Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Anniversary quilts gifted

I have been absent again, but the garden isn't to blame this time.  I enjoyed a vacation in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, visiting family and soaking in the sights and sounds of the coast.

East coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada

Both my parents and my husband's parents celebrate 50th wedding anniversaries this year.  What's a quilter to do?  Mark the occasion with  quilts, of course. Did you know that two queen sized quilts can smoosh into one carry-on sized suitcase?

You have seen this one before.  Vintage Sparkle was made with my in-laws in mind.

Vintage Sparkle
What I didn't share before were the personal touches, because Pat reads my blog and she didn't know this one was for her and Bob. I didn't want to spill the beans!

Their last name is quilted in one corner. "1968", "2018" and "50th" are quilted in the other three corners.  I can't take credit for the idea.  Liz Meimann, who longarmed this one, suggested it.

I shared a glimpse of the second quilt before I sent it off to Liz for quilting. Mom knew I was making this for her and dad but I wanted her to be at least a little surprised, so I didn't share again until I delivered the quilt.  Here is Fundy Skies for my parents.

This time I asked Liz to leave some unquilted space in the corners.  When the quilt came home I added some hand quilting.  It was a little bit hectic around here just before we left on our trip and I didn't get as many photos of the quilt as I should have. While I was visiting, I was busy, well, visiting, so didn't take as many photos then either. I don't have close-ups of Liz's quilting, and only of some of the hand quilting.

Hand quilting in progress
Some machine and some hand quilting

I hand quilted mom and dad's last name, Lalonde, in one corner,  Initials in another, and years in the other two.

One little note about the batting.  I chose wool batting for this quilt. I had never used it before but I certainly will again.  Hand quilting through the wool batting was a dream!  It almost makes me want to rip out all the stitches I have already put in Laura's quilt.  Almost, but not quite.

There will be a pattern for Fundy Skies soon, with wall/baby, throw, twin and queen sizes.  I think it is about 95% complete.  If you'd like to be a tester, please email me!

I will leave you with a few more picture of Nova Scotia scenery.  It was so hard to leave this behind!

Louisbourg Lighthouse Trail, Nova Scotia, Canada

Louisbourg Lighthouse, Nova Scotia, Canada

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Playing with FMQ rulers!

Look what I am doing this month:

Let me back up a little. Last fall I made the top for an ISU Cyclones baby sized version of Jelly Bean Stars.

It launched the rewrite of the pattern.  You can read about those thought processes here.  After re-imagining the design I had to make another version,which I named Magnitudes.  That one is quilted, bound, photographed and ready to be the pattern cover quilt, and the pattern is with testers as I type (thank you testers!!!)  After all that, Cyclone Baby remained forgotten in a box, unquilted.

Backing up even more, two years ago I bought a Westalee Rulers starter set to start adding ruler work to my limited freemotion quilting skill set.  I tried a few test sandwiches, had skipped stitches, broken thread and frustration.  The rulers have been in a box until I had spare time to figure out what was going on.  Spare time?  Hah!

Fast forward to last month.  The local quilt shop hosted two classes on beginner ruler work with Westalee rulers!  I'm so glad I was able to take the class. Thank you Teresa for switching work days with me!

After adjusting a few settings on my machine I had great success on practice pieces.
Ruler work practice

I have always had trouble replicating FMQ success when I start working on a larger pieced quilt, so I was a bit apprehensive about just launching into the two big projects I want to custom quilt with rulers.  Honestly, the rulers might have gone back into the box again if Cyclone Baby hadn't whispered in my ear.

Cyclone Baby is larger than a practice sandwich, but not huge.  It's pieced.  It has blocks and sashing providing space for trying different things.  It doesn't have a purpose at this point so I won't be crushed if I mess it up (well, not too crushed).  OK, let's break out the rulers!

I stitched in the ditch around the stars with a straight edge ruler.  I had a little trouble where there was bulk in the seams, because the highest I can set the ruler presser foot is still pretty tight over thick seams, so it caught a little bit.  Still, it was easier overall and a lot easier on my shoulder that wrestling the quilt round and round to quilt around the star with my walking foot, and definitely straighter than I can manage with freemotion without rulers.

I used the "Circles on Quilt - Circles Set 3" to stitch concentric circles in the background of the star block.  Again, doing it with rulers was much easier on my shoulder than moving the quilt under a walking foot.  When I stitched two small circles on each square of Tic Tac Hoot I worked a lot harder than I did to make these multiple circles!

The petal shapes in the sashing are made with the 2" inside circle template.  These gave me trouble with skipped stitches and breaking thread and made me very, very unhappy.  I tried changing the needle. I tried re-threading the machine. I tried cleaning out the bobbin area.  I gnashed my teeth.  Why did it work on the practice sandwich and not on my quilt?

My non-sewing husband came home, took one look at me and gave me a wide berth before asking "Have you tried changing the thread?"

Hmmph. Well. No.  I shouldn't have to.  So there.

OK, I changed the thread and I think I'm back on track.  I'll share again when I reach the borders.  It might be a few weeks.  Summer activities exert a pretty strong pull...

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Gardening won

There has been very little sewing to share the past month. I haven't kept up with what's been going on in blogland either.  It wasn't for lack of interest.  Rather it was a lack of time. Setting the garden to rights before the heavy heat set in gobbled up all my days off and some evenings as well, and tired me out so that all I wanted to do was tuck into bed at the end of the day.

Evening primsrose
After a couple of years of letting gardening chores slide down the priority list, there were just some things that could not be put off any longer.  Some flowerbeds were terribly overgrown, plants needed dividing and thistles and dandelions were just a little too comfortable.

I forgot to take "before" pictures, but here's a peek at the "after" as it starts to bloom.

Redbud tree surrounded by lilies
This bed around the redbud tree is brand new. It caused my daughter to stop dead in her tracks when she saw  us digging in May.  She finally found her voice to ask:  "You're adding MORE?  Didn't you say last year you couldn't keep up with what you had?"  She was right, but that was tired, hot August me saying that.  The version of me who was digging a new flower bed was the optimistic May, spring-is-finally-here me.  Plus, all those lilies came from plants elsewhere in the yard that sorely needed dividing, and how could I throw any out after they survived the long winter and started sprouting again?  There are daisies, purple salvia and ornamental grasses behind the redbud, all divisions from elsewhere in the yard.

Oh, that redbud?  Four years ago a stick came home from Girl Scout daycamp for us to plant.  We stuck it in a bucket of water while we pondered where to plant it, forgot about it for four weeks, remembered it and decided to throw it away...but when we went to get it to toss it, it had sprouted leaves so we dug a hole and hoped for the best.  It's doing great!

We added about a foot and a half to the width of this flower bed because the plants were too crowded and planted in a straight line with no imagination. The proportions are much better now.  Black eyed susans and purple coneflower will bloom later inthe summer once the lilies are done.  I hope the pinkish-red daylily I moved from the front yard will bloom too.  It looked a little parched earlier this month.

Swingset frame birdfeeder with flower garden
We're still feeding the birds (and squirrels).

Tipsy pots

The tipsy pots are a challenge to keep watered, but they add a nice but of height and summer long colour with the annual blooms.

New front steps and retaining wall planter

Our proudest achievement this spring is the little retaining wall beside the front steps. We had listing, crumbling concrete steps and a rusting, rickety railing replaced with these new steps and railing last fall.  It looks so much better that we were encouraged to finally do something about the slope to the left of the steps, where plants couldn't thrive because any water just ran down the slope before it could sink into the soil.  The wall is built and my husband and I are still speaking to each other!  Now we'll see if the plants survive, and if the wall survives next winter's frost.

Vinca, marigolds and purple fountain grass


Now my challenge is to keep things watered. It has been rather wet and stormy for the last week or so, and I know that once things dry out I will still think it just rained and surely I don't need to water yet...

Now that the garden is mostly reset, except for a bit more weeding and mulching, I can get back to work in the sewing room and focus on finishing a few patterns as well.  I'll need testers for Magnitudes soon.  The pattern will have baby, throw, twin and queen sizes.  Anyone interested?

Friday, May 18, 2018


Let me begin by saying that my camera just is not capturing the richness of these colors.  I took closeup pictures hoping that would help, but it doesn't.  It just won't capture the texture and gold flecks of these Artisan Spirit Shimmer fabrics.

I don't play with precuts very often.. I never know what to do with the pinked edges.  Should I cut them off?  Measure from the outside edges, or the middle or the inside of the pinked edges?  There is also the possibility that the precut piece isn't exactly the nominal size on the package.  I've had 2 1/2" strips that were a little narrow, and some a little wide.  This isn't a problem for something like Jelly Roll Race quilts, but if the pattern needs exact cut sizes, that can cause trouble. In this case, the packages of 10" squares came home anyway because it was just too pretty to stay on a store shelf. 

An idea for a scrap quilt had been simmering for a while and it occurred to me that I might be able to make it from precut 10" squares instead to use up the pretties that came home. Technically, I should have been able to cut four 2 1/2" x 10" strips from each square, but the square wasn't quite square so I had to settle for fewer cuts per square.    This leads me to a question for users of precuts and patterns:  would you rather have the cutting instructions assume the theoretical maximum possible cuts, or less efficient cuts that result in  leftovers but won't cause problems if the precut pieces are not quite the size they should be?  Please chime in with a comment!

Next on the list for this project:
  • Find a better name
  • Settle on a design to use up all the bonus HST generated in making the quilt top
  • Quilt and bind 
So maybe a late summer finish?  That may seem sluggish, but the garden is calling, finally, after a long winter!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Fundy Skies version 2

 I'm on pins and needles.  I sent this off to the longarm quilter last week.

Fundy Skies quilt in progress, Canuck Quilter Designs

Fundy Skies quilt top in progress, Canuck Quilter Designs

I finished putting on the borders first, of course!  I just didn't get a picture of the full top before handing it off.

I'm on pins and needles because I don't like giving up control. Hand quilting this one is out.  I'm way too slow and I'm not even halfway done the quilting my daughter's twin size quilt yet! I also can't machine quilt this queen sized top on my domestic machine with the desk and space that I have without hurting my sholulder. I really don't want to go back to physical therapy again so I gave in.   Liz of A Quilted Memory in Nevada, IA is very good at listening to what kind of quilting I want, and she does a very nice job.  I'm sure it will be lovely when I get it back, but I will still be twitchy until I actually see it!

Next up...something with these Artisan Spirit Shimmer fabrcis by Northcott:

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Throwback Thursday - Star Soup

Sandra at mmmquilts! is hosting Throwback Thursday the first Thursday of every month.  I missed last month, but here's my contribution for May.

I think the pattern was called Star Soup, though I can't remember who it was by because, ahem, I didn't attach a label.  Maybe this will be a lesson to me a dozen years later: remember the label! This was my third completed quilt, finished in Sept. 2006. (I know the date because the photo was dated.) It only took me a couple of years to make.  Piecing it went fairly quickly but the hand quilting slowed down the finish.  This was in my "one finished quilt every two to three years" period.

I quilted a diagonal grid lined up with the star points, stitched in the ditch around each star, and quilted a little heart in most of the stars.  The rest of the stars have letters to spell out my daughter's name. 

I used a painting stencil to trace the letters.  I did not and do not free-hand that well!

I bought all the star fabrics and the background at Poppin's Parlour in Pentiction, British Columbia but by the time I had assembled the top and discovered I didn't have enough background fabric to use for the border we had moved to Iowa.  Being short of fabric was entirely my fault, by the way, not the shop's.  It turns out that if you make a quilt larger than the pattern plans for, you'll need more fabric.  Who knew ?  :)

Anyhow, I couldn't find more of the same fabric, but another blue with slightly larger hearts scattered all over fit the theme so I went with that.

This quilt has been well loved and used. Though it was replaced as Laura's main bed quilt several years ago, it still gets pulled out now and then for extra warmth.  I curled up under it on the couch recently and decided I need to make another flannel quilt.  It is so soft and cuddly!  I'll get right on that...or maybe just add to the list?  That list is getting very long...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Starfall Parade of Quilts

This parade of quilts is being posted posted a little later than I anticipated.  I had internet connectivity issues this weekend.  However, it is still technically the weekend here, so I'll say it isn't quite late!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the generous quilters who offered to test my Starfall pattern.  Their feedback was a huge help to help me write a better pattern and release it with confidence, knowing the fabric amounts are adequate, cutting instructions are accurate and instructions are clear.

Without further ado, here are photos of their quilt tops.  I think you will agree that it is great fun to see so many varied fabric choices for a single design.  Well done, testers!

 Kathi Kivi (visit her on Facebook here)

 Judy Juhl

 Joyce Penney Schroeder

Rashida Juzer  (Visit her website here or find her on instagram as @no3quiltstudio)

Kim Williams

Sue Babbitt

Julie Sheehy

Amelia Clausen

Ann Wilbur

I love them all (quilts and testers)!  I think I might be lucky enough to see a few of the quilts in person once they are quilted as some of the testers live in my general part of the world (hint,hint, you know who you are!).  I'm looking forward to it!

If you would like to make your own version of Starfall, you can purchase the pattern here.  Use the coupon code STARFALL20 through the end of April for a 20% discount on this pattern.