Sunday, March 22, 2015

Playing with Strings with Gwen

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to be able to take another class with Gwen Marston.  I actually took two classes, but this post is on the Strings class.  The other class will be another post.

I've made lots of string quilts, but I've never done Gwen's method of strings - sewn without using a foundation.  Of course, Gwen started us out by talking about her method and doing a demo for us.

Here are some of the quilts Gwen brought to show us.

This one is all in solids and Gwen quilted it (by hand, of course) in black thread.

The blocks in this quilt started with a base square.  

Same with this quilt.

A cute little dolly quilt!

In this photo, Gwen is showing us how to cut up strings sewn into a strata.

Laying out the blocks.

And then sewing the blocks together.

So, we all got to work and sewed furiously.  I went around the room and took photos of everyone's work as the class was coming to a close.  I thought everyone's blocks looked great, no matter which method the student used.

Made using men's old ties.

One student brought a log cabin top she had made, and was making string blocks to go in the border.

And these are her border blocks.

I loved these blocks!   Both the colors and the design.  This person told me she was using a jelly roll!  I'd never thought of that.

Rectangular blocks.

These blocks were made by sewing a strata together first.  You'll see more of these blocks in the next post.

Also made by sewing a strata first.

And these are my first blocks (on the top right).  (The others were another student's first attempts)  Incredibly, and in spite of a huge stockpile of strings, I wasn't actually using strings.  I brought yardage and cut strips to use.  That was a first for me! 

And, miracle of miracles, I managed to get my quilt top finished this last week!

I think this quilt has kind of an African and/or "jungle" vibe to it, which was unintentional.  It's made with all batiks, but no actual African fabric.  I was making this little quilt to go on the wall in my guest bath downstairs.  There's only a toilet and a sink in there, so I'm not worried about the water.  (I don't know that I'd put a quilt in a bathroom where someone is taking a shower on a regular basis.  In this Pacific NW environment, it would probably grow mold before too long.)  This bathroom is decorated in a fairly sophisticated style (it was that way when we moved in), with beige striped wall paper and some fancy mirrors over the sink and I wanted it to fit with that.  And that room is kind of on the dim side (no natural light), so I didn't want anything too dark.  I think I actually succeeded in having it fit in the room both size-wise and style-wise, and it looks good in it's appointed place.  I'll get some photos when it's done and hanging in there.

It's been quite a while since I made a wall quilt a particular size (25 x 30 inches) for a specific place.  Kind of fun to challenge myself that way.  So, it feels good to feel successful!  Also, I knew that, being on the small side, I could get it finished in a reasonable amount of time. So, now to get it quilted.  Hopefully that won't take too long either.

My sister is coming to visit this week.  As a matter of fact, she'll be arriving in a couple of hours.  This will be her vacation and she wants us to sew together.  The Potter is OK with us taking over the living room!  What a great guy, huh?  I think we'll have fun!

I hope you have a creative week!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Some Bits of This and Bits of That

I've been sewing!  I'm starting to feel caught up on a few projects I'm working on, but I'm still behind in others.

I've been working on the Traveling Round Robin.

my block for the Traveling Round Robin

I've completed my block.

B's blocks
And I've completed B's block as well.  Here it is with her first block.  So now I'm ready to pass these on and get the next ones.  B tells me she has 2 to pass to me.  I get them Friday and have 2 weeks to get them done.

Last Friday I went and sewed with friends.  I'm keeping the black & white blocks project (see it here - you'll need to scroll down a ways) with my traveling machine and I worked on those. 

I'm 1/3rd of the way on making the blocks.  I have 8 of each and I need 24 of each.  I'm liking them so far.  I'll only be working on those with my traveling machine (my Brother) because I get a different 1/4 inch seam allowance on that machine as compared to my Bernina.  Why is that??  Both machines have a 1/4 inch foot, but no matter what I do, the seam allowances are always different.  So I've decided the easy answer is to just not switch machines in the middle of a project.

What with being sick, going to Florida and then just being busy, last week was the first chance I had to lay out all the Big O blocks I won from the Block Lotto in December.  As you can see, Dunkel was holding down the pesky blocks for me.  This is not my plan for how I will be setting the blocks.  You'll just have to wait and see!  (insert evil laugh here)

I have a 'secret' project that needs to be done this month and it's only in units at this point.  I really need to get busy on that!

This was very strange labeling on a package of ground beef that I bought the other day.  Maybe because we're so close to Canada here?  The meat came from Oregon.  Any one else seen this on their meat packages??

We've had such a mild February that plants are thinking it is truly Spring.  The crocus and the daffodils are blooming.  Most of the fruit trees are in bloom too.  And the grass is growing too, much to DH's dismay.  This is my new trillium I just planted last fall.  I've never had a trillium before, and I'm looking forward to seeing it bloom.  It's supposed to be a purple trillium.

And don't hate us, East Coast people, but this is my camellia plant.  There were three blossoms on Saturday!  And more flowers about to pop open.  Crazy.  This plant/tree usually blooms in the April/May time period.  

I have a suspicion that Mother Nature isn't done with winter yet, in spite of the warmer, sunshiny weather we've been having. It was down in the 20's (F) last night.  I'm afraid we just might get a big snow storm one of these days.  It's not impossible in March or even April here.  But I have to say that I'm really enjoying all the lovely sunshine we've been having.  It is a welcome little miracle in the middle of our usually gloomy grey rainy winter.

Stay warm!  And I hope you get the time to be creative this week!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Decisions, Decisions

I'm going to be participating in a couple of projects that my quilt guild is doing this year, so I've had to make some decisions lately.  It's been fun but also kind of painful.  I have a hard time making decisions about quilting projects because I can get all wrapped up in the possibilities and then can't narrow it down.  Silly me.  And the worst of it is that I drive myself crazy when I do this!

My Mystery Quilt fabics

The first project we're doing is a Mystery Quilt.  I decided to shop my stash for this one, but I had to look at lots of fabrics.  I needed three yards of background, and two yards each of a focus fabric and an accent fabric.  I don't usually buy big chunks of fabric, so not all of them were big enough for this project.  But, after going through my entire stash, pulling out anything that looked like it might be big enough, I finally found a focus fabric I liked AND had enough of!  I even had enough of the dragonfly print background fabric as well.  Both the wild print and the background fabrics have been in my stash for a few years.  I did have to buy the green fabric, but that wasn't a problem.  *grin*

The second project the guild will be doing this year is a Traveling Round Robin. This is a different Round Robin than is usually done.  How this Round Robin works is this:  I decide which fabrics I want my quilt made from, and put them all into a box or a bin with my name on it.   I then decide which 12 inch block I want to make for everyone's Round Robin quilt. Then I make a block in my chosen pattern, using my fabrics, which I also place in my box.  Then I pass my box/bin to the next person on the list, and I also receive a box from another person.  For each box that I receive, I will make the same block in "my" pattern using the fabrics that are in their box, then put the block I made in their box and pass it to the next person on the list.  I'll always pass and receive from the same two people throughout the Round Robin. (As an example,  I always pass to Julie and receive from Bonnie.)  After the Round Robin is all done, I'll have 15 12-inch blocks for a sampler quilt, all in different patterns but all in my fabrics.  Then I'll decide if I need to make more blocks (I might want 20 blocks), how I want to set them together and then finish the quilt.

My Traveling Round Robin fabrics

I went to my LQS and spent about 2 hours looking at fabrics.  Nothing really captured my attention.  At least, nothing I really wanted a quilt made from.  So then I went to Ben Franklin's and looked around.  The only focus fabric there that I loved, I've already bought!  (you can see the pillowcase I made from this fabric here.  You'll need to scroll down a little ways - it's the pillowcase on the right in the photo, with the orange cuff)  So that's what I went with.  I bought another 2 1/2 yards of the fabric (thinking of a possible border) and bought some companion fabric and a bunch of solids.

The next, hardest decision was which block to make??  I would love to do something free-pieced or improvisational, but I don't think it would be the same sort of style as everyone else will be doing, which, to my mind, is important when you're doing a sampler quilt.  I spent hours (days!) poring over quilt books, trying to decide what block to do.  I used up some older scraps to make sample blocks.

The first block I tried is called "Album" and I found it in Judy Hopkins' 501 Rotary Cut Blocks.  Nice enough, but not really "it".

Another block from the same book called "Irish Chain".  I didn't even finish sewing this one together after I decided I really didn't like that yellow fabric - it's thin and flimsy.  I wish I had switched the position of the lights and the darks.  I could just switch the yellow triangles out for the blue, but I don't care enough to spend the time to remake this block.  Again, I like this block but it's still not what I was hoping for.  

So, I really thought about what I would be doing with the block, and decided that I needed a block that could use multiple fabrics easily, as well as look complex without being too difficult to do.  We'll be passing our boxes twice a month in order to have the quilts finished in time for the quilt show in October - hopefully.  So, I thought that complex piecing would make it difficult for me to do the blocks in a timely manner.  That ruled out blocks with a lot of triangles.  I knew I just wouldn't be happy making those.  So I changed my parameters for this and looked in some other books.

not too bad for scraps, huh?
Here is the block I decided on.  It's a Sister's Choice variation and I found it in Kim Diehl's book Simple Charm.  I can use up to 11 fabrics per block, those triangles are really easy to do, I don't need to worry about cutting off the points of the triangles on the edge of the block, and it has easy cutting and assembly.  This will work for me!

Now all I have to do is make my block with my fabrics and I'm ready to pass it on to Julie.  I already have Bonnie's box and I need to make this block with her fabrics as well.

But first, I have to deal with the disaster that my quilt studio has become. Ugh.  No room to work or even walk, so it has become a priority now.  Hopefully that won't take too many days.

Happy quilting!

Sunday, February 08, 2015

February Already?

Whoa!  What happened to January??  I can't believe it's been a whole month since I posted!   Oh, and by the way, my last post was my 300th post!

I went to the mini quilt retreat and had a good time.  I even got some things accomplished.  But I came down with a nasty cold with a vicious cough almost the next day.  And, just when I was getting over that, it turned into a sinus infection.  Ugh.  We were going to be leaving for Florida in a few days when the sinus thing happened, so I quickly took myself to Urgent Care and got some antibiotics and cough medicine.  I finally felt better, right before we got on the plane, and I'm sure all the other passengers were as happy as I was that I was no longer infectious or coughing my lungs out!

We had a great time in Florida and really enjoyed the sunshine.  It wasn't real warm, as FL was getting the side effect of cooler temps during the "winter event" happening in the Northeast U.S.  But it was gloriously sunny, and that was wonderful.  We were in Tampa while DH was having a Professional Development conference with the Co. he works for.  There were 5 other wives there, and we had a grand time seeing the sights.  We went to Clearwater and saw the white sand beaches there (that looked just like powdered sugar!), along with lots of pelicans, and I even got to see wild dolphins playing in the ocean!  Then we went to Tarpon Springs and shopped and ate wonderful Greek food.  (I especially recommend the flaming cheese! Fun to see and yummy!)  Oh yeah, and I finally got some Key Lime Pie.  I had never had the real deal before and it lived up to it's reputation.  Sadly, I never found a fabric shop, but that was OK.  I had fun seeing someplace new, and sunshine in the middle of winter was just what the doctor ordered!

But enough blabbing.  Let's get to the good quilty stuff!

At the mini quilt retreat last month, I managed to make some real progress on my Split Flowers friendship quilt that has been languishing in my project bins for too many years.  I had finally gotten the blocks put together into a top before the retreat and got all the leaves sewn on while I had friends to talk to there.  Now that I've seen the photo, I can see that I need to add just a couple more leaves.

And then it'll be time for the major decision of what to do for the border.  I'm torn between doing some more raw edge applique like the flowers and leaves, probably using a serpentine vine, or doing something pieced.  Any suggestions?  It may come down to what will be faster, as I'd like to have this finished in time for the quilt show in October.

Edited to add: this pattern is from the book Stitch and Split Applique and it's available on Amazon here. 

I didn't make great progress on the Split Decision quilt that I showed in my last post here.  But I got a few blocks made.

Here is an example of what a finished block will look like.  (one block is just folded in half and placed over the other)  I like this!

And that was the end of any sewing that happened in January.  But I have been sewing this past week.

I made some blocks for my guild's raffle quilt.  This year there's no set block size or color theme.  We're just going with the concept of friendship, stars and baskets.

This block finishes at 9 inches and is called "Measure For Measure".  I found the pattern in Judy Martin's book The Block Book.  There are templates you're supposed to use to make these patterns, but I tried to get cute and fake it.  It got ugly.  But I got it done!

This is my second block for the raffle quilt.  It will finish at 12 inches and is called "Crystal Star".  This pattern came from Judy Hopkins' book 501 Rotary Cut Quilt Blocks.  I love that book!  And this block was easy.  I think it took me longer to decide on the fabric than to construct the block!

That's all for now, folks, but I hope to be back soon.  I've got more quilt-y goings-on to blab about.

Have a creative week!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

New Projects

Doing a quick post today, as I'm busy getting ready to go to a quilt retreat this weekend.

I teased you, in my last post, with mention of a new project that isn't a quilt.  I'm learning a new instrument!  This is my Christmas present:

My darling husband gave me a soprano ukulele!  I've been intrigued with ukes for a while now, and thought that just maybe I could play one.  I played violin when I was in elementary school, and never got any good at it.  Then I found piano, and I've been happy with that ever since.  I don't play really well, or often enough any more, but I love my piano.  So I don't know know why I wanted the uke, but I'm so happy I have one!  There is something about a ukulele that just makes people smile. 

My DS The Kid plays guitar, but I couldn't wrap my fingers around that guitar neck and hold down a string.  My hand fits the uke, and I'm getting a little better at doing the strings.  I can now play the "Happy Birthday" song and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" - both veeeerrrry slowly!  I'm not good at changing chords yet.  But I'm managing to get in at least 30 minutes of practice a day, so am slowly making progress.  It makes me happy.  And I'd like to say a big "Thanks!" to the internets for on-line classes and help.  It's just amazing how much is out there!

I have also started a new project, just for the retreat I'm going on.  I'm taking one older project that needs some machine applique done on it.  I find the process of machine applique very boring, so doing it in a group setting should help.  My new project came from the latest issue of McCall's "America Loves Scrap Quilts" magazine.  

I'm actually using the same colors of fabrics.

I've always loved turquoise and lime together, and also graphic black and white prints, so I shopped my stash for everything I need for this quilt!  Yay!  I may need more fabrics for borders or binding, but that will come later.  I like this pattern so much I might even be able to do it like the pattern calls for!  We'll see how I do with that.  So, I've been furiously ironing and cutting fabric for a few days now. It's nice to cut into some yardage - I hardly ever do that anymore.  Some of these fabrics are pretty old, although there are some newer ones in the mix too.  And I'm even throwing in some of my hand-dyed fabrics.  I find a new project so exciting!  

Here are some potholders I made back before Thanksgiving, and I don't think I ever showed them on the blog.  I haven't been using them since T-Day - I want them to stay nice for awhile!  I made these with some 3 inch string blocks.  These make me smile every time I see them.

I hope you have a fun weekend, and get to do some stitching!  See ya on the other side!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

And another one begins . . . .

. . . a New Year, that is.  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.  We had a great time here and we did some fun things.  I did manage to (mostly) maintain my serenity.  I didn't do much sewing this year.  I made 2 pillowcases is all, and I totally forgot to take a photo of them.

Got to see the granddaughters in their ballet school's selections of The Nutcracker.  They did so well - they're both becoming very good dancers, and they seem to really enjoy dancing.

Our youngest joined us here for Christmas Eve dinner and opening presents and then we all went over to our oldest's house for Christmas Day for dinner and fun.

This past Tuesday we went to see the very last Hobbit movie.  I'm sad that there will probably never be another one - I've really loved those movies.

Now the holidays are over, the decorations and the Christmas quilts are put away for another year, the cookies are almost all eaten, and it's back to the everyday stuff.  Which is a good thing, because it means more time for sewing!  

I have one more quilt to show you from 2014.  It was actually started a few years ago, but it finally got finished.

Harvest Home
56 x 63 inches
Another simple 4-patch, made with 2 charm packs and companion fabrics.  (This isn't  the best photo - the quilt is not so yellow in Real Life, it's a tan.)  I'm not thrilled with it, and it's not my colors anymore.  But it's DONE and that's the best part! It's even gotten its label. 

As I look back through my blog in 2014, I find that I've finished up 8 older WIPs (works in progress) this year.  Yay!  My goal for 2014 was to finish up some old  projects, and frankly, I'm surprised at how many I got done!  I'd call that a win!  

In an effort to continue finishing some of my old WIPs, I'm still plugging along on the Mystery Quilt from the year 2000.  I'm getting tired of it - it has about a million units - but I refuse to get stalled on it again.  I WILL finish this quilt this time!

more flying geese etc.
I've made all the rest of the flying geese (in different colors from the F.G. on my previous post) and the strips I showed in the previous post have all been sewn.  This is not how they'll go together, but I like this arrangement of the strips.  I need to remember this for later!  This could be fun in another quilt.

final arrangement of the strips
Now all the strips are sewn into their two final configurations, and it's time to sew all the flying geese into their final configuration too.  It's hard to tell from this photo, but the same strips are sewn together two different ways.  I'm not sure how they'll go into the final layout of the quilt.  I'm on step 5 of 6 steps - getting close now!

I ended up making an even dozen of the Block Lotto blocks for December.

Here are 12 Big-O blocks that finish at 7 inches.  And I was one of the winners of the Block Lotto for December, so I'll end up with 48 of these blocks.  Enough for a quilt.  Yay!

I've gotten 2 blocks made, so far, for the Block Lotto for January.

A Double 9-Patch block in black and white. Such a classic block, but there's a minor twist in the choice of fabrics.  Either a black with white print or a white with black print, but the same layout of where the black and white go.  Interesting, no?  I hope to get another couple done this month.

That's all for now.  I hope to be back soon, and I'll show you some of the exciting presents I got for Christmas.  I've got a new project, and it's not a quilt!

I hope you have a creative week!

p.s. Don't miss Audrey's (of Quilty Folk blog) posts on Scrap Quilts here and here.  She has some great things to say and she illustrates what she's saying very well!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Ready or Not . . .

. . . the holidays are coming!  Are you ready?  I think I'm mostly ready.  Well, except for wrapping the presents, finishing the few Christmas cards left and baking two batches of cookies.  That's close though, don't you think?  I'm trying to maintain serenity.  (Yeah, right.)

Christmas Spools
17 x 21 inches

Just to add some Christmas cheer to my blog, here's an "oldie but a goodie" that I've put up every year since I made it.  This was made sometime between 1986 and 1990.  (Bad quilter - didn't put on a label)  It definitely has '80's fabrics in there!  I was inspired to make this by a sample in the window of my favorite quilt shop at that time "Going to Pieces" in Pleasanton, California.  I just fell in love with that little quilt, so I went home and copied it from memory.  No pattern.  And I made mitered corners on those spools!   And hand-quilted.  I still love it!

Here is the first half of the flying geese I need to make for the mystery quilt I'm working on.  I couldn't even get them all in the photo!  And sorry for the crummy picture - it doesn't work too well to take pix at night.  I need to make this many again, only in different colors.  I'm not sure how big these units are, but over on the left there are 2 of my Block Lotto blocks for this month and they are 7 inch blocks.

Here are some more mystery quilt units that I've been working on.  It's hard to tell from the photo, but that is a rusty red and a black-ish brown.  This quilt will be autumn colors.  Nothing is hard sewing, but there is lots and lots of pieces and units.

I bought the Paperweights pattern from Karen Griska (of the Selvage Blog) on her Etsy store.  I'm making a little test sample quiltlet to see how well the fusible I'm using will work.  I think this will be cute!  

We had a deer visitor again yesterday.  This deer used to come around with his mama and sibling, and now he's on his own.  (really, I don't know if it's a "he" - I just call him that).  He's still young.  This spring's baby, I think.  But there he was lying in the yard, and he stayed that way for at least 20 minutes.  My picture-taking (through the kitchen window) didn't seem to bother him at all.  He watched me as much as I watched him!  Then he just got up and sauntered off.

Good luck with your last-minute holiday preparations!  I hope you get a few minutes to do some sewing or quilting.  I'm going to go sew with friends this afternoon!