Saturday, June 29, 2013

Still distracted!!

It's the end of June and I thought I better report in on my progress.   I'm 50% through the year and about 15% of the way to my goal of finishing my 13 oldest UFQ's.  I need to pick up the pace!!

My roadblock has been the quilting of tops for many years and while I can see that I'm improving, I still need to push myself to embark on that part of finishing a quilt.  So I want to share with you today how I'm moving past the elements of quilting that bring me to a halt.

The first and biggest roadblock is not knowing what quilting design I want to do for a particular top.  I've decided my inability to visualize the finished product stops me dead in my tracks and so my strategy is to start even if I only have a partial "vision" of how I can quilt a particular quilt.  I've noticed that if I can get past that starting point, ideas present themselves while I'm stitching what I know I want to do.  So if all I can figure out is to "ditch" between all the blocks, that's what I do.  Sometimes there are pauses of a day or two between design decisions, but I have noticed that my confidence is increasing and that is leading to quicker decisions -- once again experience is paying off!!

I seem to make quilts that are similar in design -- I think many of us do that -- and so there are some standard designs that I repeat frequently.  I'm very confident about my "continuous curve" arcs and so I use that design a lot.  Now I'm branching out and using some of the "line dancing" variations.  I've been using Marti Michell's Tessellating Windmill Template quite a bit this year (think I just cut the 8th one) and I quilt all of them the same way -- a basic continuous curve (on the left) and then jazz some of the windmills up with a variation (on the right).

Just yesterday, I had a little epiphany that seems to be helpful with maintaining more consistency as I machine quilt and I wanted to share it in case it would be helpful to you.  During a grief counseling session earlier in the week, my counselor explained to me the importance of being "mindful" of how I'm feeling as a positive strategy for coping with grief.  So if I'm easily frustrated with people, being mindful that it is likely a result of my grief is a step towards being less easily frustrated.

I'm using the pumpkin seed motif on the current project and the previous day, they were inconsistent -- some were puny and some were nice and plump.  So I started saying to myself as I was stitching, "in this area, I want to make a plump pumpkin seed" and then "now, I want a graceful arc" and back and forth between those two thoughts.   And it helped -- I got to thinking, I am so easily distracted when I'm sitting at the machine, my mind often wanders off to something else and perhaps that would account for some of the sloppy areas of my machine quilting.  So I'm going to try that strategy again today.   It worked very well yesterday and I hope it wasn't a fluke!!

Over 25 years ago I was forced to learn how to adjust a border motif to fit the borders on "my" quilt as a result of a lovely hand quilted clam shell design I was doing with two perfectly aligned corners and two chaotic corners.  Here a few photos I took to show you how I stretched my cable stencil to fit smoothly around this quilt and achieve good alignment at the corners.

The repeat of the border design did not fit the length of my border and make a graceful transition through the corners.  After stumbling around a bit, I realized that if the repeat was the same length as the size of my block, the design would work.  So I started with a rectangle the length of one block in the quilt top and the width I wanted the finished motif to be.  I folded that in half lengthwise and crosswise (see the light creases) and cut a gentle arc.  Cutting it this way gives the best results.
 Now I could lay my stencil end to end across each border and trace around the outside edges with a chalk wheel.  Each border was marked, then stitched individually since the chalk rubs off as I stitch. 

I went back and positioned the stencil with it's vertical midpoint at the block seam and the lower edge at the meeting point of the two ellipses.

Below is the line -- it's "smiling".

The last set of lines is the mirror image of the "smile".  I moved the stencil down and made "frowning" line.

Once these 4 sets of lines were drawn I was ready to stitch.  Each border took 4 passes to keep me stitching in my "best" direction. 

The photo below is the corner transition seen from the back -- it doesn't show on the front. 

I could have gone back and filled in that diamond shape each repeat of the border motif created, but I didn't for two reasons.  First, I want the quilt to have a soft hand and heavy quilting creates a stiff hand to the finished product.  Second, the border fabric was busy enough that a detailed design would have been lost on it.

 So here is the finished quilt posing on my front porch before being sent out into the world to do it's job.  It's being donated to a family in Pennsylvania -- sometime this year, they will raffle it off to raise funds for medical expenses for their 7 year old twin boys who are school chums of my grand-daughter.

In closing, I would encourage you to pay attention to the details of quilts you like.  Look closely at the quilting designs and pay attention to aspects you like.  Eventually all that information that your mind gathers comes out as you figure out how to quilt your own pieces.

P. S. UFQ #2 is past the half way point hand quilting!!  Very pleased with how it's looking and hopefully I'll be ready to share that with you by the end of July.