Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Between Projects?

To make the statement that I'm "between projects" is probably misleading as I always have two or three actively going at any one time so to say that implies that I finish one project and then (rationally) chose a new project.

When I finished the #100days100blocks2019 quilt top and it's backing, I decided I better finish the Rose Star quilt top next as the two quilts will need to be presented to my granddaughters at the same time.  So up on the design wall it went.  
The row of blocks on the right are the start of a quilt for their brother.  The blocks are from the #littlemisssawtoothquiltqal on Instagram with @southerncharmquilts.  It's a slow pace with two new blocks every other week so over the weekend I pieced the next two blocks and worked on the Rose Star borders.

The fabrics I set aside (a couple years ago) with the Rose Star to use for borders isn't quite enough so I'm going to make four small stars to use as cornerstones.  Since my y-seam piecing technique is based on chain-piecing, I can bounce back and forth between the corner stars and the quilt along blocks.  You may think working on two different sets of blocks is confusing but it is possible because I don't have to think very hard at this point about the y-seam piecing.  It's like making 4-patch blocks for me.  But I will have to pay attention, think, about the other blocks.
 There were a few of these stitch and flip corners to do and as I was stitching them I was thinking about my long time mentor, Mary Ellen Hopkins who first taught me this technique.  Actually, I think she was the first to teach this -- her series of books from the 1990's used this "connector corner" idea in all the patterns that are so common today -- hearts, stars, bowties.  She had dozens and dozens of teacher/students who quickly embraced the idea and it has filtered throughout the quilting community over the past 25 plus years and very few of you today even know about this inspiring teacher and author.  The one thing that quilters have changed is most of you have been taught to trim off both layers of fabric under the finished triangle.  Mary Ellen taught us to leave the bottom layer in place as you see here.
Her reason?  If you don't stitch a perfect diagonal (which I almost never do), you still have a perfect square corner when the triangle is pressed over as you can see here.  This makes the assembly of the units into a block easier and more accurate.  
(I don't trim HST's either!?!)
I apparently got so caught up in my memories that I lost my focus because this block isn't right!
Wrong star points for this center!! 
Needless to say, it got "edited"!!  My "non-fussy" cuts of the animal prints remind me of pictures I've seen from trail-cams with curious animals doing funny things as they examine the camera and pass through it's field of vision -- a skunk's tail, a bear playing "peak-a-boo".
The star blocks went together much better!
I used these templates from Marti Michell's Set G to construct four starflowers to square up to 
10 1/2" blocks.  I used templates 46 and 50 for the star and 47 and 48 to make the pieced "background" diamonds.  The finished unit is 4" on each side and will sit nicely inside a 10" finished square.
To blend the starflowers with the Rose Star blocks, I pieced the surrounding "background" diamonds to create a "shadow" using a small diamond and two half hexagons.
I like to press seams away from star points to eliminate bulk in the points so I needed to set in every other diamond first. 
If you've worked with my Set-In Piecing Simplified teaching guide, you know I suggest that you don't press until a section is completely pieced.  This keeps seam allowances from getting caught in the wrong position while stitching adjacent y-seams.  
Here's the block before pressing.
Now I press just those sections pushing the seam allowances towards the diamond units and away from the star points.
I left the seams where the remaining three diamonds need to be inserted unpressed. 
Once the star blocks were pieced, I completed the pressing and centered it on top of a square ruler to figure out how to enlarge the blocks.  It was sketched out on paper but the "math" wasn't figured.
After some head scratching and experimenting, I settled on half-hexagons to maintain the angular seams of the stars.
I would need to cut them 4" deep for the right and left sides 
and 2 1/2" deep for the top and bottom. 
Happily, Marti Michell has a multi-size hexagon ruler that made it simple to cut these from strips.  Here I've moved the template over so you can see the left end of the strip which I've trimmed to start.
My stars have 4" finished sides, so that tells me what size to cut and I match those lines on the tool to the trimmed end and one edge of the strip.  Now I can cut the correct size without any fuss. 
There isn't any cutting waste either -- just flip the tool over (the text on the tool is now reversed) and match the correct lines up and cut.
All of Marti's tools include excellent instructions with illustrations so even though I don't use this tool very often, it's easy to use (as long as I'm willing to read). 

All ready to stitch.
In no time, I was pressing the finished units and ready for trimming them into squares.
Look how well all the seams play together nicely and the blocks lay flat! 
My points are crisp because there is no bulk in them.
Look over my shoulder while I trim the blocks to 10 1/2" squares
To keep the star centered, I lined up the 5 1/4" line on the horizontal center seam. 
Then I centered the top and bottom star points on the vertical 5 1/4" lines 
Trim two sides (right and top), rotate the block, line up the ruler on the 10 1/2" lines (left and bottom), trim again! 
Now the stars and the border fabrics are living together on the design wall for a day or two so I'm sure I like it.  I'm also thinking about how I'm going to quilt it.  At this point, I know I can handle it more easily by doing it in two sections and then adding the borders using ideas from Marti Michell's book, Machine Quilting in Sections.  That means undoing one of the center horizontal seams - when I figure out my strategy, I'll show you.
The quilting will happen after Christmas -- there's no rush as the kids are a couple years off from their first "big" beds.  Just trying to be ahead of the game!
Once I get these decisions made, does that mean I'm "between projects" again???


Friday, October 18, 2019

Moving Into Fall

 The cool weather has arrived here in Northeast Ohio.  While we haven't had a frost along the Lake Erie shoreline (one of the perks of living here), we had a cool enough night the beginning of the week to send me rushing outside at 9:30 p.m. to grab plants and bring them inside on an impulse!
I promised myself in the spring, I wouldn't keep so much over the winter this year.
We'll see? 
I finished the scrappy blue hexagon quilt this week!
The "tall ships" backing is from deep in my stash and I picked a red-orange binding because there was no way I'd be able to match these blues (in my stash anyway). 
I know for sure of one person who stitched along with me but quite a few of you took advantage of the special on Set-In Piecing Simplified -- so book mark this series of posts and plan to try it this winter!   If you did stitch along, you might want to read through all the posts gathered under the tab at the top of the page "Diamond Star Playtime Sew-Along".  
It will give you lots of ideas of other ways to use this technique!
The texture of the quilting is perfect.  I used Quilters Dream Machine Blend and my version is 36" by 47" using a 2" finished hexagon.
Stepping up to a bigger hexagon would expand the size quickly and still use the same number of hexagons.  For example, 4" hexagons would yield a 70" by 92" -- I'm thinking about all the florals in my stash and how pretty that would be!!

This quilt top is finished and the backing prepped!!
Yea, yea, yea!!!
It's my version of #100days100blocks2019 which just wrapped up on Instagram and Facebook last week.  If you are regretting not jumping on this sewalong, Angie @gnomeangel has just announced she will repeat the Kinship Sampler in 2020 -- you can sign up HERE for her newsletter.
Most of the piecing is simple and I pulled 85% of the fabrics from my stash. 
(That computes to using up 8 yards of stash - top and backing!!)
This is destined for one of my grand-daughters when they graduate to "big girl" beds and now I'm finishing this Rose Star top from a couple years ago for the other one. It just needs borders.
It's been sitting on my sewing table with it's pile of fabrics waiting for borders for months.  Part of the hold-up has been that the "perfect border fabric" isn't quite enough, so this week I started piecing some little 6-pointed stars to use for cornerstones and "stretch" that ideal print.  It's likely the girls will be sharing a room as they grow up and these two quilts will be good companions. 
Don't worry, there's one underway for their brother!!

All this progress in the studio has put me into the mood to focus on some UFO's and finish up as much as I can before the end of the year.  My Dodecagon quilt is at the top of that list and is currently occupying one corner of the living room so I can't ignore it!
I'm also determined to finish the last two tiles for the #sharksdinnerBOM on time (the end of November) and figure out my setting plan.  
This is the October tile -- fabric auditioning is finished and the basting is well underway!
Loving this fabric combination!!
The garden activities are slowing down -- the only thing still blooming in my yard are zinnias and mums -- the insects have been enjoying them on sunny days.  I was thrilled to spot this Buckeye butterfly along with four other species earlier in the week!
And just today, I found this intriguing spider!!
Eating a fly.
I-naturalist tells me it's a juvenile Bold Jumping Spider.
The fly is the lower half of the "bug" mash-up.
I'm pleased with my quick transition to the next project -- usually when I finish something, it feels like I'm spinning and may take me several days to transfer my attention to the next "thing".
But there's no time to be lost this year -- I have "ambitious" Christmas knitting plans.
Even the sewer back-up in the basement yesterday (it was minimal) didn't slow me down!!
The sun is shining here and I hope it shines for you this weekend!!


Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Quilting Has Begun!!

The quilting of my scrappy blue hexagons quilt has begun!!
Found the perfect thread in my stash and revved up my APQS George for the first time all summer!?!
  I'm keeping to a simple grid that follows the ditch of the seams and crosses through the center of each hexagon.  
I've used this approach before and like the simplicity, the sturdiness and the effect.
I can come and go from the stitching over the next few days and hopefully be binding this sweet little quilt next week!!
After a record fast trip to eastern Pennsylvania to watch my oldest grand-daughter play field hockey last week (soccer with sticks?), I was too tired to do much but sew over the weekend.  While I was finished assembling the scrappy hexagon quilt top, I thought of a few more things to share with you about the piecing process I used for this quilt along with some pressing tips.
My "go-to" Bernina 1031 had a weekend in the spa
and with the hexagons in four sections 
and all my #100blocks100days2019 block finished, it was easy to keep the chain piecing momentum going.  
The Bernina 180 which is my traveling machine, stepped into the void and we kept the flow going!
At this point, the piecing seems tedious -- so many short seams (only 2" at a time) and the stop and go work can be a turn-off for sure.  That's one of the aspects of Set-In Piecing Simplified that I really appreciate -- by bouncing back and forth between two projects to keep the chain piecing going, it reduces the tedium.  

Because the sections are getting larger and the rows of seams longer, I do more pinning at this stage to control the increasing bulk and prevent sewing the wrong two seams together.  (While that creates interesting two-dimensional surfaces, it does nothing to move me towards the finish line!?!)
I prefer to pin parallel to the seam
so I can leave the pin in place until the seam is stitched plus the pin is easy to pull out when in this position. 
It was a pleasant afternoon with lots accomplished -- two big sections joined and great progress on setting together the #100blocks!
With the completion of the piecing, it was time to press the seams.
Another (potentially) tedious task!
Here are a couple tips -- first, turn off the steam because there is lots of close to the fingers work.
When I'm working with smaller hexagons -- 1" or less -- I use my little travel iron. 
All the seams will swirl around the hexagon intersections.  If you don't get the cute little tumbling block on the back side, it could be that you didn't pivot far enough for the stitch off part of your seams.  But don't worry about it this time, just press for flatness now. 
The three seams coming into this intersection are swirling in a clockwise direction.
As you follow the lower left seam out of that intersection, it will set you up to swirl the seams counter-clockwise at the next intersection. 
I flatten the intersection (carefully) and then press the remaining two seams coming into that intersection.  
Then I work out of that intersection to the next one -- usually moving towards the left across the patchwork until everything on the surface of my ironing board is pressed.
It's beautiful when the pressing is finished!
Notice that all the horizontal seams are facing down.
If you trace your finger up the seams diagonally from the lower right to the upper left, you'll notice they all face the same direction. 
This uniform pressing means that as I stitch in the ditch, the ditch is always on the same side of the hexagons as I progress across the piece resulting in straighter lines and less jumping out of the ditch.
I have also seen quilters use a grid that avoids the ditches completely stitching across the hexagons at the center of each side.  The finished look is similar but I think my grid is easier to execute (no marking!!) especially if you are working with a ruler foot and edge guide like I do.

It seems like it might be good for me to stay in the quilting mode for the rest of the month!  I've gotten way ahead of myself with piecing over the summer and need to move some pieces off the "ready-to-quilt" shelf.

 But tomorrow is baby day!!
I'll be hanging with these three while their mom putters around in her garden for the afternoon.
The smiles are getting more regular and bigger!!
(Miss "middle" there already seems to know how to work the camera.)
So much fun!!

Have a good weekend!