Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wrong season!

Please don’t misunderstand.  I am not ready for winter just yet.  In fact, fall can wait a little bit as well.  That said, I did jump ahead in my sewing room this week.

IMG_8542

This block idea has been simmering in my head for over a year now.  I wanted a six-pointed snowflake for a particular quilt. I’m not sure why I was so determined for it to have 6-fold symmetry like a proper snowflake.  I’m perfectly happy with vague representations of other objects in blocks, but my brain was determined.  I fussed in EQ on and off  and finally figured out how to section the block so paper piecing would work.

My other discovery was this tutorial from the Oregon Coastal Quilters’ Guild on paper piecing with freezer paper. The tutorial calls it paperless paper piecing.  I found the link on a blog a while ago and bookmarked it.  Now I wish I could remember whose blog it was so I could thank the blogger for sharing the link.  I’ll be using this technique again!

Here’s why I like it.  Compare:

IMG_8541IMG_8538

On the left:  traditional paper piecing, where you have to tear away all those little bits of paper when you’re done sewing.  Plus you need one foundation for each block or section you sew.

On the right:  simply peeling away the freezer paper template, which can be reused a few times (I managed 6 times). By folding the foundation and sewing beside the fold, you never sew through the paper, though in all other ways this works like the usual paper piecing.  I won’t repeat the instructions here as the tutorial I linked to is very clear.

I would add that I found it helpful to fold along all the “sewing” lines on the template to crease the paper in the right places before starting to add fabric.  Once fabric was involved it was easier to fold the freezer paper in the right place when there was a crease to guide the folding.  This will make more sense after you’ve seen the tutorial and tried this!

This wonderful technique was not responsible for the piecing glitches and resulting trimming and fudging required to fit my snowflake sections together.  That was due to careless scaling of the block.  It really does help to set the block printing options to the correct aspect ratio when I print out the foundations…  Ooops!

I’m off to print the templates again (with the proper settings) to make another snowflake and confirm that fudging is not required to make it work.  While I’m at it, maybe I’ll play around with more snowflake designs.  After all, every snowflake is unique, so I really shouldn’t have three of the same design in one quilt, right?

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts

Monday, August 11, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

Sandra over at Musings of a Menopausal Melon tagged me in the Around the World Blog Hop doing the rounds in blogland.  You might like to go cheer her on as she challenges herself to finish the applique round of her guild round robin project.  Hats off to her for doing this pretty applique – I don’t tend to stretch myself in that direction!

The point of the blog hop is to introduce ourselves around and share what we do, how we do it, why we do it.  Explore our creative process. Right.  I never thought much about this, so we’ll see how the exploration goes.

Before I start that let me introduce you to Raewyn of Love To Stitch, who will join the hop on her blog next week.  Raewyn lives on a farm in New Zealand, works in a quilt shop and produces a beautiful variety of stitched  projects large and small. Check out the Birdy Love BOM she designed last year to encourage freemotion practice.  I hope you’ll take time to visit her next Monday to read her musings about her creative process.

Now, about me and my creative process…

Copy of paul and shona's quiltI’m Joanne.  I started quilting about 14 years ago when I needed a wedding gift for my brother and sister-in-law.  I spent the gift budget on a ruler, rotary cutter, mat and fabric and made a lap quilt.  The gift was delivered a bit more than a year after the wedding (because it was a first quilt, and hand quilted, and I had a toddler and a newborn and was a tad busy and tired and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!).  I almost kept that quilt for myself, but it would have looked bad to send a store-bought gift at that late date…

However late the gift was, I was hooked and I have been cutting up perfectly good fabric and sewing it back together ever since. I love colors and shapes and playing with them.  I enjoy putting on music to sing along with as I sew unit after unit and see something new emerge.  (I blame my daughter for lodging the Frozen soundtrack firmly in my skull the last couple of quilts!)  If I’m anxious or nervous or upset, designing and sewing occupies my mind so I can’t fret for a little while.  If I’m happy and relaxed, the same process makes me more happy and relaxed. I win either way!

IMG_6404

This one (Rudolph is from Jingle Patch from Quitmaker’s Patch Pals collections, borders from the Polar Patch pattern) was just pure happy and getting happier as it got later in the night (sleep deprivation can make me a little loopy).  I just couldn’t seem to step away from the sewing machine.

Over the last 4 or 5 years I have started making quilts from my own designs more often than from someone else’s patterns.  I like figuring out how to make an idea work (just please don’t ask me where the ideas come from because I really don’t know). I also like piecing but find that a lot of what I find in quilt magazines these days is geared to less piecing and a quicker finish.  There’s nothing wrong with that, except that I enjoy the piecing process so I don’t want to get it over with quickly.  In fact, slower is more in tune with my budget:  a quilt with more piecing takes me longer to assemble, so I don’t have to start something new as frequently, so I don’t have to buy fabric for the next quilt quite as often.  My apologies to my local quilt shop!

IMG_6886IMG_8332IMG_8172IMG_6704Leaves 2

Looking back over pictures of my quilts I find it hard to find a description that fits all of them.

I thought I gravitated to bright happy colors, mostly marbles, tone on tones and batik, over bold prints, though I can be swayed to buy novelty prints now and then. But as you can see above, I love those rich autumn tones too.  I used to think I was a blue quilter, but then I made Clear Skies (Kyoto Garden by Judy Martin) all in blue and I love it but haven’t been compelled to dive into my bin of blue fabric since.  Vintage Sparkle is all in reproduction prints and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed playing with those more subdued colors.  There may be more of those in my future. I seem to like shapes with points too, but Quilter’s Scrapbook is one of my favourites despite being mostly squares.  Autumn Moons is heavy on circles and I loved making that one, so I foresee more circles too.

Geese Across the TableJelly Bean StarsQuilter's ScrapbookSparkling StringsStretchWandering Geese

About a year and a half ago I started writing patterns for some of my designs and selling  them as pdf downloads on Craftsy.com.  There was a learning curve involved in translating those designs into a pattern someone else could follow!  It felt good to challenge my brain though, and I learned to use EQ7 and PowerPoint to make and edit diagrams, and to lay out and explain steps in a clear, organized way.  Having learned heaps about it in the last year, I spent a chunk of my summer reformatting and editing earlier patterns. I was proud of them when I first wrote them and now they are even better. Now I’m pondering marketing patterns wholesale to quilt stores, and I can tell you that’s a whole other daunting learning curve!

I don’t have many UFO’s (UnFinished Objects).  Every now and then I end up with 6 or 7 projects in various stages of completion.  That’s a paltry number by many quilters’ standards, but it’s too high for me.  When I have too many projects I spin around in circles, not knowing where to start and I get nothing done.  I feel I should be doing something and that’s when quilting starts to feel like a chore that must be tackled rather than the stress-relieving leisure activity I enjoy.  Once I tackle the chore I can get back to enjoying the process again, but it’s best to not get in that fix in the first place.  But I do and I will again!

At the moment I have four projects in various stages.

Top complete 2014-03-18

This bed quit for my son is in the hand quilting basket.  Quilting will resume once cooler fall evening arrive, so I don’t feel too bad about this one being at a standstill.

IMG_6575

I promise no more pictures of Seeing Stars until I actually quilt it.  It’s been sitting around a while waiting to be machine quilted.  That brings me to a note about the quilting part of quilt making.  I love how the quilting texture adds so much interest to the quilt.  I like light custom quilting, working with and complementing the piecing rather than running across it with an all over pattern or competing with a very dense, elaborate (don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate some of the amazing dense custom quilting out there – it just isn’t me).

Here’s the catch.  I’m a slow hand quilter and I don’t particularly enjoy freemotion quilting. Engaging the services of a longarmer is not happening, due to both budget and to me wanting the whole quilt to be mine. If I muck up the quilting I have only myself to blame, but if it brings the quit to life I have only myself to congratulate.  Vain of me, I know!  So I am learning to do more with my walking foot, getting out of the ditch and adding design elements.  You can look here, here and here for examples of my walking foot quilting.

IMG_7790

Vintage Sparkle is waiting patiently for its borders, then it is slated for hand quilting.

IMG_8518[1]

Finally, 156 HSTs are being shuffled daily on my cutting table until I decide which arrangement will become a mini quilt or a runner, or if I can somehow add to them from my stash to stretch the project to a baby-sized affair.  There are a few patterns in the works too – Sparkling Wishes, Baby Steps, perhaps Autumn Moons…  There’s plenty to keep me busy.

Happy Quilting!

Friday, August 8, 2014

156 HST

My quilting space is a little cluttered with non-quilty things at the moment.  They aren’t even my non-quilty things.  They will be cleared away by the time school starts next Thursday. After that I can spread out Vintage Sparkle and see about getting the borders sorted out, but in the meantime I needed a project to work on that didn’t need a lot of space.

IMG_8506

Enter 156 bonus HST from Starlight Wishes (formerly known as Starlight Starbright until I realized there is a QAL by that name going on and sharing a name would just get confusing).  They needed trimming down to a uniform size.  Now I get to play with them to decided what exactly they will become.

I will say that whatever they become will be much smaller than the visions dancing in my head as I trimmed.  156 HSTs should give me a fairly substantial start to a project…except for the inconvenient fact that they are only 1.75” each!  The scale didn’t register in my brain until I consciously did the math.  My 156 HST will only yield about one 15” block, or 2-and-a-bit 10” blocks, or four 7.5” blocks…You get the picture!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Taming scraps - again

Wait, didn’t I do this already?  I distinctly remember in January 2013 I attacked the scrap bin with the intention of cutting all those bits into useful sizes, à la Quiltville’s scrap user’s system.  By April I posted that the bin was empty!  I promptly used the bin for something else so I wouldn’t be tempted to let the untrimmed scraps pile up again.

I did pretty well for a while.  When I cut fabric for a project, I cut down the small leftovers right away.  I was very pleased with myself, yet somewhere along the way the scraps started reproducing.  All by themselves, I’m sure.  When I was tidying up my quilting corner last week, I found this:

IMG_8476

I don’t remember tossing all those scraps in there.  Well, not that many, anyway.

So, I’ve been spending some time every day sorting and cutting these down.  At least this bin is smaller than the one I tackled last year! As you can see, I’m making progress: the piles of strings, strips, bricks and squares are growing and the level in the bin is going down.

IMG_8477

Now I need to start a new project so I can put this bin to work storing the new project, hopefully depriving any new untrimmed scraps of breeding grounds.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Green and blooming

Unlike the past 2 or 3 tears, we have had rain this summer.  yay!  My garden is looking happy for the first time in a long while so I thought I’d share. 

IMG_8362

The tipsy pots!  Love these.

IMG_8309

Daisies and blanket flowers flanking a barrel full of celosia and purple sweet potato vine.  The yellow coreopsis behind the daisies started blooming after I took the picture.

IMG_8341IMG_8345IMG_8441

Daylilies.  Their bloom time is almost over now, but they have been splashing their color around for the last month or so.

IMG_8412IMG_8418IMG_8423

Purple fountain grass, coreopsis, coneflower.  Sweet potato vine, lilies and daisies.  Black-eyed Susan (very late to bloom this year, just starting).

IMG_8421IMG_8435

Phlox. Sunflower.

IMG_8262IMG_8358IMG_8353

Asiatic lilies.  One of these years we’ll manage to keep the rabbits from stripping all the leaves off the stems so these beauties might have a chance to multiply and come up in gorgeous bunches instead of single blooms.

IMG_8383IMG_8384

The swing set birdfeeder.  My son built the storage bench in the background with guidance from my dad last month.  The sunflowers are volunteers planted by the birds.  We pulled a lot of sprouts but left a few to fill in blank spots and bloom and make the birds happy.  They like to pluck the seeds out of the flower centers.

IMG_8238IMG_8240

Coreopsis, daisies and feather reed grass. The daisy clumps are all blooming heavily now, even prettier, which I suppose begs the question why I didn’t go out and take another picture…but it’s dark now, so these pictures will have to do for now.

IMG_8391IMG_8387

The castle, now a glorified planter.  By the end of summer the German ivy in the tower will be spilling halfway down the tower.

IMG_8457

Behind this volunteer sunflower is half the veggie garden. Honestly, the volunteer sunflowers look better and sturdier than the ones we planted on purpose.  Next year I think we’ll skip the seed packets and take our chances with the birdseed!

IMG_8450IMG_8455

You can see we have a bit of a gnome problem.  There must be at least half a dozen out there plotting to infiltrate the house.

IMG_8453

In past years the impatiens I planted around these hostas completely covered the ground with mounds of color.  I think the past years’ flowers have used up the nutrients in the soil and I didn’t add enough compost this spring to replenish it.  Note for next spring…

IMG_8095IMG_8219

Herbs and marigolds in early June, then late June.  And another gnome.

IMG_8448IMG_8347

Lilies and switch grass below the deck. Sweet potato vine, red salvia, annual vinca and marigolds in the boxes.  The sweet potato is finally spilling over like I wanted it to, unlike the sorry (or perhaps just thirsty) specimens from the last couple of years.

That’s about it.  There’s also a lovely little shaded corner with a small patio and Adirondack chairs, but the rabbits, and possibly some deer, have wreaked havoc there this year so it looks a little sorry.  I haven’t been inspired to pull out the camera to document the nibbling (well, more like feasting than nibbling).

How is your garden growing this summer?