Sunday, February 21, 2021

A "Just Because" Finish

Look what I finished this weekend!

Rosie has given it her seal of approval, but you can't see the quilt vey well.  Let's try again.

I started and finished this top last spring but it kept being pushed to the end of the quilting queue, behind projects with deadlines and new pattern samples.  This month I finally acknowledged that there will always be new deadline projects in my business, and that I needed to let myself enjoy some "just because" sewing.  

So I did.  I gave myself permission to not work on the weekends and I just played. I really enjoyed this one. I seem to be in the mood for simplicity these days, so I started with very simple straight line walking foot quilting in the background to emphasize the scrappy squares. Here's the first pass in both directions.

Another pass on the other side of each seam dressed it all up just a little.

That was the simple patchwork look I was looking for.  The plan, when I was working on the top last spring, was to do fancier quilting in the sunflowers with my quilting rulers.  I did try a little fancy work in the grey centers, but it just didn't fit with the simplicity of the background.  I picked it out and decided to just outline quilt inside the center and petals and hope inspiration would strike while I did that.

Once I had done that, I was satisfied with just adding simple crosshatching in the flower center.  That tied into the grid in the background.  Leaving the inside of the petals blank made them just a little puffy, like the rest of the quilt.

Next up was the border. I stitched in the ditch just before the last border, mostly to tack down the prairie point accents. Next I thought about straight lines either perpendicular to the edge or just running around the quit like a frame, but there are a lot of straight lines in this quit already.  I took out paper, pencil and quilting rulers to draw different ideas to add curves to the border.

These small arches fit neatly into the squares in the border and seemed to tie in with the petal shapes.

Yesterday I added a little scrappy yellow binding to frame it all. I am so happy with the finished quilt!

In case you were wondering:
  • Sunflower block is from the book Mini Wonderful Curves by Sew Kind of Wonderful
  • Setting is mine
  • Fabric (including backing and binding) is all from my scraps, except for three 1/4 yard cuts I bought to add a few lighter squares for variety.
On to the next project!  Small Change, the red and white quilt, is basted and ready to quilt.  I'm still pondering the possibilities, but once again I am leaning towards simplicity.  I'll see what happens when I actually start stitching. Hopefully I'll have a reveal for you soon.

Happy Quiting,

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Quick quilt top

After blogging last weekend I admired the pretty Island Batik 10" stack a little longer, then untied the bundle and set to work.

Here's what I started with.

I love that it matched my African violet.  It stayed on the coffee table a whole day longer than planned, just because the grouping looked pretty.

After pressing and cutting and mixing up the prints in stacks, I moved on to laying out blocks. 

I was still enjoying the fabrics up close, but I must say the project didn't look too inspiring as a whole at this point.

Things improved as I started sewing. Sewing larger squares together was so much faster than the all the corners and small pieces on last week's red and white project.  It was a nice change of pace.  You can see I pinned labels to the blocks.  This one was the first block in the second row.  I put all the labels in the the top left quadrant of each block to help me keep track of the orientation. It wouldn't have been a huge deal if I had inadvertently turned a block, or flipped positions, but since I went to the trouble of laying all the pieces out in the first place, I figured I might as well take a few minutes to add labels.

I love the way any design seems to smarten up once the background is added and everything is neatly pressed.  This was getting better, but was still a little bit bland.  It needed a little something to dress it up.

Well, this photo doesn't do it justice.  The border background is a rich purple that really sets off the jewel tones in the small squares, which in turn make the blocks pop a little bit more. Measuring, pinning and sewing on borders is far from my favourite part of piecing a quilt, but it can sure make a difference to the design.  I think this pieced border is much more interesting than a plain one, and ends up making the blocks more interesting that they would be on their own.

This pattern is now being tested, and the top will go in the growing "to be quilted" stack.  My local quilt shop is open by appointment only at the moment to help them mitigate covid risk, so I can't run in on a whim to get what I need to finish.  I have made a long list of backings, backings and threads I need to finish several quilts from the stack so I can make good use of my appointment time on Tuesday.  If I do this right, February might be good finishing month!

What's your quilting plan this month?

Happy quilting,


PS:  If you're wondering, everything in this quilt top is batik from Island Batik. The 10" squares are from the Jewel Quest collection, the background is a basic,  Egg White, and the border is also a basic (marble BE24-A1).  The background actually has pretty swirls of dots in subtle colors, and I can't figure out why it's called Egg White.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Lots of writing and frantic sewing

I started the new year feeling organized and in control.  One month in, not so much!  I have had a few more designs accepted by catalogs, but those come with pattern deadlines so I have hunkered down at the computer to write.  A couple of opportunities to submit designs elsewhere popped up, so I shifted into design mode.  All these are great "problems" to have from a business perspective, but it does mean I haven't had much time to share sewing here on the blog.

However, after all the designing and writing, I have to test things out.  The pattern isn't due to the catalog until March, but they need to order next fall's fabric for kits from the mills now, so they needed firm fabric requirements earlier.  I have confidence in my quilt math skills, but every now and then I forget to count a part.  I never feel 100% about my fabric math until I have made the quilt top.

Cue the frantic fabric cutting.

Doesn't that white stack look fabulous sitting on the red fabric?  I didn't get to admire it for long, as I had to get the red cut too.

There are all the pieces.  I'm not sure I should share the total number.  It makes the design sound daunting when it really isn't.

This pattern uses a lot of stitch-and-flip, AKA lost corners, so there is a bit a lot of marking.  I have tried different ways of sewing diagonal lines using a guide on the bed of the sewing machine, but I get better, more consistent results when I mark, so out came the pencil.  I'm not sure why I never before thought to lay out and mark several at a time.  I used to take one, mark it, stack it and reach for the next. Laying a few out a time is a small change, but it did seem to speed up the process.

I didn't plan to use a solid red.  I had a rich red Shadow Play in mind, but the shop didn't have any left when I needed it, so I settled for the solid.  I thought it might look too austere. Now that I have all the parts pieced, I think the solid is perfect. You can't see the white on white snowflakes in the photos, but they soften the look a bit, adding just a little interest to let the solids do their thing without making the whole quilt look stark.

With all the parts made, I'm pretty confident about what numbers to send the catalog, so I need to pivot to the other project with a deadline, but I'm really excited to share this one with you in the next little while.  If a classic red and white quilt is on your bucket list, or a quilt in any two colors, this design might be the one to tick it off the list.  If you'd like to test the pattern in the process, and have time to spare before the end of February, send me an email.  

As excited as I was to make this one (it's turning out just as I envisioned) I'm looking forward to something a little faster to put together. Next up is a 10" square precut friendly quick make, a  nice change from the many pieces of this red and white beauty.  The next one has fewer, bigger pieces, but it's just as pretty because it's going to be made in gorgeous jewel tone batiks...

Jewel Quest 10" stack by Island Batik, with yardage from their Basics lines

That's all I have to show until after I cut it all up and sew.  The presentation is so lovely though, it almost seems a shame to take it apart...

Meanwhile, I'd like to know:  have you ever made a two-color quilt?  I'd love to hear about it.  If you haven't, are you tempted?

Happy quilting,


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Temperature Quilt 2020 is a top

Here it is!  My 2020 Temperature Quilt project is now a quilt top.  I would have shared sooner, but I ran into a little problem, and had to go sulk about it a little while, then admit that there was no quick fix.  I had to make friends with my seam ripper.  I dragged my feet, but I finally made a date with the quilt top this past weekend and voila!  

It isn't as pretty a picture as my last in-progress update picture, when the garden was still green. I thought it would look lovely over a pristine blanket of fresh snow, but I couldn't find such a spot in my yard right now.  The snow has started melting, the dog and has tromped through most of it anyway, and I added my boot prints to the mix.  Nevertheless, the colors pop in my winter landscape!

I had hoped to finish the top on January 1st and share it then.  I had 4 months of data to catch up on in the last few days of December (oops!), but I was on track by December 31.  On January 1st I retrieved the data for the last day of December, sewed the last block, attached it to the last row, and sewed the final row to the quilt.  I was on a roll and didn't even slow down at the borders.  You know I always slow down at that step, so this tells you I was really inspired to finish!

So what went wrong?  In rushing to catch up in the last few days of December, I neglected to check my seam allowance.  It looked OK, but I never actually checked.  Every seam being a tiny little bit off, multiplied over 30 seams, added up to about an inch. I thought I'd notice something like that when I sewed my new rows to the previous ones, but as I was matching seams between rows, each little bit was off by so little that it didn't cause a noticeable pucker to tip me off. The quilt just gently flared out at the bottom.

Yes, I did go sulk, and the quilt sat there for a couple of weeks, but once I resigned myself to using the seam ripper, I found it was really a pretty easy fix. I ripped the side border seams up past the offending rows, removed the last four rows, took in seams between blocks until each row was the same length as the January to August rows, then sewed the rows back on.

What's next?  The backing, of course.  I had no fabric picked out for the backing when my friend Michelle B. mentioned on Instagram that she looked forward to seeing one of my pieced backs on it. Of course, once she planted that thought, nothing else would do.  I have been playing around with ideas. 

 I want to incorporate the color/temperature key in it somehow.  Here's where I started:

This would be the next fastest option after a plain back, just color width-of-fabric strips with grey borders to bring the backing up to size.  I thought this might be a little boring, after all the flowing motion of the color on the front, so I played a little bit more in EQ8 to get option 2 and 3:

I haven't firmly decided yet, but right now I'm leaning towards the last one.

The last decision will involve determining how to add the numbers for the temperature ranges.  I thought I might applique grey numbers, but I'm not sure I want to do that much applique.  I could fuse the number on with fusible web and skip the sewing, but I'm not convinced that would hold up to washing, and I wonder if I would like the look of ironed-on fabric without any stitching around it.  Would it look unfinished?

A lovely foundation paper pieced numbers pattern from Meadow Mist designs is whispering in my ear, so perhaps I will paper piece grey numbers on color backgrounds.  I'll have to see how fussy the small 3" tall foundations look before I decide.  There isn't a deadline on this, so I could plan to piece a few digits each week.  That could be this year's weekly plan to take the place of the temp quilt weekly sewing, because I'm not planning to sew another temp quilt. Of course in the end it could end up being sewn all at once, rather like the last four month of the temperature quilt!

Until I decide on a plan for the backing, I'll be working on other things.  I have spent a large chunk of the last month doing more designing and writing than sewing, and I'm looking forward to bringing some of those ideas to life in fabric. My sewing machine has been lonely and wants my attention!  I'll share as I make progress.

What about you?  Have you started the new year off with some sewing?  New projects?  Old projects getting closer to being finished?  A temperature quilt?  I'd love to hear about your quilty plans for 2021.

Happy sewing,


PS: If you want to make your own Temperature Quilt, I am still offering the pattern for free here.