Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Crossing another one off the "to-do" list!!

 It's two days before Thanksgiving here in the USA.  This morning I've been thinking about the controversial aspect of this "holiday" and decided to focus on the "gratefulness" aspect of it.  Gratefulness is a universal attitude that can reframe mindsets and dissipate frustration.  The challenge is to look beyond the personal aspects and adopt a wider viewpoint of gratefulness so if you will indulge me for a paragraph before I share finish #17?

I'm grateful for all the courageous people who are calling out dominate cultural views and expanding my point of view on a variety of topics from racism to habitat protection.  It has been a year of discovery for me in spite of hardly leaving my little world.  I hope their impact on my thoughts and ideas will have a powerful impact on my life going forward.

I'm also grateful for each of you and your interest and support of my blogging and social media posts!!  You give more purpose to my life and efforts than you realize.

And finally I'm grateful for that loaf of bread baking in the kitchen and lifting my spirits with it's aroma.  Nice that the sun has decided to shine this morning, too!

Number 17 is finished!! Quilted, bound, and snuggle tested!

The blocks are paper pieced - a BOM from a very clever gal I found via Instragram -- Elisabeth at @lemonshark.  If you want to see some of the other versions or check out her blog with the PDF's for the blocks, search the hashtag #sharksdinnerbom2019 on Instagram.  There are twelve different blocks -- each has the same outer shape but the center of each one is a different configuration of shapes.  
(Also, the background/sashing is my design and everyone has been doing their own thing with that.)
The backing of the quilt is a scrappy Kaffe thing (I'm trying to use up that stack) as is the binding.
I "big stitched" this quilt with #8 perle cotton using Quilters Dream Request batting.  It is so soft and supple!!  The background/sashing is quilted the same on each block plus the entire "motif" is outlined with white thread.
I used an assortment of perle cotton colors -- orange and green, lavender and teal -- choosing colors to blend or contrast with the color of the pieces.
The quilting designs were spontaneous decisions -- sometimes I was inspired to quilt in such a way that a big motif was emphasized rather than the individual pieces that created it.
The gray crown in the middle of the block below is a good example of that.
Other times, my brain was stuck and so I simply outlined the shape often times using a contrasting                                                            thread color.  I enjoyed being spontaneous!                                                                                               

I usually do my handwork in the evening (while watching English murder mysteries) and each block took between 4 and 5 sessions.  It felt like I was zooming along!
I was zooming along!!!
I said there are twelve blocks so there is a second lap quilt underway with the six remaining blocks.  The blocks are about 22" square and I feel like two small quilts will be more useful and appealing than one big quilt given the boldness of my color/fabric combinations.
Quilt number 18 is about 75% machine quilted so it feels like there could be another finish before the end of the month -- woot, woot!!  
My biggest dilemma at this point is do I clean the house or make Christmas gifts??

Bread is done!!



Thursday, November 4, 2021

Down The Home Stretch!!

 #16 is FINISHED!!

Would you like to see it??


Julie of Pink Doxies machine quilted it for me with a lovely overall design in light gray thread.
This double-size version of my Courthouse Stars pattern is going to a young friend of mine named Ophelia.  It started as a teaching sample for the last few workshops I taught using this pattern.

One of my goals in making teaching and shop samples is always to expand the design's appeal.  When I make a sample from a pattern, I never use the fabric style from the pattern envelope.  My goal is to broaden the appeal of the pattern. It is a good strategy because it expands
 my customers and students ability to look beyond the pattern cover.  The downside for me is that I have quite a few quilts that aren't "my style", so I'm always glad to find a happier home for one that doesn't fit with my home décor.
That large floral in the backing is an older Jane Sassaman print I just "had to have" and then because it is so beautiful, I couldn't cut into it???  
(Tell me you have that hang-up, too.)
So, I've started using those big gorgeous prints as backings because I don't want them to go for pennies in the BIG yard sale. 😏

Also, I should say that piecing the border as it is in this version is not in the pattern.  I didn't have enough of the large print that I used as the basis for the color palette so stash busting with the "piano key" border was the best solution.

You know what else?  #17 is layered and the machine quilting has started!!
These circa 1900 quilt blocks caught my eye at a show several years ago.  They were set together with a 1920's solid green and I bought it so I could save it from the wrong sashing.  I took the quilt top apart and replaced the sashing with an assortment of reproduction shirting prints.  The fabrics in the original blocks are almost certainly clothing construction leftovers.  I think it was intended to be a utility quilt so have kept the quilting simple with cross hatching in the blocks and stitch-in-the-ditch for the sashing.  Since it's a larger quilt, I'm quilting it in two sections and will add borders after joining the sections.

But wait, #18 is two-thirds of the way to being quilted!!
Two more blocks are finished.
I'm enjoying the "big stitch" quilting partly because it's easy on my hands but also because the quilt is going to drape softly and be a good cuddler -- excellent attributes for a lap quilt.

I might actually make my goal of #quilt21in2021 -- woo-hoo!!!  Striving for my goal has been a success even if I fall a quilt or two short.   I am accepting my energy limitations and discovering simpler quilting strategies that make me confident about finishing every quilt I start going forward.

As 2021 nears the end, it's time to start thinking about my quilting goal(s) for 2022!  Possibilities are presenting themselves.  Use 222 yards of my stash?  Deal with the antique quilt tops I've hoarded over the years? Do something about the remaining UFO's in the studio?  Start as many new projects as I want?!?  Cull my stash?

So many possibilities!  During December, I'll inventory the UFO's and antique tops and my want-to-make-that list.  That's always my first step in making an annual goal.

Back to the quilting!!


Thursday, October 21, 2021

On the Home Stretch!!


As fall begins to look more like itself here in Northeast Ohio (leaves falling, rain, cooler days), I'm vacillating back and forth about whether I'll meet my #quilt21in2021 goal.  One day it feels like I won't make it so why try so hard and the next day, today in fact, I think I might just make it!
Number 15 has been under the needle for the past week and yesterday I finished the border quilting 
so I will bind it this afternoon!  
I've been trying to remember the original motivation for piecing this top so looked through old blogposts but can't find anything.  Perhaps I never shared it?  As I recall, the bright fabrics were leftover strips from another quilt.  And I may have pieced the drunkards path units as curved piecing demos and/or "sew-offs" for other piecing.  
I do remember there wasn't a specific plan and the whimsical nursery rhyme blocks were a serendipitous after thought.
I "echo" quilted the entire top using the 3/4" guide from Sew Steady which is one of my favorite accessories!
There is a total of five rows of stitching around each large unit and I love the way the quilting reinforces the graphics of the piecing design. 
The only glitch occurred when I started the border.  My original intent was "piano key" style straight lines but they looked so weird against the wavy print lines that I ripped the first few lines out and started again using wavy lines.  I was stitching the lines towards me and away from me,  but the tension on the backside was bad when stitching away from myself.  
Happily, the tension issue was quickly solved by working side to side instead.  Usually, my machine has good thread tension but occasionally the tension is poor when going in one stitching direction.  I've learned to sidestep the issue by testing different approaches to the design (clockwise or counterclockwise, side to side, etc.) and then adjusting my stitching plan to eliminate the issue.  
The whole job took seven 45 minute work sessions so once again I found myself wondering "why has this taken so long to do"???

I also "whipped up" a set of six little pumpkin blocks that Sandy Gervais shared on her blog recently and made them into a table runner for the triplets' family plus a big mug rug for my librarian daughter.
The little wall hanging she designed with this block is really cute and on my "to do" list.
I forgot to take a picture of the finished runner but it's really cute, too!!
I've started "big stitch" hand quilting my large EPP blocks (Sharks Dinner BOM) done in 2019.
It will probably be quilt number 19 or 20 when it's finished! 
Using a chenille needle, pearl cotton, and no hoop, the work is going quickly!
It takes 3 to 4 evenings to quilt one block (about 23" square).  That means if I stay on task, all twelve blocks will be quilted by the end of November!
I'm using Quilter's Dream Request cotton batting which is a firm construction and thin so the texture of the quilted sections is soft and supple.  Happily, I like the blocks better quilted than I do unquilted and that's proving to be a good motivation to keep stitching!  I have twelve blocks and at this point I think it will be two lap size throw quilts rather than one large quilt.
I realized this past week, I might be signing up for ZOOM webinars so I can work on my version of the hexagon mystery quilt from Jemima's Creative Quilting.  LOL  I'm using 3/4" hexagons to keep it scaled down and working out of the stash so far.
 I have Parts 1 and 2 stitched together 
and about half of the basting done for Part 3.
Part 4 was just released on Monday so I'm not too far behind.

I'm picking up quilt number 16 from the quilter on Saturday -- wahoo!  Another top is going out to a quilter in early December. And I might layer up number 17 this weekend if I have the right size batting on hand which leaves two quilt tops on the shelf.
Success is within sight (as long as I don't get distracted by something cute).

And speaking of something cute!?!
Auntie A (the children's librarian) and I babysat Saturday evening -- look how serious they are about that book!!  Of course, she really knows how to read a book out loud properly!!
We had a good time with them in spite of flunking getting them to bed.
Enjoy your weekend where ever you live -- it's mid-fall or mid-spring -- best times of the year!



Friday, October 1, 2021

The Opposite of Procrastination

Do you ever wonder why you've been putting off doing something?  

I do every time I finish another top off that shelf in the sewing room!  This feather star has had me "paralyzed" because complicated (looking) patchwork needs complicate quilting . . . . . right?

It's important to realize that is not necessarily true.   I think we live with that impression because we are constantly comparing our work to that of professional machine quilters.  They do amazing work but they also have an advantage over us in that they don't have to move the quilt through the machine.
So "come on down" and quilt some of that pile!!
The chances of your quilts being cherished by friends and family are a lot greater if they are finished!
This quilt top was a teaching sample I made using one of Marti Michell wonderful Feathered Star templates sets to illustrate fabric placement options.  I loved teaching this workshop because as a rule every student was successful -- there was one exception but I'm not telling you that story.
In this close-up, you can see the simple strategy I took -- curves in the triangle points and a series of interlocking straight lines to "quilt down" the center of the block successfully.
My goal was not to ruin the quilt top with my quilting.
I'm still adding some straight lines in the background pieces to "frame" up each block but decided to do that with a walking foot on my Bernina -- straighter lines!
I've also finished adding the pieced borders to the Courthouse Stars quilt -- lots of strips there so I didn't have to leave the house to shop for lavender fabric!!
This pattern is available in my Etsy shop -- MaryHueyQuilts.
I sent it off yesterday to a professional quilter so that is almost as good as crossing it off the list!!
Someone asked me how I calculate number of strips needed and the strip size for a border like this.  
Keep it simple -- I ballpark it.  
I these strips the same width as the strips used for the courthouse step blocks to maintain visual continuity.  Then I did an estimate of how many to cut but you know it's part luck to get that perfect.  So I cheat just a little bit -- the last strip on each border is wider so that I can adjust things easily at the end. Sometimes the last strip is wider and sometime it's narrower.  If you saw this quilt in person, you wouldn't notice that skinny strip!

The star blocks in the corners are the same stars used in the body of the quilt -- same size, same fabrics, continuity.
Now all there is to do is wait!
I've decided to quilt another one of the 21 tops by hand so this past weekend.  The "top" is this set of twelve large English paper pieced blocks I made in 2018?
Each block is about 21" square and I'm still debating two quilts or one quilt???
I created a placement map for the blocks (that was a challenge) and numbered each of them.  They are sewn together in pairs at this point. 
So this weekend, I made the backing for it. I'll be working in six sections using pearl cotton "big stitch" quilting which I enjoy.  That and working in sections rather than the entire quilt top will help me stay engaged as this is another top I'm a bit paranoid about "ruining" with my machine quilting.
(And you thought you were the only one who felt that way.) 
I'll layer each pair with one of these big 4-patch sections you see in the photo below making them easier to handle.
Making the backing turned into an enjoyable and spontaneous experience.  Each of the blocks began with a fabric from Kaffe Fassett and my goal was to use as many non-Kaffe fabrics with each one as I could (from my stash, I might add) to illustrate to my students that those fabrics are more flexible than they think.  So it was just fitting that the backing be all Kaffe fabric.  
I had four one yard cuts and lots of fat quarters and fat eighths.  
Plan A was to cut forty-eight 12" squares and pieced them together to make the backing units.  
After cutting all the fat quarters, there were just sixteen 12" squares. 

As I unfolded the one yard cuts, I realized someone had fussy cut around one of them -- hmmm??
Not surprisingly, a bit of math revealed the one yard cuts would not yield the balance of 12" squares needed.

Plan B started to evolve out of "necessity" (a major factor in many of my creative decisions).
In the end, I cut forty-eight 6 1/2" squares and pieced them into sixteen more 12" units.
To finish up, I cut four large squares from the one-yard cuts and I was ready to arrange!
It occupied the living room floor for about 12 hours being rearranged anytime I walked through the room until something in my head said "stop and sew them together".

With the plan for that quilt moving forward, I have just four tops left to machine quilt myself and that shelf will be empty!!

As I reward, I let myself start an EPP mystery being led by an Aussie shop owner on Instagram.  
I'm already engaged with the second part so just one part behind but I'll catch up. If you want to be behind with me, you can find the first three clues at @jemimas_creative_quilting via Instagram or her blog at jemimascreativequilting.com   Part four is still two weeks off so there is time!!
And how about these grandkids?!?
The four of us enjoy being silly together and looking at goat reels on Instagram -- yes, I'm sitting cross-legged on asphalt with three 2 year olds on my lap.  
And I was able to stand up . . . . very slowly.
Happy October!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Prepping for the Fall Quilting Push

As I began to write this post, it occurred to me that every September (at least in the northern hemisphere), quilters begin to make "fall" sewing plans as the weather starts to close in and summer activities wind down.  This year seems a bit different to me -- thanks Covid 19??  

But perhaps it's a bit early, too?  And I still have my #quilt21in2021 goal to reach!

I've finished the quilting on #13 - a small top using sweet 30's reproduction prints and the "gem" shape from the hexie family.  It was perhaps a teaching sample -- not really sure at this point?

I used my default hexie quilting plan to get it started -- in the ditch between the gem pieces
 and through the centers of the white hexagons to create a grid
that looked like this.  I could have left it at that -- the batting would have weathered  washing just fine with so little quilting but I decided to perk it up a bit.
So I went back and quilted a circle of "hearts" around the center of each motif.  There was some trial and error experimenting because it was a spontaneous idea -- typical!?!
After the first couple, it occurred to me to draw a "marker" hexagon in the center of each motif to enable me to stitch a more uniform circle of hearts.  You can see the yellow chalk lines.  
I began at a chalk line on a seam (as below)
and arc'd up into the gem as though drawing the left lobe of a heart, down to the line at the center of the gem and back up and down to where the chalk line intercepted the next seam.
If you use this idea, experiment to decide if you get better results working clockwise or counter clockwise -- it might make a difference!
I think the circles of hearts ramped up the sweetness factor significantly!!
A heart shape is actually an easy free motion design because it's a shape we all learned to draw in our childhood so if you are self conscious about your free motion quilting ability, try using hearts.  

My other tip to you is to adopt a positive description of your quilting style!

A long time ago, when trying to cope with the frustration of "perfecting" my machine quilting skills I was up against a deadline to have a quilt finished for a show.  I had put a lot of time and energy into the piecing and it looked great.  I was inhibited about quilting it because I was of course sure that I would ruin the quilt.  In the middle of some curly tendrils (was I crazy to try that?), I realized or decided that my quilting style is "whimsical".  And if people (i.e., judges) don't get that from looking at my work, their loss!!

[There will now be a one week break while I ponder the borders.]

The cute green gingham-style plaid cried out for something more than my go-to straight lines.
How about some (whimsical) flowers using heart petals (to repeat a shape used in the body of the quilt -- always a good design choice) spaced along the length?
Good idea!
And for a change, I practiced first to determine the layout and scale.
By doing this, I was able to decide how many flower petals would work, if echo-ing enhanced the flower (it did!), and how large to make the flower.
I found a tool in my drawer to mark out a circle to keep the flowers fairly consistent.
I was off again -- I stitched out a couple flowers, whimsically, of course!
But what about all that space between?
Curvy lines with leaves?
Straight lines?
And is there a way to stitch the design in such a way as to eliminate starts and stops?

I won't take you through the entire (agonizing) process but in the end I decided on straight lines and was able to stitch a flower, then add the straight lines between it and the previous flower so that there was just one start and one stop for that section of the border.

Basically, I worked around the borders counter-clockwise.  I stitched out a flower making sure I ended on the lower left edge of it.  Then using a straight line ruler, I stitched two sets of parallel lines back and forth to the previous flower with (fairly) consistent spacing. 
To get from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line, I traced along the edge of the flower.
When all the lines I needed were stitched, I ended and buried the thread.  Doing each section like that took about ten minutes per section and so it took about four (of my 30 to 45 minutes) work sessions to finish the borders.
It's ready to bind on the next rainy afternoon!!
Quilt #14 is going out to a professional machine quilter but first I need to add borders and make the backing.  That's my focus for this week.  It will be gifted to friends' 8 year old daughter who is a bright and perky little imp.
This morning I pulled out the quilt tops that are left on the list.  My goal was to decide which of these I'll have a pro do for me and which of these I'll do next.  I put the lavender/green one on the bottom of the pile -- it will be a simple job and make a good ending project for the year.
I'm the most intimidated by the brown baskets so I'm thinking that one will be the pro-job.
I left the other four laying out to see what ideas pop into my head -- first quilt top that "speaks" to me is up next for laying and quilting!!

The itch to piece something is growing but I must remain as focused as I can on reaching my goal of finishing all these quilt tops into quilts.  Working on the borders has helped and I'll admit there are three piecing projects close at hand to use as sew-offs here and there.