Thursday, March 19, 2015

Meet Rosie

Look who came home from the animal shelter with us today.

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Meet Rosie.  She is a 3 year old maltese/papillon mix.  She is a little bundle of energy and despite her small size will be a good running buddy for the kids.  It remains to be seen whether she will be a good quilting buddy, as she only came home today and hasn’t had time to settle in yet.  Right now she’s a bit restless and whines to go out, then in, them out, then in…

We’ll get the hang of each other, then we’ll see if she’s a quilter dog or not!  One thing is certain.  Quilts will get washed rather more frequently now, as Rosie sheds a lot!  We had firm intentions to get a non-shedding or at least low-shedding dog, but just look at her!  And she has a very sweet, trusting disposition too. The only thing that would have made us leave her behind was allergies, but hubby played with her and was fine so she came home!

On to quilty things…

When I washed my Geese Across the Table placemats they shrank all wonky. I probably should have quilted them more evenly or prewashed the fabrics, or both.  In any case, after the shrinkage I needed a new set to use as a sample.  I hadn’t had a good dose of working with blues in a while so that’s what I pulled for the new samples.

Geese Across the Table set in blue batiks

Because of the previous shrinking fiasco, I made a point of washing these fabrics first.  In hindsight, since they are all batiks, they probably had no shrinking left to do.  I’m still glad they had a spin in the washer though.  I tossed in TWO Color Catcher sheets and this is how they looked afterwards:

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For anyone that doesn’t know, Color Catcher sheets start out white.  I’m keeping these on my bulletin board as a reminder of why I should prewash!  I didn’t prewash for years, but I’m becoming a convert. 

Now I’m off to sew a bit, if I can decide what project to work on.  I have some blue drunkard’s path blocks in progress, but as much as I loved the fabrics together before I cut them, I’m not so sure I like them in this block.

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This is just a random layout, not what they are intended for.  I’m not sure my initial plan is going to work, so it may morph after I have all 36 blocks made and I can play around a bit more.

I also have a few projects in the works that I can’t share quite yet.  One is in yellows/blacks/greys.  Another is in summer colors, and possibly repeated in fall or Christmas ones as well. 

The drunkard’s paths’ curves are a bit more fiddly than I remembered from the last time I made some. One of the un-shared projects is very straightforward while another has lots of points to match, so I have plenty of choice.  There’s also still some hand quilting to do on the kaleidoscope quilt. I just have to decide what colors and/or challenge level I want to play with today.

Or I could go play with the dog!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Owl finish

When I tried all-over freemotion designs on a practice quilt sandwich, I always had trouble keeping the scale consistent, and I would paint myself into a corner, or my design would morph into something else by the time I finished.  This made me a little wary of trying it out on an actual quilt.  What if I messed up?

This little baby quilt, however, was very vocal about how it wanted to be quilted. It wanted all-over swirls.  I thought up all sorts of straight line walking-foot options, but nothing stuck.  The quilt was very clear:  SWIRLS if you don’t mind.  Well, I do mind, but OK already.

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I googled free-motion swirl tutorials, watched a few and finally got my a-ha! moment when I stumbled on this one from APQ, with Angela Walters explaining.  The reminder that it is OK to stop (with the needle down of course!) and think about where to go next and how to get there was just what I needed.  The swirl design she demonstrated isn’t all curves.  There are points where you finish one swirl and start on the next, so stopping doesn’t involve the risk of spoiling a smooth curve, which always happens to me when I stop mid-curve.

Deep breath. Feed dogs down.  Another deep breath.

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This very first bit I quilted, in the pink, is the best on the whole quilt.  I never quite got it that pretty again, but overall it looks pretty good.  I stopped a lot.  And ranted about breaking thread.  And quilted myself into corners a few times despite my planning.  But it’s done and I’m really happy with how it turned out.

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Ms. Owl was stitched in the ditch around all her parts with a triple frame in the background.
I used Invisafil thread. I really like the way it blends with all the fabrics so that what you notice is the quilted texture, not the thread.  When the thread kept breaking (well, shredding, actually) I switched to Aurifil but didn’t like the way the thread stood out on the colors, so I picked it out and went back to the Invisafil.

Here’s the back, in fun alphabet prints:

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I even remembered to put the labels on when I put on the binding.  One label has the quilt info, and the other has signatures from all the folks pitching in to give this gift.  The quilt will be delivered tonight.  I hope baby Isabel enjoys it!

And now to go try and get better pictures of it before I don’t have access to it anymore!

Linking up with Linky Tuesday at Freemotion by the River

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Frosty border

Those of you who are buried under feet of snow probably aren’t very interested in snowflakes right now, but I’ve been thinking of how to pair my snowflake blocks with other pieced elements.

Lara over at Buzzin Bumble posted about some very pretty mini Delectable Mountain blocks a few weeks ago, and shared a free tutorial and paper foundations.  At first glance it doesn’t seem that this block could be paper pieced  but Lara uses a very clever technique to make it work.  The paper foundation can even be printed double-sided so that you have guide lines and sewing lines on both sides of your paper.  No more guessing where to place your fabric!

Here’s my sample block. It is 2 1/2” x 4 1/2” to finish at 2” x 4”.

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Here’s one way I’m thinking of using more of them with snowflakes.

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The problems begin when I try to figure out how to find the time to fit in another project…  Oh well, what’s one more project on the list of planned quilts?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Baby needs brights!

“Baby” would be the Scout leader’s new daughter, not me!  Though playing with some bright fabrics this week has lifted my spirits, so maybe I needed brights too.  There isn’t any big reason for the blahs I needed lifting out of, just assorted small annoyances and winter in general.  Oh, and shattering the plastic casing on the car’s tail light and finding out you can’t replace just the casing, you have to buy the whole assembly.  Sigh.

Let’s not dwell on that, shall we?  Back to the cheerful brights.  Here’s what I have on my design wall right now.

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The owl is only fused on right now.  I need to go buy purple thread to stitch it down.  Still, I wanted to see if he worked with the blocks the way I hoped he would, so up on the wall he went.  I like it!

I didn’t like what I started out with.  I saw this quilt by SewCraftyJess on Moda Bake Shop and liked the blocks.  I made a test block to be sure I liked it before cutting into my stash.

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It took only an hour to get all my cut pieces sewn into units. The large squares with the white strip get cut down the middle to make the rectangular units below in the lower left, so I was able to substitute two rectangles for the square when my scraps wouldn’t yield the 5” square the pattern called for.

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Clearly, it’s not a good idea to be too excited about quick progress.  Progress slowed down to a crawl when I started putting pieces up on the design wall to decide which fabrics to put together in each block.

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Ummmm.  Nope.  This wasn’t working for me! I stared at the wall. I moved things around. I stared some more.  Two hours’ worth of staring and shuffling pieces around yielded this.

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Better.  Did I really need to unpick my sample block to match the block center to the block frame?  Maybe not.  I went to bed and let it simmer a bit.

When I came back to it in the morning I decided that in the grand scheme of things, taking a few minutes to rip a few seams was not a  big deal.  The result was good enough to encourage me to assemble all the blocks.  Of course, assembled blocks were bound to look crisper and therefore better!  Once I had them assembled it was easier to play around with block orientation, too.  I decided I liked them better going in all one direction, instead of the varied directions in the original pattern, and that vertical pleased my eye more than horizontal.

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I had intended to piece a butterfly block to insert in the blank place.  I found a good tutorial at Four Wise Monkeys for a pretty pieced block, but in the end I decided it wouldn’t pop.  Then I thought I could do a reverse image, with a white butterfly over a colored block background.  I tried it in EQ first, and it wasn’t looking quite as I hoped.  How about a heart?  I looked at pieced heart patterns, then decided I could applique a heart, since I learned to do that over Christmas.

Well, if I’m going to applique…I just had to make the owl from Five Sprouts Stitching again, because he’s so gosh darned cute.  It’s a baby quilt.  Cute is good!

I enlarged the pattern to fit the space and spent an hour dithering over what colors he should be.  I decided purple would work best and held my breath as I rooted through the small pile of purples in my stash, hoping to find a piece large enough for the owl’s body. Success!

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I’m pleased with how it is working out!  The owl seems less lost in person, trust me.  Now I need to go add sashing and decide if this quilt needs borders.  I suppose I need to choose backing fabric too.  Time to step away from the computer!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Just a little push

My son’s bed quilt is wearing out.  When he told me there were new tears, I asked him to mark them with safety pins so I could find them to mend them.  I was taken aback at the number of pins.  He said he stopped counting at 15.  I looked the quilt over and added more.  I think I stopped counting at 40.  And I found more while I was fixing the marked ones. Sigh. 

Matthew's braid quilt shredding Feb 2015

To be clear, he has loved and used but not abused his quilt.  There were just a few questionable fabrics in there.  Also, as I was advised not to prewash precuts (these were from a jelly roll), fabrics shrank at different rates.  Batiks didn’t shrink at all, so they just folded over at the seams and those folds wore out and the fabric shredded.  Some of the batiks were more affected than others.

I spent the afternoon stitching decorative stitches over the shredded bits to try to extend the quilt’s life a little more.  Here’s what the back looks like now.  Those aren’t worms, but lines of stitching. 

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That’s a lot of worn spots, and just a little push to start hand quilting a bit more diligently on the replacement quilt!

Here’s the progress on that:

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I do have a tiny bit of border done on the left side too.  I tried to take a picture of what I’m trying in the border, but the lighting wasn’t very good to take a picture of quilting in black thread on black fabric.

Enough chatting! I need to go make more progress!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Once again in 1930s prints

When I started quilting I always intended to make a quilt in 1930’s reproduction prints.  It’s only taken me 15 years to get there!

I usually gravitate to bright colors, and working with these more subdued prints was a bit of a challenge because they don’t pop in the same way as the fabrics I usually work with.  That said, I love how this version of Sparkling Trail worked out!

Sparkling Trail in 1930s prints

The colors are better in person, and obviously this still needs to be quilted.

Initially I planned to make each star monochromatic.  Even taking into account the poor late-night lighting in the picture below you can tell it looked a bit bland. I tried centers in one fabric and points in a matching fabric.  I tried mixing points and centres.

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In the end, I concluded that these 1930’s prints work best in truly scrappy mode.

Closeup of Sparkling Trail in 1930s prints

That’s why I opted to make the border from small squares rather than longer scrap chunks as I have for other versions of this quilt.

Reaction in the household was mixed.  Hubby loved it.  He said it made him think of front porch swings in the summer and picket fences (not that we have any such things, but I know what he means).  My son, on the other hand, commented on how these were not my usual fabrics and he wasn’t sure he’d like to look at them all the time.  He’s a teen boy, of course he wouldn’t!  His room is safe.  The quilting of the black and bright kaleidoscope quilt for his bed is coming along.

Linking up with

Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts

Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts

Friday, January 30, 2015

Prairie Point Part 4–Trimming and finishing the back

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This is the fourth installment of the Prairie Point Tutorial series.

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Here is my little sample quilt, all quilted and with prairie points sewn on.  I think it could be cute just like this, with the points pointing in, in which case I would just add binding to finish the edges.  However, I want my points to point outwards and be the finished edge so there’s more work to do.

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Next I need to trim the backing and batting, but I can’t just wield the rotary cutter and trim everything flush with the edge of the quilt top.  I need the backing 1/4” larger than the top all around, and the batting 1/4” smaller than the top, all around.

1. Trimming the batting and backing

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Step 1.  Fold the backing out of the way, well away from the edge of the quilt top so you can trim the batting without cutting the backing. You can pin to keep it out of the way if you wish. Carefully turn the quilt right side up, making sure to keep that backing folded back.

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Step 2. With a rotary cutter and ruler, trim the batting even with the top.

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Step 3. Still keeping the backing out of the way, fold the top out of the way.  Pin to keep it out of the way if necessary. Trim 1/4” off the batting (photo on left).  (If you fold unfold the top and flip the quilt over now, right side down, you’ll see that the batting is now a tidy 1/4” less than the quilt top (photo on right)).

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Step 4.  With the quilt facing up, unfold the backing. Trim it 1/4” larger than the quilt top.  This will give you 1/2” of fabric to work with when you fold the backing edges under later, in section 4.

(Note: If you don’t mind fiddling with turning edges under just 1/4” in section 4, you can trim the backing even with the quilt top at the same time as you trim the batting even in step 2 above.  Just remember to fold the backing out of the way before you trim the batting that extra 1/4”.)

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Step 5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 for each side of the quilt to trim all sides.

 

2.  Folding out the prairie points.

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Step 1.  Trim the tails of the points (but not the backing!) on the corners, being careful not to snip the stitching (photo on left).  This will let the points tuck up nicely side by side at the corner when you flip the points out (photo on right).

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Step 2.  Flip the points so they point away from the quilt.  The seam allowance should tuck over the trimmed edge of the batting, encasing it. 

 

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I like to press the seam allowance to help it stay flat.

3. Fold backing edges

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Step 3.  With the quilt facing up, fold the backing down 1/2” along an entire side. Press.  Fold the corner at a 45 degree angle, then fold the next side down 1/2” as well, forming a crisp mitered corner.  Press and pin if you need to.

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Above you see what the corner looks like from the back of the quilt.  Continue folding the edge of the backing, mitering the corners, all around the quilt.

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Here’s the back of my quilt with the backing all folded in properly.  You can pin it in place if you wish, though the quilting on most of the quilt and the pressing of the folded backing keep things pretty much where they need to be.

4. Stitching the backing to the prairie points

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You can see in the picture above that the folded edge of the backing just covers the line of stitching attaching the points to the quilt top.  Hand stitch the backing to the prairie points using whatever stitch you usually use to sew binding to the back of a quilt.  I like to use the ladder stitch.

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Step 1. Insert the needle into the fold, right in the crease. Bring the needle back out along the fold, about 1/8” – 1/4” away.  Pull the thread through.

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Step 2. Insert the needle into the bottom layer (in this case the prairie points) right below where thread comes out of the fold.  Keeping the needle in line with the folded edge, bring it back out of the fabric 1/8” – 1/4” away.

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Step 3. Insert the needle into the top layer again, in the fold, immediately above where the thread was last pulled through the bottom layer.  Bring the needle out along the fold 1/8” – 1/4” away. 

Keep stitching until you have stitched the backing down on all sides.  Take a few close stitches at the corners to keep them tidy.

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And here’s the finished product, back and front!

I hope this series has inspired or encouraged you to add prairie points to a quilt!

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For more information about planning, making and attaching prairie points, see the rest of the Prairie Point Tutorial series: