now by clicking HERE!
(This is an affiliate link and I earn a commission from your purchases.)

Here's to a stitching weekend!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Scrappy, Scrappy, Scrappy

During December, I "proquiltinated" a start on this scrappy quilt. 
It was all perfectly justifiable?!?
I needed to clear out the overflowing box of 2 1/2" strips and I have been wanting to work with Lissa Alexander's Color Me Crochet pattern (April, 2013, American Patchwork & Quilting) since first seeing it in the magazine.  It is similar to Bonnie Hunter's Scrappy Trips but would enable me to use lots of the short strips in the box.   If the piecing was fun, it would be a good pattern for my "good deed" quilting group to use this winter.

The group has used Bonnie Hunter's Scrappy Bargello quilt pattern to make some delightful children's quilts and I thought they would enjoy working with this pattern, too.  So in the beginning, the intention was to experiment with the piecing process, be sure I understood the instructions and prepare for instructing the group.  A side benefit was that it would give me some non-deadline stitching and a brief daily respite from holiday fussing and fretting.

During the first three experiments, the accidental color combination of this block called out to me to expand it into a quilt and so I ransacked my strip box for all the reds, greens, browns, and golds.
(At the same time, I pulled out all the blue strips for one of the gals in the group to try her first 1600 quilt -- I haven't seen the results yet, but her top is finished and ready to layer up later this week!)
Lissa's pattern calls for 2" cut strips so I had to recalculate the measurements for my 2 1/2" strips.
Eventually, I realized that sorting my strips into piles by the length of each strip helped me stay organized and saved time when pulling the assortment for each block.
Here is one of the assortments ready to piece into the necessary strip set.  The red/green hombre with the black polka dots will be the central row of squares in the finished block. 
I made one small change to Lissa's instructions -- I pieced all 11 strips together before cutting the rows.  It saves a little time but my main reason for doing this was to simplify the pressing for me.

My teaching experience has made me fussy about pressing -- I want it to be systematic, straight forward and set me up for easy assembly as I move through the steps of making a block. 
The strategy we used for the Scrappy Bargello quilts worked well and I intended to apply it to these blocks.  While Bonnie doesn't specifically write out instructions for her pressing strategy, it is apparent from the pictures that she alternates the seams as in the photo below.
This pressing strategy is easier than it looks!
I begin by stitching my strips together in pairs and pressing those seams before stitching the pairs together into the final strip set.  My experiments also helped me discover that the seam direction needs to alternate with each block.  In the photos above and below, the seams of the center strip (reds) are pressed away from the strip.  That sets up the pressing direction for the rest of the block.
In the next block I "reversed" the seam direction of the center strip -- both seams of the center strip are pressed towards the center strip.  Now when the two finished blocks are joined, the seams nest together perfectly. 

To read some of my other thoughts about "pressing patchwork", HERE is a link to the first of a three part series of posts I wrote in 2013.  Parts 2 and 3 follow it when you get there.

To cut the rows, first you need to know I cut each strip 1" longer than needed to give myself a cushion so that  is why there are odd bits at the top of these rows. 
That yellow piece will be removed.
In the above photo, I have cut 3 rows starting at the left edge of the strip set and removed the extra pieces and laid them in the correct order below.
To cut the remaining 3 rows, I began cutting from the right edge and that skinny band you see in the photo below is the remainder from the center of the strip center (which must be thrown away because the whole point of this exercise is to use up fabric, not make more bits to save). 
I made the blocks one at a time and placed them on the design wall.  From the beginning, I planned each block with a "dark" print for the center diagonal row of squares.  By the fourth block, I decided I needed to be sure there was some gold/yellow in each block to keep the cheerful look of the color palette and some black was pulled into the assortment to create more drama.

Here are the first 8 blocks set together.  The strips hanging across the bottom of the design wall will be the center strips of the next row of blocks.  That was the only planning I did to assure that the darks were distributed evenly across the quilt.
It took a couple blocks for me to realize that I needed to lay each block out BEFORE I stitched the row together so the diagonals were going in the correct direction.  Try as I might, rotating the block never changed the direction and maintained my pressing order of the diagonals once the block was finished!!

I laid out half the rows in this block with the diagonal going from the upper left to the lower right (on the left) and the other 3 rows with the diagonal going from the lower left to the upper right (on the right).   Just trust me on this one -- I've already made the mistakes!
Once I had all the color and pressing experiments sorted, the blocks went quickly.  As I finished each block, I would organize the fabric combination for the next one so when I came back to it, I was able to piece a block in about 30 minutes.  This proved to be just enough of an escape from the holiday deadlines to calm me down and prepare me to "go back at it"!!
I finished the top, added borders and made a backing last weekend -- ready to quilt!! 
It's 56" by 68" and the top and backing used approximately 6 yards of my stash -- wahoo!
I love looking at  it and discovering all the "spontaneous" design that is happening.
Between this quilt and the blue 1600 strip quilt, half the strips in the scrap box have been used and the box is ready to restock!!  While piecing this quilt, I decided on a destination for it plus I'm ready to share the process with my "good deed" quilt group!

Happy piecing this week!!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Project Quilting Season 8

If you could see my "blog planner", you would know that today's post is not in the plan -- it came out of nowhere and surprised me.  When that happens, I'm grateful because it often gives me some breathing space when I'm flailing around for topic inspirations.
This picture from my post earlier this week may have piqued your curiosity -- it certainly did mine!
Over the New Year weekend, I stumbled into information about Project Quilting, the brain child of Nikki at Persimon Dreams -- it will be easier for you to just jump over THERE and read about it for yourself.   There are already over two dozen finished projects posted in the linky at the end of the post.

If you are new reader from the Project Quilting "linky", thanks for visiting!  I'm Mary Huey, I quilt in Northeast Ohio and have a long history as a quilt maker -- teaching, owned a shop, and now blogging!

 The above diagram was included in the first challenge -- "eight is great" -- guidelines.  I was intrigued, as I am with all things "star", and a coloring session (unusual in itself) helped me dissect the sphere and experiment with color and value options.

The basic unit of the block is the "kite" shape associated with 8-pointed stars!
I teach with Marti Michell's Multi-size Kite Ruler so I used the largest kite to draft a pattern for a 17" block.  It's a little hard to see my diagram but as a result of becoming reacquainted with paper piecing last year, I decided the quickest way to achieve the dissected kites would be paper piecing.
I made 5 copies of my patterns -- one to use as cutting patterns (check out this post for my previous comments about this) and four for stitching.  I'm always challenging myself to use my expansive stash and this time, I elected to try interpreting a contemporary color scheme (aqua and red) with older fabrics.
Once the pattern was organized and the fabrics picked, it didn't take long to settle in at the machine and of course, I found a chain-piecing aspect to the process!
Once the paper pieced kite units were stitched, I used Marti's ruler to trim them to the perfect size. 
During the cutting process, I decided to piece the alternate points without paper (seems quicker in my mind).
After pressing the seams, I centered my pattern on the fabric, set the kite ruler on top of it and trimmed them to size. 
I opted for a single background fabric to maintain the clean line of contrast and they are actually simple right triangles (though they appear to be otherwise in the original drawing). 
I made them slightly larger than necessary to give me a cushion or float around the finished star.
Here are the two finished units ready for the final construction of the star.
Of course, it's a y-seam but piecing those are easier than you are thinking thanks to the "set-in piecing simplified" technique which I have been teaching for the past 4 years (thanks to the insight of Mary O'Keefe in Watertown, NY.). 
How many times have you read my rhapsodizing about this technique?
Are you curious yet?
Time to order my DVD, Set-In Piecing Simplified and quite avoiding y-seam piecing!!
You'll have it in a week.  It takes 30 minutes to view (though I recommend doing it in two sittings with some trial stitching after the first segment).  With some practice, you'll soon be able to apply the idea to any y-seam block working with any of the many tools currently available. 
My final decision was to square up the block with the slightly darker background fabric.  It was in the running for framing the star, but it softened the edges of the star too much so this was a perfect way to get it into the finished block.  Those background pieces are half-kites and easily cut with the Multi-size Kite ruler.  I just had to be sure to cut each pair together with the fabric right sides facing to guarantee the necessary "right" and "left" orientation.
I love the block and I can see it as the center of a fabulous medallion but part of the challenge is to finish within one week -- a completed piece!! 
As I finished the piecing, I considered my options -- small quilt, pillow cover, table topper, tote bag.
The colors don't work in my home color scheme which revolves around neutrals and greens so using it for a "good deed" quilt was the best option.  But finishing a quilt in 4 days (during the designated week of deep kitchen cleaning) was not the best option.
And I don't like to make tote bags.

If you follow me on Instagram (@hueymary), you know this is where I headed out to shop (vegetables and bird seed) because I was struggling to decide how to finish it. 
On my rounds, I stopped at a local park for a (birding) walk and came to the conclusion that making a tote bag to donate during my church's annual Lenten collection for a local young families support ministry would be just the thing!

Rather than dig or search for a specific pattern, I cobbled together a large sturdy lined bag that I hope will serve as a cheerful tote for a young mother with limited resources.
The lining and this whimsical fabric for the pocket came out of boxes of fabric I culled from my stash last summer.
I'm not even going to show you how I constructed the bag -- there are so many great tutorials and patterns from stitchers who enjoy making them! 
The lines of the original grid drawing inspired most of the quilting and were done with the walking foot.
And here it is.  I'm pretty surprised with the results!?!
The best part was making it quickly -- four days -- and responding to lots of spontaneous ideas. 
When I got stuck, I stepped away and let the ideas sort themselves out.
Are you interested in the pattern drawing (just the block) so you can make your own version?
It finishes at 18" square with the final wedges. 
I'll organize a PDF to post on Craftsy this weekend.
I still think it would be a terrific medallion center block!

There are five more challenges during the three month run of Project Quilting.  I'll miss one while on vacation but I look forward to the discoveries waiting for me in the other four!
In the meantime, I need to finish a UFQ this weekend!!
How about you?


If you can't find Marti's Multi-size Kite tool locally, send me an e-mail.  I keep them in stock for workshops even though I don't have a selling website.