Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More snowflakes

Last month I blogged about a paper pieced snowflake.  Since then I have become a wee bit snowflake obsessed.  When I wasn’t quilting Seeing Stars I was tweaking snowflake designs, and breaking them into sections in different ways to find the best way to sew them together, and how to add and shape seam allowances on my templates before printing so the sections would line up just so…. Well, I’ll just say I’m rather sheepish about how much time I spent planning the sewing versus how much time I actually sewed.

Here’s what I accomplished in the snowflake sewing department:

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You’ll notice that unlike the snowflake on the left, the snowflake on the right does not have a bunch of seams meeting in the middle.  Definitely worth all the extra planning time!

Here’s part of what I accomplished in the planning part:


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All four of these can be made using the same paper piecing pattern!  Just choose different color combinations for all the pieces and ta da!  Once I noticed that, the designs multiplied.  And as I played with colour placement I noticed a spot here or there where a subtle change in one part of the section might give a whole new design.  Then that new design had a few color combinations…

I did say I was obsessed.  I have 7 different snowflake templates (that’s not counting the ones I discarded), each with at least 3 color combos, for a total of 26 distinct snowflake designs. Some are similar, but subtly different.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not planning to sew them all.  They would look cool all together (I did mock it up in EQ to see!) but I’m not that much of a paper piecing fan!  I’m thinking about a pillow.  Or 5 flakes for a table runner.  Or 7 large flakes for a bed runner. Or…

Does anyone want to sew along to help me stay focused?  If you’d like a snow-along quilt along, leave me a comment and I’ll think about the best way to share the patterns.  Maybe I’ll even go learn how to host a linky…and make a quilt-along button to share…and remember to sew a few blocks sometime too!
 Linking up with Linky Tuesday and Let's Bee Social

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mood swing!

Thanks for all the kind encouragement about what I claimed was a lumpy, wrinkled, puffy mess in my last post.  I pushed through and finished the quilt, binding and all, then went through another mood swing:  I love this quilt!  You may hear my daughter say “I told you so”!

Forty-Eight (design by Canuck Quilter Designs)

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It took me about a year to decide how to quilt this quilt.  I came up with three or four sketches of elaborate and less elaborate custom quilting for the center and the borders.  This was going to be the quilt where I practiced FMQ.  With well defined small areas I figured I wouldn’t have to move too much quilt for each design and I might be able to pull it off.

When I finally pulled the flimsy out of its storage box, those plans went out the window.  The colours and the design jumped out at me and I fell in love with the combination all over again.  I love that the orange stars pop out but that if look again, I see stars in the blues and greens.  Look again and I see white stars.  Or a lattice.  I just love this about the design and I decided that’s what I want the focus to be.  Any of the custom quilting plans I came up with focused attention on a particular part and interfered with the eye finding a different way to see the quit.

IMG_8622In the end,  I quilted lines 1/4” way from every diagonal seam, on both sides of the seam.  I did the same on every vertical and horizontal seam that touches the points of the squares.  Every other vertical and horizontal seam was stitched in the ditch to flatten out the mountains I complained about in my last post. 

 

I wanted the colored part of the border to look like a framing mat set on top of the plain cream part, so I quilted parallel lines like a frame around the center, with one line running between but not over the points, as though it runs beneath the points.  It looks better in person than in the poorly lit photo below.  I quilted I the ditch in the zigzag border.

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As you can see, it has been kid-tested.

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It is now officially ready to curl up in next to the fireplace on cooler nights.

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All it needs is a name.  I called it Seeing Stars for the last year, but after googling that name I discovered there are a lot of quilts, and a quilt-along, by that name.  I’ll have to dig a little deeper!  I do have a couple of thoughts.  I’ll let you know what I choose to rename it when I figure it out.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Progress of sorts

Two Fridays ago I was all set to finally quilt my Seeing Stars quilt.  It was all basted. The sewing machine turned on. I had a quilting plan.  All I needed was a full bobbin of thread, which I proceeded to wind.  The bobbin then declined to come off the bobbin winder.

Full stop. Oh well, the machine was due for its annual spa visit (also known as annual cleaning and check-up) so I brought it in for service.  It came home this past Friday with a new bobbin winder (which apparently was not covered under warranty, which annoys me tremendously) and I started quilting on Friday night.  Saturday I did a bit more.  Saturday night I stomped upstairs in a stew, proclaiming I had turned the quilt into a lumpy, rumpled, distorted mess.  My husband says I sounded ready to pitch the whole thing out the window.

IMG_8621Believe me, the quilt was not lying flat.  Hill country would be a better description.  The quilt top was perfectly flat on the design wall, and as I was basting, so why the hills now?  The only thing I can come up with is that I might have stretched the backing in my efforts to make it smooth, and when I took it off the frame it relaxed and drew in and pulled in the top along with it.  It wasn’t obvious to me the whole week it sat basted on my sewing table though.

Today I added some stitching in the ditch cutting through the domed bits, which helped flatten things a bit.  There is still more puckering than I like, but now I can live with it. This is a picture of one of the better sections.  I do still love those fabrics…

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I am NOT taking close-ups of the wavering not-so-straight lines, or the ditch stitching that jumped out of the ditch, or the seam line that should be straight but got distorted somehow as I wrestled the quilt around.

I guess you can tell I’m still not very pleased, though really, I am much less disgruntled now than on the weekend.  I’ve been alternating between two mantras as I quilted away today.  First up, “Galloping horse, galloping horse…”  You know, the horse from the “if you can’t see it from the back of a galloping horse, don’t worry about it” saying.  Well, I don’t have a galloping horse to view the quit from, but I’m guessing the imperfections wouldn’t be glaring from that vantage point.

Mantra number two, a quote posted by Jasmine recently: “Perfect isn’t flawless.  Perfect is finished.”  As this quit top sat unquilted for 15 months, it’s past time for it to reach this kind of perfection!  Almost there.  I just have to finish quilting the borders.  The first bit I quilted puckered up, of course.  The bobbin incident should have tipped me off that this quilt wouldn’t be easy!

Galloping horse, perfect is finished, galloping horse, perfect is finished….I’m off to (hopefully) finish the quilting!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

2.5 kilometers

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Believe it or not, after 15 months as a finished top Seeing Stars is finally basted and I have a quilting plan.  I even bought new thread. Here’s the 2500 m spool of Invisafil ready to go.

I didn’t give much thought to that number: 2500.  It’s a large spool of fine thread, so yes, it has quite a bit of thread on it.  My husband, however, saw 2500 m and asked “Are you sure there’s 2.5 kilometers (that’s 1.5 miles) of thread on there?”

Whoa!  When you put it like that, doesn’t it sound like so much more?

My son offered to unwind two spools one after the other as he runs his next 5 km race to test it out.  I thought that might be considered a tripping hazard, so I’ll just take the manufacturers at their word!

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.

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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:

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!