Tuesday, June 18, 2019

School Swans?

I'm taking Katie's advice and sewing something, anything, to get back in the mood. In March I bought a kit on impulse.  I wasn't feeling very creative but I wanted to get back to my sewing machine. I figured a kit might do the trick.  This one was small to guarantee a quick finish and a sense of accomplishment.



We live in a university town. My husband teaches at Iowa State University and by this fall I will have two kids attending as students.  Maybe it's time to add a little cardinal and gold to my home decor.  Just a little though. 

Iowa State has two resident swans, Lancelot and Elaine, on Lake LaVerne on campus.  Elizabeth Hartman's pattern Swan Island is a perfect fit!  When Rachel at Quilting Connection chose the red and gold accents for a store sample, it struck me as just the right touch of ISU tradition and colors.  The kit includes only the fabric for the swans and you add your choice of background.  Brown fits my living room furniture, and it sure makes the swans pop. They kept me busy for a day or two, then sat on the design wall waiting for me to quilt them and turn them into pillows.

So, back to the idea of a quick finish.  Piecing the swans kept me busy for a couple of days, but the quick finish eluded me because of that creative void. I didn't want an allover pattern like the one used on the pattern cover because there is too much contrast between my swans and my background.  The quilting would be either too showy on the swans or too showy on the background. I knew what I didn't want but had no clue what to quilt instead. My swans hung on the wall for a couple of months.

A couple of days ago I decided to at least prepare the quilt sandwiches (I was going to say baste but that sounds like I am roasting these swans!) By the time I finished stitching in the ditch around and in the swan block, I had a plan for the background too.


I used my Westalee rulers to start stitching concentric circles centered on the front of the swan.  Since I don't have any that will let me stitch out anything larger than about 12" in diameter, I switched to my walking foot with a guide arm for the larger circles, switching to a very long stitch length when I had to stitch across the swan.  This let me keep track of the curve on successive rounds until I got past the swan.



I needed each of those curves as a guide to follow on the next round, all the way out to the edge, but the long stitches across the swan were easy to pick out afterwards.  I wrote a post all about this method several years ago.



I like how it turned out.  Last light I prepared a zippered pillow back, this morning I sewed the front to the back, and tomorrow I'll bring home some coordinating fabric for binding.  I bought brown for the binding yesterday when I popped into the shop for brown thread, but now I am leaning towards binding in fabric that matches the feather tips.


This is almost a finish, and I think my creativity is stirring.  Next up: quilting the butterfly quilt.  I has a longarm quilter baste it for me and it is ready for me to get started.  I'm going to try starting with stitching in the ditch again and hope ideas for the rest come to me while I stitch.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Fundy Skies: tester versions

As promised, here are pictures from my pattern testers.  They all did a beautiful job with their quilts and provided useful feedback about the pattern .  It's a better pattern thanks to them.

I love seeing the design paired with all the different fabric choices.  Without further ado, here are the quilts.  Enjoy!


Throw size by Kathleen Ross



Twin size by Judy Juhl

Lap size - baby with extra borders top and bottom, by Louise.  Check out her blog My Quilting Odyssey to see the beautiful quilt she makes while living aboard a boat.

Queen size by Lora Garrison.
Queen Size by Judy MacLeod.  Judy is a longarm quilter and I can't wait to see how she quilts it.  You can find her on Facebook as Painted Pony Quiltworks.

Baby size by Jeanne Holmes.  Find her on FB as jeanne.f.holmes or on Instagram as @jeammeholmes.

Thank you all so very much testers!


Remember, you can get a 25% discount on Fundy Skies today through June 21 in my Etsy shop by using the coupon code STARGAZING.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Did I forget to mention...?

Several months ago I released my latest pattern, Fundy Skies. Yup. After a false start with one photographer, I finally got a good picture for the cover (thank you QuiltPhotography.com!) and released the pattern.  Shipped it to distributors.  Uploaded to my Payhip shop, then to the Etsy shop when I switched to that.

I apparently forgot to announce it though.  My marketing needs some serious work!


I really, really love this design.  You can't accidentally cut off the points in this star block, so it is very forgiving.  The sashing is actually built into the large blocks so there are no long sashing strips to measure and sew. And if you like to nest your seams to help match corners, this pattern makes it easy.  Detailed pressing instructions help you nest every seam that needs to nest.

I designed it for my own bed several years ago, and revisited the design for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary quilt last year.




Here's what Kathleen, one of my wonderful testers had to say about the pattern:
"I loved this pattern.  Originally I thought it too wordy but as I went along I found it so organised and clear.  The cutting charts were accurate and easy to follow and I loved that you showed pressing directions - all seams nested perfectly.  This is a fantastic pattern..."
Thank you so much for being a tester, Kathleen!  I am also grateful to Judy J., Louise, Lora Garrison, Jeanne Holmes and Judy MacLeod.  Please drop in tomorrow to see pictures of their versions. 

In the meantime, please spread the word that the pattern is now available .  Ask for it at your favourite quilt shop (they can order directly from me or from distributors Checker or Brewer) or pop over to my Etsy shop to buy a PDF download.

Get a 25% discount on Fundy Skies today through June 21 in my Etsy shop by using the coupon code STARGAZING.



Friday, May 31, 2019

Round Robin sneak peeks

Though I didn't sew much the last few months, the quilt guild round robin  kept me from totally deserting my sewing room.  I had committed to this back in January, so I had to come down and sew a little, and I think that was a good thing.  My group gave me permission to share progress here, so here's a peek at the two quilt I have added rounds to so far.

Pam's Mariner's Compass medallion
Pam made a gorgeous Mariner's Compass block for her medallion.  That's fussy cut Tula Pink fabric in the blades, meeting and matching to make a lovely little floral center.  Coming up with a order to do it justice was an intimidating task, but playing around with stock borders in EQ8 helped.


The borders are from EQ but the corners are my esigns.  I had to tweak the colors a couple of times to get the right effect, but I'm pleased with how it worked out. 



I think if the next round had been mine to add I would have turned this on point.  I have no idea what wonderful idea the next person in the round robin came up with, as I missed the last meeting so didn't get a peek at the next round.

Next up is Traci's medallion with Jenn's round added.  This one is more modern than most of what I make so it stayed on the design wall most of the month while I figured out what to add that would play well with the rest.


I decided to try to pull out some of the brighter blues from the center, and have some sort of slash and insert component to the piecing, because the plus signs looked like they might have been constructed that way.


I slashed these squares at random angles and inserted the yellow and orange strips.  I followed that up by using the block as one of the fabrics in a paper pieced wonky triangle block.  Wonky-on-purpose is so much harder for me to acheive than wonky-by-accident!


I think using one background fabric for two adjacent sides and a different background for the remaining two added an interesting element, but it was not a thought out design decision.  I just didn't have enough of either fabric, or any other suitable background print.  Happy accident?

I wish I had a picture of what Pam added to my cat medallion.  I saw it when it was passed along for the next round but did not think to take a picture.  Her border of little tiny flying geese is fabulous!  I'll get the whole thing back in a few months and will share then.

I think there will be a short hiatus in the round robin as one person had life interfere with her plans, but I'm sure it will be worth the wait!  One more round to go...

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Wisdom from my daughter

I've been in a little bit of a creative and blogging slump the last few months.  I couldn't muster much energy for sewing and no enthusiasm at all for sitting down at the computer or surfing blogs.  Maybe the grey, cold, wet spring was to blame.  Maybe I just needed a break.  Maybe I was exhausted from watching my daughter be exhausted from slogging through the last projects and exams and activities and emotional upheavals of her high school career.

She graduated with honors this past Sunday, and gave one of the commencement addresses. She spoke beautifully about the need to face any challenge with the belief that one is good enough to succeed.  She challenged all her classmates, and the rest of us too, to always answer "Yes, I am good enough"  when confronted with whatever life throws at us. 


I am so, so proud of this strong, confident, accomplished and compassionate young woman!

She is now at a new-to-her summer camp as a camp counselor until she starts university in the fall, putting her own advice into practice as she embraces new adventures and makes new friendships.

As for my slump?  I am telling myself I am good enough to finally start things I have been avoiding, and I suspect getting past those will re-energize me to get more productive in the sewing room and socializing in blogland again.  See you again soon!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ruler work samples

I have been invited to teach a class on quilting with Westalee quilting templates (AKA rulers) at the local quilt shop in April.  I have been playing with some of these for several months , on and off as I have a quilt that needs quilting and I am excited to share what I have learned.  I spent the weekend making two little samples to use in class.



When I took a class to get started last June, I came away with the basic idea of building designs by tracing various lines and shapes with the templates while freemotion quilting.  What I felt was lacking were examples of how to place those shapes on a patchwork quilt.  All our practice was just doodling randomly on a scrap quilt sandwich.

Having everyone bring a quilt to fill with motifs is a bit much for a beginner class, and different quilts would need different motifs and sizes and so on.  It just isn't practical.  However, I think drawing specific shapes and spaces on a plain quilt sandwich and filling those as though they were blocks or borders or sashing is a good alternative, and that's what these samplers are for.  Between the two, they use all 6 templates I plan to discuss and demonstrate. Participants will have the choice of random doodling, or more intentional placement practice, or both.


This one uses a straight edge, a 12" arc, a 2" circle, a 6" spiral and the Circles on Quits Spinning Wheel 36 (except that spinning wheel, instead of spinning, is being shuffled sideways for a design in the last border, just because I can and it looks cool).


This one (which is actually a pretty yellow but washed out in every picture I attempted) uses the Spin-e-fex No.4 template, the straight ruler, and the 3" clam shell.  I used the clam shell for the leafy bits and that curvy-pointy strip.

My biggest challenge is accepting that I cannot possibly both introduce how to use the rulers AND show or teach every possible design I can think to create with them!  Maybe that can be another class.

Tonight, I'm going back to piecing.  I need to finish the first round on the guild round robin.  I wish I could show you a picture.  Pam made a gorgeous mariner's compass with 32 points, fussy cutting and pattern matching.  It is a bit intimidating, but oh so fabulous!  I think our groups plans to go ahead and admire the progress on all the quits at each round, so I will ask at the next meeting if I can share pictures as I go.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

What is your favourite LQS?

How is the weather where you are?  In my neck of the woods, we are paying for the super mild December we enjoyed.  There is lots of snow. Today what fell last night is blowing around so much it looks like it's still snowing.   I'm taking the glass half full approach to it all:  as long a I don't have to go out in it, it looks pretty from my sewing room. The snowflakes in the sewing room itself are also multiplying, but not quite as fast, and not cold!

8 snowflakes finished, 18 more to go! Block patterns are in the Etsy shop!

All these snow days have also given me extra time to think about Canuck Quilter Designs and whether I want to keep moving it forward, and if so how best to do that.  Right along with several other states, Iowa has passed new sales tax legislation and the new law complicates my online pattern download sales.  I've been thinking about what to do next, and I hope you can help me with part of that.

I'd like to introduce more bricks and mortar quilt shops to Canuck Quilter Designs patterns.  Mailing sample patterns to every quilt shop in the country isn't feasible, but perhaps a carefully selected subset would be.  So, what is your favourite quilt shop and where is it located?  I'd like to send them a pattern or two!  Please let me know in the comments or email me at joanne@canuckquilter.com.


If you are a pattern instant download fan, don't worry.  I am in the process of moving my online shop to Etsy, as they have more features to help me stay compliant with tax laws. I have all my full-length patterns listed and the shop is open for business. To celebrate this step forward, I'm having a sale! I hope you'll check it out and spread the word.

I'm off to to sew more snowflakes now...

**Update March 16, 2018:  I missed that the graphic I used here was missing the sale dates, so I am extending the sale to March 18th.  No coupon required.**

Friday, February 15, 2019

Another Black and Red Finish

Hot on the heels of finishing Tic Tac Meow, I finally got around to quilting my red and black mini Sparkling Trail quilt that has been patiently waiting, since January 2015, for inspiration to strike.



 As you might have guessed, I played with my Westalee quilting templates/rulers.


 If you're wondering why the circles and pebbles don't go all around the circles, it's because they would not have fit exactly around, and I didn't feel like fussing with stretching or squeezing any of them to make things look like they fit perfectly, but I also didn't want a gap or an obvious overlap.  Partial strings of beads look very chic, random and modern, don't you think?  :)

Honestly, I was just playing with this quilt and making things up as I went along. The change in direction in the straight lines in the background add a little extra interest and movement to the otherwise simple background, but that was accidental.  I planned to do a diamond crosshatch in the background and started in that lower right corner.  Once I had crosshatched in the black stars, I decided it looked too busy and detracted from the circle quilting.  I stopped quilting in that corner, intending to come back later and pick it all out, and quilted the vertical lines in the rest of the quilt.  I went to bed, woke up, had breakast and pulled out the seam ripper to start ripping.  Hmm.  In daylight that little corner, part diagonal lines and part crosshatch looked like a rather interesting part of the whole.  Plus, that mindset saved me a lot of ripping!



You can see a little bit of the border treatment above, but it shows up even better on the back.


This is a border treatment I've been wanting to play with since I bought the feather templates.  These are just one side of a straight feather.  I started with a circle in the center of each side so I could make a tidy, orderly change of direction, and also liked how it broke up long stretch of feather lobes into more pleasing chunks.  I pondered how to turn the corners, then remembered old picture frames with scroll details that didn't always go all the way around the frame.  I decided to stop the feathers short of the corner and continue with plain straight lines around the corners to complete the "frame".  I love how it turned out and I think a larger version of this might come out to play when I finally get around to quilting the butterfly quilt.

I have quilted 5 versions of this quilt so far - 3 full scale throws and 2 reduced size ones, and each one needed a different quilting plan depending on the fabrics and colors.  Take a look:





I don't think I can choose a favourite...

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tic Tac Meow and Robin



I finished Tic Tac Meow. Thank you for all the suggestions about cat placement.  Clearly, I have not been around cats enough.  Apparently, some of the X blocks would have been scattered or askew if they had truly been around a cat.  I really didn't feel like ripping and rearranging though, so things are rather more orderly than a true cat would have allowed, but here it is.

Tic Tac Meow variation of Tic Tac Who pattern by Canuck Quilter Designs
Tic Tac Meow

I didn't want any quilting on the Cuddle fabric.  I wanted an uninterrupted soft furry surface for the cat, but that would have left too large an unquilted space under the cat.  (I used Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 blend batting and it specifies quilting no more than 4 inches apart.)  To get the effect I wanted I quilted the quilt before adding the cat, and just stitched though all the layers to sew the cat on afterwards.  I hope that survives multiple washings!



I couldn't resist the striped binding.  I'm glad I had blogged about joining diagonal stripes on the bias when making striped binding, because I couldn't remember how to cut the strips to hide the seams where strips join.  I'm glad I didn't have to waste any fabric to figure it out again.  I just love this red stripe and am trying to make it last!


I found the perfect backing too.  Look at those little whiskered cat faces!

I almost hate to let it go, but this quilt will be on its way to its new home soon.

I'll still have a little bit of it though. I cut out more squares than I needed for the quilt so that I could audition the fabric and fabric positions.  I also had waste triangles from the stitch-and-flip corners.  Finally, I had an extra cat silhouette, cut out to fit in one block before I decided I wanted the cat to have more presence.


The leftovers all fit quite nicely into this little piece..  I have decided it will be the center of my round-robin quilt at guild so I'm naming the cat Robin .  We will pass our centers along for the first round of borders in a couple of weeks then it will be several months before I see how the quilt turns out.  I have lots of ideas for borders but the fun will be to see what my group partners will come up with instead.  I'm rather impatient to see, and we haven't even started yet.  I think I'm going to have to develop a little bit of patience!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Strips and more strips

Over 4 years ago, when I designed my paper pieced snowflakes, I only had time to make small projects with them.. I have runners, a pillow and a tote bag sporting various snowflakes.  I always planned to make a larger quilt big enough to snuggle under when it's cold and snowy outside, but I never quite got around to it.

Now I think I never quite got around to it because I hadn't come up with quite the right layout.  Just after midnight one night a couple of weeks ago one little tweak to the design popped into my head.  I got up and tried it out in EQ right away, and my enthusiasm for these snowflakes came roaring back.  Just one little tweak was all it needed.



Fabrics came out to play this week while cold snow fell outside, pushing other work to the bottom of my list. I haven't been excited about any new projects in awhile so I am riding this wave of enthusiasm!

Despite the enthusiasm there isn't much to show yet.  I spent time working out cutting directions for the whole quilt rather than cut one block's worth at a time.  I thought that with 26 snowflakes, things could get messy and wasteful quickly if I cut each snowflake's parts individually.  I gathered all my snowflake cutting charts, added up numbers for identical cuts, and figured out how many strips of each fabric in which width would make most efficient use of my fabric to make all 26 flakes.


Umm, a lot?

I won't subcut these strips all at once.  The plan is to cut just what I need from the appropriate strips for one snowflake at a time.


I'm happy to put these smiley face binder clips to good use to keep my strips sorted.  Santa tucked them in my stocking at Christmas, as though he knew Id need them.

I work tomorrow, but on Sunday I plan to start making snow.



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.

Maybe.


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