Friday, May 31, 2019

And I Finished a Quilt!!

What did you do today?
I watched my neighbor attempt to spread a huge pile of mulch around his yard . . . . 
. . . . . and I drank a lot of tea . . . .  
. . . . . . and I finished this quilt!
Finishing it was my #onemonthlygoal for May's Elm Street Quilts linkup and today is the last day to share the results for this month.
I layered it on May 1 and quickly stitched this first pattern row down the length of the quilt.
And then I got distracted or bored or disappointed with the design???
I don't know but there it sat until May 29 -- that was the day I cleared all the stuff off of it so I could get back to work on it.
I ditched between all the blocks hoping to for fresh inspiration as I engaged with the process of machine quilting.  

Quilting a top continues to be a "speed bump" for me but I do find that starting with the simplest approach (often stitch in the ditch) can break the creative jam for me.

I decided to continue with my original idea and finished the pieced blocks.
I've been doing so much straight line quilting for the past couple years that my free motion curves are a little rusty and that shows up with a variegated thread but . . . . must persist!!
Once they were all finished, it looked much better!
Now for the plain blocks -- at 6", they are too large to leave empty even if the batting is stable.
I decided to build on the design I used for the center square of the pieced blocks but my first experiment looked too empty so I added four more "petals" for a total of eight.
Much better!! 
Rather than mark them or use a ruler, I marked the center of each plain square 
and the center of each side of the plain squares.
I stitched "graceful arcs" from "dot-to-dot" -- this is where building muscle memory by doodling quilting designs pays off.  Happily I figured out how to start at one edge of the quilt and work across all the blocks in one continuous line.
Here I've stitched down the right side of the block continuing through all the blocks in that row until I reach the opposite side.  Then I stitched the left side as I came back across the quilt. 
After finishing the first row of plain blocks, I decided the pieced blocks looked too puffy, so I used my straight edge to add a box to those blocks to flatten them down a bit.
Happily, I was able to figure out how to do that as part of the plain square quilting lines by taking a short detour when I connected with the center of one of the rectangles and then come back into the plain square with no extra stops and starts. 
Moving from motif to motif smoothly is a great strategy because it cuts down on the "thread burying".  So the only threads I needed to bury were when the bobbin needed to be changed or the thread broke!!  Yea!!  Plus I do it at once because I hate spending an evening burying threads.
I spent most of the 31st quilting though I did take out time to do a few chores including mowing the back lawn.  Now my daughter and I can have a relaxing weekend outside!
The finished quilt is 42" by 60" and will be donated to one of my causes.
It's made completely from my reproduction stash and I estimated it used up about 4 1/4 yards of stash!!  That's a good thing because now I don't need to feel guilty about that layer cake I bought last week!!


(By the way, my neighbor did move a lot of mulch around but he didn't finish!!)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

I Might Have Started a New Project?!?

Yep, there is something taking over the design wall in my studio!
Inspired by Jessie Fincham's (aka @messyjessy1 on Instagram) tutorial on piecing a Scrappy Irish Chain (HERE) and . . . . . . 
. . . . . . my bulging basket of 2 1/2" squares, I launched a modified version a couple weeks ago.
My modification is that my blocks are 7 by 7 squares (her's are 9 by 9) and
I'm setting scrappy dark greens squares to criss-cross each block on the diagonals.
There are white squares (the background fabric) in the #4 position around the outside edges and everything else is scrappy, scrappy, scrappy!!
One of the pitfalls of making a truly scrappy quilt is getting caught up in making it "pretty".
"Pretty" has it's place in quiltmaking, but it's tough to achieve in a truly scrappy quilt.
"Go with the flow" has to be the watchword during the piecing process or you won't use up many scraps.
That being said, it is a good idea to pay attention to "value".
To illustrate, this corner of one of the blocks is scrappy and the greens are in the correct positions, but if you squint at it, that top center blue square is so close in value to the green squares it touches that it interrupts the green diagonal pattern. 
However, if I switch the blue square and the yellow floral, now squint, the green diagonal is more distinct and that's good.  You might not think this block is "pretty", but that won't matter once we get a bunch of blocks set together.
Value is the critical element of fabric placement in scrappy quilts! 
I'm chain piecing the blocks together in rows -- here are the first and second rows pieced into pairs.
Now I'm leaving everything attached and adding the third row. 
Here's the fourth row being added. 
Once I add a row of squares to the "grid" (on the right and coming off the back of my machine), my "ender" or "sew-off" is to stitch two rows of the previous block together (on the left).
I leave all the thread chains in place -- no clipping apart -- so nothing gets tangled. 
It took a little trial and error to figure out the easiest way to press the seams in opposite directions without clipping all those chain threads, but then a happy accident presented the solution.
If I let the pressed rows hang off the edge of the ironing board, they aren't in the way. 
Now I can slide my iron right (or left) down the next row effortlessly, pressing the seams in the opposite direction of the previous row which is hanging down over the edge of the ironing board.
At this point, I can work up one of these blocks in about an hour!
And happily each block uses 45 squares from my basket!
That means I'll use 1014 squares for the twin size quilt I have planned!!
Don't worry, there's a backup box of 2 1/2" strips if I start to run low or the assortment of squares gets too ugly.
With no deadline for this quilt top, it could take much of the summer but it's a perfect escape from "the world" when I just want to piece something without starting a new project!!

Oh, yea -- it is a new project?!?

Birding migration is winding down here in Ohio, so I'll be spending more time at my sewing machine There have been a couple fun new additions to my backyard garden in the past couple weeks!
A green frog has moved into my little pond.  It's taken us two weeks to spot and identify him.  Up to now, it's just been "something just jumped into the pond!!"  I'm not sure if he is coexisting with the hundreds of American toad tadpoles in the pond or eating them -- there are so many it's hard to tell?!? 
And while this fellow isn't a new resident (he was likely born in the pond sometime in the past couple years), hanging out on the back porch is a new venue for him.  I say "him" because since toads began to breed in my pond a couple years ago, I've learned the males are smaller than the females.
He spent most of the morning sitting along the edge of the back porch while I came and went - just sunning and watching!  Very chill fellow!
Next week, I'll show you the progress I made on my big English paper piecing project over the past month!!


Sunday, May 5, 2019

Some Creative Thoughts

Five days ago, I posted a picture on my Instagram feed and declared my intention for the week as part of the #onethingwithamy hashtag -- "turn this motley group of leftover y-seam demo units into a cute baby quilt flimsy as I continue to clear out the aftermath of 35 years of teaching quiltmaking". 

This is where it was a couple days ago when last you saw me!
I finished setting it together and then . . . . how am I going to make this "cute"???

It needed to be a bit longer and so I fell back onto my often used strategy of adding a pieced band top and bottom plus more of the "float" bands of fabric.  There were leftover diamonds I could use.
Taking time to trim the points of the diamonds with Marti Michell's Point Trimmer make assembling a row of these diamonds easy and accurate.
Perfect alignment every time. 
And a straight band of pieced diamonds. 
The ends ones were cut on the angle at just the end being joined to the band so they could be trimmed straight on the outside end. 
That was easy!!  But now what?
Nothing to be done but pull out anything with lots of color that might say "cute" loudly!!
(I didn't photograph the rejects, but I did put them away.)
And the winner is . . . 
this cute farm print I grabbed at an end-of-bolt sale!!

I needed to piece the upper and lower borders to make the best use of the fabric I had.
To make the joining seam less obvious and eliminate "cow-butts" and "headless cows"
I folded back the end of the right hand strip until I found a less obvious area for the seam. 
Then I cut off sections at the correct ends of the strips being joined. 
The seam isn't a perfect match but it is less obvious! 
And here is the "cute" quilt!!!

So here's the "creative thought" for the day -- if I had not defined the look I wanted this quilt to have before I started working on it, I think I would still be stuck up in the studio trying to figure out how to border this piece.  It's not just a jumble of colors, it's a jumble of print styles and while that makes it a true scrap quilt, it can also make it harder to unify the finished look of the quilt.  

When I started pulling potential borders fabrics, "cute" defined where I started -- if it was a cute, multi-colored print, I auditioned it!  The moment I laid this hunk of fabric next to the pieced center, I knew immediately it was the right piece because it was colorful and "cute".

So thank goodness, I defined my creative goal for this motley stack of pieces.
I'm not sure I always do that but I'll pay more attention in the future because it certainly made this project come together easier and more successfully than I imagined!

This quilt is destined to become one of my charity makes.
It measures 44" by 58".
I even pulled the backing together today!

Check out the hashtag #onethingwithamy to see what other quilters are doing!


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Where's Mary??

"I think she's out chasing a bird!!"
My mother was the first person to say that, but not the last!?!
With new arrivals nearly every day during April, it's important to go birding as often as possible.
I live on the south shore of Lake Erie and spring bird migration is a big deal!!
This beauty (Rose-breasted Grosbeak) just arrived for the summer nesting season!
I don't just walk and gawk at birds though -- I try to be useful to the woodlands as well!
Every spring walk finds me pulling as much garlic mustard as I can clutch in my hand and carrying it on to the next trash can.
This is native to Europe, but it's invasive in North America and even though we'll never whip it out here, some of us try to keep it from overrunning woodlands and pushing out native spring wildflowers plus it decoys this threatened butterfly, the West Virginia White, into laying eggs on it's leaves but the caterpillars starve when they eat the leaves.
I've also been lobbying for and monitoring some control efforts of lesser celandine in my favorite local park!
Across the creek, the ground is covered with this plant and on this side of the creek, you can see the results of herbicide spraying -- look at it wilting!!
Once again, no way to eliminate it completely so efforts are focused on keeping it out of high quality stream beds and wildflower areas.
It's my dream to see this stream-side terrace covered with native skunk cabbage and marsh marigolds!!
Most evenings find me stitching on something!  Amy at Amy's Creative Side has started a hashtag on Instagram (#onethingwithamy) -- click HERE to explore!!
The idea is to set a achievable weekly goal -- so far I'm all over it!!
Week 1, I bound and washed this quilt to prepare it for donating!
Now I'm working on this motley collection of tumbling block units that are leftovers from all my y-seam piecing demos.  Since I've stepped away from teaching, I don't need them so I'm attempting to turn them into a "cute" child's quilt.  
It will be small but I'm not so sure about "cute"?!?
I have been fiddling with it for a couple evenings and just have one more zig-zig set of 12 y-seams to finish -- then borders!! 
Since I always chain piece through y-seams, I alternate with other projects so I finished assembling this scrappy quilt top -- made a backing and it's on the layering table waiting for pins as I write!
 I finished assembling this top and am ready to add the borders! 
Like many of you, we have been getting lots of rain and while general flooding hasn't been a problem, I have to admit I'm a bit frustrated by the ever present wetland along the edge of my lawn.
This fella (Northern Cardinal) is loving it though -- just peaked around the the monitor of my computer and he's out there right now, scouring the soggy lawn for edibles.  He must be having great success because he's working out there most of the day!
The Korean Spice viburniums are blooming and filling the yard with a luxurious scent!
The red currant is in full bloom and I'm hoping the insects are pollinating it so I can enjoy lots of fresh berries this summer! 
A male house wren has laid claim to the back half of my garden and is exploring every nook and cranny -- bad for the bugs -- and singing his merry tunes! 
So far, I've managed to fend off the white-tail deer munching on my flowers -- I see their tracks but they don't like my bi-weekly stinky spray program! 
And the old peony that I moved at the wrong time last summer is showing buds!!
So spring is good -- still several weeks of bird migration to soak up and wildflowers to find. The garlic mustard won't pull itself and energy spent on my garden will pay off this summer!
I'll be wearing myself out!!