Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Great Yellow Overload!

I live on the southern shore of Lake Erie where winter is "mostly cloudy".  As long as the lake remains open (not frozen), we seem to have a surplus of cloudy weather, so I was "all in" when Project Quilting 9 announced the perfect "cheer me up" challenge last Sunday.
and have I got yellow fabric -- this is just 1/3 of it!!
The color yellow is hard to print on fabric -- can't remember any of the long explanation one of my fabric reps shared with me years ago of why that is so, but it motivated me to always buy 1/4 to 1/2 yard of every "good" yellow print I've seen, so when I need some yellow, I have an amazing assortment from which to chose!!

I started right into work on Monday pulling fabric and there in the yellow stacks was this cheerful print!!
And with that, one of my "creative mergers" began to happen!
Bees, bees need honeycomb, yellow fabrics, hexagons, Set-In Piecing Simplified, Marti Michell's templates!!
30 minutes of play in Electric Quilt produced this layout and the cutting began in earnest. 
One of the first steps in working with my own design is to figure out how to break it down into small units that are repeated over and over in the design.  (Thank you Mary Ellen Hopkins for forcing me to do this back in the 1980's!!!)  This cluster of 4 hexagons was the repeating unit I focused on through out this design -- many of them were identical in fabric, so I began by piecing 24 of them.  This unit of 4 made it easy to maintain the chain-piecing momentum of Set-In Piecing Simplified (a learning guide is available in my Etsy shop HERE).
Once those 24 units were pieced, I worked with my diagram to lay the quilt up on the design wall, adding the flower hexagons and the partial hexagons along the edges to create a straight edge.
After all the pieces were in place and I was satisfied with the layout, I started to join units together -- I find this less cumbersome to manage than stitching the hexagons into rows of single hexagons.
The next few pictures follow the progress of the upper left corner of the quilt.
I started with three units.
  At one point, I timed myself -- okay I was trying to impose some discipline -- only 30 minutes of stitching and then I needed to address other "must-do's".  I can piece between 35 and 40 seams (1 1/2" long) in 30 minutes.  
And here is the corner ready to go back on the design wall! 
There are always two units growing and so the chain-piecing strategy can be maintained as I work back and forth between the two of them.
Can you pick out the cluster of four hexagons in each of these sections and see the logic of my strategy? When I took this picture, I was working on the lower left corner.
I do goof up occasionally and that means it's time to quit for the day!
"That's not right, Mary!!"
 I've stumbled into the habit of lining up all the seams to the left that are already stitched and giving the piece a shake to make it easier to line up the two hexagons I'm preparing to stitch (where I'm pointing).  It's hard to photograph so you can visualize it, but it works like a charm!
My goal was to create larger and larger sections while still being able to switch back and forth between two sets and keep the chain-piecing going.  Those hunks of fabric around the piece are backing auditions -- the blue check was the winner!
Finally, I had two halves -- just 29 seams to go!  To keep the chain-piecing strategy going, I used pieces from a UFO to be sew-offs (leaders and enders) between each of the seams in the quilt.  By the time I finished this last seam of the quilt, I had also pieced 58 more pieces of that UFO together.  I prefer to continue to chain-piece even at this stage because 
one of the benefits of the technique is that the ends of y-seams more secure than any other method of piecing y-seams.
I also don't press any of the seams when y-seaming until the entire piece is assembled.
That makes it easier to push seams already stitched out of the way for each y-seam and nothing gets caught where I don't want it!!
It does make the pressing a bit tedious in the end, but once I find the rhythm and flow, I put on some fun music and forge on!  It also enables me to press the entire piece uniformly making it easier to quilt.
Here's a close-up of my quilting -- a simple grid that moves along the lines of the patchwork.  Since I pressed it uniformly, the location of the "ditch" along any diagonal row of hexagons is always the same.
And here's the finished piece!
Honey Bee Hop
You know?  It's that dance the bees do when they find the flowers and want to let everyone else know!!  I chose to let the bees "tumble" around because that's how they "waggle".
It's a lot of yellow, isn't it?  
And cheerful, too!!
Some statistics for you -- I used 1 1/2" hexagons and the quilt is 31" by 41".
Every bit of fabric is from my stash -- yeaaaaa!!!
You can look at all the other YELLOW responses to Project Quilting's challenge HERE and vote for your favorite ten!!  There are 119 projects to look at so better get a cuppa'.

If you are interested in having a simple handout of this hexagon quilt to adapt to your own work, leave me a comment and if the interest is there, I put one together.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

New Quilt -- A Temperature Quilt

Last time we talked, several of you gave me permission to start a new quilt!!
Okay, it was already started and it's a Temperature Quilt!!
Seems perfect for someone who spends some of every day outside birding, walking or stitching in my garden -- but before I share that with you . . . . check this out!
We are having a thaw this week.  The rivers are racing and the birds are very active -- so a walk at one of my favorite birding spots was in order.  One of the perks of winter walking is all the deer trails that are exposed making it easier to wander into little wildernesses.  I followed several this morning.
One led out to the river bank and there on a long narrow island in the river were two large brown lumps -- about the size of a Labrador retriever on very short legs -- beaver!! 
Fortunately I had my camera with me and was able to zoom in for close-ups!
They were both grooming. 
My excitement arises from never having seen an entire beaver in the wild at such close range.  They are bigger than I realized. 
Usually all I see is a head and tail moving away on the few occasions we've startled one when kayaking.  What a thrill!!  
So back to the "temperature" quilt.  My first exposure to this idea was NeedledMom's blogpost (HERE) sharing the results of her and her sister's 2017 versions. They made a flying goose unit using the high and low temperature each day to determine the colors to be used from a run of 36 solid colors -- each color represents a range of 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
I was intrigued!!
I translated their color chart into prints from my stash -- MUST use what I have!!
All the prints are labeled with a letter which coordinates to the chart I created to keep on track. 
I started with January 1 to make a 2018 quilt and in one of my "creative merger" inspirations, I am doing an appliqued free-form drunkards block unit.  This is just over 5 weeks -- the white circles are full moons because I pay attention to those (since they make me and everyone around me weird.)
Every morning, I check the high and low for the previous day at
and when I've accumulated a few days, I cut the pieces and leave them on the arm of my recliner for hand stitching.
I started "googling" temperature quilt and found there are variations of this (including a knitting one) and read a blog about a gal making one for the first year in their new house, so she's already over half finished!!  I just had one of those big birthdays so now I'm doing it from last summer's big birthday to this summer's birthday -- the beginning of a new decade in fabric.  I've dug around on the internet and found historic weather records of high and low temperatures for the nearest large city so now I'm prepping two or three days every day and stitching every evening to catch up.
Quick look at what I'm doing -- the low temperature for the day is a 3 1/2" cut square and the high temperature is a 3" cut square.
I write the date on the back of the large square since I'm working on several each day
I cut the arc freehand -- loving this!! 
That way none of the arcs are identical.
Here's a close-up of some of the stitched blocks.
I'm using a running stitch with a double strand of cotton thread.
Easy and fun plus I can now justify splurging on these two boxes of Superior Threads Super Bobs!!
I'm trimming out the "background" after the applique is stitched and saving those pieces to use as many as I can for the "high" temperature on future blocks.  That's making the arcs even more random and spontaneous.
My nature nerdiness (read, concerned about global warming) began to wonder what a historical temperature quilt would look like . . . . say for the year I was born!? So a smaller, simpler piece is happening simultaneously for the first 366 days (it was a leap year) of my life.  I think it will end up as part of the back of current year's quilt.
Looking forward to seeing what this looks like in the end!  Interestingly, the high's and low's were identical on the day I was born as they were on my birthday last summer -- what does that say?

Looking forward to painting in the coming week -- not really, but it needs to be done!
Have a good stitching weekend!!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Project Quilting 9 -- the Bold and Brave Challenge

Once again, I found myself creating a piece for this week's Project Quilting 9 challenge that I didn't mean to start! I woke up Friday morning with an inspiration from a friend's story about his ancestors. Once I got started, I could not stop and last evening, I finished the binding -- I made the entire piece in just one day without leaving the studio!!
So first the story, then the quilt.

Two of my long time birding friends and I often exchange genealogy stories as we all three spend time seeking ancestors.  I recently discovered that quite a few of my husband's ancestors came to New England in the mid-1600's when it was still a wild place.  I find myself pondering what it would have been like to leave everything one knows, get into a cramped wooded ship, and sail for weeks to a wilderness with nothing familiar in the anticipation of having a "better life", trusting that someone knows what they are doing!  
Hard for any of us to imagine on any level.  
Such brave people!! 

Last week, my friend shared his latest discovery with me.  He is French Canadian and several of his 7th and 8th great grandmothers came to New France (Canada) to marry colonists and soldiers who were already settled in the region.  From 1635 to 1662, 262 young ladies, the "Filles a Marrier" (marriageable girls) came to Canada having set up contracts in France with eligible bachelors in Quebec and hoping for the best.  In 1663, King Louis XIV began to send "Filles du Roi" (The King's Daughters) along with a dowry to marry men who were sent over a year or so earlier to subdue the Iroquois Indians.  About 740 women arrived in Canada over the next 10 years.  When Paul told me about this, he had found 41 of his ancestors on these lists.  Yesterday, when we talked, he was up to 53 from the King's Daughters and 27 from the marriageable girls lists.  Isn't that amazing?  10% of his 7th and 8th great-grandmothers came to Quebec between 1635 and 1663 as young unmarried women under circumstances that we would find totally unacceptable in this day and age. 
Now if that's not BRAVE, I don't know what is!?!

When he first told me the story, he had found 41 of his grandmothers on the list.  
I'm calling this piece "Les Filles Courageuses" -- The Brave Girls. 
 It features a wreath of 41 hexagons surrounding a central hexie that represents my friend.
It's another one of my "creative mergers" -- stories or images merge with my skills and stash and result in a unique piece that comes together quickly.  I wasn't consciously trying to merge any of these elements, but here they were calling out to unite in a creative burst of energy

This floral charm pack of cotton lawns has been sitting on my cutting table with the hexagon template for a couple months waiting for me to try piecing with cotton lawns.  
And I can't count the number of times I've saved and pinned quilts made using Nicole Daksiewicz Modern Hexagons pattern -- check it out HERE.
And here was a story inspiration -- 41 grandmothers!
It just took a few minutes to "sketch" a hexagon motif in Electric Quilt that used 42 hexagons.
I used the template to roughly trim the squares down a bit and then made two heat-resistant plastic templates for prepping the patches.
I used spray starch to press under the seam allowances and find the quickest way is to spray a little puddle of it onto the template, then smear it out into the seam allowances. 
I've found it's easier to work using my small travel iron for this job.
It's always takes a few minutes to find my rhythm, but once I do, it's not a bad job -- a good book on tape helps alleviate the boredom, too! 
The cotton lawn was easier to set the seam allowances with the starch than standard quilt cottons -- the pack didn't have 42 florals so I had to do some scrap basket diving to round out the number.
I pulled potential backgrounds out of my stash and started tossing the prepared hexies onto them to get a feel for which would work best.
In the end, I chose two prints and made a large pieced hexagon background.  The center print is a dreary looking landscape print to represent the wilderness that the "filles courageuses" were entering in New France and the outer one is a lovely soft monochromatic floral representing the familiar landscape of France. 
I sorted the prepped hexies into three groups by value and color before beginning the layout process -- mostly pinks, mostly greens and mixed darks.
I laid out three rings to organize the spacing and then lifted off the center ring to use as the outer spokes.
Once the placement was organized, I glued each hexie in position.
My layout needed 42 hexagons, but I only used 41 to stay true to the story.
I layered the piece up, marked stitching lines and worked with my walking foot to attach the hexagons permanently and quilt the piece at the same time. 
Here's Paul, my birding friend, surrounded by his "filles courageuses" -- women who bravely left France to come alongside unknown men and give birth to children who would grow and prosper into the future. 
It measures 23" by 27" and will make a charming table centerpiece mat.
I've used that little charm pack!!
I used up some more stash!
I satisfied the itch to make "modern hexagons" and I didn't create a UFO!!

Linking up with the other Project Quilting 9.3 creators HERE!!
Thanks to Kim and Trish for another fun challenge I didn't think I could meet!!

I'll close with an interesting fact -- we all have 256 seventh great-grandmothers and 512 eighth great- grandmothers.  Isn't that comforting -- to have so many grandmothers!!
  How did their bravery give you a future?

Mary Huey

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The No Ancient UFO's Quest Continues

After 36 hours of being totally distracted by the presence of this Northern Shrike at one of my local birding patches, I'm back in the studio.  This tundra-nesting, circumpolar bird is an occasional winter visitor in Northern Ohio.  I don't see them annually so went a little over the top about it.
Have been out twice more to see it again!
My goal this week was to get that ancient flower basket quilt ready to send out for quilting.
The HST's I made last week made a lovely sawtooth border.  I inserted a blank at the midpoint of the lengthwise borders where I reversed the direction of the HST's -- not enough space for two HST's -- but I don't like it so I'm going to applique a square on point to camouflage them.
I found 3 missing flower cents while adding the sawtooth borders.
I rediscovered this set of circle templates and got organized to remedy that!
Next job -- add the large floral print borders!  Happily I hoarded 3 yards of this beauty back in 1999!!
I used four 8" wide strips lengthwise that were cut long enough to miter the corners.
Mitering is so easy with Marti Michell's Miter Rulers!  They come in two sizes -- this is the 8" by 24" one.  You can see I've marked the cutting line and pinned the ends in preparation for stitching.  
After the stitching is completed and I check to be sure everything is done correctly, I'll cut off the corners.  Here's a link to Marti's explanation of how to use this tool.
It's fool proof when done correctly and I miter lots more borders as a result!
Here is the finished top!!
I even have some ideas of how I want it quilted!!
Feathers, feathers, feathers!!
I found almost enough of this beauty in the hoard to make the backing (dates from 2002) and so I'm ready to send off another ancient UFO!!
Does this mean I get to start another (new) project?