Friday, August 29, 2014

To Pin or Not to Pin . . . .

. . . . that was a question I had this week from one of you who has been learning to use the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique.  I thought some others might like to read my response, too.

My usual response to the question of "pinning or not pinning" is that I don't pin very often, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't pin.  If pinning is helpful to you, then by all means pin!!

But this time, I decided to try it out and see if pinning was helpful to me.  The reproduction hexie piece that I'm machine piecing is growing steadily thanks to the self-imposed deadline of finishing it before my spring 2015 workshop at the Lake Metroparks Farmpark. 

I'm currently adding the last row around the large center star motif
and finishing up the third round of the sixth motif for the central part of the quilt.  Doing both at the same time enables me to employ the chain-piecing approach demonstrated in the DVD. 
After a few attempts, I realized placing one pin in the center of the hexagon was quite helpful.  It's easier to get it under the needle and presser foot when the motif is so large and eliminates the shifting that I encounter at that stage.

  The pin needs to be parallel to the seam I'm stitching! 
Placing it parallel made it easier to remove the pin just before I made the final pivot for that seam.  So I guess I have a new answer for the question, to pin or not to pin?
Yesterday I started to audition for the final layout.  My version isn't going to be an exact copy of the original quilt which dates to the late 1800's.
I have an EQ layout of it and have been playing around with the "filler" units on paper -- just can't decide which orientation I like for the large central unit. 
What do you think? 

Mary Huey

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mending is not piecing . . . .

. . . . although there are lots of short seams in both stitching styles!?! 

While we still have about 3 weeks of summer, I'm glad to be finished with an overly ambitious travel schedule and moving into a calmer period of the year -- staying at home and in my studio.

I spent last week using my skills as a seamstress to repair clothing for the Red Bird Mission Community Store in southeastern Kentucky.  Together with my sidekick, Nancy, I estimate that we repaired about 100 garments -- replaced buttons, mended holes, stitched up seams and hems.  The gals at the resale shop in the Mission wash and inspect every donated item before it goes out into the shop and sometimes they get behind, so we caught them up!!  There were 3 large boxes waiting for us when we arrived and there were 3 empty boxes when we left.  Good as it felt to accomplish so much, I think I've done enough mending to last me for a couple months!!  I would show you a picture of the results, but I'm still trying to learn how to move pictures from my phone to my computer albums . . . . grrrr!

I took along a bit of EPP -- Block #9 from Karen H's Value Proposition QAL at Faeries & Fibres.  I didn't get it quite finished but it did generate conversation with some of the other women working at the Mission.

Yesterday, I relaxed (and did laundry).  Today, I'm struggling to get back into the home/office groove with the help of my typical "to-do" list.  Earlier this year, I adopted a small spiral notebook for lists and notes -- it goes along with my calendar and gets a bit messy but while I was pretty frustrated at one point today, I am getting a bunch of things crossed off the list.

While I was away, my daughter's middle cat, Beau, adopted the bottom shelf of the quilt cupboard as his new favorite sleeping place.  Guess I better reorganized the quilt on the top of the pile so that it's one of the little quilts specifically designated for sleeping cats.  They are a small series of samples from my shop that can be washed frequently and easily.
I hope I get into my studio this afternoon for a long session of stitching and thinking!!

What will you do today?

Mary Huey

Friday, August 22, 2014

Laundry Day and My First Craftsy Pattern!!

Last week, when I returned from our first all family camping trip back to Vermont in 25 years, I offered to launder my son's quilts while the weather is still fine.  Needless to say, he took me up on the offer rather quickly and showed up with a TUB full of his quilts the next day. 

The first batch were patterns that I've written over the years, but don't actually own a quilt from them anymore so it was fun to be temporarily reunited with them! 
This simple Rectangle 4-Patch has been my go-to pattern for over a decade when I get ahold of a flannel with a terrific large scale print.
Here's a close-up of my son's version.  He fishes. 
This is the original one -- very simple -- over the years I modified the scale of the blocks and when I wrote the pattern, I included sizes from a lap robe up to a double size quilt.
The quilting is simple as you can see and it's an easy finish which makes it a great gift quilt!  I've also used it to teach teenagers basic cutting and piecing skills.  I'm looking forward to my teaching my own granddaughter how to make it!

Mary Huey

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Last Daylily

Do you grow daylilies?  I do and I hate to see their long bloom cycle come to an end.  For the past 4 weeks, my garden has been blessed with a panorama of oranges!!  It was a bit sad to discover the last bud opening today.
Here is a sampling of the variety I've enjoyed! 

 Isn't this bloom a lovely stage for the green katydid -- I have just started to enjoy their evening songs!!  It wouldn't be summer without it!

Now the yellows will reign supreme for a few weeks -- black-eyed susan, gray-headed and prairie coneflowers and stiff goldenrod.

The last of the monarch butterflies have emerged from their chrysalis -- all together my daughter and I have fostered a dozen of these beauties -- more females this year than males.  I hope they will make a successful migration and find a safe haven to hibernate for the winter to return next summer and populate my gardens.
 Enjoy the final month of summer!!
Mary Huey

Friday, August 15, 2014

Diamond Star Playtime Sew-Along, Step 11 -- Considering the quilting

Good heavens, it's been a full four weeks since I wrote about this ongoing Sew-Along.  I didn't mean for it to be such a long gap, but between some traveling and the fact that we've arrived at my number one stumbling block -- the quilting -- I guess it's not surprising. 

Let's look again at the top I set together for Step 10 -- doesn't look any different, does it?  I've been auditioning border options off and on over the past month, but nothing is clicking . . . . so I'm beginning to think -- "no borders on this one".  I find that when I can't make a "decision", what is often really happening is my intuition is saying "it's fine just like that" while my alter-ego is saying "this could be fabulous if you could just find the perfect . . . . ".    I'm trying to listen to my intuition these days because in general I find it creates a lot less work for me than my alter-ego.  And I have a pretty long "to-do" list all the time so I don't need "bigger" jobs -- I need doable jobs.

Regardless of the "border" outcome, staring at the quilt top on my workwall has me thinking about the quilting and at this point, it revolves around something simple and big stitch hand quilting.  But that could change -- those hexagons of background fabric could handle an interesting quilting motif. 

I'm not going to tell you "how" to quilt once of these pieces.  Rather my intention is to share what I've done and hope it stimulates your own ideas.  So lets start with the first sampler I made using the chain piecing through set-in seams technique. 

It's a very busy quilt -- lots of variety of prints and textures -- no blank space.  I can take one of two approaches to this type of quilt -- keep the quilting simple because the detail won't show up OR use it as an experimental canvas for quilting designs because the detail won't show up (no one will see the goofs).  I took the latter approach and I'll try to show you some on my design experimenting.
When doing free motion machine quilting, the most comfortable stroke for me is the continuous curve arc from corner-to-corner of a patch.  So each star's quilting is based on that arc but a bit different.  I think the next few close-ups are self-explanatory.
The "background" diamonds in each star are all quilted with the same "maze" trail -- it meant more stops and starts than I like but apparently I couldn't figure out how to get "in and out" in a continuous line and get that look.   I wanted to flatten the background down more and liked the contrast of the angular maze with the soft arcs.
This is without a doubt my favorite quilting motif for 6-pointed stars -- I've use it over and over and have adapted it in other blocks.
Here it is again but this time the petals are echoed and there is an extra inner petal in the small stripped diamonds.
It reappeared in my second sampler as an alternate design.
I also have used a spontaneous flower design like the center of this block a great deal -- the concept of "echo" quilting these really improves their appeal.  This one started out with the continuous "heart" shapes around a center. 
On this quilt I left the "filler" diamonds to the last.  This six-petalflower motif was perfect once I added the "leaves" and it reappeared in my next sampler as the border design.
I drew a grid with chalk of equilateral triangles and then stitched the arcs to fit the grid -- the alternate center stitching helps define the design better and was added during the practice phase of creating this design.
On this piece, I echoed the outer arcs in the background diamonds to define the periphery of each star.   
I hope some of these ideas stimulate your approach to quilting your own Diamond Star Sampler.  If you can only figure out how to quilt one aspect of your piece, go for it.  I find that is often the case and if I start, other ideas will present themselves as I engage with the quilting process.  Some of them don't work, but most of them do.  And nothing happens without you, so get in there and do it!!

This completes the Diamond Star Playtime Sew-Along. 
I hope you are happy with the quilt you are creating!!

Mary Huey

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

QCQAL Block #12 -- Wild Goose Chase

It's the last block -- sort of . . . . Alison has decided to post four bonus blocks this week for those of us who still have fabric left and want a slightly larger quilt.  I hope this series has helped you understand how to use your "perfect patchwork" templates more often.  Thanks to Alison at Little Bunny Quilts for letting me blog along beside her for this QAL.  I have a terrific set of blocks that will make a delightful child's quilt!

So to the block -- our goal is to make a 12" block.  12" divided by 4 equals 3" -- that means I need to use Marti Michell's Set A, the 3" basic group of templates. 
I cut the large center square with a rotary ruler.  Template A1 will work for the corner squares and templates A4 and A6 for the geese units.  I'm down to about an eighth yard of my background fabric, so I went through all the scrappy bits to cut the small triangles and got half of them before I needed to cut into the bigger piece. 
In the process, I was reminded why it is so important to close your rotary cutter EVERY time you finish a cut.  Mine was closed so no harm done.  Mine is always closed when it's not cutting.  But I'm consistently alarmed at how many of my students lay their cutters down without closing them!!
I hope you aren't one of those quilters!!
I'm all organized for stitching and I also had a chance to experience what a good job my new phone does on "speaker" -- I'm on hold with a large American corporation . . . . . . pieced half the flying geese units together before they "helped" me.
Actually, they didn't help me, they just aggravated me, but it's good to know that I can now multi-task during those interludes in my life.
I forgot to take a picture of my auditioning for placement of the geese -- repetitive or random.  But once you get to this stage of stitching the geese into rows, you need to be careful to maintain the order.  I did check to make sure of that at this point -- was not in mood to unstitch!!
The final layout and I'm always so pleased when the pieced units are the same size at this stage -- one would think that after 35 plus years of piecing, I'd be over that, but no -- always  lifts  my spirits!!
And here is the block -- ready to add to the rest of the group.  I didn't attempt a 6" block for this one since I'm so limited on background fabric at this point.
Here's Tuesday's bonus block, Empire Star -- it's a new one to me.
I have enough background to make two more blocks, so I'm waiting until all four are posted to decide which I will add. 

To the studio!

Mary Huey

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sharing a gem

This afternoon while perusing my e-mail, there was the Tuesday summary from "bloglovin" with the week's top picks.  I scrolled down through the list -- most are about "style" and I'm not very stylish.  But this one caught my eye -- 25 WAYS TO FEEL LESS LONELY.  Hmmm??

I'm pretty good at handling "loneliness" when it feels bad (I just head for my sewing machine) but I guess on this day when we are all mourning the loss of one of the funniest men in American, Robin Williams -- it seemed like it might be a good idea to read it.  How could such a delightful and funny person be that lonely?  It's hard to comprehend.

One click and I was there -- the name of the blog is Delightfully Tacky.  Elizabeth's #1 is the same as my #1 -- so I read through the entire list and became a "follower".    It's definitely a worthwhile read and while you are there, be sure to check out the post entitled "street corn" and be sure to read the second paragraph slowly.  Her comments about "inspiration" are inspired and all quilters with large UFQ backlogs would do well to heed her advice!

Then go be with people you love!!

Mary Huey

Monday, August 11, 2014

Super Moon?

In this part of the world, the August full moon is referred to as the "sturgeon" moon -- it's a large fish that use to be abundant in the Great Lakes on the US/Canadian border and it was traditionally easy to catch during August.  It's a large fish and a perfect match for on of this year's "super moons". 

It's been several years now since I developed my "full moon" strategy.  Perhaps I've had too many ER nurses as students over the years, but I believe that life gets weird with each full moon.  For me, it's not unlike PMS -- I'm more easily agitated and impatient for sure.  So I have six points to my strategy that help me stay calm and productive during the 5 days around a full moon.  Yesterday, I was feeling the effects -- that super moon was bearing down on me and I needed to settle down and enjoy the day! 

One of the strategies is to "finish something" -- it works for me because I like the positive buzz that comes with a finish!!  Happily, there was a small quilt layered up and ready to go!!  So I spent the afternoon alternating between quilting and weeding -- perfect day!! 

As I was quilting I thought some of you might appreciate seeing the "route" I traveled across the quilt.  It took about 15 minutes of tracing my finger around the design to choose a path that resulted in only a couple starts/stops (except for a few broken threads . . . . grrrrr).  So here is a series of pictures that trace the path. 

Since the continuous curve arc generally gives me my best quilting, it is the basis of this design. 
 I started at the end of a row and squiggled down each string-pieced wedge being sure to end at a triangle corner which set me up to move easily into that section.
After several "finger tracing trials", I determined the most efficient route was to only do part of the four-triangle unit.             
This put me in position to move right into the next wedge easily. 
From the tip of the wedge, it was easy to move out into the yellow background areas and create a soft design.  
I could have added a curlicue from the center out into each triangle without creating stops or starts but preferred the softer hand of a simple design. 
I could do half of this area and pick up the other half on the next row, too -- either route worked and I did both. 
Once at the end of a row, I was able to move smoothly to the next row through the yellow section. 
And here I am at the point of a wedge again and ready to squiggle down the first wedge of the next row. 
It took a couple hour-long sessions to complete the interior of the quilt.   I'm always a bit surprised when the quilting goes so smoothly and quickly!  I really should do it more often.
The quilt isn't very big -- each of the wedge units is 4" square and I made it as a teaching sample using a box of scrap strips and Marti Michell's Set D with some help from Set B.  It's so sweet -- I hope it will end up in the possession of a little girl!
Today I'll take on the borders and maybe by the end of the day, I'll have a quilt ready to bind!!
I hope I have more of that pink polka dot as I think it will be a perfect binding!  And it will feel good to have a finish for the month of August.  I had one "finish" in July but no "starts"!!  I'm hoping to repeat that for August -- it's so good for my UFQ Assault Tactics!!

What will you do today to counter the Sturgeon "Super" Moon?

Mary Huey