Monday, October 5, 2020

Shuffle placemats and runner

I use placemats and runners on my table year-round. Switching them out to fit the season or occasion is an easy way to freshen up my decorating.  Shuffle was designed this summer, when I was pining for sandy beaches and ocean.  Though I was disappointed to miss my ocean visit this summer, my placemats captured a bit of that summer beach vibe.  



Strip piecing for part of the construction helped these come together quickly.  I easily cut and sewed the tops in a weekend, and quilted them the next weekend. 

Moda Grunge almost-solid fabrics gave this version a modern edge.  I love the way they turned out, but I know focus prints in the accents would look fabulous as well.  Or how about a focus print in the large square and coordinating small prints or textures in the rest?  That's what tester Debbie Crosby chose for hers.

Debbie Crosby's Shuffle placemats

Debbie did send photos without the feline inspector, but how could I not include him?

While I stuck to one color family for the accents, there's no rule about that.  Check out Tammy Howell's version.  It has me thinking of birthday cupcakes with coloured frosting.

Tammy's Shuffle placemats


You can see that Debbie, Tammy and I all used straight line quilting.  I can't speak for them, but I wanted to accentuate the diagonal direction of the accent pieces.  Also, straight line was quick and easy.  If you care to spend more time, the design does lend itself to sampling different freemotion designs, as Vivian McCagg's set showcases.



There is no reason to stick with a light-colored background.  Joanne Embury's placemats feature bold but effective colour.

Joanne Embury's Shuffle placemats

Buffie Lorah and Sandie L. both opted for print backgrounds and more solid accents for a different effect.

Buffie's version of Shuffle placemats

Sandie's version of Shuffle placemats

Thank you so much to all these quilters for their tests and feedback to help me produce the best possible pattern. 

Now that the pattern is published, I thought I might step away from the computer for a little while to get some sewing in, but first I made a little detour into EQ8 to plan some fall place settings.


I also played with Halloween prints, and Christmas prints, and kids' novelty fabrics, and a plethora of color options but I won't subject you to a core dump of my ideas!  I'm sure you have lots of inspiration of your own.  What color or theme would you make these in?

The Shuffle pattern is now available in my shop.  Get yours now through October 7th at 25% off the regular price.  

Friday, October 2, 2020

Stellar Breeze

I really, really like how Stellar Breeze turned out.  I was working on a different design when just one part of it caught my eye.  That one part seemed to want to be the focus, so I started over.  EQ8 got a workout that day!


Would you believe that my favourite parts of this design are actually the two that I least like to sew? For me, the sashing and border are what take this from OK to "Ooh, I like".  They open up the design just a little, making it seem a little lighter and a little more delicate.


The sashing has the added bonus of coming between the points, so if the points don't line up perfectly, no one will notice.  Well, unless someone grabs a  straight edge and checks, but anyone who would do that wouldn't get a quilt form me!

Matching the border to the background made the quilt lighter, but the skinny border and matching binding work together to turn the borders into a frame anyway, without the visual weight of colored borders.


That said, different fabric choices will change the look.  I like these EQ mock-ups too.  What would you choose?  Light or dark background?  Brights or neutrals?  Something else?




My thanks to my pattern testers Sandie L, Kathi Kivi and Kathy Bruckman for providing valuable feedback for the pattern.  Check out Sandie's version on her blog, and  Kathi Kivi's  progress photos on Instagram of her lovely version in rich fall colors. 

The pattern is now in my shop.  Get yours at 25% regular price now through October 7th.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

They are finally ready!

   After many delays, my three new patterns are finally available in my Etsy shop!  



I'll share a bit more about each over the next few days, but I couldn't wait to let you know they are finally released!  Like all my patterns, they feature detailed illustrations instructions, all broken down into manageable steps to help you go from a stack of pretty fabrics to a beautiful finished quilt without getting overwhelmed. 

Quilt draped over a wooden railing in the woods


PDF instant downloads are available now in my Etsy shop. Because I'm so excited about that, I'm running a 25% off sale on these three fabulous patterns now through October 7th.  No coupon code necessary! 

Quilted placemats


Printed copies can be bought wholesale by shops by contacting me directly.  Please ask at your favourite shop!  They will also be available to shops from Checker Distributor soon.

Close up of purple and white star quilt


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Summer is in full bloom this fall!

Today may be the official first day of fall, but summer is in full bloom in my sewing room.  I tweaked the bloom block I shared in my previous post.  I just reshaped and shrank the leaves a little to make them a little bit less prominent.

Red patchwork flower block


Once the block was just the way I wanted it, I dithered about cutting into the fabrics I bought.  I knew I wanted to use all the reds, but I was pretty sure I didn't want only reds.  I was also pretty sure I could use the pinks as well, but I wasn't sure about the blue, or the aquas.  I didn't want to waste fabric by making the blocks then not using them.  Really, that little internal discussion wasted way too much time!

In the end I convinced myself that I could just make a secondary project with any blocks that didn't make the final cut for the quilt.  I cut pieces for one block from each fabric, made those 10 blocks, and what do you know, I liked the combination just fine!  I cut another set to make another 10 blocks and headed back to the sewing machine...and the pressing board...and the cutting mat. 

Pile of small fabric triangles beside rotary cutter


I designed the block using stitch-and-flip/lost corners/folded corners (pick your label!) instead of cutting triangles and dealing with bias edges and at least one non-standard shape.  It makes assembly easier, but it does involve a lot of trimming.  At least they are pretty trimmings.

Sashing and cornerstones came next.  I chose the same yellow as I used for the small petals to avoid introducing yet another fabric to make things busier.  I definitely wanted cornerstones.  Cornerstones help me line up blocks nicely, and they help me avoid measuring long strips for the horizontal sashing. 

patchwork quilt top with flower blocks

That's a terrible photo.  That's what happens when I take photos in my sewing room at night.  Nevertheless, you get an idea of how the blocks play together.

Since I like to avoid measuring and sewing long strips, you would think I would avoid multiple borders.  I really dislike measuring and pinning borders.  I stress about it and I dither and even when I do get to work on them I'm slow as molasses.  It took me all afternoon to add the background border (I guess you could call that the outside sashing) and two more narrow borders.

Patchwork quilt top composed of flower blocks


If I dislike adding borders so much, why do I design quilts with borders?  I do it because borders can help pull everything together and transform the quilt from OK to one that makes me do a happy dance.  Not every quilt needs them, but this one certainly does.  Just to be clear, those narrow borders are not transforming the quilt all on their own.  They look rather uninspiring right now, but just wait until you see them paired with the final pieced border.  There are white dots on red involved, and a little bit of yellow gingham-like print.  I'm working on that last border now, and I'm getting ready for the happy dance!

Happy quilting!
Joanne

Friday, September 11, 2020

Hanging on to summer

After a scorching summer complete with drought, we finally had some rain this week.  You would think that after the heat, I would also welcome the much cooler temperatures that came with the rain, but it's unseasonably cool.  Aren't I picky?  Too hot! Too cold!  Sigh. I'm sure things will warm up again for a few weeks at least but right now, it definitely feels like fall outside.

I love fall, but early September is too soon!  I have decided to hang on to summer just a little longer and bring some fresh bright blooms into my sewing room. The blooms in my garden are definitely done, as I gave up trying to keep thing watered, but here are the raw materials for the sewing room garden.



I'm not sure if all those fabrics will make the cut. At the store, I couldn't find the right fabrics to quite match the picture in my mind. It was hard to rethink the colour plan on the fly, so I ended up buying a little more so I could play around a little.  I'm not sure about including the bright blue, but the light aquas would be very bland on their own against the red.  I could use only the red, and maybe pink prints, but that might be a bit too much red for me.  I'll make blocks and see how they all play together.

I made a sample block with scraps.


It needs a little tweaking.  I think the leaves are a little distracting, so they need a little work.  I'm getting closer to a final design.  I may make enough progress to share more next week.

I'm off to sew! Have a good weekend!

Joanne

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Temperature Quilt Tuesday

I have not been consistent about posting my temperature quilt progress!  Let's see if I can do better for what remains of the year.  Here is the quilt top so far, up to date through August 31. It's been rather fun to let go and allow the daily temperatures to select color placement for me.

Quilt top with multicolor waves


I photographed it sideways because my fence is short.  January is on the far left, August on the far right.  You can see it has been hot this summer.  The darkest red is for everything above 30 degrees Celcius (above 86 F), and a lot of those were hovering in the mid-thirties C (mid 90s F).




I underestimated how many of those days we'd have.  Either my memory of past summers is poor or we have had a particularly hot one in 2020. I suppose I could go look up past years' data, but I'm really not that motivated! At any rate, I ran out of the dark red and had to scoot to the quilt shop for more.  I may or may not have left the store with other pretties to make the trip worthwhile.

OK.  More fabric did come home with me.  More on that another time, after I take pretty pictures of pretty fabric :)

In the meantime, you can still get your copy of the Temperature Quilt pattern here.  You can start now and record through next summer, or you can catch up all at once on this year's data, or you can tuck the pattern away for next calendar year. Don't forget to check out my post from March about getting organised for Temp Quilt success.

Happy quilting,
Joanne

Friday, September 4, 2020

Positive changes

2020 has been a doozy of a year, and there have been times when crawling into a bunker and waiting for it all to pass has been mighty tempting.  Turns out a quilted blanket fort is better.  Crawl in with a dog and a stuffy and you're bound to feel  better.  Rosie insists.

Dog in blanket fort


Anyway, in March, the pandemic led to me being laid off from my job at the quilt shop.  Scary stuff, but as my husband's job is secure I had the luxury of stepping back and taking stock of life. To make a long story short, I took a deep breath and decided to not return to the quilt shop when it reopened. I am concentrating on Canuck Quilter Designs instead.  

That was a big change.  Though I miss the customers and my co-workers, I'm happy to report that change led to a cascade of small positive changes and I'm feeling better than I have in a long time.  As an added bonus, feeling better has given my creativity a much needed boost!


Some of these are almost ready to share.  There are 3 pattern releases coming up soon. I have new design ideas simmering, fabric pulled, and I'm excited to start sewing them up. 

Between the designing and sewing, I have also been working on the business side of Canuck Quilter.  Last week I hit publish on my brand new website!  Creating a business website, as opposed to adding pages to the blog, has been on my to-do list for years, and I finally did it.  See the little maple leaf favicon in the tab beside the website name? It's ridiculous how happy I was to figure out how to add that little detail. Well, you might need to click through to the site and see it on your own screen, because it's pretty tiny in this screen capture shot. 



The blog will still be here at this address, but some other pages are now shared with the website.  You can access everything from the tabs below the blog header, and you can access the blog from the tabs on the website.  The two will work together, so whether you find me find me at www.canuckquilterdesigns.com or here, you'll be able to access all the same content.

Finally,  I invite you to sign up for my newsletter.  That's also been simmering a long time, but I'm excited to start sending out quilting inspiration, tips, and occasional subscriber bonuses.  At the moment the plan is to send an update out once or twice a month.  If this is something you think you'd enjoy finding in your inbox, you can sign up here, or use the form at the bottom of the page or in the sidebar.

If you'd like to get just the new blog posts delivered to your inbox, where they are formatted to be more phone-friendly, you can sign up for that on the sidebar as well.

I'm off to play with fabric now!

Happy quilting,

Joanne



Thursday, August 27, 2020

Reinventing the wheel (or at least the HRT)

I indulged in a few long afternoons of playing in EQ8 recently.  As usual, what I ended up with bears no resemblance to what I started with. This instance was rather extreme: I was thinking flowers and somehow ended up with a sailboat.  Go figure!

Patchwork quilt block of a sailboat in teal colours

After I drew it, I printed out the cut sizes the software suggested and happily started cutting and sewing, only to find that my sails were not turning out the size they should.  I suppose I could have winged it and fudged all the other block parts to make it all fit together, but I'm really not an improv kind of quilter.  I can appreciate a well-made improv quilt, but I don't particularly enjoy the process myself.  I like to know what to cut to what size to make things fit in a predetermined way.  So there.

This of course meant that I needed to figure out why things weren't working out. I double- and triple-checked my seam allowance.  I cut more fabric, checking my measurements.  Nope, still not working.  I finally figured out that my problem arose from having to guess how to line up the triangles when I sewed them together. I wasn't hitting the sweet spot.  I thought I knew where to align one piece relative to the seam allowance on the other. I was wrong, though it would have worked if the geometry of that long triangle hadn't messed up the works.


To make a long story short, in a HRT unit, if you want the diagonal seam to reach perfectly from corner to corner, you don't want the seam to be exactly on the diagonal of the unfinished unit.  I drew it out on paper to wrap my mind around it. The paper is cut to the unfinished size of the unit and the drawn rectangle inside is the finished size.  If you extend the line that runs diagonally from corner to corner in the finished size, you see that it does not actually cross the corners of the unfinished unit.

Well, that's a fine how-do-you-do! I know there are rulers out there that take all this into account.  In fact, I have one on my wall that would suit, except that it isn't large enough for the unit I needed.  Also, the quilt design I have in mind uses just a few boat blocks, and I'd hate to ask folks to buy a specialty ruler for just a few blocks.

I humphed and harrumphed and decided there must be  away to make these a little larger and cut down to size so alignment wouldn't be such a bother.  I took in ideas from various tutorials, and spent half the afternoon stirring them all together and finally came up with something that worked the way I wanted.  

2 Half-rectangle triangle unit in progress

I spent the rest of the afternoon figuring out the math to know what size rectangles to start with to end up with a given size.  It would be a pain to use trial and error every time I want a different sized unit.

There's a tutorial in the works to share the details.  In the meantime, tell me, have you used HRT in any projects?  If so, do you have any tips or trick to share?

Oh, about comments: if you commented on my last post and never received a reply, I apologize.  I've been working on some things on the tech side of Canuck Quilter, tweaked something to fix one issue and messed up something else.  The comments never ended up in my inbox. When I realized I had no comments I just thought everyone was just too busy enjoying the end of summer! Anyhow, I think I've fixed the issue, so please, leave me your thoughts about HRT units.


Friday, August 14, 2020

Off the fence about quilting On the Fence

It's a good thing I had quilting distractions the last few weeks.  Just as I was building up a head of steam to write a blog post then tackle less exciting business tasks, our internet connection cut out.  Literally. A cable bundle in our neighbourhood was accidentally cut. It took our provider more than 2 weeks to restore our phone and internet service.  

All those "exciting" business tasks needed internet so had to be put on hold. What's a girl to do?  Turn on the sewing machine, of course.  

The stack of tops waiting to be quilted is getting distressingly tall, but if I stop to think about it I get discouraged and none of the tops get quilted.  I plucked up my courage and plucked this one off the top of the pile.

Patchwork blue and white lattice with blue double star accent

The pattern has been waiting for its cover quilt.  The top has been ready for months but right about the time I was ready to quilt it, the pandemic turned things upside down.  My husband started working from home and we set up an office space for him in the other half of my space, where I usually baste larger quits.  This quilt isn't very large, but it is a little wider than my table.  I thought it would be easier to wait until the larger space was available again.  I think you can all guess how that turned out.  The university is encouraging people to work from home as much as possible, so the home office is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

I don't want to wait forever to release the pattern or to use the quilt, so it needed to be quilted. I only have so much budget for quilting-by-check, though that would be easier. Then again, maybe I have an idea of what I want and I couldn't afford the cost of custom quilting. But sending it to a longarmer would free up time for other things...  Let's just say that I spent a lot of time sitting on the fence about what I should do about quilting this quilt. 

I finally got off the fence and made a decision. I committed to quilting it myself and went ahead with basting in sections on my cutting table.  It wasn't as much of a pain as I anticipated.   I just had to make up my mind and do it.

pin basting a blue and white quit draped over a table

I thought I would get this quilted quickly.  Surely, a day, two at most, should do.  I should know better!  Quilting always takes longer than anticipated. This time, it took closer to a week.  Some of that time was spent pondering what to do next, or whether what I was doing was really a good choice. (It turns out I didn't have as much of an idea of how to quilt it as I had thought!) A lot of time was spent wrestling the quilt sandwich through the throat of the machine. Finally, let's face it, I'm not a fast quilter!

First I stitched in the ditch in the lattice using my walking foot.  Stitching straight lines in a single direction at a time, I didn't have to turn the quilt much, so the using the walking foot was less time consuming and more convenient than using the ruler foot and straight ruler.  Next, I quilted a motif in the background areas of the lattice using the ruler foot and one of my Westalee templates.

Detail of quilted bloom motif on blue and white quilt

That actually went very quickly and I patted myself on the back until I spread it out.  It was OK, but...I was not 100% satisfied. The flowers seemed a little lost somehow when I spread out the whole quilt.  What to do, what to do?  Sleep on it, of course.

The next day I drew out several options on paper, all based on what I quilted the day before because I was not prepared to pick out all the previous day's work!

Detail of qilting motif on blue and white patchwork quilt

Well, this filled the space a little better, and dressed it up a little.  It was more time consuming that the previous day's stitching as there were a lot of starts and stops, and switching rulers for the center circle. I was happier with the result, but then had to decide what to quilt in the lattice.  

My original plan was to not quilt anything in the lattice strips beyond the ditch stitching.  However, with the densely quilted white space, the unquilted lattice was puffy, in a messy sort of way, and looked unfinished.  After much deliberation, I agreed with my husband that things were busy enough without adding too much dense fancy quilting to the lattice.  Plain straight lines evened out the quiting density well enough.

Detail of straight line quilting and bloom motif on blue and white patchwork quilt

Moving on to the edges, I was momentarily stumped figuring out how to transition from the open sides of the lattice to the surrounding background.  Echo quilting to the rescue!

Quilting partially completed on blue and white patchwork quilt

With the center now defined by the echo quilting all around, the rest of the background became a sort of border area.  Again keeping in mind how busy the flower motif was, I decided to give the eye a quieter place to rest in the border with some plain piano key quilting.  I used the ruler foot and straight edge for these lines.

corner quilting detail on blue and white patchwork quilt

I had all sorts of grand plans for some sort of arc design in the dark blue border, but I decided the quilt was already busier than I had planned and I didn't want to add more "busy".  I thought of mirroring the straight line and peaks from the white edges, but that would have left the valleys between the peaks, right up by the edge of the quilt, less densely quilted.  I know from experience that less densely quilted borders end up being very friendly - they wave!

My husband had the answer.  He asked why I didn't just carry the straight lines over all the way to the edge.  Huh. I was so wrapped up in the idea of mirroring the other side of the border that the simpler design just never occurred to me.

Paino key quilting motif in borders of blue and white patchwork quilt

It's simple but I think it works, and it doesn't distract from what I quilted in the center.  Plus my border doesn't wave.  That's a big plus!

quilted blue and white double star patchwork block

I also chose to keep things simple in the focus star.  The straight lines tie in to the borders and the lattice.  Using the ruler foot and straight edge quilting ruler this was easy and quick to quilt, also a point in its favour.

quilting motif detail on blue and white patchwork star block

Quilting in the ditch around the stars and a little extra something in the center to flatten out a little poofy bit finished off the quilting.

The quilt still needs a photo shoot for (hopefully) glamour shots.  Maybe I can conscript a family member to help with that this weekend!

That's half of what I've been up to recently while I was out of digital reach.  What has been under your needle?

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Dueling projects

I guess if there are three projects involved it isn't really a duel.  Perhaps "competing" would be a better choice of words.

Stellar Breeze had my full attention for several days.  I went through the usual "love it, hate it" cycle.  Working at night I doubted my fabric choice.  I chose Moda Grunge colors because I could mock that up in EQ and know that my local quilt shop would have what I needed.  I'm still a little uneasy about spending a lot of time browsing in a shop right now, so being able to call in with a list of what I need and just quickly pick up was an attractive option. 

3 purple fabrics

Anyhow, I loved the purples I chose until I looked at my design wall late at night.  In that light, my fabric selection seemed very flat and I wished I had different tone on tone prints instead.  The next morning, in full daylight, with the Grunge texture visible, I liked it better again.  We'll see how it photographs for a pattern cover.

Partial quilt top with stars in 3 shades of purple

I made great progress until it was time to add borders.  As usual, I slowed to a crawl there, and that's when the other projects piped up and demanded some attention.

Blue place mats with white and grey chevron s

These placemats won.  Shuffle was really quick to put together using strip sets. Again I used Grunge for ease of remote shopping, but it didn't work out quite as well as I had hoped this time.  The white and light gray fabrics seemed different enough when they were lying one on top of the other, but with the blue in between, there isn't enough difference.  They look very much the same except when you're up close.  Both my grown kids loved these, so we'll probably use them for home and I'll make another version for the pattern cover. These still need to be quilted, but I don't have backing.  I wasn't thinking ahead with my remote shopping!  

The third project my name while Stellar Breeze still awaits borders is my Temperature Quilt.  In theory, I'd make one unit each day and keep up.  In practice, I'm two months behind.

I took time to gather all the temperature data and get the corresponding color squares pulled.

yello, orange and red squares of fabric

Can you tell it has been hot recently?  I thought 1/8 yard of the darkest red for the hottest temperature range would be plenty, but at this rate I am going to have to replenish the supply.  I have made a start sewing these together and adding background bits.  Maybe I'll finish that tonight.  But Stellar Breeze is frowning at me from the design wall. Maybe sewing borders should be tonight's goal?

Decisions, decisions.  I think I need to go have supper while I think about this.  Tonight's menu includes grilled chicken Lemon Ceasar Salad and fluffy potato rolls.  I think food will help the thought processes!

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!