Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Happy Canada Day 2020

I've pretty much lost track of days and dates the last couple of months, with everyone being home most of the time, so July 1st almost snuck up on me this year. Not quite, though!  I remembered with enough time to spare to dive into my scrap bin for an appropriate project.  

Red and White maple leaf quilted table runner

Red and white maple leaf quilted table runner

Dog on red and white quilted runner

Rosie, and all of us here in the Canuck Quilter household, wish you a wonderful day.  Happy Canada Day 2020!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

How gardening is like quilting

If you have been following my blog for a while, you probably noticed that every spring I desert the sewing room to head to the garden.  This year was no exception. We had a really nice spring for gardening, not too hot, not too wet or dry, not buggy.  It was great to get out of the house and breathe.

Dwarf spruce, hosta, white impatiens

We finished all the heavy work and except for keeping up with weeding and watering, now we can just go outside and enjoy the peace and quiet.  As I sat in the yard and enjoyed the color and texture of the garden, and savored the satisfaction of having tidied up every single flower bed this year (unlike the previous several years), it occurred to me that gardening actually has a lot in common with quilting.

When I choose fabric for a quilt, I consider colors, values and scale. In my garden, green rules, but I make sure there are accent colors.  I have perennials that bloom at different times, and some annuals that bloom all summer to make sure there is always a bloom to add an accent pop of color or contrast, like in a quilt.  Even in the green, there is a wide variety: deep greens, gray greens, yellow greens...  Let's not forget variegation for a little extra interest, like the print on a tone on tone fabric.

Hostas, impatiens and ornamental grass

Pattern scale come into play as well.  Small leaves, big leaves, medium leaves fill in for the size of the print on pretty fabrics.  Texture is there as well:  fuzzy leaves, smooth leaves, blade-like leaves and big heart shaped ones, serrated edges and smooth edges.  They all play together to create movement and interest just like the different prints work together in a quilt.

I love playing with layout in my quilts and I do this in the garden as well.  The eye prefers groupings and repetition, so I plan out groups of plants, and reuse varieties in different places to tie different parts of the garden together.  Some of my flower beds are a bit like a sampler quilt, with one of this, and one of that.  Some parts end up a little bit "improv" as I divide plants and just need somewhere to put the divisions but don't have a plan.  Some parts are more formal, with similar plants in a line or an arc.

Redbud tree surrounded by yellow daylilies

"Orphan blocks" get a chance to shine in the garden too.  This redbud tree was an orphan.  It was literally a stick with a root attached, no more than half and inch in diameter and 2 feet tall.  My daughter brought it home from Girl Scout day camp many years ago.  We plunked it onto a bucket of water beside the house because we couldn't figure out where to put it, then promptly forgot about it.  A month later, we remembered it and decided to throw it out, only to discover it had grown leaves.  How could we possibly get rid of it then?  I researched red buds, picked a spot and now it is the centerpiece of this little bit of yard.

Look at those yellow daylilies.  They are part of the plant stash.  Yup, there's a stash in the garden too, in the form of perennials.  Perennials grow bigger, then need to be divided, and voila!  New plants for a new flowerbed.  All those lilies are from divided plants, as are all the hostas below. And lamb's ear.  That stuff just grows and grows anywhere! I wish fabric reproduced like that.  Oh wait!  The scraps in the scrap bin seem to do that. 

Hostas and inpatiens

Even the gardening tasks have quilting equivalents.  Edging beds is like trimming units and blocks: it's tedious, but makes such a difference to the finished piece. Weeding is like trimming threads.  Mulching. Well, it isn't quite analogous to basting, but I like doing that necessary task about as much as I enjoy basting a quilt, also a necessary chore.  I don't know which part of quilting watering matches up with. I can only carry this analogy so far!

Finally, sitting quietly and admiring the tidy, blooming garden gives me the same kind of satisfaction as putting the last stitches into a quilt binding and curling up under the quilt for the first time. I'm sure as the summer  heat and humidity kick in I'll migrate back to the sewing room during the day, but I'll keep enjoying the yard in the mornings and evenings.  

I'll leave you with a few more garden photos to enjoy until I have more progress related to fabric to share.

Clump of white daisies

Pots of herbs and flowers


red and orange blanket flowers

Pot of purple fountain grass with pink flowers

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Some quilts give me fits

I'm going to be perfectly honest.  Some quilts are just a pain and refuse to cooperate.  I love every project when I start it, but there are a few projects that I just can't love all the way through the process.  I'm having trouble with one right now.  I have second-guessed my decisions at almost every stage.

You might remember this one.  I made the first block in January 2017.  Was it really three years ago?  I guess you can tell I lost my momentum.

I did enjoy making all the blocks in 2017.  The trouble began when I had to choose a setting.  I posted about that in November 2017, and I'm afraid I'm still as unsure of my choice now as I was then.  Looking through my ideas, some of the ones I discarded appeal more to me now than what I finally settled on in January 2018.  Maybe I'll be happier with my choice once the quilt is quilted and I scallop the border as I planned.

In the meantime, the butterflies are giving me fits.  I felt I didn't have the FMQ skills to do what I wanted, so I tucked the quilt away for a while.  When I finally learned how to use my quilting rulers I thought I was all set.  The ideas were flowing, yet once the quilt was basted I came to a standstill, again.  I had trouble getting the ruler foot over some bulky seam intersections.  The background was less open than I remembered, so my wonderful ideas wouldn't work.  The quilt went back on a shelf.

I finally pulled it out again last week, determined to finish it. I have a little bit of work to undo.  This poor blue butterfly has mismatched wings.  Last year I was sure I wanted concentric circles in the top wings, but after stitching that on one side I wasn't sure anymore so I auditioned something else on the other side and couldn't decide which to keep.  I neglected to finish the second lower wing and when I picked it up again last week I used the wrong ruler so the curvature doesn't match the other side.  So, I need to decide what stitching stays and what gets picked out, then finish this little blue guy.

I do like what I stitched in the orange butterfly, with clamshells in the upper wings, though this was my second attempt, and there was much unladylike muttering both as I picked out stitching and as I wrestled over some thick seams.  A hammer may or may not have made an appearance to flatten some parts...  The thread broke as I was almost finished stitching one lower wing, and that's when the quilt went back on the shelf last year.  I still need to stitch that last wing.

When I pulled the quilt out of timeout last week, I made some progress.  I really like what I managed to stitch in this blue/aqua butterfly.  I also had no trouble at all stitching in the ditch, no bulky seam issues at all.  Either my machine settings were not properly set last year, or this block is just flatter, but this was a much more pleasant stitching session.

At this point I started regaining momentum...then my creativity tanked.  I could not figure out what to quilt in the other six butterflies!  I told myself not to give up again.  All the butterflies needed stitching in the ditch around the wings and body regardless, so I worked on that for a while.  With just one and a half butterflies left to ditch-stitch, the pink one gave me grief.  The thread broke multiple times and somehow, even with my quilting ruler, I couldn't seem to keep the stitching in the ditch.  I quit and went to play with paper and pencil to figure out what to quilt in the background.

These concentric circles gave me more grief than I expected.  I've stitched these with success before on other projects, but this time around I struggled. The spacing between the circles isn't consistent and there are multiple jogs in the arc because I was pulling and tugging in ways I shouldn't have, and I forgot to center the needle in the ruler foot so it wasn't stitching in the right place to give the result I wanted. I suspect I should not have been sewing at all that day! It doesn't look too bad in the picture, but I finished this stitching session rather discouraged.  My enthusiasm for this quilt is fading rapidly again!

I'm going to go catch up on my temperature quilt, then try to come back to the butterflies.  I am clinging to the hope that once I finish it I will love it again!

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