Friday, March 31, 2017

Scrap Control the MHQ Way!

Everyone agrees that scraps are part of quilting!
For one to use them, one needs to organize them in such a way that they are accessible.
There are lots of ideas for organizing scraps in the blog-o-sphere.
This is not one of those ways!
It's the big blue Ikea bag that is meant to hold all the towels you own?!?
Yikes, it's a big bag???
I took it to my annual quilting retreat and offered the scraps to anyone who liked them.  Some disappeared but I decided it was NOT going back into the studio.

So earlier this week, I committed to sorting through it and dispersing everything into more usable forms.
I started by sorting them loosely into color stacks.
A few were set aside for current projects!
This little stack will blend into my Dodecagon quilt.
When I reached the halfway point, it just took another mug of tea to push through to the end.
What surprised me was how small the stacks are. 
Eventually the bag was actually empty!!
The current challenge is to maintain my dispersal momentum.
Cutting them into certain sizes is an often suggested strategy but it's important to cut them into sizes you will actually use in your projects.
Over the years, I've settled on three baskets of pre-cut scraps.
From left to right -- 3" strips, 2 1/2" squares and HST's, and 2 1/2" strips.
And the "rule" for managing these is that when the basket is topped up, it's time to use some to reduce the quantity!
Two lap size quilts were born out of the 2 1/2" strip box during the winter and now it looks tidy again.  I shared about this one HERE.
I started the Jen Kingwell Lone Time Gone FAL using Marti Michell's templates and adaptations a couple weeks ago -- last week's block and this week's block both started with picking through the
2 1/2" square basket!
The beauty of starting blocks in these baskets is how quickly I can pull a scrappy combination together and without messing up my stacks of fabric!
I'll show you the finished blocks in a few days!
The challenge this weekend will be to keep moving through the stacks of scraps and making them into easily used strips or squares!
Two down, eight to go!! 
It's raining here in Northeast Ohio making the gardens and yard much too wet for outside work so this weekend will be dedicated to stitching!!
I'm looking forward to that!
Hope your weekend is a good one as well!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Exploring Improvisational Piecing

Lichens, a unique group of plants, "typically live for ten years or more, and in some species the lichen body can survive for more than a hundred years." according to "life of plant" blog (HERE).
I first noticed them as "something interesting" on a walking tour in Dorset, England 15 years ago.  One of the group members had taken several courses on lichen and was sharing what she knew while we explored a cemetery full of lichen covered grave markers. 
Since then, I've taken photos of them whenever I encounter a "unique" specimen.  I can't identify any of them but I know they are an excellent indicator of air quality, so if you don't see them where you live, that's probably not an endorsement for your local air quality.
About 10 years ago, I came across a large tree after a windy snowstorm that made quite an impression on me.  The lower portion of the main trunk was covered with lichen and the snowstorm had "iced" the trunk with patches of snow that was engrossing to look at.  I had completed a couple of improvisational quilts using color palettes inspired by nature and set about doing the same with the colors of the tree trunk covered in lichen and snow.
For some reason long forgotten, the project stalled and the blocks I did make were put on a shelf along with the pile of fabric I had pulled for it. Perhaps my subconscious knew that they are a slow growing species and this idea would need time to mature?  During my annual review of "stuff not finished" in December, the pile resurfaced and I put it on my first quarter list of goals for the 2017 Finish Along (my complete list is HERE). 
The blocks went up on my design wall along with a couple photos for inspiration and waited for something to happen! 
This strategy sounds too simple but it always works for me!
The first step was stumbling across this wonderful fabric from Robert Kaufman's Sound of the Woods collection -- the print extends across the width of the fabric and the color palette is perfect! 
Once this fabric joined the blocks on the work wall, my interest was sparked and I began to move the blocks around leaving them to "simmer" for a day or two and making adjustments until I began to see the trunk of a tree emerge!  I needed more primarily dark blocks, so I pulled six prints from the fabric stack and cut a couple rectangles of each to make some quick six-patch blocks.
To do this, I stack the fabrics right side up and cut them into six pieces. 
Then I "shuffle" them. 
Leave the first stack alone. 
Move the top piece on the second stack to the bottom. 
Move the top two pieces on the third stack to the bottom. 
Continue until there are six different fabrics on top of all the stacks. 
Here they are sewn together and ready to add to the mix! 
(For another example of how I used this style of blocks, read this POST.)
Finally, last week, I was satisfied with the arrangement of the blocks and began to set them together.
The quickest way to work is to overlap two blocks and trim them straight.
Here are the trimmings and the blocks are ready to be stitched together.
Sometimes I simply added a strip of fabric to expand the length of a "row" when less than a "block" was needed.
Once the rows were assembled, I began to stitch them to each other.  Here you can see some "freehand" rotary straightening to prepare for stitching.
The trunk of the tree has emerged!!
In the pile of rejects was a group of very light blocks which became a "layer of snow" that was plastered on the northwest side of the tree.
After two days of gazing and thinking about "how" to get all this together, I set about it (timidly).
The "band of snow" is slightly curved to define the left side of the tree and eliminate some of the random dark squares. 
I carefully laid the band of snow over the edge of the trunk, checking and rechecking the alignment.
After several deep breaths, I trimmed away the left side of the trunk to match the right edge of the band of snow. 
Whew, it worked!! 
It's a very gentle curve so the stitching was easy! 
At this point I am delighted with the results but it's time for another pause -- overnight should do it -- to organize the next phase of construction.
I had 3/4 yard of the gray tree scene and the rest of the bolt is 1000 miles away so I had to get this right.  The plan is to put some of it on each side of the trunk. 
How much on the left?
How much on the right? 
Feeling (fairly) confident the next morning, I laid the trunk unit on the tree fabric.
More deep breaths and the cutting began -- smooth the edge of the trunk unit and cutting the tree print at the same time so the edges match. 
Looks good!!
To the machine!! 
Press and repeat for the left side!
And here it is!!
You'll notice the "extension" at the top of the tree trunk.  When I aligned the pieces to trim the left side of the trunk, it was a couple inches shorter than the fabric, so I added a few "squares" and the "extension" is the result. 
Now I'm back to a thinking phase. 
How to quilt it?
My initial idea is beginning to expand so I'm going to let the piece simmer on the design wall over the weekend.
Here's to a productive stitch-filled weekend!!


Monday, March 20, 2017


The seasons changed today -- spring is in the air here Northeast Ohio -- yeaaa!!
I've spent the last few hours organizing a new page for the blog!!
And I was playing around with the layout, too.
So if things look a bit different today, it's because my "tech" skills aren't quite up to my piecing skills.
(I'll be e-mailing my tech advisor right after this -- HELP!!!)

But now I'm too tired to write much of anything?!?

The new page -- (see the new tab up top?) -- is a collection of all my posts from last year as I followed Barbara Brackman's Morris Hexathon.  As I taught my Studying the Stars workshop this weekend, I realized it would be great for my students to have easy access to those posts to help them as they continue to work with 6-pointed stars and related hexagonal blocks.
And now that's done!!
I'm also adding the two-day
workshop to my teaching page -- if your guild or shop is looking for an intensive machine piecing introduction to 6-pointed stars, I'd love to talk with you! 

And since I had the blocks out for the setting experiments part of the workshop, I made a few new ones and will continue to add more blocks until I have enough to do a lap size quilt!
Just needed a break, I guess?!
I should make "keeping the studio in a state of chaos" to my list of goals because I started the Long Time Gone SAL based on Jen Kingwell's BOM Sunday evening!?! 
It's only one block a week???
Marti is blogging instructions to use her templates as part of the three blogger SAL. 
You can check her first post out HERE just in case you need another project???
I'm going to use my stash of "text prints" and scrappy brights!
If you aren't a Marti template enthusiast, there are two other bloggers posting alternative instructions and you can access them from Marti's first post.

I also went "duck hunting" for a couple hours earlier today so I can blame some of my tiredness on all that cold fresh air!  I'm up to 15 duck species seen so far this year -- still a few to go for a complete list of all the usual suspects!!

Look for signs of spring!!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dodecagon Progress

Early in February I shared the start of a new project -- Marge Sampson-George's lovely Dodecagon pattern which is now available in this Etsy shop -- pattern, templates, and papers!  Click HERE.

  I didn't make as much progress on it while vacationing in Florida (all the birding and fresh air left me pretty tired at the end of the day), but I've been chipping away at it since my return and a more concrete plan for my version has begun to evolve.

I started with a set of Andover reproduction style fabrics purchased at Mary Koval's shop in Bedford, PA.  The one on the left is from Di Ford and I think the one on the right is one of Mary's lines.
I've added lots more pieces to the assortment from my stash -- the number of yellows has grown as I love the pop that color brings to the individual blocks.
Isn't this one great?
I started with quite a few greens and . . .
 reds but have been adding to the assortment whenever I come across another piece that will add some texture or an unexpected element.
I've added more grays and blacks to enrich the palette.
Plus a few interesting browns. 
The first audition together felt a little blah -- especially when one looks at the versions of this quilt on Instagram coming out of Marge's workshops in Australia.
One of the lasting lessons I learned from Mary Ellen Hopkins was black always fixes "blahs".  So I put together a ring of black hexies for one of the setting necklaces and have been auditioning it with some large prints I want to incorporate to replace four or five of the dodecagons.
I took photos of all three so I can study them side by side to decide whether to just use one or two of them or all three. 
At this point, it's a real toss-up.  They all look great to me!
More staring and contemplation are required. 
Here's more close-ups of the individual units I've assembled so far.
I've decided against doing any really tightly managed fussy cutting but am controlling the directional prints to they don't distract the eye. 
So far this is the most somber one -- I'll have to be sure to make one or two more that are similar so it doesn't stand out. 
I'm finding the little binding clips helpful to hold pieces together once I get them aligned.
I can get one basted in an evening and the next evening, I stitch it together.
I'm making it smaller than Marge's suggested plan -- there are too many other EPP projects waiting for me out there so cutting the size down helps me hurry towards those faster!

Last weekend of winter here in Northeast Ohio! 
Hope you are having lots of stitching time this weekend!