Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Too tired to quilt ?!!!

That can’t be right!  It’s accurate though.  Three weeks ago I started working part time at my local quilt shop.  I get to gaze at and cut gorgeous fabric all day and be inspired by what customers are working on…and I’m too tired to play with my own stash when I get home!

I’m adapting to the new routine and getting used to being on my feet 7 hours a day. That standing and moving around all day has been good for the waistline!.  As I adapt, my energy is coming back so I’m working on some of these a bit at a time.


I thought I was done with snowflakes, but then someone suggested that they could definitely see these in a Christmas tree skirt, and the Christmas fabric is in at the shop where I pass by it several times a day 3 days a week, so I just had to play with that idea! 

But for now, sleep!

About the name

Which Way North arrived safely at its destination and the recipient had a stab at figuring out where the name came from.  This one quilt went to my father-in-law, who is retired from the Canadian Air Force.  Honestly, I like his explanation better than mine:

Your name for the quilt was most appropriate; some of the most interesting and enjoyable flying I did in the 25 years or so in the air force were the flight over northern Canada. Seeing the wild life one only saw in photographs; musk oxen forming their defensive circles when startled by our overflights; mother polar bears on the ice with their young standing on their hid legs inviting us to come down lower if we dared; millions of Snow and Canada geese forming to start their fall migrations south; the beauty of the desolation of the northern landscape and thousands of icebergs in the Davis strait and Baffin Bay starting their journey south to Newfoundland waters.”

Sigh.  That’s so much more poetic than the actual origin of the quilt’s name.  I named the quilt after a goof, ooops, error.  It really is subtle though, and unless you’re a pilot or flight navigator you wouldn’t notice.


If you remember from my previous post, my husband suggested adding runway numbers to the quilt’s borders.  Since his dad spent the greater part of his time in the Air Force at one base, my husband looked up the runway numbers for that airstrip, and showed me the diagram of how the two runways were laid out. 

runway numbers

I thought I had it.  I measured angles and everything!  I quilted away. When my husband got home I proudly showed him what I had accomplished.  He said it looked great, but I noticed a look on his face as he studied the quilt.  It was a look that said there was something wrong but that he thought keeping it to himself was the right thing to do.  Still, after being married to him for the last 20+ years, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading his face and I made him spit it out:  I had the runways reversed!

Guessing, correctly, that the stitching was staying as it was, because the quilt needed to go in the mail ASAP, but that I was unhappy with the goof, he stared at it some more, and announced that all was fine.  As long as we declared the bottom of the quilt “north”, rather than the top, as we’re used to seeing on maps, everything was consistent.  Yay!  By the time we named the quilt as I stitched the binding on, we were having a grand old chuckle about the puzzle we would set for his dad and that’s where the name came from.

North and south labelled on quilt

Monday, August 10, 2015

Which Way North?

Presenting Which Way North?, which will shortly be winging its way north to its new owner.


I can’t tell you yet how I came up with that name, but I can say that it has nothing at all to do with that little maple leaf and Canada being in the northern half of the continent.  It does have to do with an oops in my quilting design, and that’s all I will say until the recipient has a stab at figuring it out!

For now, just a few more pictures, since my hubby was kind enough to hold it up for me at the park at 7am this morning. 


My husband had a lot of say in the design of this quilt.  I made a Pinterest board of airplane quilts and asked him what he liked. Well, he liked the propeller on one plane, but not the rest of the block.  Another had a nice fuselage, but otherwise looked more like a robot than a plane.  That other one had a nice tail, but was otherwise too squat.  And so on.  In the end I tried to note what he liked about each block and incorporated that into my version of an airplane block.


When it came time to quilt the quilt, he had ideas about navigation diagrams.  Hmm.  They were a little trickier.  They would end up looking like a scribble and have very dense quilting in some spots and very very light quilting in others.  So I picked the circle part of those diagrams and ran with that shape, which turned into all those concentric circles in the background.


I planned to just quilt straight lines in the border, but before I started hubby asked if I could quilt numbers.  Why?  Runways are numbered, don’t you know. I quilted numbered runways.  You can see the start of a couple of intersecting ones there in the border.


Here’s another one.  I’m quite pleased that I managed to free motion quilt on the traced lines so my numbers look crisp and not wobbly!


Another picture just because.


And the back.


And the requisite “quilt with feet” shot.

Finally, just in case you think I actually went out to the park before breakfast just for a photo shoot, I’ll admit that someone had to drive a teen to early morning cross country running practice there anyway!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Checkerboard border

It seemed like a good idea, then not so much, then good again, then I ground my teeth.   I think it was worth it. 


(The blue is a bit washed out from the camera flash, but that’s what I get at 9:30pm!)

I thought my airplane quilt needed a little something more.  A checkerboard border to echo the nine-patch alternate blocks sounded just right, and with strip piecing it would come together quickly.  In theory.

In practice, strip piecing is still faster than cutting and sewing together individual 1.5 inch squares, but 196 little sub-cut units still take a while to cut and sew together!  About halfway through I didn’t think this was such a good idea anymore! Thankfully the seams nested very nicely so I didn’t have to pin all those.

Once the border strips were pieced I was happy again – until I measured them.  I thought I had a pretty accurate seam allowance, but being off by as little as1/32 of an inch or less on 40+ seams adds up to about an inch.  On the positive side it was too long rather than too short, and I hadn’t yet cut the blue for the inner border I meant to use to float the center, so I was able to adjust that to make the pieced border fit.  I won’t dwell on the blue strip that ended up too short by about 3 inches even though I used the quilt to mark the length.

Now I’m pleased with how the border looks and think it was well worth the effort.  Now to choose a border width for the final blue border….  I think I might just procrastinate and go prepare the backing and binding instead.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Is my paper shrinking?

OK folks, I measured before and after.  Paper does indeed shrink when it is ironed.  Even the fancy “paper piecing” newsprint-style paper whose manufacturers claim it won’t shrink and curl.  But here’s the kicker: it seems to go back to its original size after cooling down.

IMG_9863This week I needed some airplane blocks, and paper piecing cropped up again.  I had to choose between fussy templates, free-form plane blocks that would each be a little different (sorry, this layout will look better with uniform blocks) or the not-so-favourite paper piecing. 

What drives me nuts about paper piecing is that sometimes things don’t line up where they should, even though precision is the whole point of paper piecing.  If I sew exactly on the lines, things should be just the right size in just the right places and should line up just so when I join up pieced sections. That word “should” definitely doesn’t mean “does”.

While I was trimming along the printed seam allowances for the pieced sections of this plane, I noticed that the lines were not where I expected them to be according to my ruler.  The section was a rectangle, and should be 6” long, or 6 1/2” unfinished.  It was 1/16 of an inch short.  That’s small, but it adds up, and because the shrinkage was greater in one direction than the other, it messed just a bit with the aspect ratio of the design.

Today I printed the paper foundation and measured.  It was exactly the size it was supposed to be. Then I ironed the paper and measured again.  Ha!  It did shrink!  Can’t blame it on stitching puckering the paper, or any such thing, because there was no stitching yet.


You can see I lined up the 1” mark on the ruler with the same line in both pictures, but that dark line on the far right is at the 7 1/4” mark before pressing, but about 1/16th less after ironing.

And, just to mess with my mind, here is the same paper after it has cooled and relaxed for about an hour.


Really?  It’s back to the size it should be.  I tried this with a plain 3” square too, and got the same shrink-unshrink result.  Clearly there is some physics of materials at work here. I really don’t feel liked dusting off my physics degree (I do have one) so here’s what I am going to do: I will sew one seam at a time on my paper pieced units, and wait a nice space of time for the paper to cool and relax before I go sew the next seam.  Then I’ll see if my pieced sections end up the right size and line up “just so”.

While I wait for things to cool, I’ll just stitch up these cute little framed nine-patches for my alternate blocks.  These are NOT giving me any grief!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Scaling snowflakes

After my attempt at a blue drunkard’s path and snowflake quilt fell flat at the end of March, I planned to give up on that idea and use the drunkard’s path units on their own.  However, readers gave me a lot of positive comments about the original idea’s potential so I packed up all the parts together, just in case I wanted to try again.

The idea kept pulling at me so this week I gave in and played with it again.


I’m still not happy with the color distribution in the drunkard’s path blocks. Things seem washed out to me.  I think I need more mediums and fewer lights. 

However, I think I have the snowflake part sorted out!  The scale was all wrong before.  Also, despite the science geek in me wanting every snowflake to be different, as real snowflakes are, the quilt needs repetition.

I knew the scale was all wrong back in March, but I resisted the idea because my snowflake block patterns were all for 9” blocks.  If you have seen these patterns, you know the paper foundations have drawn seam allowances, shaped to specific angles at the points to help match sections.  That would be lost if I just enlarged the paper foundations on a copier or printer, as the seam allowance would be enlarged too instead of being the standard 1/4”.  I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to figure things out all over again to redraw trimmed seam allowances for a larger block.

This week my high school math came to the rescue.  Do you remember similar triangles from geometry?  Don’t worry, it will work for you even if you don’t remember the details.  The key part is that when I enlarged the foundations, the lengths of the sides all changed by the same proportion, but the angles stayed the same.


I used my rotary cutting ruler to trim the seam allowances around each paper pieced section to a proper 1/4” and used my paper foundations from the 9” block to trim the points.  Easy peasy!

So, if you have my snowflake block patterns and wish you could make them a different size, you can!  Just photocopy the foundations from the 9” pattern, with scaling set to whatever you need to obtain the size you want.  For example, scaling by 133% will give you foundations for a 12” block.  Scaling by 67% would yield foundations for a 6” block. (A 6” block would be cute, but would have awfully small pieces.  Just saying!)

You can trim the foundations to have the correct seam allowance and shaped points before you start sewing, or you can wait until after you have pieced the sections.  I went ahead and pieced first, then trimmed.



I lined up the 1/4” mark on my ruler along the printed solid line that represents the finished side of the section, then I trimmed away the extra and repeated on each side, leaving a 1/4” seam allowance all around this section.


Next I placed the template from the 9” block over the corresponding section for my enlarged block, matching the orientation, and sliding the smaller template until its point was even with the larger version’s point.  I used the trimmed point of the smaller template as my guide to trim the point of the enlarged section.

I did this for all the points on all the sections, and then just assembled the snowflake according to pattern instructions. Everything lined up perfectly.


I’m so happy I figured out how to scale this pattern!  Now I can stop asking myself why in the world I designed the original as a 9” block in the first place. Though it took on a life of its own,  I started the snowflake design adventure specifically for this quilt idea and 9” doesn’t figure in it anywhere!  So where did the 9” come from?  OK, I guess I’m not done asking.  The answer just doesn’t matter as much anymore.

Now I need to go pull fabrics from my blue bin to see if I can fine tune the drunkard’s path part of the quilt.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ah, summer!

Summer is here and sewing has slowed right down!  I did get these three Scrappy Trip blocks sewn for Diana’s Golden Needle


Diana is a Girl Scout working on her Gold Award (think Girl Scout equivalent of the Boy Scout Eagle Award).  She is making quilts, using Bonny Hunter’s free Scrappy Trips pattern, for teens who are aging out of the foster care system and she is raising awareness of foster care and adoption. If you might like to contribute, click on the link above to read more about her project.  My daughter is a Girl Scout (who just earned her Silver Award, whoot whoot!), I was a Girl Guide, my mom was a Girl Guide…I just had to help out with this one!

Besides that, not much has been happening in my sewing room as I have been enjoying summer in the garden instead.

Evening primroseIMG_9622HollyhockDaylilies, petunias, founbtain grass, purple salviaPurple fountain grass, petunia, creeping jennyBirdbath gardenBackyard security patrol

I love that red hollyhock.  It’s new this year.  I hope it will grow as tall and wide as the plant tag claimed, because more of those red blooms would be gorgeous.

You can see the Backyard Security Officer in the last picture.  Rosie does a pretty good job keeping the riffraff out of the yard (that would be rabbits and squirrels).  She leaps over flower beds in a single bound to chase those intruders away.  It’s hilarious to watch.  Just the word “squirrel” sends her racing to the back door.  Don’t worry, the critters get plenty to eat when she’s not out.  I can tell by the empty bird feeders and the munched vegetation.

Right now it’s dark and the mosquitos are out in force, so I’ll just go root through some scrap fabric bins and see what happens in the sewing room.