Thursday, February 25, 2016

Are you a Y-Seam Warrior?

So how do you feel about y-seams? 
Do you ignore patterns with y-seams?
Do you look for short cuts that avoid y-seams?
If you've been following this blog for even just a few months, you have undoubtedly realized that I am a fearless y-seam warrior. 
Bring them on!!
My February APQ Resolution Challenge project is Smitten, a pattern from Lucy Carson Kingwell -- a sampler of 6 pointed stars with compatible fill-in blocks!
Marti Michell's Template Set H (Large Hexagons Plus) is the perfect set to rotary cut the pieces and the chain-piecing technique from my DVD, Set-In Piecing Simplified makes the work a breeze.

I started the blocks last summer but only finished two before Fall came along with all it's deadlines and everything went into a basket for a slower time.

It's been fun to dig back into the basket and meander through the "wall of color" over the past few weeks putting together charming and funky fabric combinations.
I've been making blocks as the "sew-offs" while piecing together my daughter's Giant Rick-Rack quilt top!
The collection has now grown to eleven finished blocks!  There are five more "large" ones to make and then some small ones.  In the meantime, I am adding them to the portable work wall to evaluate where to go next with color and value. 
I need more of the deep magenta to balance things!
To add to the fun today, I'm launching a monthly LINK-UP just for all Y-Seam Warriors.
 I'll host a new collection at the beginning of each month and invite you to share any post from your blog or photos from your Flickr albums to show off your projects using y-seams. 
 It can be 8-pointed stars, hexagons, 6-pointed stars -- anything you pieced with y-seams!! 
Of course, I hope some of you are using the skills you learned in one of my Set-In Piecing Simplified workshops or from watching my DVD, but everyone is welcome.
The more, the merrier!!
And those who don't have anything to share (yet), take courage!
Y-seams can be conquered!!
I'm looking forward to seeing what you are doing!
Thanks for using the badge to identify to your followers that you've joined in the fun!
Mary Huey

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Winter isn't over, but Spring has started!

Winter is not over here in Northeast Ohio -- early last week, I had to deal with this before I could leave the house. 
My sidekick, Willie, doesn't enjoy the snow as much as he use to, but he'll go outside and follow us around as we shovel paths and fill the bird feeders.
A fresh snowfall always increases the number of birds coming to the feeders and it provided some beautiful photo opportunities this time!
It was a "wet" snow -- perfect for building snowmen and creating inspiring winterscapes like this view of the hemlocks on the edge of the ravine at Penitentiary Glen Park near my home.
The snow stuck to everything and we woke up to a world that looked like it had been sprinkled with powdered sugar.  The next day, the skies cleared and the sun lite up every vista.
The fox squirrels that hang out in my yard took time for a bit of sunbathing.
My red witch hazel was in full bloom and the color still peered out from under a blanket of soft snow.
An afternoon walk at Holden Arboretum was filled with inspiration.  The snow laying on these trees reminded me of how I always outlined shapes before coloring them in during grade school.
The shadows were beautiful and I was particularly fascinated with the lacey pattern created by this tree which was still holding some of last year's leaves.  If you aren't personally acquainted with snow, sometimes it shimmer like diamonds -- snowflakes have to be large and the sun at just the right angle but it's difficult to capture with a camera..
Four days later, warm winds blew into town and melted the snow within hours and pushed the temperatures up into a spring-like range. 
Today there are glimpses of spring all around my gardens.
The full beauty of the witch hazel is revealed and it is glowing in the sunshine.
The snow crocus are blooming in front of the snow shovel.
The Lenten roses have pushed up their flower stalks and I spent a pleasant half hour yesterday pruning away last year's leaves so the flowers will be in the spotlight for the next few weeks.
Most of mine are creamy colors but this beautiful pink one is right in the center of the area where I have them planted.   Deer do not like to eat hellebores and so I'm planting more of them around my gardens.
The other early blooming plant that I love and keep adding to my beds are snowdrops.
The snow will be back on Thursday, 90% chance of snow, 3 to 5 inches and we'll have another chance to enjoy our part of the world in it's winter coat.
I hope your week is off to a beautiful beginning!!
Mary Huey

Friday, February 19, 2016

Simple and Subtle -- out of my comfort zone!

Last summer, my youngest daughter requested a "simple" quilt in muted greens for their redecorated guest room bed.  "Muted" isn't my comfort zone so it's taken longer to get a fabric assortment pulled that fulfills that requirement.

To carry out the "simple" theme, I chose to make a Giant Rick Rack quilt using Marti Michell's Flying Geese ruler.  It's a multi-size tool that I've used many times and I've made some delightful pieces with it like this batik laprobe.
The graphic element of this design is perfect for "simple".
Here are a couple pictures to illustrate how the ruler is used -- there is no waste!  The first cut is a standard half square triangle.  If you are making basic flying geese units, these will be the "background" smaller triangles.  The ruler is designed so you can cut both size triangles using one tool.  For the Giant Rick Rack, these smaller triangles will be used at the ends of the rows.
I needed fourteen of the large triangles cut from strips with the straight grain on the longest edges  as illustrated.  Five sizes can be cut with this tool and I used the second largest.
Before moving onto the next cut, I pull the corner of the tool up to match the corner of the triangle and trim that off -- very important step as you will see.
In this picture, you can see both the trimmed and untrimmed triangles.
Once all twenty-some fabrics were cut, I played with the order of them on my work wall (for about two days).  My goal was to minimize strong contrasts so there was lots of shifting around to achieve that.  I avoided setting the lightest prints next to the darkest prints choosing instead to gradate the values (light to medium to dark).  It's not a very exciting picture but a very necessary step!
The design is pieced in rows and I begin by assembling pairs.
This is where the trimmed corners simplify the process of matching the triangles perfectly.
  You may feel confident about "eyeballing" but these trimmed corners speed up the alignment process and assure straight rows.  Nothing goes askew!!
Once the rows are assembled, it's time to stitch them together and I have a tip to help with that.
Working with a basic ruler, line up one edge with the intersection of the seams at the point on the triangles.  Align one of the ruler's perpendicular lines with the opposite raw edge of the triangle (on the right in this picture).  Make a pencil mark at the right edge.
Now when you pin the rows together, you can match the pencil line to the point of the triangle on the row underneath. 
This assures you that the points of the zig zag rows will be level as you look across the quilt.
At this point, I have the rows set together into three sections of six rows ready to quilt. 
Once the Aurifil 40 wt thread arrives, I'll quilt each section and then do the final assembly and binding.  I plan to use some of the ideas from that bright quilt for the quilting designs!
If you live near a shop that sells Marti Michell's tools, ask about the Flying Geese Ruler and see if they carry her pattern, Zig Zag Geese which includes this and four other projects.

Let's all spend the weekend stitching!!

Mary Huey

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My Workspace

Yesterday, I stumbled into a "linky" where stitchers are sharing their workspaces and it was fun to visit each of them and see how they organized the work area and the storage.  All of them were quite tidy, too!
One of the bloggers shares her space with her child's play area -- or does her child share his space with her??
It reminded me of the room just off the kitchen in our first house that my three children and I shared.  One wall was lined with toy storage and I got (okay, took) the big closet for my stitching supplies.  The floor was always in chaos but we shared nicely.  Since it was open to the kitchen, it was easy to keep an eye on the kids or just pop over to stitch up one more seam while the muffins finished baking.
In this house, I've moved the studio around looking for the best fit.  It started out on the first floor next to the dining room, but when my son came back home for a couple years, I moved it upstairs so I didn't hear him coming and going late at night and he wasn't bothered by me being up and stitching in the early morning.
I tried both bedrooms upstairs and settled on the (biggest) one across the front of the house. 
(It's also the hottest one in summer and the coldest one in winter.)
You've seen glimpses of it off and on, but today I'm taking you on a full blown tour. 
****Caution - this studio was not prepped for your viewing and the pictures are unedited so some viewers may be appalled that I can work in this space!?!
As you come up the stairs, you are greeted by a Huey wall of fame. 
Ancestors, kids, family portraits. 
The door is often closed because it's the hottest room in summer and the coldest in winter but I already said that didn't I?
Push open the door and there it is!!  It's interesting to me how immune I am to all this clutter.  That first corner of the cutting table is a constantly changing stack of things that just arrived or that need to be removed.  The front windows are being replaced in the next couple weeks so the curtains are stored away for the moment.  That board between the windows is my secondary work wall and is currently collecting blocks for Lucy Carson Kingwell's Smitten which is my February APQ Resolution project.  We'll take a closer look at those in a week or so.  The ironing board is strategically positioned so I can keep an eye on the street and the neighbors -- (-"
Look to the right and you see the business part of this room -- my machines!  I'm devoted to a Bernina 1031 for my piecing -- it's about 25 years old and recently earned a new set of feed dogs as a reward for lots of hard work!!
That laundry basket is almost unpacked from my retreat at the end of January.
And the artwork is Charley Harper bird posters.
As I sit at the machine, I can see my primary work wall.  It was an accident that it's organized this way, but I'll never change it -- even if I'm not working on that project, seeing it every time I look up keeps my subconscious focused on whatever the next design decision is that I'm seeking.
Just around the corner is the shelving unit where I keep the UFQ's.  Not many there these days!!  I recently moved all the BIG hunks of fabric to the bottom shelf.  There was a time that all four shelves were crammed full with UFQ's.  I'm impressed!!!
In the summer I open that window which looks out over a little wild zone in my yard -- I can see the nest box which is usually home to a pair of chickadees and enjoy the fragrance of the lilacs bushes that grown along the fence.
I use this end of the cutting table is as a stand-up desk -- lots of blog prep happens right there!
The other end is the real cutting area.  I "keep" the rulers in one of those slotted things in the middle so I can reach them from both ends -- though they do have a habit of not being there more often than I like.  There's a constant need to tidy up this end but I'm getting more regular about it.
One of the reasons I cut at that end is because the WALL OF FABRIC is right behind me and I can turn around and pull out dozens of pieces of fabric in the blink of an eye (I wish they would put themselves away).  The pieces hanging down are "inspiration" -- the ones on the left are the foundation of the Smitten blocks and that wonderful piece on the right is a new treasure that is fermenting!
When I squish back into the corner and aim the camera across the room diagonally, you can see how big it is.
There is one tidy zone -- this antique shelf I found 20 years ago is full of treasured books, family memorabilia and little hoards of things -- buttons, hankies, old candy tins.  I love this piece and it's going to the "home" with me!!
The one thing that is missing from my studio is a comfy chair for hand stitching (or reading).  Once the new windows are installed, I'm going to figure out how to remedy that.  I do more hand stitching these days and would enjoy having a space for it in the studio.
 I also want to add some lighting to eliminate some of the dark corners during winter days.
So you might envy the amount of space I have, but I hope it put your mind at ease about the need to have a very organized and beautiful work space.  If I had one of those, I'm not sure I'd work -- I'd be afraid to mess it up.
For a look at some other (tidied up) studios, visit Simple Simon HERE and click on the big LOVE badge to access the link-up.
Now go stitch, please!!
Mary Huey


Friday, February 12, 2016

Moments to ponder . . . .

One of my current goals is to post regularly to this blog -- Tuesday and Friday mornings.  I have a notebook with all the dates entered for the next couple months and I try to plan at least of half of my posts so that my brain and my hands can be working towards those topics.  Every now and then, there is a blank space or my brain just can't get "into" the intended topic. 

Today is one of those days.  I woke up feeling dull.  I hate feeling dull. 

There is a topic in my planning notebook, but it didn't work out -- perhaps because I was feeling dull yesterday, too?

So the question on days like this (as you know) is how to shed the dullness and get oneself moving in a positive direction.  I'm quite introspective and understand that there are two thought routes open to me -- go deeper into the dullness or lift oneself out of it.

I'm going for LIFTING!!
It's cold outside (17F) but my bird feeders are busy and I'm noticing that the tufted titmice are singing their territorial songs and the male goldfinches are showing little patches of yellow -- spring is just around the corner!

The office and the studio are drowning in clutter I haven't put away (yet) but I changed all the quilts in the living room from Christmas to the blue (winter) set -- my kind of redecorating -- no messing with paint!! 
 And there are two projects moving along at a steady pace in the studio!
Smitten is my APQ Resolution project for February -- don't you love the fabric combination in that one on the lower left?!?
The value palette of this "giant rick-rack" quilt is a challenge for me but my younger daughter requested a quilt specifically for her guest room -- how marvelous that after all the quilts I've pushed at her and her family, they still want another one!!
Both of my workshops at the Lake Metroparks Farm Park quilt show have reached the minimum enrollment!!  Good news for me and my students!!
(It's not to late to join one of them!)
And not only is this hexagon mosaic quilt no longer just a "wishlist" project, it's a ribbon winner! 
A great compliment. 
I happened to be standing around the corner from it last night at the show opening when a couple judges were looking it over -- they were surprised that it is entirely machine-pieced. 
"Aweeeesooome" as my grandchildren would say!
Mission accomplished!!
Feeling much better -- thank you for providing the incentive to lift myself up this morning!
Today will be just fine!!

Reflect on all the love you get from YOUR people this weekend as we celebrate Valentine's Day!!

Mary Huey