Monday, January 30, 2017

Diamond Star Sampler Finish

I woke up Monday morning feeling overwhelmed. 
Too many deadlines (and perhaps too much upsetting news) are making it hard to prioritize a day's demands. 

There was a little downy woodpecker in my pantry and I needed to take him to the wildlife rehab center.  He's "my" little downy who comes to the feeders faithfully every day.  This fall, I watched him work hard for a week to enlarge the hole on my chickadee house so he could get inside.  Then the clever little bugger figured out how to land on the finch feeder and gobble up chipped sunflower seed.  Sunday evening, I found him on the ground under the feeders at dusk.
Once I determined that he could not fly, I scooped him up and put him in a cat carrier. 
He ate some suet after I put him in the carrier and spent a quiet warm night in my pantry.
So he was my first priority!

Off we went to the local wildlife rehab center where I was warmly greeted -- I'm something of a regular visitor -- and on examination, they found a broken wing.  The swelling needs to come down before they will be able to determine the exact location of the break and his recovery potential.  If it's not treatable, they will put him down but if it is and he responds well, there is a chance he'll be able to return to the neighborhood!

UPDATE -- 3/10/2017
Two days ago, I headed back out to the rehab center to pick up "my" downy woodpecker!!  He was much admired by the center's staff for his feisty resilience and making such a good recovery!  I released him back into "his" yard and have been waiting for 36 hours to catch a sight of him. 
At 8:30 a.m., I was delighted to see him land on the finch feeder for a quick feed!!

We had fresh snow overnight and since I was in a park, I headed down the trail to get a bit of exercise (walking in the snow is a good aerobic activity). I was delighted to discover that I was only the third person to walk the trail and as is always the case, the beauty around me soothed my soul and prepared me to head back into the studio and tackle the next priority
 In 2014, I ran a series here on the blog, the Diamond Star Sampler, to show how to apply the techniques featured in Set-In Piecing Simplified, my DVD workshop that teaches how to chain piece through y-seams. 
All the posts are gathered together under that tab up at the top of the page -- Diamond Star Playtime!

This set of stars appeared in many of those posts to demonstrate working with strips, fussy cutting, and using other shapes related to 60 degree diamonds plus more.
When I assembled the blocks into a quilt top, I chose to use a honeycomb setting with half stars to complete the center row. 
And this is where I left it two years ago -- auditioning possible border fabrics.
This past fall, I pulled the stars out again as I began to plan and prepare for a two-day workshop in March, Studying the Stars.  One of my goals for the workshop is to provide multiple setting examples for hexagonal blocks to inspire my students.
Finally I had the motivation (and a deadline) to make a decision about the border fabrics and quilt this piece.

I've been chipping away at the quilting since the first of January and finally finished over the weekend.  Monday's task was to bind it and get it ready to display in the teacher's gallery at the Lake Metroparks Farm Park annual show which opens February 17.
There were still four openings in the workshop, Studying the Stars on 3/17 & 3/18 if you can come!!
It was my intention to confine the quilting to basic straight lines or a simple grid.
But when I sat down at the machine, arcs started happening on the stars.
And a stylized trillium appeared in the background hexagons.
I finally got around to the straight lines to frame the central part of the quilt and in the border.
Now it just needed binding and tying off some odd threads to get it ready to display.
I finished listening to Jane Austen's Persuasion on Hoopla (perhaps my fifth "reading" of it) while working.  
(Much as I love Pride and PrejudicePersuasion is my favorite Austen story!)
Then I rushed to get outdoors for some photos before the good light disappeared.
Happily my yard is encircled with split rail fencing, but avoiding all the garages and sheds in the background can be a bit of a challenge.
How about hanging in a tree?
Bonus -- it is one of my 2017 Finish Along goals for the first quarter, too!!
Check out the first quarter link-up HERE!
Here's one more photo from the park this morning.
One of my favorite winter scenes is when the snow sticks in the trees and outlines the architecture of the trees.  I love the way it highlights their structure.
I'm seeing lots of "impatience" expressed on Instagram -- folks (in the Northern hemisphere) are anxious for spring -- but I find it beneficial to my mental health to enjoy winter -- and we still have a couple months of it to go!!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Crazy Busy Stitching Week!

I may have too many oars out of the boat all at the same time?
I've enjoyed the past couple months of aimless stitching, no deadlines, no workshops, no lectures.
Just me and my fabric in the studio!
But the end of January is the end of that for a bit and it's time to put my game face back on and get out there -- mix and mingle!
My teaching and lecture schedule is gearing up for the balance of the winter so this week has been about prepping for that.

I had a weekend away at a retreat with a friend's customers -- we were in Ohio Amish country and the weather was balmy for us -- sunny much of the time with temperatures in the high 50's -- that's about 30 degrees above normal.

I finished the giant Carolina Lily piece! 
There's a complete normal size person behind it!
I kept the quilting simple for two reasons -- needed to finish it fast and not quilting on my big machine so confined it to lots of walking foot straight line quilting.
This looked too simple for such a large space so I went back and added some more lines.
Much better!!
I made my first Sew Together bag for a friend's birthday!
The final steps puzzled me but I had read there are lots of tutorials on line and so fired up my Kindle for a look see.  Even though this YouTube one is in Japanese, I was able to follow the process.
Pretty cute, huh?? 
My friend was delighted and surprised and everyone in the room wanted the pattern!! 
Well, actually they wanted the bag.
And it is the first finish for the first quarter of the 2017 Finish Along -- linky is HERE!!
I cut out a couple Indygo Junction tunic tops -- have to take advantage of large flat surfaces whenever possible!
And Wednesday evening, I stitched one of them up!
Very pleased!! 
One of my weekend tasks was to retrieve Marge Sampson George's Dodecagon pattern and templates from my cousin who ferried them back to the US from Australia over the Christmas holidays!
The cutting has begun and this project is going on vacation with me!!
With the start of lecture season, I spent part of the week stacking quilts for two of my lectures and printing out handouts.  The notes for one of the lectures has gone missing but my handout will get me through it -- I never say the same thing twice anyway.
And I have found several other (long) missing things during the search for the notes so that is good!
There have been lots of trips in and out of the studio as I do all this so I've been pausing each time to gaze at these two (very old) stacks of blocks that I spread out on the design wall.
My first inclination was to try to merge them into one project, but that's not going to happen.
I'm focusing on this group which was inspired by some photographs I took of a tree covered with lichen and plastered with snow after a particularly windy snowstorm.
I've been rearranging blocks to make the tree image stronger and as the next few weeks progress I'll make more "snow" blocks and refine the image.   
Winter is returning this weekend and my Christmas rose will once again be buried with snow. 
It's right outside the window by my APQS George quilting machine so I've been able to enjoy gazing at it every morning during "quilting time" as I finish a teaching sample.
Are you ever at a lose for what to do next?
I'm don't seem to be!
I'll be stitching this weekend!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Abort Mission, Abort

Sometimes I just can't engage with a project.
This set of blocks is from the Morris Hexathon that Barbara Brackman hosted on her blog this past fall.  I chose to use scrappy Civil War reproduction fabrics and my plan was to have the blocks assembled into an interesting setting before my two day Studying the Stars workshop in mid-March.
Once the blocks were spread out on the design wall, I sorted them into two groups -- warmer and cooler color palettes because I've found that I can balance the arrangement of a group of scrappy blocks more effectively this way.
Then I began to arrange and document various settings -- most inspired by work of other piecers, current and historical.
The pictures help me evaluate for balance and visual impact more easily that looking at them on the design wall -- a photo has more perspective.
The arrangement below was inspired by a quilt of simple 6-pointed stars with hexagons for the background pieces.  Reversing the idea and making the stars the "background" is my thought here.
It morphed into a circular arrangement which I like.  It needs one more piece block along the lower edge.
So I auditioned some fabrics for possible use as the "background" stars.
I eliminated the red and green because it pulled my eye away from the blocks and the blue was too dark -- the beiges washed out the blocks too much for me.
 The winners of the elimination process were the browns.
Then a piece of paper with photographs of two antique quilts caught my eye in a stack of papers and I was off on another tangent.  I have a little stash of large exotic prints that I can see as a central motif surrounded by the hexagons and perhaps use the brown diamonds for another frame?
In the end, I decided I'm not ready to assemble these blocks into a top quite yet.
First, I need more blocks for greater flexibility.
Second, I need to eliminate the blocks I don't like.
Third, I might need to bring in a Civil War fabric expert for brainstorming.
So the mission to finish this quilt during the first quarter 2017 Finish Along is being aborted.
I've written down some thoughts, reactions, and ideas to remember what isn't working for me.
  The blocks have come down off the wall.
The patterns collected during the Hexathon and the box of reproduction fabric is back out. 
 I'll eliminate three or four of the blocks and make six to nine new ones. 
My creative subconscious will be working on this challenge in the background and when I come back to it, the solutions will be easier.
 In the meantime, the blocks will come along with me to the March workshop and serve as a settings demonstration for student experimentation.
It may seem like not much was accomplished during this experimentation process but it has helped me sort out my ideas and make some good decisions that will result in a finished quilt in the future!
Writing down my reactions is important as it will save me time when I come back to this project and enable me to start back to work on it more easily. 
When something isn't working, it's better to pinpoint the problems and step away for a while!!
Stepping away is not failure!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Discovery!!

I've made an exciting botanical discovery this week -- it's an exciting variation of the Carolina Lily!!
Carolina Lily is the challenge prompt for the second Project Quilt Season 8 project
(read all about it HERE).
Carolina Lily -- a traditional pattern with a difficult memory for me.
Many years ago, I started a Friendship group at my shop to exchange quilt blocks.  We met monthly and there were a dozen of us.  The third member to "present" a block for us to make gave us a Carolina Lily pattern that has some flaws so it was a hard make for most of us.
Then she quit coming after she got her blocks!!
I just have to think Carolina Lily and that memory flares up!
But I do like the look of the block and when done the traditional way with 45 degree diamonds, it involves y-seams -- easy for me to piece with Marti Michell's templates and the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique!
But how to give it a bit of a twist?
That Fierce Feathered Star I tested for Jesse (HERE) back in the fall must have been lurking in the back of my brain because I decided to supersize the block!!
I'm going to drag you through most of the process I used so if you aren't interested in it, just jump to the end to see the (almost) finished result.
I used the large 45 degree diamond template from Set E (8-pointed star) to make eight pieced diamonds.  The actual Carolina Lily (state wildflower of North Carolina) is orange and I raided my precious stash for three prints with lots of texture.
The piecing went quickly thanks to the trimmed points of the diamonds which take all the guess work out of matching. 
I do lay everything out carefully as it's easy to sew the wrong sides of the pairs together. 
No pin poking necessary even at this stage! 
If the seam allowance is accurate, this intersection lines itself up. 
The base of each flower is made from eight assorted green triangles using the large triangle template in Set E.
I arranged the orange prints with the lightest one at the outside points. 
Soon it was time to audition for the background fabric.  I had in my mind a print with a white or cream ground and green figures on it but as you can see here, I threw down as many options as possible and left the studio for the day.
The next morning when I returned, the prints that weren't working were quickly obvious and went back into the stacks.  I settled on a Moda grunge with a snow white base and some brighter white and soft gray highlights (at the top of the picture). 
The quickest way to figure out what size triangle was needed for the background was to lay Marti Michell's Small Diagonal Set Ruler in position -- the seam line on the ruler is lined up with the approximate seam line of the pieced units.  There it is -- no math required -- 7".
The advantage of this tool is that you use strips which often saves fabric -- always good since I'm often working with limited quantities of fabric that is no longer available.  Cutting them this way also assures that the outer edge of the triangles is on the straight grain -- very important!!
Perfect results!!
Time to create the lily pot!  Originally I was thinking green but then decided to try blue which is opposite orange on the color wheel so the best for contrast!  I was going to make it by piecing together 59 half square triangles.  As I was sorting through the blues, this beauty popped out from the bottom of one of the stacks!
Can you believe how perfect it is??
It's old -- a Free Spirit collection named Sarsaparilla -- over 10 years old.
It was easy to give up the idea of piecing all those HST's -- time is of the essence in this challenge!
The stem unit is a combination of piecing (the center stem) and applique (bias strips so they would arc beautifully).
When it was time to cut a BIG triangle for the pot, I realized I didn't have a large enough piece of the blue fabric, so it needed to be made in sections.  I also was concerned that the big floral area would be overwhelming so I made a square in a square block for the center of the pot to break things up a bit.  When I got the main part of the pot assembled it was too narrow across the top edge.
Everything had gone together so smoothly up to this point.
Time to take a break.
When I came back, I could see two choices -- start over or add more fabric.
Time is of the essence so I took the simpler route and added the outer blue strips.
The last thing that needed to be done was to calculate the large background filler pieces.  The 20" right triangles were easy but this large kite shape took some courage to cut. 
Happily it worked fine! 
Tuesday evening I completed the top and took this picture.
It's 59" tall and 48" wide.
L. michauxii subsp Amazonian
I left the studio for the day thrilled with the result but when I walked back in there on Wednesday morning, my eye went straight to that square in square block.
Not what I wanted!!
So out it came and a square of the gorgeous blue print replaced it.
Much better!!
All properly collected specimens must be labeled so I organized a label I could ink onto the background fabric using my light table. 
A little more searching through my stash found a backing fabric and I layered it up to take along to a retreat with friends this weekend.  I hope that by the time you are reading this, I've finished the quilting (it will be simple) and am working on the binding.
It's my hope that I'll finish by the Sunday deadline and get it linked up with the challenge #2 linky but if I don't, it's okay because I've had such a good time creating this piece. 
I intend to donate it to a local organization for a fund raiser . . . if I can bear to part with it!?!
Have a great weekend!

And just in case you ever need to name a new species, you can get the inside story on how to write it out correctly HERE.