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!!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Entering the New Decade

Well, here's to the end of a bunch of stuff -- the holidays, an old decade, and perhaps old habits?
And here we are, already five days into a new decade!?!
When my family was gathered together for Christmas, someone figured out that this will be the ninth decade of my life -- what???  I'm only 72!
(Pausing to count this out on my fingers)
Yep, this will be the ninth decade I've lived during -- humph!?!

Thinking I better make it a good one so in an optimistic state of mind, I hope to start off as I mean to keep going.  Once again, I'll try to de-clutter, simplify, and focus on the important stuff.
To the studio!!
Yikes!!  Look at all that stuff -- potentially overwhelming??
So my phrase for 2020 (because I can't find just one word to convey it) is 
"don't be overwhelmed".

As I think about how to avoid the state of "overwhelmed", I realize that controlling the "too much" aspect of that state of being is paramount.
My (hopefully thoughtful) response is to start by embracing a six-month moratorium on shopping.

I've done a pretty good job on maintaining some balance in the stuff department for several years by requiring myself to let go of something (in the same category) when I purchase something new.
It's worked marvelously in most categories -- clothes, books, furniture, plants -- but perhaps not so well  in the fabric area and I have to confuse to some outright binge yarn shopping this fall.

Fortunately, I have lots of "shop in the stash" experience to get me through the next six months so I feel confident that I'll be able to survive!
(Why just yesterday, I was saying "It's fun to run out of fabric.")

The other big decision I made was to not participate in any on-line follow-alongs or mystery makes or swaps or challenges for six months.  I have indulged in several this past year and while I've enjoyed them and used some stash and made some great new quilts and smaller makes, I have lots of "Mary's vintage projects" that are suffering from lack of attention.

Finally, to keep this energetic momentum in tact, I've decided to allow this annual "purge and tidy-up" take the entire month of January if necessary!

Because based on lots of previous experience -- "it is a truth universally accepted" that as long as there is cutting. . . . . 
and stitching . . . . .  
and pressing happening, progress is being made!!
Flat surfaces are beginning to reappear!
Piles of blocks from 2019 follow-alongs are becoming quilt tops!
Stalled projects are being re-purposed into fund raiser donations! 
The library table in the living room is once again filled with English paper-pieced hexies as I make the final (I hope) assault on my dodecagon quilt top!
The pile of FREE stuff to take along to the January stitching retreat is growing!
We are fired up and cranking out the stuff!!
(I may also have had too much caffeine this morning?)

And here was the best part of the holidays -- all my grands together for the first time!
They will be a big part of my "ninth" decade for sure.
Best wishes for the New Year and the new decade.