Monday, November 28, 2016

Farmyard Baby Quilt Finish

There it is -- hanging on the clothes line drying in the sunshine -- all finished and ready for a happy baby boy who is due to enter the world in the next week or so!!
Marti Michell's Tessellated Windmill tool has become my favorite go-to for making eye catching quilts out of my stash!!  Based on an off-handed remark between the new parents, I settled on a farm animal theme for this version.  My stack of novelty prints yielded a surprising assortment and they went on the road with me last month to be organized and cut.

I started by laying out the fabrics across the extra bed at the hotel one evening.
Then I played around with a group of plainer prints in browns and greens for the alternate windmills. This has been a successful strategy for me with this design -- start with a collection of themed prints and add a palette of simpler prints that set off the themed prints to fill out the assortment.
This is my final arrangement by rows.  This is a good way to get a quick preview of the amount of contrast achieved -- my palette is subtle with lots of medium value prints but if I had wanted more visual contrast, I could have made exchanges easily at this point before beginning the cutting.
Marti's tool is multi-sized and I love that all the pieces are cut before any stitching is done!!  Her cutting strategy is very efficient as well.
There is very little fabric waste (though I was sorry to lose this cow's eyes)!!
By the end of the evening, everything was cut for the quilt and laid in my travel box by rows with layers of paper to separate each row.  Now I could begin the piecing as soon as I returned home!
The next evening found me back in my room with nothing interesting on TV. My machine was in the car, so I brought in into the room and set it up.
I laid out the quilt and did the "shuffle" following Marti's instructions that come with the tool -- the instructions are easy to follow if you read the words along with the pictures -- don't skip the words!
Assembling this quilt is chain-piecing friendly!
I leave the chain stitching in tact for the pressing.  Flipping every other pair up makes pressing the seams in opposite directions easier.
I only clip the chain between each set, leaving the chain that holds each set of four together -- simplifies the next step! 
When I move from the ironing board back to the sewing machine, all my blocks are organized. 
Since I was not in the studio and would need to pack up, I went ahead and stitched the blocks into rows and set the rows together.  Less effort to pack and less effort to untangle back in my studio. 
I was making such good progress that I stayed up a bit later than usual and finished the top that evening!
I found a quilt shop on the drive home and there was a perfect backing -- it was even on sale!
This past week, I realized the baby's due date was upon me so I quickly layered up the quilt while the extra high table was set up in the living room (it needed to come down for Thanksgiving).  Friday found me home alone with no car so George and I launched into the quilting.
Another aspect of making this quilt design that I enjoy is that I have a quilting strategy that works -- I've done it several times and I don't see any reason to mess with it!
I used "continuous curve" to outline each piece and for this quilt, I echoed all the simple prints.  By the end of the day, I had the majority of the quilting finished.
These Holsteins look so gentle and lovable -- I don't recall Uncle Verde's lead cow Bessy looking that cute when I was 10 years old?!?
And how weird is this -- those pigs came "together" in the finished block in spite of chopping up the fabric randomly?!? 
Saturday afternoon found me finishing the quilting and thinking about the binding. This perfect stripe was waiting right on top of the stripes stack in my stash!!  And I have enough of it left to bind another quilt.  I'm in the habit of buying narrow stripes like this "just in case" -- 3/4 of a yard will bind just about any size quilt and to go on a shopping trip to try to find this when I "want" it would be exhausting.  It's easier to look through my stashed stripes on-hand in the studio!
I washed the quilt on Sunday afternoon and hung it out to dry since the weather was sunny and mild.  Willie showed up at the end of the afternoon and we pinned the quilt to the side of the cowshed. 
This is finish #3 from my fourth quarter list for the 2016 Finish Along -- the list is HERE!!   
Quilt Stats
7" Windmill blocks set 6 across by 8 down
42" by 56"

I have three more pieces to finish for a 100% success this quarter -- one is layered, and the other two are about 50% quilted!! 
How about you?  Are you staying on track with your goals for this quarter?

I hope your week is off to a stitchy start!


UPDATE -- 12/30/16 -- Logan has arrived and is thriving.
Mom and Dad are tired but adjusting.
The quilt was appreciated! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Week

After a balmy day last Friday, we had a weekend of cold weather and a bit of snow which brought the lovely part of fall to an end. The last leaves have turned golden and rust and we find ourselves on the edge of winter.
It's Thanksgiving week here in the USA and all that most everyone is thinking about is food and cleaning the house so my stitching time has been limited and poorly focused.  Facebook just reminded me that on Thanksgiving Day in 2012, we had dinner out on the patio and a red fox visited the back porch in the morning to clean up the cat's food.  We won't be having dinner out on the patio this year!!

My resident squirrels started their Thanksgiving feasting early and requisitioned the Halloween pumpkins -- I moved this one down by the bird feeders this morning to keep the mess off the back porch.  The little mob of dark-eyed juncos just ignore him as they search the grass for the cracked corn we throw out.
Sometimes a walk helps me focus (the refrigerator still needs cleaning before the big feast on Thursday) so I headed to a nearby wetland for a short late afternoon walk.  I've been helping a local group increase the survey birding along the local river corridor by visiting several different parks every week.  
The trail skirts the edge of an ancient dog-leg of the river that has attracted a pair of beaver who have re-engineered the area into an interesting pond and marsh.
The remnant of snow showed me that not only are there other folks (and dogs) who appreciate this rustic boardwalk through the marsh, it seems the white-tailed deer appreciate it as well.  It's breeding season for the deer right now and I've finally learned to pay attention during late afternoon walks -- not good to get between a buck and an attractive doe!
My walk yesterday afternoon yielded a new experience -- several coyotes howling not too far from the trail.  Upon returning home, I did some reading to see if breeding season is also beginning for them -- it's a bit early for breeding but not too early for dating.  I have to admit it was a bit unsettling and I was relieved to only spot black-capped chickadees this afternoon.  I was delighted that this one waited for me to get my camera out and set-up for a portrait.
He was foraging near these goldenrod galls -- the egg and larval case of the goldenrod gall fly.  The larva overwinters in the case and the fly hatches in the spring -- but not these!?!  Chickadees and Downy woodpeckers are the most likely culprits -- they had snacked on every one in this clump along the edge of the path.  You can read more about this HERE.
I returned home at dusk and watched to see if the cardinals were put off by the red yarn I added to my feeding pole this morning.  It's an attempt to keep the House Sparrows on the ground and out of the sunflower seed tray -- seems to have worked the first day though I wouldn't be surprised if the sparrows get over their trepidation before winter is over.  Surprisingly, the yarn doesn't seem to bother any of the other birds coming to the feeders.
Reorganizing my feeders today made me wonder if the Cornell University Feeder Cams are up and running for the winter.  They have three -- one at the lab in Ithaca, New York (click HERE), my favorite  located in Ontario, Canada (click HERE) which attracts birds we rarely get here in Northeast Ohio, and a hummingbird feeding station in West Texas (click HERE).  (If you are visiting any of these sites from other parts of the world, NY and Canada are in the Eastern North America time zone and Texas is in the Central time zone.) 
We are gathering a small group of family and friends, sharing the cooking duties, and looking forward to a quiet day of feasting and visiting on Thursday. 
Then with the house clean and lots of leftover food in the kitchen, I can spend the weekend starting my Christmas stitching!!
Enjoy the rest of your week!!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Quilting, quilting, quilting

How many days left in 2016?
Not enough to get all the projects finished that I had hope to do.
But the 44 days that remain will allow me to make progress just the same.

My fellow "good deed" quilters and myself are pushing to finish a stack of children's quilts to be shared with young single parent families who are working hard to be improve their situations with the help of Laura's Home, a program of Cleveland's City Mission.
Here are some of the dozen we've finished so far!
There are two of these Disappearing 9-Patch quilts -- blocks someone gave to one of our members!
This little UFO of log cabin blocks is now ready for a toddler to snuggle. 
Isn't this going to make a little "purple" loving girl happy?
I can't believe this soft pastel piece turned out so lovely -- it had been malingering on my UFO shelves for far too long! 
We never get tired of creating these scrappy bargello pieces -- so versatile and always turn out cheerful in spite of what appears to be a pretty ugly assortment of strips that we hand onto. 
There are two of these quilts -- another very old UFO that was passed along to us -- 12 large blocks -- get ready little boys for these! 
The background of this piece is a signature of one of our member's quilts -- scappy improvisational background!  Love the stars!! 
I have no memory of how this quilt came about -- thinking it's from one of the group member's stashes!  Leftover geese perhaps? 
Another sample block cast-off from the 1980's has been reclaimed in this quilt -- just takes some thought!! 
One of my many teaching samples that has been retired from the circuit but now it's a going to a loving new home!! 
We have several gals in the group who are still working to feel more comfortable with their machine quilting efforts.  While reading some of the blogposts shared this week over at Sew Fresh Quilts, Karin of The Quilt Yarn shared this sensible approach to controlling the spacing and alignment of a popular modern quilting design -- wavy lines.
You should go HERE and read it -- it might be just the idea you need for your next quilting session!

I plan to finish quilting this piece this weekend -- word is that we are expecting some snow -- still some leaves on the trees here so hope there isn't much snow which can be very damaging when it arrives early!!
Hope your weekend is productive and stitch!!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Kaffe Hexie Pillow Finish

In the spring, I created this neck roll pillow as a teaching sample for an introductory EPP workshop using a random assortment of Kaffe prints on an architectural background print.
There were leftover hexies, all basted and ready to play so when I began to redecorate my living room this summer, I decided to finish them into another neck roll pillow.
 That pillow shape is very comfortable for resting my left arm when I'm stitching on the couch plus it looks nice!
I took the hexies along on a late summer trip and pieced them into this motif.
I decided the motif I created would not fit on a neckroll pillow form but that was okay because I found a 14" by 28" rectangle form which I liked!
That meant the quilted cover was not large enough or the right shape but I have lots of fabric.
A couple days of "intuitive" auditioning and I was ready to finish the pillow cover!
I added fabric (and batting and backing) to both sides, then more to the top and bottom to make a quilted piece large enough to cover the pillow.
While this isn't a route I would encourage for making a pillow cover, I wanted to share how I enlarged this piece after it was quilted.  My process is an adaptation of techniques gleaned from Marti Michell's book, Machine Quilting in Sections.

I began by adding more backing fabric -- in this photo, I've pushed the top layer and batting to the left to stitch it in place.  I pressed the backing away from the finished section pressing the seam towards the new piece of backing.
In this photo, I'm adding batting. I've trimmed the edges of batting straight with a rotary cutter and butted them together.  This "butted seam" is to the right of the backing seam about 1/2" to minimize bulk and I used my walking foot with a wide, long zigzag to stitch the batting edges together.  The stitching goes through the backing fabric which wouldn't work on a quilt but is fine for a pillow.  If I were doing this on a quilt, I would use a fusible batting tape to join the seam.
Finally I added the "border" fabric to the sandwich to expand the size of the top.  Notice that this seam is to the left of the batting seam.  I've learned through trial and error that having the three seams -- backing, batting, and top -- staggered rather than piled on top of each other makes a better finish.
I quilted the side border sections.
And repeated the process to add top and bottom borders. 
After these were quilted, I was ready to finish the pillow cover. 
At this point, my completed cover is 29" square. 
I used my serger to finish all four sides of the piece. 
Then I inserted a 22" zipper in the back seam just the way I learned to do it in a dress 50 years ago.  I stitched the quilted piece into a tube from end to end, switching to a basting stitch for the section where the zipper will fit and then back to a standard stitch length. 
At this point, I realized I was taking the awkward route -- stitching the zipper in place inside a tube was a bit of challenge. 
After the zipper was in place, I took out the basting stitches and pulled the zipper open before centering the zipper on the back side of the pillow cover and stitching the ends of the tube closed.
Happily, it worked!!  And now I have two new pillows for the couch!  There is third piece in this set that is still in progress -- check out my fourth quarter Finish Along list HERE.  It too won't be what it was intended to be and I'll share that with you next week!
I made another apple cake, too!  It will be donated to the refreshment table at a club meeting tomorrow evening.  I tried reducing the oil to 3/4 cup and used only 1 1/2 cups of sliced apples, but added 1/2 cup of fresh cranberries.  It's nice!!
If you missed the recipe last week, you can find it HERE.  If you copied the recipe last week, be advised that I left out "1 teaspoon of baking soda" -- it's corrected in the blog post but be sure to add it or you'll be irritated with me and my recipe!!

Tomorrow I'm committed to doing some "good deed" stitching -- very utilitarian and not at all interesting.  Vinyl covers to hold upholstery foam in place on some metal poles in my church's fellowship hall.  I hope it goes smoothly and doesn't take more than the day!!

I hope your week is off to a good start!!