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.


  1. Beautiful swans.... and yes, basting had me thinking of cooking that bird! Nicely done. So glad the creative juices are flowing again.

  2. The swans are awesome! My parents would be proud - both are Iowa State grads...I might have been too if I hadn't been told I had to stay in-state for my college education! I'm glad you're sewing again and hope the mojo is back for good!

  3. Oh my goodness, they are beautiful and what a clever idea to use a long stitch across the swans as a guide! I'm sure I could have used that little trick sometime in the past, I just hope I remember it for when I need it in the future.

  4. I'm glad to that you are getting your mo-jo back. I always enjoy seeing your beautiful quilts! Your thinking the plan through has given you a very pretty quilting design on those beautiful swans. ---"Love"

  5. I'm happy to hear you are feeling a little stir of creativity. The quilting for the swans is perfect and so pretty. These pillows will look great in your home. I think binding in the feather tip colors will be great!

  6. Cute swans. I like the way you quilted it.

  7. Was this swan pattern perfect for you or what? Your pillows are precious. When I lose that sewing mojo, but still want to sew and just can’t settle, I pull out my scraps and make those blocks I’ve saved and always wanted to try. Sometimes I’ll make two, three, even four different blocks before it kicks into high gear again. Hope your swans did the trick for you. I like that idea to go ahead and quilt but remove unwanted stitches afterwards. Very effective. I’m going back to read that post right now!

  8. What a great idea to do concentric circles in just the dark background! Very clever to snip it back out of the swans. They look great and I'm glad to hear they prodded your creative impulses :)

  9. What a great finish (or almost finish). I love your quilting choices--like the ripples of the water going out around the swan.
    I often do the stitch in the ditch when I have no idea how to quilt something, and hope that inspiration strikes as I work with the quilt.

  10. When you stitched either side of the swan did you do a few stitches in the one spot. Then did you just cut and unpick the unwanted sewing threads.

  11. Basting the birds - too funny! They look good. How did the Westalee ruler class go? I watched a few videos and might even give it a try.

  12. Hi Joanne, I'm really happy that your quilting mojo is coming back. I find that when I don't know how to quilt something that putting the layers together and then stitching in the ditch helps me get started. I really like those circles. Please consider linking up to Free Motion Mavericks - I'm hosting this week.
    Take care.


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