Friday, February 14, 2020

Working Quietly

 Greetings from the snow globe that is currently Northeast Ohio!
We haven't had much snow this winter (embarrassing when one lives in the "snow belt of Ohio",
but yesterday we were delighted with a few inches of soft wet snow that clung to everything. No matter where I went or who I talked with yesterday, everyone was exclaiming about how lovely our world looked frosted from top to bottom!

As for me, I've been quietly absorbed in several projects -- not much finished, but progress just the same.  Those little 8-pointed stars I share in my last post have evolved into this bright cheery child's quilt!
I know strong colors aren't the current baby decor fashion but I hope this quilt will be a cheerful blessing to a new baby and their family someday soon.

One of the little laments that often is evoked by my scrappy use of fabric is "I don't understand how you do that" meaning how I can set two pieces of fabric side-by-side that don't match, that don't look pretty together, that in fact may look harsh together.  So today, I thought I'd share my simple piecing strategy with you.

In my last post, I shared my scrappy pull from the yellow stash.  In the end I cut squares from nine prints.  
There are only four of the cute farm print (the last precious bits of it).  The other prints were selected because the shade of yellow blended with the farm print's yellow or they had a bit of red in the print or they just looked "right", i.e. the daisies!
Here they are sorted and stacked on my sewing table ready for piecing!
I started with the farm print and stitched it with four different yellows.
Then I worked down through each stack, one at a time - pairing each square with a square from every one of the other stacks until all the stacks were used up. 
No judgement made about matching or pretty or anything - just pick two up and sew together!
I didn't press the pairs at this point.
The next step is to sew the pairs together into groups of four squares -- only rule is not to repeat any print in each group of four! 
Still not pressing!
As I clipped the bands of four apart (chain piecing, of course), I laid each one open on the sewing table.  That way, as I joined the groups of four into groups of eight squares I could make sure two squares of the same print weren't too close to each other. 
Then groups of eight together and now I press the seams of the entire band in one direction.
As always, I'm anxious to see how it looks so up on the design wall they go.
I didn't do any math before cutting the squares so needed to cut more as the plan evolved.
Here's a trick I use when my math is a bit sloppy or non-existent!
I use a rectangle for the ends of the bands! 
Once the bands are stitched onto the quilt top, I can trim the ends and they "fit" perfectly.  
Honestly, no one has ever chided me for those corners not being perfect squares.
And I likely wouldn't care if they did because I have a finished quilt top!!
Do they??? 
I have shared this auditioning tip to eliminate frustration many times during my teaching career but it is always worth repeating.  
Stop auditioning one fabric at a time!
Lay up all the options you are considering at the same time.
Leave the room, go do something else for a few minutes and when you come back, pay attention to your first reactions when you look at the design wall.
Usually, my intuition tells me immediately what doesn't work and I can remove those.
Depending on how many options you have found in your stash, this process may have to be repeated until by process of elimination you arrive at the "best option available". 
"Best" and "available" are important words because they help me use up what I already own and they have helped me "stumble" onto new ideas and expand my flexibility.
In other words, it's a strategy that contributes greatly to my productivity because I don't have to stop and wait until I find the "perfect" fabric!!
Once I elongated the top with more bands of yellow squares and red sashing, I was ready to finish it up with cheery red print borders.
It ended up at 40" by 51".
One more UFO successfully managed!!
I'm hoping to be able to share photos next week of my huge English paper piecing Dodecagon quilt.  I'm currently working on it for a bit every day assembling the five large sections and it's so gorgeous.  My other project this week is the quilting of this twin size Sandstone quilt top (one of my patterns on Etsy) for one of my charity quilt group's projects.   It's slow going because of the size but a few lines every day will get me there by the end of February!
Now I'm off to spend the afternoon with this crew so their Dad and Mom can have a little Valentine's break!  Aren't they getting big?!?  And they are starting to move around!!
Oh boy!!

Have a pleasant weekend!

By the way, that quilt is not as crooked as it looks -- apparently, I don't hold my camera very level or straight or something?!? 
Promise, I'm working on that!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

One Monthly Goal!!

I've been using the "One Monthly Goal" goal link-ups at Elm Street Quilts for a couple years now to push myself through this BIG project which I began in February, 2017.
I fell in love with Marge Sampson-George's Dodecagon Quilt (thanks Instagram) and since it wasn't available in the United States or on-line at that point, I used my Aussie family connection to buy the templates and papers!
Over the course of piecing the dodecagons, I fell in love with several other English paper pieced designs that featured a medallion style center - long story short - I designed my own layout using the dodecagon blocks and several of the ideas I loved.  I felt certain I could get one quilt done instead of starting two or three more!
All the dodecagons have been finished for almost two years. I lots of time in 2018 basting dozens and dozens of black, green, pink, and yellow hexies.
I think this past weekend was the fifth time I've spent a 3-day stitching retreat focused on assembling the units.  First I outlined the dodecagons with black hexies.
Then I made enough strips of green hexies for the entire quilt.
All this time, I was designing and redesigning the layout in Electric Quilt 7 -- I kept changing it a bit here and there until finally I just had to make myself quit messing with it -- you know how that is!?!
Early in 2018, I laid out and began the assembly of the large central unit that features my five favorite dodecagons alternated with four large floral motifs.  
Stitching retreats gave me the focus to gradually organize the four corner sections and work out the best assembly approach.  After each retreat, I continued to chip away at the assembly process.  Several times I've had to stop and baste more green hexies -- if I never see a green hexie again, it will be too soon.
There have been weeks when the living room floor has been covered in hexies -- good thing the kids are grown and out of the house!!
The first three weeks of this year saw a messy living room again as I organized and stitched up the last five setting units so that when I arrived at this month's retreat, I'd make some serious progress!!
I arrived with my last few green hexies!
Happily I had an entire table to lay out the units and stay organized.
Nothing to do but stitch, nibble, and chat for three days!! 
Soon I was popping out papers right and left!
I didn't quite make it all the way, partly because I discovered I was six green hexies short -- argh!
This picture gives you some idea how I break down the sections.
You can see lots more of my assembly details along the way by typing "dodecagon" into the search bar -- about six blogposts pop up (though not in exact chronological order).  The one I've had the most feedback about shares my personal tips for assembling the dodecagon blocks.
And here it is -- a finished fourth corner!
(sorry about the poor lighting -- it's late!)
Now I can begin to pull the other sections off the auxiliary design board (storing them there has kept them flat and unwrinkled) and spend February stitching up the final four long seams!!
I estimate I have just 268 one-inch seams to stitch!!
The only down side of finishing the piecing will be having to plan the quilting -- never my favorite step.

Of course, there's another hand stitching project in the wings and with any luck that will be my focus during my next stitching retreat at the end of February!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Just 9 More Days!!

With just 9 days left in January, I'm looking forward to February because that means I'll have finished my attempt to eliminate 10 UFO's during January.  I might have the attention span of gnat but I'm pushing myself to stay on task and reach the goal!!

This teaching sample is all set together and I'm going to offer it for sale this weekend during the retreat I'm attending along with the extra lattice fabrics and that hunk on the left side!
Fingers crossed someone will love it!!
As I set the hexagons together, I finished off these 8-point stars -- a demonstration set I used when teaching Set-In Piecing Simplified.
(Even though I don't teach this anymore, you can purchase the illustrated teaching guide as a downloadable PDF from my Etsy Shop HERE.)
This is destined to become a child size quilt to donate.  There is none of that cute yellow print left in my stash.  These are 10" blocks so more blocks are needed to get some size going on here.
I contemplated several alternate block options -- first was a square of a cute print that would look nice with the yellow print -- but nothing in the stash. Next simplest option are these 9-patches which I pieced a bit larger and then trimmed to match the stars.  The central square is larger and I was startled when I set the blocks together that the seams of both blocks (almost) line up -- that wasn't a plan -- happy accident!!
At approximately 29" square, I have a ways to go to bring this up to a usable size.
I didn't take a photo of the auditioning for this border -- tried yellow, red, and a white with tiny red stars.  I put all three up on the design wall at the same time -- so much easier to make a decision -- and red won (to my surprise because I was really rooting for yellow).
It's now about 32" square.  Since I want more yellow in the quilt, a visit was made to the yellow stacks.
I pulled out this group to use as some sort of patchwork borders next! 
But that has to wait until Monday because I'm off to a long weekend stitching retreat in Ohio Amish country with my dodecagon quilt top.  I've been working all week during the evenings to get the last five setting units ready for the final assembly of the fourth corner.  My folding table is set up in the middle of the living room to lay out each unit and I have high hopes for my progress this weekend!
I've also been quilting on this delightful log cabin quilt which will go to a woman as she enters a local recovery home this spring to make the final transition back to a full life for herself.  A friend of mine donation this twin size top to the project and if I make at least one pass across the width of the quilt every day, I'll finish the first week of February.  I'm trying to be more intentional about praying for this woman as I stitch -- although she is unknown to me she is already on her journey to health and wholeness and I believe that God knows who she is.  I think this is an important aspect of making things to donate to any cause regardless of the faith you practice.  We do this because we want to share our blessings with others, so why not pray for them along the way as well.
(I'm using my Baptist Fan quilting tutorial with a swirl added -- revisit it HERE for my tips!)
I did indulge in one "new" project this week -- some flannel Valentine pillowcases for my older grandchildren.  Here's a little tip for securing the end of a row of serged stitches -- I use a large-eyed darning needle to thread the end of the stitching chain, then push the needle back under the stitching and pull the chain down into the seam for an inch or more.  It's a nice alternative to using a liquid "sealer" which can be brittle and hard when it dries.
Finally, you might want to avoid a face-to-face with me for a couple weeks until I get tired of carrying around this Christmas gift from my son and daughter-in-law.  
I'll make you look at all 772 pictures of my younger grandchildren!! 
We finally have a decent amount of snow and I'm reveling in all the things about snowy days that I love!  I hope you are getting the seasonal weather you expect at this time of year!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

To Repurpose or To Pitch?

 That is the question!!

I unearthed this bland collection of blocks early last week.  They have been a UFO since 2000 or so -- I was very hot about the Blended Quilts books and companion fabric lines -- bought all of it for the shop -- stashed some of every bolt for my stash -- think I led a workshop for my students?

But something didn't mesh with my creative drive about the low contrast and print scale and it got shelved.  Sometimes we start things we love, but can't seem to finish because we don't have the intuitive understanding to achieve the same results -- we can do it, it's just going to take longer and if we don't want to spend "longer", it's goes on the shelf!

So I'm taking you along with me as I decide what to do with these blocks and how I do it.

First question -- make it into a quilt or pitch the blocks?
My first consideration these days is "if I finish it, will any of my children want it?"
I'm pretty sure they would all take a pass on this palette and so while I don't mind finishing it into a usable quilt top, I'm no longer willing to put much energy into the process.
So a charity quilt it will be.
Now I have learned it's pretty frustrating to make "more blocks" to match something I made twenty years ago -- my construction skills have improved so much that I almost can't make blocks that match to size without lots of fiddling.
So I'm not making any more blocks to add to this assortment.

If I use one of my "fall-back" strategies, I can turn most of these blocks into a lap size quilt top.
Frequently, I set what I have to start into a central unit and add patchwork borders above and below to get a rectangular shape quickly.  
It was easy with this group of blocks as I already had those basic elements. 
 I busted out the reproduction fabric stash and dug out a handful of prints that would blend into the scheme -- it's important to stay spontaneous at this stage -- everything blue and brown came out of the box for auditioning as that's the quickest way to narrow choices down.
These are some of the prints that made the next cut!
The key is to keep it simple and go fast -- hold the fabric up against the blocks -- looks bad, put it away -- looks okay, keep it out! 
I added a light print between the stars so the points would not touch -- easier to piece!
To liven it up a bit, I added the blue sashing.
That made the bands of stars wider than the central motif, so I made a band of squares for each side of the center square starting by deconstructing the 4-patch blocks and pulling in a bit of yellow because I liked the "pop" it gave to the stars.
At this point, it was a bit "long and skinny" so I added something down each side -- quickest answer is a simple border -- so the auditioning began.
I had used all the blue of the horizontal sashing fabric so I looked for a print that was close in value.
While searching for that, I found this little floral which captures the essence of the blocks perfectly!
Unfortunately, there wasn't enough of the floral to do an outer border but I found a length of fabric left from the backing of another quilt that might work! 
Until I found the blue border print which has been in the stash for maybe 30 years -- it really cheers up the entire quilt!   
All of these decisions and setting was the work of a pleasant afternoon.
Of course, there wasn't quite enough of the blue border print -- I was short about 6".  
No worries, I decided to make four simple blocks for the corners!
Aren't they charming?
I love the yellow and brown one!
I forgot to take a picture with them on the design wall -- but they were not "charming" with the quilt.
It took me 24 hours to recover from that disappointment and in the end, a busy medium scale floral became the border corners. 
Now it's ready to find a backing and add to the charity stack for quilting.
I still have three of the star blocks left over from the original group plus the four little blocks made for the border corners (sigh) -- so into the orphan block stash they go for the time being.

Last evening, I spent an hour getting these blocks up on the design wall and arranged correctly and pleasingly.  I'll work this week at setting them together.  Might put a price on this one and offer it at a retreat I'm attending later this month -- if it doesn't sell, it will become a charity quilt.
Since this one is all y-seam piecing, I'll need some sew-offs to keep my chain piecing going -- these teaching-sample stars will be just the thing and getting them finished will set me up with more finished blocks to eliminate from the piles which is easier than piles of cut pieces!
So as of the 13th of January, I have eliminated six UFO's!!
Four more to go to reach my January goal!

Are you staging a UFO Assault this month??


Linking up with Oh, Scrap!!