Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tic Tac Meow auditions

I am playing with my Tic Tac Who? pattern this week, but the family I am making the quilt for are cat people.  Rosie isn't sure she approves of this cat business, but I am adding an applique cat instead of my pieced dog block anyway.  I chose a black cat silhouette pattern from the EQ8 block library and will cut it from black Cuddle fabric once I settle on a size.

My original idea was to simply applique the cat on a blank square where the pieced dog/owl/duck block is in the original pattern.

Umm.  Nope.  This applique just doesn't fill the space the way the pieced blocks did.  The cat shape is perfect though, so I'm determined to use it somehow.  I had been so sure this would work that I cut this cat from Cuddle, so I have an applique cat block to play with in some other project now.  However, I am not cutting any more cuddle without auditioning with something less messy first.  There's cuddle fuzz everywhere!

My husband suggested a sheet of cheap poster board. Why didn't I think of that? I cut a larger cat silhouette from poster board and have been auditioning placement.  I don't have a photo of the first try, but it did lead me to fill in the blank block with another X instead of trying to plunk a cat in it.

I think the size is better, but I don't like having the cat pretty much in the center of the quilt.

This is a bit better, but I think the cat gets a bit lost against the darker reds.  There's something else bothering me about this one, but I can't quite put my finger on what exactly.


I think I like this one best.  I am going to let that simmer for a little bit while I baste and quilt the quilt.  I plan to have the cat be just a silouhette, so I don't want to quilt inside or all over it, but it is too big to leave the area under it unquilted.  I am going to quilt the background, then applique the cat on top.  I think that should be OK. If you have any words of wisdom against that plan, please speak now before I quilt!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Which side is which?

You may recall that back in August I decided the ISU Cyclones baby quilt I had almost finished quilting needed to be larger to fit my college son instead. I designed extra borders, figured out the math, bought more fabric, prepared to learn to add quilt-as-you-go borders, and made this instead.

Pattern:  Spark, by Maple Island Quilts

The more I looked at the first project the more I thought it really wasn't Matt's style.  When I was organizing patterns on the wall at the LQS where I work, Spark by Maple Island Quilts caught my eye.  I knew Matt would like this better, and that the ISU fabric with the grey background would suit him better as well.

This was the quickest top finish I have ever had.  It took me about 5 hours from starting to cut to finishing the top. Making the back took longer because I couldn't leave well enough alone.  I made my daughter a quilt in her high school colors last winter.  I pieced her name into that one, and decided I should do the same for Matt's college quilt.  I was also determined to use up leftovers and the fabric I had bought to enlarge the previous Cyclone quilt, so I needed to sit down and design something.  It morphed three times, but here is what I ended up with.

Matt's Cyclones quilt, part 2

I paper pieced the name using Happy Sew Lucky's Vintage Alphabet pattern.  It's a great, crisp alphabet.  There is even guidance on how to space different letter combinations. I love that.!

Honestly, I think I ended up liking the back better than the front.  So did my friend Chris of Urban Loon Studios who did the longarm quilting for me.  (I couldn't get Laura's quilt finished and quilt this one too!)  My co-workers at the shop liked the back better as well.

My first guess was correct though.  Matt's style is definitely grey and simpler.  Every time I've seen him use it since he pulled it out from under the Christmas tree, that's the side he's showing off.

Christmas Day nap

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Favourite Finish of 2018

There was no contest.  I knew if I finished this one it would be my favourite quilt finish of 2018.

Chic Country (pattern by Sew Kind of Wonderful)

I finished hand quilting Chic Country on the evening of December 21. I had hoped to finish a little earlier so I could sneak the binding on while my daughter was at school but I ran out of school days.  As long as I was just quilting, she didn't know how close I was to finishing.  If she had seen me bind she would have known a finish was imminent.  In the end, I decided to trim the quilt while she was out of the house and put the unbound but trimmed quilt under the tree, way in back. 

Look at that smile! I sent her behind the tree, she paused, looked puzzled, then said "You finished it?". When I replied "All but the binding" the smile bloomed.  She knew I had a quilt under the tree for her brother, but was sure I wouldn't have hers finished. She had been checking my progress on the line drawing I was coloring in as I finished quilting sections.  Good thing I thought of that and stopped coloring weeks before!

The quilt migrated to her bedroom to sleep under that night, and I stole it back several times over the next few days to sew on the binding.  Here it is in its new home.

Chic Country quilt

It looks much better there than in a pile beside my chair in the living room, where it has been for almost two years as I slowly quilted.

Hand quilting detail on Chic Country

I even remembered to quilt her name into it, as required by tradition.  (I explained the origins of it in this post several years and a few bed quilts ago.) I tried to figure out how to fit the name into the blocks, but they have 4-fold symmetry and my daughter's name has 5 letters. I settled for stitching it in two places in the border. If you click on the picture it should enlarge so you can see the detail.

And of course, quilt testing is not complete without Rosie's approval. 

Besides making Laura happy, I am so, so happy to have finally finished this one!  I chose the fabrics in March 2016, started cutting in November,  started piecing in January 2017, pondered how to tweak the pattern to add borders in February and finished the top on February 21, 2017.  I have been quilting it in fits and starts since about April 2017.  I neglected pretty much everything else for a couple of months before Christmas to get it done, but it was worth it for that smile on Christmas morning!

I'm taking a break from hand quilting for a little bit.  I have piecing to do and for evening hand work I picked up some pretty yarn to knit a sweater.

Wishing you all much happiness and quilting success in 2019!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas stocking 2018

Last year I made new Christmas stockings for mom and dad, but there were no takers for new ones in my own household.  The kids were adamant about keeping the ones they have always had.

This year I caved and retired the 40-some year old stocking my grandmother knit for me.  The yarn is starting to look a little worn in places, and I feared one of these days it would break and the stocking would unravel and there would be tears at Christmas.  This very special stocking will still hang on the mantle, but Santa will stuff the new one.

The stocking Memere knit for me next to my new one
For the focus block I used the snowflake ornament I designed for the December 2018 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting.  For the rest of the stocking I used the method I described in my Twice-Turned Stocking tutorial last year.

Now my son has suggested that perhaps he could use a new stocking as well, provided the old one can still hang on the mantle.  His stocking dates from before I sewed.  It's a thin felt one from the dollar store to which I added his name in cross stitch, as well as tiny jingle bells. Lesson learned, by the way: don't add jingle bells to a kid's stocking unless the kid's bedroom is well away from where Santa will try to to stealthily fill the stocking!

Anyhow, it was not made to last 20 years, even with the sturdy lining I added a few years ago, but I hope it can last one more Christmas.  I'm not sure I have time to make another stocking, as quick as they are to make, because I am desperately trying to finish the hand quilting on the Chic Country quilt so I can surprise my daughter with it under the tree at Christmas. I have so consistently missed my self-imposed  deadlines on this one that at this point she doesn't expect to see it finished until she moves into university dorms next August, if then.

Chic Country (pattern by Sew Kind of Wonderful) in progress

I don't think she knows how close I am to finishing.  I've made progress since I last colored in the plan.  I have 6 blocks and the rest of the border to finish by next Friday if I plan to have time to bind it before tucking it under the tree.  I might just make it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pieced borders

I love pieced borders, but I don't always love making them fit!  Happily, there are some tricks to making them work.

Here's what I was working on the last couple of weeks.

I wish I had a better picture.  The only available quilt holder was busy painting her nails and I decided I didn't want wet nail polish anywhere close to the quilt top!  Unfortunately, the deck railing is not a pretty a spot for photos at this time of year.  The backdrop is lacking pretty foliage now that the hostas have died back.

My initial plan for this quilt was to stop after a narrow inner white border and bind with a matching green stripe, making a very simple quilt.  I was aiming for classic with a hint of modern by matching the border to the background and using the binding as a frame.

I did the math to figure out the size and thought it would work.  As I laid out the HST on the design wall, the size looked fine.  Of course, once I started sewing all the blocks together those seam allowances, as always, ate up a lot of fabric!  Why does this still surprise me?  In the end, the quilt center was smaller than I had hoped.  The math was right, but my sense of how large those measurements actually are was off. So, extra borders it was.

I decided to make the second border scrappy, in keeping with the center of the quilt.  I didn't have any yardage to go with the rest of the fabrics anyway, so that confirmed the scrappy choice!

The challenge was to figure out how wide to make the first white border so that my border of scrappy squares would fit perfectly.  Setting the HST on point resulted in a center that wasn't a nice even multiple of any useful measurement, so my inner borders would have to be an odd size to bring the top up to size to fit my pieced border (unless I wanted to cut all the pieces of the pieced border very odd sizes, which I didn't).

Here's how I dealt with it. I didn't worry about a perfect fit to start out.  I figured out an approximate border width and rounded up to an easy-to-cut size, and added 1/4" for good measure.  I cut the borders to this width, and added them to the quilt.  Now I could trim them down to size as needed.  It's a lot easier to trim it down than make it larger, which is why I made it larger than I figured it needed to be.

Next, I made sure both my side pieced borders were the same length.  Small variations in seam allowance add up and become obvious in a  pieced border!  I had to take in a few seams by 1/16th or so to shorten one side by about 1/4".  I matched the lengths of the top and bottom borders as well.

The next step was to compare the width of the quilt with the length of the pieced top/bottom borders, and the length of the quilt with the length of the pieced side borders.  I lay the borders on the quilt:

You can see below that the bottom/top strip was not long enough.

That's OK.  Remember, I made those white inner borders wider on purpose! There was a 1/4" difference, so I shaved 1/8"off each white side border (a total of 1/4") to match the length of the bottom/top pieced borders.

What about the pieced side borders?

Whoa!  That stuck out rather far!  But wait, it was only longer by the amount that the pieced top and bottom border would add to the length.  Perfect!   If it had stuck out more than that, I would have taken in a few seams on the pieced borders to shorten them.  If they had been shorter than that, I would have shaved the difference off the white top/bottom inner borders to bring the quilt's length down to the length of the pieced borders.  It would all have fit in the end!  Notice that I measured this before sewing the bottom and top borders on, because if those were attached I would lose the option of shaving fabric off the white top/bottom borders border if needed.

VoilĂ ! Pieced borders were attached and fit perfectly.

At this point the quilt was large enough, but it didn't look quite as airy and light as I had planned.  The pieced border hemmed everything in too much.  Enter a final white border. Now the pieced border floats and the light airy feel is restored.  Well, I think so anyway!

I plan to quilt this one very simply, and the original green striped binding choice will still work.  I guess I should go check that I have enough for the new size!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Prairie Points and Scattered Leaves update

Last month I presented a trunk show at my local guild, the Ames Quilt Guild.  The next day I taught my new Prairie Point Play workshop, all about ways to make and use prairie points in your quilts, including how to size them and figure out how many to make. I pulled out all my favourite examples and made a few new ones.

You can put them in a border to dress up a simple piece.

The prairie points don't have to run all the way around a quilt.

How about tucking them into the binding?

The points can overlap a lot...

...or not much.

My all-time favourite quilt with prairie points is Scattered Leaves, using the points instead of binding to finish the edge.

I think the scrappy points on that quilt turn an OK quilt into something more.

While writing up the handouts for the workshop I re-read my Prairie Point tutorials. I also looked at the prairie point instructions I had written in my Scattered Leaves pattern in 2012 and decided the pattern could use a few more details about how to finish the edge with prairie points instead of binding.  I went ahead and added more instructions and diagrams, and cleaned up the rest of the pattern while I was at it. 

I am pleased to release the updated version of Scattered Leaves. To mark the occasion, I am offering a 25% discount on the pattern in my Payhip shop through the end of November.  Use the coupon code PRAIRIEPOINTS.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Starlight Wishes revisited

Last fall I whipped up a Starlight Wishes quilt top in alternate colors and in a larger size, fully intending to rewrite the pattern to include extra sizes. I didn't get much farther than the flimsy because I couldn't decide how to quilt it. Other projects, deadlines, and life got in the way.

This summer, after learning to use my Westalee quilting rulers, I quilted it.  I already shared photos of the baptist fan quilting.  It was just what this quilt wanted. If I had to do it over again I would probably tweak the border quilting a bit, but I'm not picking it out!  This quilt is officially a finished quilt!

Starlight Wishes all grown up

Here a full view.

I debated leaving off the blue border and making the cream one under the prairie points a little bit wider.  I liked it that way too.  It had a bit more modern feel to it that way.  However, I was feeling less modern on the day I decided I had to make up my mind one way or the other!

My initial reason for making this version was to show the quilt in a non-baby colorway for the cover of the revised pattern.  Didn't it grow up nicely?  But with this on the cover, how will people visualize it as a baby quilt? The answer was to add an inset photo of the brighter baby quilt, but I don't own that quilt anymore to take a proper flat picture for that purpose.

I had no choice!  I just had to make another.

Starlight Wishes, half-scale version

I'm sure you noticed this isn't quite big enough for  a baby quilt.  I'm running out of room to store quilt samples and I figured in a flat shot with no size reference, it wouldn't really matter that the quilt was not full-scale, but it would still show off an alternate colorway.  I made all the parts half-size. It is awfully cute!  Those tiny little prairie points were not difficult to make but they are too cute for words. I'm pretty sure this quilt will claim some of my sewing room wall for "storage" space.

So there's the cover for the revised version all planned out and squared away.  Now all I have to do is actually revise the pattern...which turned out to not be as straightforward as I expected.  May I bend your ear and solicit some opinions, please and thank you?

The original quilt called for cutting rectangles and pairing them up to make square units.  Making strip sets and sub-cutting units would also work, but was very wasteful of fabric for the baby size, with lots of leftover lengths of strip sets.  It wasn't a big deal to cut individual pieces for the baby size because there weren't that many pieces (relatively speaking).  When I started working out cutting instructions for the twin and queen sizes, the number of rectangles got very large. That makes strip piecing and sub-cutting much more attractive.

Including both option, or strip piecing for some sizes and not for the other makes a very clunky, unwieldy pattern, and alternate fabric requirements, so I need to choose just one method.  Strip piecing makes for lots of leftover strip set chunks in the smaller sizes.  Not strip piecing requires a lot of extra cutting in the larger sizes.  Which would you prefer to see in a pattern?

I will put off that decision till  have more data (that would be your input) and indulge in a little bit of sewing for the rest of the day.  Happy thought!