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.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Little Sky Writing

Greetings from Scrapville.  Yes, I am still wallowing in scraps and having fun, too.     There is no end to them.  As you all know, scraps beget scraps!  I find myself thinking of ways to use the scraps of the current scrap project.

When Lynne, The Patchery Menagerie, first blogged about making a Welcome banner for her new house, I wrote asking if I could steal her idea. Her reply was, " Kathy, by all means, steal away. As Picasso said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal."

You see, I had just uncovered an orphaned house block and was wondering what I could do with it. Lynne's project was a perfect solution.

I remember, from childhood, occasionally seeing small planes doing what seemed like lazy loop de loops trailing "smoke" that magically spelled an advertisement or message in the sky.  So I free pieced my Welcome with that mind.

At this point the house seemed a little lonely, so I added some trees, a puppy and kitty and a bird house and a few landscape features, all made from scraps and all raw edge applique using whip stitch.
Then I added texture with perle cotton stitching - sometimes using big stitch, sometimes using a more natural (for me) smaller stitch.
I found an orphan strip of binding. (Am I the only one who makes binding and then forgets to use it once the quilting is done?)

Voila!  Now when anyone comes to my back door they will be greeted with a little sky writing!


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Squares, squares, and more squares

Two summers ago, I took a box (think large stationary box) chock full of pre-cut squares with me to Pond Island. I had no plan in mind other than to do something with these and play with my hand crank sewing machine. The cut sizes of the squares were 1.5,  2.0,  2.5, and 3.0 inches.   My first thought was simply to sew the squares of the same sizes together to make long strings of "parts" which could then be used at another time.  As I was chain piecing, I realized how silly that idea was. I already had a box filled with similar parts and hadn't used them and certainly didn't need more.  What I needed was to make something with what I had with me.

Here are some blocks I made.  Can you figure out the method to the madness?

Hint: think log cabin construction - liberated to boot.

I made 4 blocks that summer and packed the whole thing up and brought it home.
A year and a half later, I pulled them out and decided maybe I could make a flimsy with them.

I sorted my parts and finished chain piecing almost all of the squares I took with me.

Ta DA!

And I have left overs!

So now I'll add another row of 4 blocks and then call it done!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Some eye candy

Hi!  I'm still here and the sewing machine has been humming along.

I've been working on lots of little projects and a couple of bigger ones. A couple of projects are secrets... and will remain so for a while. Most of the small projects were class samples.  I've been teaching beginning basic quilting and also beginning paper piecing at the local shop. The shop is small and chock full of fabric and a lot of art supplies. Available space limits class size to 4 at a time. Actually, that is an ideal number, as I can give lots of individual attention. It is fun to help someone discover and enjoy the process that is involved in quilting. I allow my students to select any project or pattern with squares, rectangles and triangles, and I help them make it, providing technique information as they need it. This is a casual approach, but it works and the students set the pace!

Here is a flimsy that was created since I last posted.

The center was inspired by a pattern called Eye Candy, from !Caliente Quilts! by Priscilla Bianchi. As fun as it was making the striped squares and the background pieces, I found myself wanting more. The quilt needed action and surprises. Hence, it evolved into a liberated medallion (Gwen Marston style).  Sorry I couldn't get a better photo.  I was backed against a huge snow bank and had maybe 4 feet between myself and the quilt.

When I piece I do leader and ender experiments at the same time.  I never know just what I'll end up with when I start these.  One such experiment was to piece nine-patches that would finish at 1.5 inches.  It didn't take me long to decide this wasn't something I wanted to continue.  It demands precision piecing which is NOT one of my strong points. But, I wasn't about to waste the little blocksso I pieced them into four patches using 2 inch squares from my stash of scrap squares.  This is destined to become a pillow.

I am still working with my scrap squares and expect to have another posting in a couple of days.

See you then.