Monday, September 29, 2014

Not enough border fabric -- no problem . . . . .

. . . all right so it is a problem but it doesn't need to be a BIG problem.  It could be a creative challenge. 

I hit a writing lull a couple weeks ago, so all has been quiet on my blog horizon.  However, I was not in a quilting lull!!  I finished one of my big UFQ's over the past 10 days.  The deadline for entering a local quilt show was looming and when I looked through my recently finished pieces for a possible entry -- nothing there.  So I looked through my UFQ's to see if there might be one that I could finish in time.  Sure enough, there was a lovely basket sampler -- about half quilted -- and I felt confident I could meet the deadline.  One of the good things about having to submit an entry form and fee ahead of time is that it galvanizes me into action!!

So began an all-consuming push began to finish!   The quilt started as a set of 12 pieced basket blocks made with Marti Michell's Set M (all the shapes needed to make 5-patch 12" blocks) from Volume 4 of her Encyclopedia of Patchwork Blocks.  That was perhaps eight years ago.  The plan was to lure students into a workshop where they would learn to plan their own unique setting for a group of blocks.   No one was interested, so the blocks and all the fabric went into a pile on the UFQ shelves

Fast forward to 2013.  I was on a quest to finish thirteen of my oldest UFQ's (that wasn't as successful as I had hoped) and a new tool set had arrived from Marti -- the Long Skinny Stars Sashing set.  I wanted a sample using the new set and went to the UFQ shelves first to see if I might already have a set of blocks that could be a starting point.  There were several choices, but the baskets caught my eye and I (mistakenly) thought they were one of my "oldest" UFQ's.   So I designed a setting in EQ5 (I need to update that one of these days) and set to work. 
While I was at it, I decided to quilt the piece "in sections" since I didn't have a current teaching sample for my workshops based on Marti's book, Machine Quilting in Sections.  It was a win, win idea.  I got an old project off the UFQ shelves and had an attractive sample with multiple workshop applications -- using one of the template sets, a new tool set, and quilting "in sections".  

To function as a teaching sample, I also only needed to go "so far" with it but now it's time to finish it!  I was confident that I could finish it in time.  I had left everything together with notes about what to do at each stage and it was easy to get back into the quilting.  I piled up some tissues (yep, a cold descended on me), a fall teacup full of warm liquid, and some munchies.
I set the timer for 32 minutes and went to work three or four times a day.  In a few days, the central section of the quilt was finished and it was time to add the borders. 
I had cut strips for an inner border of blue, 1 1/2" wide, and an outer border of the setting fabric 6" wide back in February, 2013 when I organized the quilt.  The blue strips had to be pieced together and once I did that I started to add them to the quilt -- oops, I was 14" short.  How did that happen?  Surely I figured out that I had enough before I cut it.  Measure twice, cut once?
Fortunately the leftover fabric is still together.  So I went through it -- none of that blue. 
Would one of the other blues blend in with it -- no?! 
Did I have enough of another blue -- no?! 
There is a lot of brown -- enough of any of those -- no!?   
How about a scrappy brown border or a scrappy blue border?  I didn't care for the look of that. 
I need a cookie!!   )-:
Because the fabric is older it's unlikely I'll find more and I really don't have the time to go on a big search among the stashes of my friends or shopping to find a completely new fabric. 
Actually a pause (and a cookie) in the face of a dilemma gives the brain a chance to contemplate all the (panicked) brainstorming.  It was a good pause because when I returned to the studio (the cookies were just the ticket), I decided to try one more idea.
I split the blue I had into four lengths and added a bit of brown to each end and laid them out for a visual audition.
Fortunately, Coal arrived just in the nick of time to help me maintain a positive perspective!! 
Once the four strips were laid out, it occurred to me that if I realigned the miters, it would look like those little black paper corners used in old picture albums.
Coal thought it was a good idea too and allowed me to continue in that vein.
All four border strips are ready to add to the quilt and lined up in the correct order. 
By the end of the afternoon, they had been added to the quilt and it was ready for the outer borders and the final hours of quilting!!
So while it is a problem to run out of border fabric, it's not a disaster -- it's a creative challenge and I think the solution is more interesting than the original idea.  I love it!!
Next stop -- my UFQ Journal -- I get to cross one off the list!!
Mary Huey
P.S.  When I sat down at my machine to start quilting the borders, I reached behind the machine and  pulled the pin basket closer and there was an 18" strip of the blue -- do I have a creative fairy messing with me?


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Placemat Frenzy

I know you'll find this hard to believe, but last week during the studio clean-up, I found a couple of UFQ's?!?  Actually I found more than a couple, but these two might come in handy very soon.  I hear I have nieces getting engaged and I need to be prepared.  So during September, I'm going to set a goal of finishing up the two sets of placemats I found. 

The first was made using Marti Michell's Flying Geese ruler to create these lightening streaks.  If you belong to a Marti and Me club at your local quilt shop, the pattern for these is included in one of the early club patterns -- I have 4 of them pieced and a lovely backing fabric already chosen. 
 For years, I have interlined placemats and table runners with flannel rather than batting -- it gives me a flatter finished product (no tipping wine glasses).  I buy a plain white flannel which I wash and dry two or three times to make sure it is preshrunk completely.
I also found 4 of these ready to assemble.  This set was made with a pack of 5" charm squares, 1/2 yard of border fabric, and Marti Michell's Tessellated Windmill tool.  They are 3" finished blocks and I love that there is NO waste using Marti's tool. 
One of the placemats is even finished -- why did I stop? 
Isn't the backing fabric lovely? 
Since I have no idea where my nieces' tastes fall in the area of decorating, I need a little more flexibility in case neither of these sets work.  During the clean-up, I found a stack of 8 fat quarters that I've been itching to cut up.   And placemats are perfect -- a simple project that doesn't require a huge investment of time.
I'm going to use another pattern which I wrote 12 years ago.  I use it over and over!!  My Fat Quarter Placemat pattern uses a stack of 8 fat quarters to make a set of 8 placemats.  Sometimes I've given away 6 and kept 2 for myself.  Sometimes I've given away two sets of 4.
I often make or purchase a set of napkins that coordinate.  For that bold group of fabrics, I'm going to make solid color napkins -- two each in gold, turq, red, and dark gray -- keep the fun, funky look going! 

These backings are very coordinated but sometimes I choose a much larger scale print or a different style to make a truly reversible set. 
One of the sets I made using this pattern several years ago (long since given away) used 8 background prints -- today, we would call them "low-volume".  Once the tops were pieced, I layered them with the flannel interlining and before adding the backing fabric, I added an herb embroidery design to each one (justifying that Bernina embroidery machine I bought!).

Mary Huey

Monday, September 8, 2014

Some Eye Candy to start the week!!

Last week during my studio clean-up, I was reminded that this quilt needed a couple small repairs.  I had marked them with safety pins and after I finished, I spread it out on my bed to go over it to look for any spots I might have missed. 
Sometime in the 80's my maternal grandfather asked my mother to quilt it saying it was pieced by my her mother -- probably in the late 30's or early 40's.
It's the only quilt attributed to my grandmother that I've ever seen -- were there more? 
My mother and her 5 sisters were all able to point out fabrics they remembered from their dresses.  I'm trying to picture myself in a dress made from one of these two -- perhaps that's why mom and her sisters were such tough women -- it would take a special kind of grit to wear that dress to school!
I am the exact middle grandchild -- 9 out of 19 -- and we lived the farthest away from my grandparents.  Grandma died when I was 14 and so I don't have too many memories of her except the food that she served anytime we went for Sunday dinner -- homemade bread, chunky applesauce, and orange cookies!!  The one interaction I recall is that she was quite upset with me the afternoon I occupied myself by "painting" the side of her house with unopened buds from her iris.  I bet you didn't know that a dark purple iris bud will make quite a lovely streak on white clapboard siding.  Thinking about that, I wonder which upset her more -- that I was picking off the iris buds or that I was defacing the house?  (I wasn't old enough to know better, no matter what anyone says!!)
This time when I opened out the quilt, the dark blue prints caught my eye for the first time -- not the placement so much, but those fabrics are from the 1890's -- to me that says they might be scraps from my great-grandmother's scrap bag rather than my grandmother.  I have this vague recollection that great-grandma Thome lived with my mother's family at the end of her life so perhaps both of them worked on it.  Hmmm? 
I remember helping my mother get the quilt into the frame and I know it was machine pieced.
To me it's an endlessly interesting quilt to look at -- all the funky fabric combinations and the charming prints.  Some blocks are so coordinated while others are a source of endless wonder.  If both of my grandmothers worked on the piecing -- was one a control freak and the other carefree?
And why didn't they teach my mother to make quilts?  Mom and I started quilt making together in the early 1970's . . . . although at the end of her life, she told everyone "I taught Mary everything she knows" when people would remark to her about my gift for quilt making.
Now that I've put a few of my own stitches into the quilt, I think I'll sleep under it when the weather cools off -- do some bonding with my mothers and their stitching!

Mary Huey

Friday, September 5, 2014

A winner and a finished top!

Well, I still haven't found the Gingher shears but they are here somewhere. 
I have finished the little quilt top.  Most of you agreed with me about using the piece with some color to it.  And Laura (the 4th quilter to comment) was chosen by my "random" number companion who has no idea why I wanted her to chose a number between 1 and 13.   So when I hear from her, I'll be sending off about a yard of the fabric that I didn't use.
I'm pleased with this top -- it used up some more of my stash and I didn't have to throw away all those little squares!  And one of the early rejects is big enough to be the backing!
Now it has been added to the shelf of small quilts to be finished by my loyal group of "charity" quilt makers this fall.  It will be among at least a dozen small quilts, packed into a tote bag, and shared with a local women's crisis center to use as Christmas gifts for children.
Back in the studio, the cleaning has slowed down a bit -- once I got this table next to the machine cleared off I found myself stitching on a rediscovered project -- just taking a little break.  (-"
Then I worked on cutting up some of the sorting from the previous days and next thing I knew I had started a new project.  (Pretty surprising, huh?)  But it is the first new project I've started in two months. 
And I can justify it!!  I'm vending with my friend, Denise of Mercantile on Main in Coshocton, Ohio next weekend and I'll need stuff to demonstrate the y-seam piecing technique featured on my DVD, Set-In Piecing Simplified.  The yellow squares may change -- seems a bit loud, but on the other hand, I'll be figuring out the assembly strategy so I'm not ready to commit my best fabrics.  We'll see.
Denise and I will be at the
 Dalton is right on the edge of Amish country so you could do some of both.  The show hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.   Denise will have fabric from her lovely shop including kits for her original quilt that was part of the Spring/Summer 2014 BHG Quilt Sampler magazine -- the quilt will be there, too.
I'll be demonstrating how to chain piece through set-in seams and have all of Marti Michell's templates available plus my DVD.  If you come to the show, be sure to stop by and say "hello"!
Have a pieceful weekend!!
Mary Huey

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Studio Clean-up Progress!!!

I'm never quite sure how things get so messy in there but since me and the cats are the only ones who enter the studio on a regular basis (and they don't have opposable thumbs), it must be me.  Yesterday I finished the cutting table clean-off.  There is a little yellow basket where I drop small bits intending to cut them into 2 1/2" squares (my go-to scrap size).   But as is obvious by the gushing nature of the basket, I haven't actually done that in a while.   So I dove in and started.  Much to my great delight when I got to the bottom, there was a pair of scissors and the other 3 placemats that have been MIA since last fall.   I didn't realize the scissors were missing but I've been looking for those 3 placemats for months! 
Can't see placemats?  That's because they aren't placemats . . . . . yet.  They are the two piles on the right side of the picture -- they were only placemats in my mind.  There is one mat finished and every time I've laid my hands on it for the past 9 months, I wonder where the other 3 went.  So it's good to have a mystery solved -- just wish they were pieced and ready to layer!!
And here's a tidy cutting table, one leaf is down so my son can get in and out of the room more easily and the little yellow basket is ready for more scraps!! 
Since the project is replacing the windows, the next target needed to be the area under the windows.  The big bag holds my traveling mats and rulers so I just needed to find a different spot for it temporarily.  And that was the end of "easy".
This is what was lurking in a box under the bags.  What does the note mean?  I do try to leave myself clear notes so that when I return to a project, I can pick it up without too much puzzlement.  But this note took all afternoon to figure out that it had nothing to do with this fabric and in fact is already done -- I must have found the note laying on top of the pile and pinned it there so as not to lose it.  The note is recycled and the fabric is back in the color stacks!
When what to my wondering eyes should appear -- lurking under the green fabric -- oh, no!  There was a UFQ.  )-:  Not another one??  There are lots of notes, and some of it makes sense but at this point, I'm not sure I like the plan. 
I did stop and trim all the blocks to the prescribed size and will take it to my guild weekend retreat next month.  We'll see if I stay with the plan or come up with a new one.
Finally, the basket.
I'm suppose to clear out this 1/2 bushel basket when it's full and here it is overflowing. 
Perhaps I should get a bushel basket?  (-:
I made a tall glass of iced coffee and sat down to sort.  The pile on the left will become 2 1/2" strips and the pile on the right 2 1/2" squares.  The next nice day (with no breeze), I'll move out onto the patio and cut down through these piles!
These 4 piles are scrappy assortments that I'll sell at fall shows where I'm vending. 
Blues and greens are the most common colors in my stash so unloading a few bits has very little impact on me -- this clump totals over a yard and probably has 20 or so prints plus a bag of 1 1/2" squares.
These are some more modern leftovers from garments I've made my granddaughter plus a long held stash of scraps from Lily Pulitzer's fabric line -- fun stuff but after clutching them for 20 years, I'm probably not going to use them. 
I have stashed - no hoarded - neutrals since the early 80's when they were hard to find.  I'm glad they aren't so hard to find anymore and find it easier to let some go these days.
This is a wildly varied clump of bits and pieces perfect for string piecing projects -- most are two small for my 2 1/2" hoard but all are more than 1" wide. 
Mission accomplished!!  The basket is ready for new residents!
And it was 5 p.m. -- quitting time.  My daughter fixed supper and so I was able to piece for about 45 minutes -- ahhhh. 
The next target zone!!   I'm hoping it looks messier than it really is!
And if you think you need one of those scrappy bags shown above, make a comment below and I'll get in touch with you -- they could be had for $1 plus postage (USA only, please).
Friday, 9/5, I'll announce the winner of the "losing border fabric" from my post on Monday -- if you haven't read it or expressed your opinion, check it out here.  I'm still contemplating which fabric to use for the last border.
Back to the studio for me!!
Mary Huey