Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Stone Barn

In North Wales, one would have to be blind not to see that stone is the primary building material available for just about anything... homes, churches, schools, walls. This is a rugged, mountainous country with few trees. Stones are available and that is what builders use.

So why not do the same when free-piecing a barn?  My most readily available material is scrap fabric. Yes, I do have fat quarters and some half yards, but those aren't cut.  My scraps are already variously cut. Most are sorted by color. Given that most of my scraps are small, less than 2 inches square,  I was limited in the type of barn I could effectively build.  This photo, taken near Llanegryn, North Wales, gave me all the inspiration I needed to dig into my scrap boxes.

I set the scraps aside while I worked on another project. Once that was done, I cobbled strips of scraps together to make the building. Then decided the rest of the quilt needed to be cobbled with strips of strips!  

This barn building project took several attempts where I had to look and troubleshoot.  That was the fun part and the most rewarding!  Let me explain.

Problem #1.  After I had sewn all of the scraps for the building together, I realized that the combination of dark fabric I chose for the window was too chaotic and also too large.  I wasn't going to pick out all the stitches to get to the middle pieces of three rows. So I raw edge appliqued a square of black fabric with light gray zigzag stitches so that it would stand out clearly.

Problem #2. The scrap pieces above the window looked too bulky to have been reasonably used as "building material". After all, who would want to heft a stone as big as a window opening up to higher levels. These barns were made manually, not with hydraulic lifts!  Once again, raw edge applique to the rescue.  You can see the "patched stones" in the following photo.

This shows that there is more than one way to solve the problems. One need not stick to methods or "rules".  One can un-sew and re-sew, but in this case, that was not practical.   I quote Gwen Marston, from her book Liberated Quiltmaking (1996),  "The most important solution to remember as you build your houses is learn by doing.  Figuring things out as you work keeps your interest high and makes the building process fun. Once you get going, you will be surprised at how ideas come to you with solutions for every pesky problem."  This is what I love about free piecing.  The results don't have to be perfect. The process demands imagination from the maker. It also engages the imagination of those who see the quilt and recognize the resultant character it holds.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Barn - built to last

One month ago I had the pleasure of exploring parts of North Wales with my son, his fiancee, and my husband.  We stayed in the village of Llanegryn.  Almost all buildings there are very solidly built, made with thick walls of stone.

As one of the members of the SSOBB - the Secret Society of Barn Builders, only we are no longer a "secret"- this abandoned house and barn caught my eye.

Just thought I'd share as these photos as the barns are different from those one sees in New England, USA.

From Wales, we went to the Lake District in the North of England. There stone barns are also prominent, but the stone is smaller than that used in Wales.

Of course, everywhere we went were paddocks of sheep and little lambs.

Julie Sefton's book, Build -A- Barn: No Pattern Construction, is now published. It is a terrific guide to free-piecing buildings.   I just might expand my quilting horizons by building a stone barn!

By the way, there is a Blog Hop going on now.  Check it out and see the many different barns that were created by the SSOBB.   Free piecing?  YES!  You can do it!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

She's been too quiet ...

As with a small child, quiet usually translates as busy - good busy or otherwise.  That's exactly how I have been since my last post.  Blogging falls by the wayside as the day comes to an end and all I want to do is relax and sleep.  So today I decided I'd just do it and check one more thing off my list.

Here's the quilting related list and some photos:

** Teaching at the local fabric/art shop, Fiddlehead Artisan Supply - five different classes.
- Introduction to Quilting - a four week class - Done.  Another session is in the works for mid April.

- Planning and "practicing" for teaching a class about using the Quick Curve Ruler (a Sew Kind of Wonderful notion). Here are the quilts/ tops I have made for this project. The title of the patterns are in parentheses)
From a free pattern ("Fun Poinsettia") on the Sew Kind of Wonderful web page:
This version follows the free pattern instructions. It  has been made into a pillow cover.  Hand quilted.

These two versions are also made from the above pattern, but I played "what if?" to see how the pattern changes.

Double Wedding Rings ("Metro Rings") - using solid colors and white on black and black on white fabrics to make the bits in the ring.  I chose the gray background to highlight rings that were made with black on white. The white background goes with those made with white on black.

("Deco Shimmer")
A variety of fabric was used because I didn't have enough of any one color/fabric to complete the pattern as directed.
Strings of Beads ("Urban Chained")
Again, limited background fabric, hence the stripes.

- Planning for teaching three liberated classes: Stars, Houses, and Windmills. I have photo-samples of the first two topics, but my windmill pieces are hanging in the store and I don't have a photo.

the smallest star in this galaxy measures 1 inch.

** Digging into my stash and making a little dent with Slashed Squares - influenced by Lynne Tyler's recent projects:  (She provided a tutorial)
From this:
and this
to this

** Making a baby quilt for my niece's little one. I made an amish style quilt for the parents' wedding. It made sense to do likewise for the baby. I make small baby quilts, which can graduate in time to being a doll or teddy bear quilt. This one is 24" x 32",  A little bit bigger than I usually make.

** Planning three I Spy quilts for slightly older nephews and nieces.  I have all the patches, just haven't put them on the design wall to see what lay out I want.

** Making  mug rugs for two very special people whom I will see very soon.

** Keeping a BIG Secret, which can now be whispered about.... SSOBB. The Secret Society of Barn Builders!  See the link on my sidebar.

It may be a little while before I post again, but I will try to be more timely.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A closer look

As promised, here are the close-ups moving around the border top, left, bottom, right.

TOP - note the inchworms!


a jail bird?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

One heck of a project

This post is about one project that has taken a lot of concentration.  I usually don't concentrate too hard on the sewing process, but for this one, I did.  Slooow stitching, lots of pivoting, lots of thinking about the next stitch. I even used magnifying glasses to keep on track.  Hence, I spent two months creating and sewing borders.

Remember this top - the nine-patch revisited?

 I blogged about it here.  I knew I wanted to do something more to it. That opportunity started late September when I attended the Holly Girls' Quilt Retreat in Elk Rapids, Michigan.

The topic of the retreat was raw-edge machine applique.  I knew going in that I wanted to design borders for the nine-patch. I looked at various appliqued borders in reference books and pattern books. Once I realized I could do just about anything and that I didn't want borders with a single form that repeated endlessly, I began sketching some ideas. I brought a pile of scrap fabric and strips of background fabric with me. That was the extent of my preparation for the class.  

Sue Nickels and Pat Holly are top-notch masters of raw edge machine applique. They shared their knowledge expertly and generously. We learned techniques - how to use fusible without adding bulk, how to design vines with equal repetitions,  how to assemble complex applique pieces, and how to sew it all together.  Best of all, they allowed us to do as we wanted for our projects and were able to adapt what they taught to fit our needs.  We didn't have to use their patterns, though some were available.

As I worked on my border, I realized I needed to make my applique pieces small to fit the scale of the blocks in the body of the quilt. Those blocks are three inches square.  I learned to combine many small pieces to make a unit before fusing them to the background fabric. I learned to adjust the stitch length and width to fit the size of the applique. I also had to create new motifs as I went along. I managed to get one border fused and a few pieces sewn by the end of the retreat.  Here I am at the final show and tell.

In the past, I learned to zigzag applique which usually makes a pretty heavy edge on the fabric. Blanket stitch done correctly lies flat and isn't noticeable, especially if thread color matches the fabric.  My machines at home do not "do" blanket stitch, but I was able to borrow a Bernina to use during the workshop.  Oh boy! That turned out to be "expensive".  Now, I was under the influence of the Bernina!!!  Once I got home, I went out and bought myself a small Bernina, a 350 PE. (I am not interested in all the bells and whistles that the fancier Berninas have.) Well, I did have the excuse of not being able to finish my quilt top without the proper machine!

Without further ado, here is the finished flimsy. Close up photos will be in the next post. Tomorrow, I promise!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Sunday Paper - or inspired by the parts department.

As has been my process lately, I've been slowly whittling away at my scrap collection.  Slowly is the operative word. It is hard to go fast when you don't know where you are going!

I started this project with no plan in mind other than to put scrap strips together log cabin style. I chain piece starting with the smallest strip and work my way through about six blocks at a time.. until I get tired of sewing and then I square each block up.  None of the scraps are equal in width, so some blocks have more strips around than others. Also, I don't follow a light/dark patterning. What to do with them once they are squared?

I could put them together to create a mishmash. That didn't appeal to me.

I could stick them into my parts department box.  (The parts department is a concept I learned from Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran. In preparing for their collaborative quilting projects, they made various block pieces ahead of time, not knowing just how they would use them. The idea was to provide time efficiency when they got together to make the quilts.) I really wanted to make something with my scraps and not have them sitting around in a box waiting for an idea.  I dug into my parts department box and found 10 more similarly pieced blocks waiting. With 16 log-cabinish squares available I had to do something.

I decided to feature each block separately, so I turned each on point and surrounded them with strips of text prints and other neutrals.  These strips were sewn to the blocks in a log cabin fashion. But, after three rounds of text I realized that the center blocks (measuring six inches square) were getting lost.  By now I had decided that the finished block would be 20" square.
First rendition of the 20 " blocks

Back in the parts department,  I found several long strips of scraps approximately 2.5 inches wide. Just what I needed.   I ended up sewing many more scraps into strips. These replaced the third round of text strips mentioned above.

trying out the scrappy strips

Once the colorful strips were sewn on I had to come up with a way to deal with the corner triangles.
I sewed three rows of rectangles for each corner. Then I took my 20.5" square ruler and laid it on the block, lining up the centering lines with the corners of the central blocks. This showed me where to trim the color strips and where to mark the midpoint of each side. Once the big block was trimmed and marked, I matched it to the midpoint of the strips that would make the corner triangles.

The faint white lines show the centering lines I used to trim the block

trimmed and ready for corners. 

Pins show matching midpoints

Corners attached. 
ready for trimming

one block 20.5" x 20.5"

16 blocks

When I tried sewing these blocks together, I found too many discrepancies.  The ruler had slipped while I was trimming. Consequently, some were smaller than the others, never by much but enough to skew everything.  Another problem to solve.

Cornerstones and sashing were added all around and it worked to add another dimension to the quilt and to disguise any mistakes.

The final version

By this time, I had a name for the quilt.  When I was little, the local paper published the funnies in color. That was a big deal.  The scraps of color and the text and gray reminded me of that... hence, The Sunday Paper - printed with lots of help from the parts department.