Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Meet My Hexie Mashup!

 This morning, I'm being a bit lazy and doing the hand stitching of the binding on finish #8 for my #quilt21in2021 effort.  It's my hexie mashup quilt that is the result of merging two UFO's.

I machine quilted it with a simple and straight forward plan for two reasons -- to get it done and to not "ruin" it with sloppy fancy quilting.  

By using a simple grid of equilateral triangles, I could use the piecing as a guide so no marking was necessary and minimal thinking was involved (which too much of that can shut me down). 

The large central motif halted me for a few days while I pondered an "awesome" feathered treatment for the quilting . . . . . . . 
 . . . . . . but once I listened to my practical brain, I settled for a simpler solution that outlined the large six-pointed star motif with a few primitive feathers around the outer edges -- truer to my style.
(Sorry about the photo tilt - I don't spend enough time taking my pictures -- just point and shot.)
Combining two UFO's has resulted in a very acceptable quilt!  About half of the blocks were pieced in 2016 as I stitched along with Barbara Brackman in her Morris Hexathon.  It was intended to be a hand-pieced project but I was showing-off my y-seams simplified skills and all the posts I wrote while doing these blocks are gathered up under the MORRIS HEXATHON tab on the blog -- see it up there in the banner?  While I was doing research for today's post, I came across an old post from early 2017 where I was (unsuccessfully) contemplating settings for that group of blocks -- glad I aborted that mission. 
You might find it an encouraging post to read -- click HERE!?!

All of the (awesome) fussy cut hexagon motifs were pieced (again by machine instead of EPP) during an Instagram #fussycuttingsewalong during 2018 hosted by @naomialicec.  She continues to host EPP sewalongs annually with a difference focus each year and I learned a lot playing with her ideas.

It was fun to be nose-down with some of these blocks during the quilting process.
Every one of these blocks is the result of exploring fabrics with a hexie shape window and a pair of mirrors auditioning for patterns hidden in the fabric.
Merging UFO's is one of my favorite strategies for eliminating UFO's as it always leads to such creative quilts.  One of the keys to a successful merger is "similar fabric style".  Both of these sets of blocks drew heavily from my traditional reproduction prints so they blended together easily.
Color can be another unifying factor and it was true serendipity that these two sets of blocks were the same size!  A match made in heaven.
The approach that aggravated me the most was the one that generated some of my favorite blocks once I figured out the easiest way to set up the cutting.  This one inspired the large center star motif.  Happily I shared a post about it (so I don't forget how to do it) which you can revisit HERE.
The outcome of the past couple weeks of stitching hasn't just yielded another finished quilt.  Now I have the itch to play with hexies and fussy cutting again.  
We'll see if I give in to the itch!

So here's a wobbly picture of the finished quilt.
(Please note, I'm stood on the coffee table and it's sideways because it's too drizzly here today for outdoor pictures.)
The quilt is soft and cozy as a result of the simple quilting.  
It finished at 66" by 80" and will be a lovely piece to hang in the living room or snuggle under for a couch nap.  
I merged two sets of blocks into one quilt plus I used up about 6 yards of stash fabric for the borders, backing, and binding -- 
win, win, win, in my book!!

Are you testing out "normal" these days? 
 I've been fully vaccinated since the end of March but uncertain about moving back out into a more normal routine.  First of all, I'm quite content puttering around at home and having almost no responsibilities so re-entry doesn't feel urgent.
But yesterday, I had a birding date with my long time buddies and as chance would have it, it was an good migration fall-out morning at the location we chose over a week ago.
That meant, the area was throbbing with birders and there we all were, cheery and excited, helping one another find "the bird", sharing tips, having a spontaneous picnic lunch together.
It was awesome!!

So I hope all of you can have those uplifting experiences very soon!!
Encourage folks you love to vaccinate if they are able and help us all get back to a full life!


Monday, April 12, 2021

A Third of the Way!!!

 Spring is progressing here and so is my drive to #quilt21in2021!!   I just finished binding the 7th quilt and that puts me one third of the way to achieving my ambitious goal!  Its in the washing machine now for a final tidy-up as the top has been sitting on a shelf for at least fifteen years.

I think it's the best job I've done so far using the Baptist fan quilting -- it's very consistent -- not like a computer version, but good for a human guidance system!  I used one of my plexiglass tools to make the first arc on every fan.  Usually I just do the first arc in a row and then wing it the rest of the way across.

With the first arc marked and stitched, I used the 3/4" Ruler Foot Echo Guide to trace each previous arc and stitch the next one.  I shared more detail about stitching out this pattern in a blogpost a couple years ago and you can revisit it HERE.  

The last row is never a full row but I treat it like one, marking the first arc and maintaining the same spacing as you can see below.
There was some serious thread-chicken happening with this quilting!?!
I lost with the top thread (on the right) and had to hunt down something to blend in, but I won with the bobbin thread (on the left).  
I incorporated a bit of the selvage into the backing and this quilt is destined for my oldest grandson.  I hope the fact that I set up the colors for the print and got my name on the selvage will overshadow the floral aspect of the print!!
I'm always delighted to find a good binding fabric without leaving the studio!  How about you?  Another half yard used reduces my guilt about having so much more than I need!!
No, I don't press my binding in half before applying it to the quilt and yes, I drop the pile of it on the floor to the right side of my chair since it has absolutely no impact on the finished quality.
I also finished knitting the cool hat designed by Hunter Hammersen -- can't decide if I'll gift it or keep it.  The diagonal color bands are such a happy coincidence!  This skein has been sitting in my yarn stash for a couple years and I'll be happy to have it on someone's head next winter.
Now I need to turn my attention to finishing a pair of socks I tried to knit in one week early in March - made a good start but still need to knit the foot of the second sock!
We've had a unusually warm spell for Northeast Ohio last week.  The local toads gathered for an orgy in my little pond and a frenzied 48 hours later, everyone left and now all I have to do is keep the pond full for next two months so some of the thousand or more eggs they left make it to tiny little toads.
The yard is gorgeous with ALL the spring flowers in bloom at the same time but it's going to look dull for the month of May while I wait for the next wave of bloom.  It will be cooler this week and I hope this pot of tulips will last longer!
My birding gang is finally all vaccinated so we walked a local park together on Sunday for the first time in six months.  Feels so good to have my bubble expand a bit and to talk with my nerdy friends face-to-face.  As we enjoyed the beginning of  bird migration, I am reminded of how important it is for me and those around me to keep doing the stuff I do.
It would be easier for that little 3-ounce bird to stay in the tropics with all that food instead of flying 1500 miles.  But if she didn't leave for the breeding grounds when it was time, her species would suffer.  She needs to go north, find a mate, build a nest, and have a brood.
Right now as long as I can be with my family, make the quilts and the bread, work in my garden,  and learn the history -- it's enough.
If I'm never able to do more, I am grateful for the experiences I've had and for the skills that I have shared.  This new season of life wasn't in my "plan" but it is important to move through it with as much grace as I can muster.

Wishing you a week of blessings!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Less + Contentment = Better

Number six of twenty-one is finished!!
Doesn't a finish always make you eager to shout out -- "look what I did"!!
The breeze (okay, wind) was just as excited as I was -- couldn't stop flappin' it around for all the neighbors to see.  

The quilting isn't even close to my original idea of how to do it - just simple vertical straight lines.  In the end, I was inspired by the quilting on two previous quilts that come out every spring.
The upper three fourths of the quilt is covered with horizontal breezy quilting -- free motion curves billowing from edge to edge with the occasional little swirl.  I used my favorite yellow Aurifil  thread on the top and white FineLine in the bobbin.
The little hexie flowers were each jazzed up by extending their flower petals . . . . 
and then vines and leaves climbing up the fence posts reaching for the breeze!
A green binding finishes the quilt off perfectly and it will be hanging in my living room for the month of June, my birthday month.  The center of the quilt is a temperature quilt for the first year of  my life.
It was too small to be useful so in a happy series of coincidences, I added blocks which turned out to represent some of the passions of my long life -- big beautiful tree, birds, picket fences, and flowers with lots of insects buzzing around the background fabrics.
Continuing with the spontaneity of this quilt, I chose this cheerful piece of hoarded fabric that is too wonderful to cut apart for the backing -- not quite enough for the backing but borders fixed that.
Now I'm ready to tackle number seven!!  It's another top made 20 years ago using one of the colorways from my brief foray into the fabric designing business.  This will go to one of my grandchildren and the quilting plan is Baptist fan.  I made the backing over the weekend and layering could happen today!!
I've been knitting this new hat pattern, Semblance by Hunter Hammerson.  I was captivated by the stitch pattern when she released it a couple weeks ago so bought it right away.  My determination to use stash yarn forced me to step out a bit -- it's not the same weight as she used or a monochromatic colorway. If you've worked with her knitting patterns, you know she forces one to figure out the needle size yourself which means one has to check gauge before starting -- something I don't enjoy.  
I want to get right into a project -- are you like that?  
But after reading the introductory instructions and wrangling with the helpful sizing chart, I determined the correct needle size for my yarn and the correct number of stitches to cast on given my personal private gauge (PPG).  I did rip it back to the ribbing twice because I failed to read a couple details -- just skipped right over them -- but now I'm on track and loving the results.  Yesterday as I put it down, I realized my yarn has serendipitously knit out in diagonal bands of color!!

I have a big garden project -- removing English ivy and myrtle out of a 200 square foot bed -- 30 minutes at a time.  The other day while working out there for the 15th day in a row and determining there is about 3 more weeks of work to get to the end, I thought "this is atypical for me"  I usually lose interest midway in any project and I realized that one of the aspects of the pandemic isolation that I'm okay with is being able to do less.  
Why, you ask?
Well, I'm noticing that I'm more engaged with projects because of the "less".  Big tasks that take time are okay because the results will be good.  
It will likely take me through the end of the year to finish this big hand quilting project (it's one of the twenty-one).  
It will be so exciting to be able to replant this bed with native shrubs and plants and watch the biodiversity of my backyard wildlife expand.  
It will be so good to have an empty shelf where all those quilt tops have been stashed.
Having less to do means doing fewer things better and learning to enjoy the simplicity of less.
I have time to bake sourdough bread and I have time to start garden plants this year.
My genealogy work is more focused and accurate and less frenetic. 
I have time to binge watch gardening and pollinator webinars and learn more about a native environment.

It doesn't hurt that I'm completely vaccinated at this point, either!!
What a relief!!
I am eager to carry this contented state of mind forward and be happy doing less.
How about you?  
What have you learned about yourself and what will you carry forward? 



Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Turning A Corner -- Tips for Better Bindings

Number five is finished!! 
I was concerned about too little quilting but I washed it and dried it on low and it's fine!!
Soft and cozy.
The simple quilting made for an easy and quick finish and once again, I'm wondering why I've left this top laying around for over twenty years?
As I was binding it yesterday, I thought perhaps my readers are getting a bit tired of me raving about all my finishes so today I'm revisiting a post I wrote a few years ago on how to turn a better binding corner . . . . except that for some reason, I apparently deleted the post???
Happily the photos were still archived and so while I have to write the words again, I don't have to  take new photos, so here we go.
Generally, I run a wide long zigzag around the outside edge of a finished quilt before adding the binding.  I believe it helps flatten the edges and eliminates most of the waviness that sometimes occurs during the quilting process.
I cut my binding strips on the cross grain most of the time but if I have curved edges or want a special effect (diagonal stripes), I cut the binding on the bias.  I cut 2 1/2" wide strips for a completely machine bound quilt and 2 1/4" for one where I'm going to wrap and stitch the binding to the back by hand.

I have stopped pressing the binding in half lengthwise before applying it to the quilt -- now lets see if I can find the video that sold me on that idea?

Well, I found the person, but not the video -- maybe it was a blogpost not a video?  
I'll try to explain -- if you press a crease down the center of the binding, after you've stitched it to the quilt and are ready to fold it to the other side for the second stitching, less fabric is needed on the "inside" of the doubled strip than is needed on the "outside" which means the crease can interfere with it laying smoothly.  Don't understand?  Don't worry, just try it.
Besides, I like one less task!

I apply the binding with a walking foot.  The seam depth is more than 1/4" from the needle to the edge of the foot so sometimes I adjust the needle position.  The thickness of the batting is my guide for this.  The thicker the batting, the narrower the seam needs to be (though not less than 1/4") so there is more binding to roll over the edge.
When I'm two or three inches from a corner, I fold the binding strip on a diagonal so it extends to the right of my presser foot and finger press the fold.  My diagonal fold intersects the corner of the quilt as perfectly as I can make it line up.
Then I use a colored pencil to mark a line in that crease when I unfold it.  
Now I'll stop stitching when I get to that diagonal line. . . . .
drop my needle into the fabric, lift the presser foot and pivot to stitch down the diagonal line to the edge of the quilt.  This secures the end of the stitching but doesn't interfere with the turning of the corner.
Flip the binding off the quilt so the raw edges are a continuous straight line with the next side of the quilt.  The diagonal stitching provides a firm stop line for the fold.
Now bring the binding back onto the quilt.  The key to a crisp miter happens right here!
The fold I'm point to with my scissor tip must be lined up exactly with the edge of the first side of the binding.  If it extends beyond the edge or falls short of the edge - you are already doomed.
Second, the folded edges where I'm pointing the scissor tip in the picture below must be aligned perfectly.  If the folds are cockeyed, the corner will be a mess.
To stitch down the second side, I start far enough in from the edge to secure the diagonal folds underneath but don't stitch all the way to the edge.
I do one final little step as I turn each corner.
I trim off the corner of the quilt, not the binding to reduce bulk in the corner.
This picture is from another post I wrote about binding and you may want to check it out HERE for an overview of how I handle doing the second side by machine.
If doing the second side by hand, I've learned that stitching the folded edge all the way into the corner gives me better results.
Square as square can be with a perfect little miter!
I hope these tips are helpful to you next time you bind a quilt!
I found the inspiration and courage to start quilting my birth year temperature quilt over the weekend.  I'm about one third of the way along with free motion "breezes" blowing across the surface.
Yes, I have a pot of amaryllis on my machine table!  
Plenty of sunlight and a cheery companion! 
We've had good news here in Ohio -- 40 year old's and over are eligible for the vaccine beginning this coming Friday!  That means my children are eligible.  I hope your part of the world is making good progress with this as well, too!

Wishing you lots of sunshine this week!!


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Opening the Windows!!

 Not all of them -- but enough to smell the air and hear the birdsong.  We are having a short spurt of 50+ degree days here in Northeast Ohio and I'm loving it.  It's too early to do any serious garden work beyond picking up sticks from the lawn and gravel out of the gardens along the driveway.  With a primarily clay soil, messing in the dirt too early is never a good idea.  But it's not too early for a more leisurely walk or to sit on the front porch and stitch. 

A few snow crocus and aconite are blooming and lots of snowdrops. 

And it's nice enough to hang the bedding outside to dry!!

As we are all well aware, we are right on the edge of the first anniversary (and hopefully the last we feel compelled to recognize) of worldwide recognition of Covid-19.  Personally I don't want to remember the fear I felt one year ago.  But at least we are no longer facing the "unknown" -- we now know it!!  
Is that a relief?  To know it?
Are you coming out of it knowing yourself a bit better, too?
I've been contemplating that for the past week and I recognized that my upbringing (which was good) has set me up to be unhappy when I'm not "accomplishing".
I've also concluded that's not really healthy at this point in my life as my energy seems to be waning.
So working to re-do that deeply ingrained attitude -- just being happy is good!

Much of this "pondering" was motivated by feeling guilty about not "accomplishing" tasks on my to-do list over the past week.  I didn't want to tidy up the kitchen even though it needed doing but I did want to layer up a quilt top.    So I did and pointed out all the reasons to myself why doing that was equally  important to me!
(Does "it will be easier for my kids to deal with finished quilts" work cause that's what I'm going with.)
Then I got stuck   )-:      )-:      )-:      )-:
As often happens, I am having doubts about how I thought I wanted to quilt it so (keep the happy state of mind going -- not making much progress am I?),  I layered up another quilt top and in the process, quilting ideas flowed into my head!
But not for the temperature quilt?!?
It's draped helplessly over the back of the chair and watching another top crash the line.
I'm keeping it quite simple (and now I'm fussing about whether it's too simple?!?) and hope to finish it by the weekend!
If I still think it's too simple, I can always add more quilting . . . . right?
I woke up this morning thinking I should have added a label to the backing before I started quilting so I'm pausing today to do that.  This one will be for my oldest granddaughter and uses one of the colorways of the fabric I did for Kings Road Imports in the mid-1990's and I want her to remember her grandmother made a brief foray into fabric design.
I'm still hesitant to start quilting my birth year temperature quilt so I might layer another small piece tomorrow just in case I can't start again when this one is finished.  
Have to keep this ball rolling if I'm going to #quilt21in2021 -- my new hashtag for Instagram.

The photo sorting continues.  
My paternal grandparents were photographers who developed their own pictures and so every time they got a cute one of me, they printed it 47 times?!?!?  And my parents gave all of them to me. . . . thankfully, this fascination only lasted until my sister arrived and the volume decreased.  
So do each of my kids want six prints of 89 pictures of darling one year old me??
Just when I thought I had answered that question, it occurred to me that my grandchildren might want their own set of Grandma Mary's adorable self?
I have perhaps gotten "too comfortable" with the sorting mess and can currently sit in the livingroom and quilt or knit for several hours without a twinge of guilt.  
Still I'm not quitting, just delaying.
Actually, all my birding buddies will be vaccinated by the end of March and a dinner party would be the perfect reason to finish the photo sorting?!?
I brought a little spring inside yesterday -- this clump of snowdrops will brighten the dining room table for a week or so and then I'll scatter the bulbs around the gardens to start new little colonies.
Seasons are changing everywhere -- winter to spring and summer to autumn.
I look forward to stepping through the curtain of Covid-19 with this season of change and hope you find you are able to do the same.  We've learned a lot about ourselves and the people around us -- more good than not, I hope.   Wishing you a week of happy feelings.


PS -- I did tidy up the kitchen later.