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   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.  


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Dodecagon Finish!!

 I can't believe I made this!!

70" wide by 98" long -- dozens and dozens of hexagons handstitched to set off twenty-one dodecagons and four beautiful printed floral motifs all hand stitched together from my bountiful fabric stash!?!

It all started late in 2016 when I discovered Marge Sampson-George's Dodecagon Quilt Pattern on Instagram.  It wasn't available in the USA at that point, but I contacted Marge and we figured out a way for her to send the pattern with templates and papers to a cousin in Australia who would then hand it off to her parents when they made their annual Christmas visit and they would bring it back home to me.  It took a couple months but I got the pattern and in February 2017, I launched my version!

My version looks nothing like the Aussie versions you'll see on Instagram -- search the #dodecagonquilt or #msg47 hashtags -- and it didn't take long for me to realize that I did not have the stash or the style-sense to pull of a replica of those gorgeous, spontaneous Bohemian looking fabric collages.  So I went with one of my strong suites -- reproduction fabrics.  I have lots of them and I've worked with them a great deal.  I've spent years as a shop keeper and a teacher helping people work with what they have and being true to their personal preferences.  The reason I advocate for this approach is that it's helped me finished more quilt tops and I find that attempting to imitate the style and preferences of other quilters has led to most of my piecing UFO's.

The other aspect that makes my Dodecagon quilt unique to me is it's a departure from Marge's setting.  I love that setting but I love so many other styles of English hexagon quilts that the list of tops I want to piece is longer than a lifetime.  This layout is actually a combination of three EPP quilt styles all pulled together in one design instead of making three separate quilts.  First there is the dodecagon motif, second is a medallion style layout, and the third element is the fussy-cut floral motifs framed with hexagons.  Thank goodness for my Electric Quilt program -- I could experiment and experiment and experiment to find the most appealing layout.
Staying motivated on a big project is often a challenge because there are so many distracting new ideas but I don't have to tell you that?!?   I stayed on task with several strategies to keep the project rolling along steadily.  The annual #100days100hexies challenge on Instagram was my motivation to baste hexies a couple times -- how can anyone baste just one hexie a day??  Another blogger's One Monthly Goal challenge helped me stick to goals for the sections as they grew.  Finally, I took this project to five different stitching retreats -- boy, is it easy to pack for an all hand-stitchng weekend!  

But you are here for the quilting close-ups!

Let me begin by saying if I had quilted 1/4" inside of every piece, I would not be finished yet!!
And in my opinion, stitch-in-the-ditch quilting is not an option for EPP.
So I focused on the "units" of the quilt.
All the dodecagons were outlined a bit more than 1/4" inside the seams to emphasis the overall shape.  That of course made the motif puff up and after some experimentation, I settled on a 4-pointed star motif with a 60 degree diamond in the center.
The pink lines of the diagram below illustrate that -- the black lines are the seams to show you the overall shape.
Because there are twelve seams coming to the center of the motif, it's difficult (perhaps impossible) to quilt very close to the center -- so the diamond shape flattened the center down and reinforced the elongated shape of the motif.

All the filler piecing is scrappy and a bit busy so elaborate quilting motifs would be a waste of time as they will melt right into the fabric.  But I still needed to keep the work interesting so I would stay engaged.  These clusters of three hexies that alternate around the center of the medallion take on a cohesive feel by treating them as a unit rather than three individual hexies.
The quilting diagram is C on the illustration below.
I inserted these clusters of four yellow hexies to break up the monotony of all those green hexies but how to quilt them?  It's hard to see in the photo but the unit is outlined both outside and inside which made the center puff up a bit too much.  It took some puttering but I finally hit on a small hexagon centered on the middle seam.  It's A on the illustration below.
There are only a few of these hexie "flowers" throughout the border area so to keep with the "feel" of my other quilting, its a simple star motif (illustration B) around the center hexagon and an outline about 3/8 " outside the motif (in the green). 
These two diagram sheets of how I quilted specific units will go into my "how I quilted that" file for future reference.  I have found that looking through these notes when starting to quilt a top often provides the kickstart I need.  I might not do the exact same design but it's a spring board.
I had to force myself to start the floral motifs -- I did not want to do any outline quilting though that would have been nice, but it would have been a arduous task and shut this gal right down.  The quilting design occurred spontaneously as I extended the edges of the hexie edge into the floral motifs and in the end it became a series of overlapping irregular hexagons.  Again the center was puffy and while it's difficult to see there is a central quilted hexagon that flattened it down a bit. Once I stitched the first one, the other three went quickly and I was glad to move on from that challenge!
Generally all the quilting is done 3/8" from the seams rather than 1/4" to avoid the bulk of the seam allowances which can be rather irregular in width with EPP.

The binding is scrappy and this is the only machine stitching in the quilt!
And the best part about having it finished??
Now I can start another big EPP project guilt free!
(Yes, there are two that have already reached the "piles-of-fabric" stage.)
If you want to see lots more pictures of this quilt as it grew, type Dodecagon into the "search" bar up there on the right side and see what comes up!

Twelve down and nine to go for my #quilt21in2021 challenge!!!


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

I understand the world is halfway through the current season -- summer for us up here and winter for you down there.  Everyone here is saying "where is the summer going" and probably everyone down there is saying "this is the longest winter ever".  We need to watch out for those "never happy" moments, don't we?  Embrace the moment -- I hope that's something each of us has come to understand in new ways over the past 18 months especially now with the news media warning us, "it ain't over yet"!!

Before I forget, one thing I need to share with any of you who receive an e-mail notification that I have a new blogpost up -- that notification system is going away.  It's not my doing.  I don't understand it and while there might be a way I could set up something, I'm not going to do anything -- not because I don't want you to know what I'm doing but because I don't understand it.  I'm old(ish) and frankly this constant updating of systems is beyond my energy -- I don't want to be updated -- anyone else with me on this?

That being said, the Bloglovin' connection will still function as usual so you could set yourself up to receive notifications via that website.  (Ask a teenager to help you figure it out.)  I also share on my Facebook page each time I activate a post so you could request to be a follower?  Other than that, you could just stop by every couple weeks and see what's new?  

Aren't I helpful???

The fun news is there is another finish (#11) and an almost finish (#12),

Here is #11 lounging in the back yard.  


I wrote this pattern, circa 2007, as a mystery quilt for my students when Marti Michell introduced her Sashing Stars tool set. The pattern includes three sizes -- 92" square, 69" square, and 46" square (which is what this one is).  To change the size of the quilt, I simply changed the size of the blocks so no matter what size the quilt, it's only sixteen blocks.  The sashing is what creates the stars and Marti's set includes the templates for both the typical star and the elongated point stars.  Because the sashing rectangles are trimmed with the tool the points are easier, the piecing is accurate and there is very little fabric waste.

Once again, I started quilting without a complete plan -- if I wait for a complete plan to emerge, I never seem to start.   And I stayed with design ideas that I can execute well!  That means "continuous curve" for the patchwork and straight lines!!
The continuous curve in the soft green triangles and the straight lines down through the peach  colored squares were done first and with only a start and one stop.  To do this, I quilted diagonally across the first 4-patch, paused, then continuous curve around the triangles to the right and left ending at the corner of the first 4-patch.  I continued down the second 4-patch, paused, continuous curve right and left, and then one through the third 4-patch across the 4-patch in the middle of the star and on to the next block until I reached the end of that row.
Now go back and trace that along the photo with your finger. 
 Make sense?

At this point there was a three or four day pause while I figured out what to do with all the background space.  My goal was to reinforce the diagonal grid of the overall design and call attention to the stars, not the blocks.  A longarm quilter might have used dense quilting to flatten the background down around each of the elongated point stars but I don't do that well and so elected to outline the entire diagonal square with a series of three lines.  

There was another break in the action before I echoed those lines in the triangular areas.  I use to get frustrated by my inability to make a decision about how to quilt a section but I've learned that inspirations come just by looking at the quilt for a few days, tracing design ideas on the quilt surface with my finger or a chalk wheel -- eventually, something clicks and I can move forward again.

I was going to hand-quilt with pearle cotton around each of the stars, but opted to do it by machine in the interest of getting it done -- after all, I still have 9 more quilt tops to quilt this year!?!

The border print was the inspiration for the color palette.  Since it's a busy print and to keep in sync with the clean look of the rest of the quilt, I returned to the good old reliable "piano keys" quilting . . . . plus it's quick!!

The pattern PDF is still available in my Etsy shop -- MaryHueyQuilts -- and if you want to add it to your "to-do" list, I'd be honored.  You can enjoy a 10% discount on the pattern by going to the shop, mark the pattern as a "favorite" and I'll send you a coupon you can use.  If your local quilt shop doesn't carry Marti's tools, you can find all of them on her website HERE.

I found a picture of another version I made of Trip to The Stars!  I sold it a couple years ago at the Sisters, Oregon outdoor quilt show.
There is a third one -- it's the big one and very scrappy with a slight variation in the setting.  It spends part of every year on my bed but I can't find a picture of it and am feeling too lazy to go set up a picture of it.  Maybe I'll add it later???

Then yesterday, this happened!!
It's the very last quilting stitches in my Dodecagon quilt!! 
I spent a good bit of the day in my pajamas on the front porch and finished the hand quilting!!!
Today I trimmed it, piece together a scrappy binding and set it onto the quilt.  All that is left to do is the hand stitching.
So pleased to have this one finished -- I'll post lots of pictures next week! 

Keep finishing!!

Friday, July 23, 2021

Re-entry and a "pin ball" life style

Hi, there -- July seems to be rushing along, doesn't it?  I'm not always a fan of July, but this year it could be longer or go slower?  We had a bunch of rain which has made the gardens lush and productive and the success of my gardening this summer has me out there more than ever.

I love turning into my driveway because at this time of year, it looks like I live out in the country, not in a suburb.
The flowers are throbbing with interesting insects and it's "bio-blitz" season for bees and butterflies so I'm looking for "new-to-me" specimens and trying to learn to ID bumblebees on the fly (birds are easier).
Monarch butterfly fostering season is in full swing -- 15 so far with more coming!
They are quite ravenous and I'm glad I have so much milkweed growing in my garden!
How many caterpillars can you find?
There's been some hard news among friends this month -- illnesses mostly and a death, but having a chance to spend time with my children and their families has kept me in a good place.  My oldest grandson stayed with me for a few days -- so much fun!!  It was the first time he had been with the triplets since they were six months old!  It didn't take long for them to bond!!

Marching through the Zoo!!

His visit ended with an "all-family" camping gathering and it was fun to watch everyone enjoy doing things together - swimming, coloring, talking, eating!!
Eighteen months without having all of them together was too long and I hope we don't have a repeat of that!!
The rest of life is like a "pin ball" game -- my mind doesn't settle in one place for long and I hope it's just the result of more freedom to move about.  My "to-do" lists are shorter in length and spread over a longer time span -- about a dozen tasks I hope to accomplish over the course of a week instead of long daily lists. It's challenging to make it from point A to point B without stopping to do "something else" -- go upstairs to take a picture for the blog and "oh, that fabric will be the perfect binding";
taking the trash out and weeding along the way; going down to the laundry and coming back with a popsicle -- tell me you still eat popsicles!!

It seems okay right now, this pin ball approach -- lots of little things are getting done and eventually I make it through the list.  The list keeps me focused but the detours are okay, too.
 (Shortly, I'll be able to cross "write blogpost" off the list because the end of this week looms large!!)

The "stitching" part of my life is focused on two goals this month -- finish quilt top number 11 (that's why I picked out that binding fabric) and finish quilt top number 12.   Last week was rainy and now a cooler week have enabled me to stay focused on hand quilting my dodecagon top .  Last evening, I calculated how much area is left and with just a bit over a week July, I believe I can accomplish this!!  Might not get it bound but that's a piece of cake.  I started the hand quilting early in January.
These two finishes will put me 57% of the way to my #quilt21in2021 goal in a timespan of 58% of the year ( I love to calculate nerdy little numbers like that).  But as you know, the first half of a goal is always easier than the second half.  So still nine quilt tops to go.  I have decided to send out one top for sure and maybe two to be quilted for me.  I'd like to be finished in November before the holiday sewing itch makes it's annual appearance.

I've not done any serious piecing all year with my focus on quilting and I'm really, really, really getting the itch to do some piecing right now.  This needs to get off the design wall  . . . . . . .
and a couple new projects . . . . okay, four new projects . . .  are vying for my attention?!?
I actually sorted this layer cake into possible block combos a couple days ago for a new pattern
and a weekly series of block patterns are being accumulated for this layer cake???
Like I said, a pin ball brain.

I hope you are finding a comfortable pace for re-entry into public life.  I attended a large funeral yesterday and was surprised by how anxious I became -- actually went home at the end of the service, had a cup of tea and knit a few rows of a sock, then returned for the after-gathering.  Some around me seem to be back to full throttle but I'm pretty content to stay close to home and focus on the most important folks in my life.  I am heading out next week to do a presentation for a local quilt guild about my push to #quilt21in2021 -- first public talk in 3 years -- I hope my speaking skill isn't too rusty!

I believe it's important to determine our own re-entry pace.  Whether it's the limited preferences of an introvert who has found a new understanding of how comfortable they are with themselves or the ecstatic pace of an extrovert who has spent the past year and half chaffing at the bit, there is no right or wrong way to do it.  What is best for you is okay!!  I'm definitely trying to think through the personal impacts of this curious period of time we are traversing and embrace the best of it and learn from the hardest of it.  I won't go back to everything.  I'll focus on the most important to me aspects of my life. 

What revelations have you had that you hope to carry forward with you?

I'll be back in a week or so with some serious pictures of these two finishes that are on the horizon!!


(While writing and editing this post, I watered the front gardens, started supper including finishing up sourdough baguettes, ate a coffee popsicle, and answered a couple texts messages.)