Thursday, February 27, 2020

I'm Retreat Bound Again!

For the past couple years, I've been confining the retreat projects I haul out of the house to hand stitching only!  It's so much easier to pack and I'm more relaxed while at the retreat which makes it more fun to be away from the studio.
This weekend, I'm working on my 2019 #sharksdinnerBOM blocks.
I went back through my blog photo archive and was surprised to discover how few pictures I've shared on the blog?!?   
I shared lots of pics on my Instagram feed!! 
But these are the only four process pictures I shared on the blog?!? 
All my tile fabric assortments began with a large scale multicolor print from Kaffe Fassett.  I then worked to use other non-Kaffe prints and along the way, many of my "nature" themed prints started to become a regular feature of the tiles.
It has been a "sew my stash" project from beginning to end!!
These English paper pieced "tiles" were designed by Elisabeth @lemonshark in Switzerland and shared via her blog during 2019 -- twelve designs in all.  Each tile has the same exterior shape, but all of them have a different interior breakdown.  Then everyone making the tiles laid out the darks, mediums, and lights in different ways individualizing the finished look of each tile!  You can check some of them out by searching the hashtag #sharksdinnerBOM2019 on Instagram -- here's a link. (Scroll way down to see some of the variations more easily.)  

She did not however design a "setting" for the tiles so everyone has taken their own approach to this step. Kim, in England, has been designing crazy quilt looking backgrounds to English paper piece around each tile as she squares the blocks up.  I've been a bit intimidated by her ideas and in awe of her energy but one of her designs inspired me to design (a much simpler) machine pieced background for my blocks.

Working on graph paper to full scale, I designed a set of triangles that will frame each tile.  I contemplated random low volume fabrics but settled on black and white to emphasize the drama of each tile.
After the first test block to make sure my idea worked, I set to work every afternoon for the past two weeks piecing the backgrounds and basting the tiles to the backgrounds in preparation for a weekend of hand stitching to applique them in place. 
Each corner consists of a triangle with a mitered stripe border to I was able to use my Set-In Piecing Simplified tricks and my Marti Michell mitering tool to perfect results! 
This is what each finished background looks like -- the tiles are 18" across and I left that big empty center primarily because I didn't want to "waste" any of my terrific low volume white and gray prints!
I alternated the "sashing" borders between black and white which turned out to be better than I expected!  It sets off each tile beautifully.  The position of the tiles in the final layout isn't set in stone at this point, but the primarily "cool" tiles will definitely alternate with the primarily "warm" tiles as you see here.
Once a background was finished, I spent time removing all the papers which were thread basted in place.  (Sorry "glue lovers" but I don't like glue basting one bit and I've given it a fair try.)
Then with the background laying perfectly flat, I positioned the tile and basted it 1/8" from the folded edge.
As I left for the weekend, all twelve tiles are basted and ready for a weekend of stitching. 
The finished blocks are about 20" square (my design wall is not long enough, so they are overlapped here) and I did a quick trial stitch earlier this week and am predicting it will take about 90 minutes maximum to finish each block!
I'm feeling confident I'll return home with twelve big finished blocks ready to set together and contemplate borders!  (I packed a couple other hand work projects just in case, too!?!)

So often when we start a BOM based on someone else's ideas/designs, we become disenchanted for various reasons.  That happened with this project for me -- 7 months ago I couldn't imagine how I would pull these tiles into a cohesive quilt so I was losing interest.  It felt like I would end up with a bunch of big pillow covers!?!  Individually, I loved the blocks -- but together???  Not so much.
As I shared my frustration, several of the makers on Instagram encouraged me to keep at it with helpful comments that made me aware of what they were seeing that I didn't see.

I put all the tiles up on the auxiliary design wall to allow them to simmer in the back of my mind.  That's when I realized the warm versus cool color palettes and how much fun I was having incorporating some of my nature prints.  So I forged on with a new sense of purpose -- balance the warm and cool blocks plus include a nature print in every tile.

When I basted that first tile onto the background, it felt right!  Can't find better words than that?
The backgrounds are unifying the crazy fabric/color scheme so much better than I expected.
I'm so glad I shared my frustration and grateful for everyone's input.
This is going to be an awesome quilt!!

So if you feel letdown about a project, get it out and put it up someplace where your subconscious can work on it.  Share it with folks and get their perspective!  Carry on!!

Hope your weekend is a pleasant one!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

My Dodecagon Quilt Top!!

 While I gave myself the "one monthly goal" challenge to use the entire month of February to get the five large sections of my dodecagon quilt together, once it started to happen I was anxious to see the finished top because it is so beautiful!!
(My pictures are a bit dark -- blaming cold cloudy Ohio winter days -- but you get the idea.)
I calculated that I needed to stitch twelve 1" seams every day to be finished!

First the upper right corner. 
Then the lower right corner!
And the lower left corner!
On Monday evening, I pushed to finish the upper left corner so I could take it for "show and tell" at the EPP group I attend at my local quilt shop, The Quilted Thimble in Chesterland, Ohio.
Three of the "tall" gals held it up for me and while it isn't a perfect picture, you get the idea.
The top is 70" wide and will be 97" long when I add a rows of these 80 modified hexies to the top and bottom to square up those edges.  They are all basted and I'm currently stitching them into two long bands to join the quilt top.
I made these pieces by printing out several sheets of 1" hexagons onto light cardstock.
I use this website to create a PDF which I can print out - click HERE
Then I cut them apart, a single sheet at a time as you see below -- the pieces with an "X" are sloppy cuts and needed to be discarded in the interest of accuracy. 
I made twenty-one dodecagon blocks using templates and papers from Marge Sampson-George (now available world wide through Broderie on Etsy).

The layout I used is my own design - a combination of several ideas I've seen for mosaic quilts over the years.  Marge's pattern uses 42 dodecagons and sets them together with a single band of hexagons. 

 I have counted and counted and counted -- my numbers might be off a couple but I cut and basted and stitched -- 348 pink hexagons, 216 yellow hexagons, 564 black hexagons, 954 green hexagons, plus 80 modified green hexagons for the upper and lower edges and 64 half hexagons for the sides for a total of 2226 (give or take a couple) hexagons. Most of the prints are reproductions or pieces that blend well with them -- all of them from my deep, deep stash.  Even the beautiful floral fussy cut motifs in the center was a piece I hoarded back in my shop keeping days!

The color scheme evolved as I played in my stash making the dodecagons -- from the beginning I wanted to use reproduction prints but I could not have told you what the color scheme was going to be at that point.

I've pulled some big hunks of fabric for backing auditions and I don't know how I will quilt this other than to say I intend to do it by hand.  Hopefully, I'll be quilting it soon - but I have a sweater to finish knitting and the applique of my #sharkdinnerbom tiles to finish before I dedicate my hand stitching time to quilting this!

In conclusion, I have to say "I can't believe this is all together".  It's taken about 3 years and a rough estimate of around 500 hours of stitching time.  It's a huge achievement and reinforces my belief that making steady use of 30 minutes here and there eventually produces the results!

If you'd like to revisit some of my past posts about the construction of this quilt top, just type "dodecagon" into the search box and a list will pop up for your reading pleasure!

So exciting!!
Enjoy the weekend!

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!