Finished Projects · Non-Quilt Projects · Piecing · Quilt Designs · UFO

UFO Month

Did you see that?? We have a new catagory tag! UFO! 😀 After the last post, I deemed February “UnFinished Object” month. I’ve said from the start that I don’t want a big stack of UFO quilts, so I decided to at least get started on my list.

Item 1: The Happy Village.

Sample Happy Village

The very first guild meeting was a demo and workshop by a newly local quilter who has been hosting these classes in a few major Canadian cities. The Happy Village is a tiny scrap-busting project where you make a city (usually your hometown) out of fabric. There is a method to doing it (fabric layers, background features, then houses, then roofs, then embellishments), but it’s mostly freedom of imagination. The quilter’s sample was absolutely darling and several people made lovely villages. In typical M style, a colour bukaki village was promptly constructed, complete with a strawberry sky and a Pizza Hut. My tablemates were no help. As soon as they realized how excited sugar-high M gets when finding weird bits of usual fabric, they were tossing gold-embossed and glow-in-the-dark fabric bits at me. AND I LOVED IT! 😀 I know that my little village doesn’t really look classically beautiful like everyone else’s, but it totally suits me. The white dots in the strawberry sky are actually glow-in-the dark specks, so the sky and the fireflies on the hill light up! It’s perfect. It technically falls into the UFO category because it’s been sitting on my work table for over a month, all pinned in place. I finally took an evening to quilt down the tulling on top, add a binding, and secure a sleeve. A sleeve goes on the back of the quilt with a gap through it to hang on a rod – like curtains on a curtain rod. That’s how most wall-mounted quilts are hung. All I have left is to insert a rod and find a place to proudly hang it in my sewing room. 🙂 UFO#1 = DONE!

M’s Happy Crazy Town

UFO #2 – The De La Luna tote.

We have already glossed over my love for Tula Pink fabric and for the De La Luna fabric in particular. Here’s how much I love it – even though I already have a full meter of the whole fabric line, I simply had to pick up another half-meter curated bundle from Royal Quilts when Alexandra had it on sale last year. After looking at the fabric multiple (MULTIPLE) times, I finally decided to make a bag with it. I cut out the face fabrics with a particular goal in mind for the bag, the piled all the pieces on my spare fabrics pile and moved on to slightly more urgent projects (wedding quilt*COUGH*). It’s been sitting there ever since. Now that February is UFO month, I reached back to this project to complete it. Since plucking it from obscurity, I developed a new vision of the bag. Want to see?

Step 1: Sew the face blocks together to make the front and back of the bag.
I considered mixing up the turquoise and purple face fabrics, but I couldn’t settle on a mixture that I liked, so I made one side turquoise and the other purple. I was initially going to sew the faces together with the narrow sashing between them, but I needed a little more width on the bag, so I sewed back in the section I had cut out from between the faces. It’s sort of dumb when I say it like that, but I think the effect is actually very striking. For one thing, it makes the ghosted eye stand out of the middle panel. If (read: WHEN, since I only used half the Royal Quilt bundle so far) I make a second bag, I will switch the colours on the middle panel so the purple eye is on the turquoise side and the turquoise eye is on the purple side. I didn’t even think about that until I was sewing the last face section together. I have more eye strips set aside, so I did the fabric switch on the last block and it looked AMAZING … but I didn’t want to rip out everything I’d done so far, so I left it as is! 😀

In the span of a week, I got the bag almost completely made. The side panels, while neat, caused a little bit of havoc because I don’t have a pattern for this. I’m making it up as I go, so I jury-rigged the installation. It came out fine and I learned some lessons for the next time. I have the cross-body strap cut out and ready to go – I’m just waiting on some rainbow-coloured hardware I ordered from Emmeline Bags (PERFECT, right???). This bag really should have two handles embedded in the front and back … however, I really don’t like bag handles. They keep slipping off my narrow shoulders, especially in the winter. I’d rather carry the bag cross-body so it doesn’t fall off, so strap it is! There are inner “pocket” sections that I sewed in using a special decorative stitch. Do you see what it is?? A moth!!! Like the death-head moths on the outer bag! I thought that was the coolest!! 😀 Also, when I free-motion stitched the outside, I thought it was neat to stitch around the moths, even in the black parts. Maybe that’s just me … and that’s okay too! Even though the strap isn’t actually sewed on, everything else is absolutely done, so I’m calling UFO #2 = DONE!

UFO #3 – My VERY FIRST project! I bought a half-meter of this flannel when I first started to quilt so I could practice free-motion quilting. I kept the first one because … well, it was my very first quilt, and I did a lot of little different styles, so not suitable for babies. I wanted to re-make the blocks to try a different visual design. This week was quilt camp weekend, so I did it at camp on RED! 😀 I love RED. And she’s so popular with the ladies! Anyways, back to the quilt. I really like the way it turned out! Only problem – it’s slightly too narrow for a baby quilt for guild. I have two options. If Fabricland still has this fabric (HIGHLY unlikely after 2 years), I can buy enough to make a final row. If not, I’m going to use the complimenting brown border fabric to expand it and put something different on the back. I’ll have this done by Tuesday and take it in to guild next Monday, so I’m calling UFO #3 = Done!

UFO #4 – The orange peel quilt.

Yup – I jumped back into the orange peel quilt. It’s been weighing on my conscience. This is supposed to be MY quilt for my side of the bed. I boxed it to work on other people’s quilts, but I don’t want to keep it in a box indefinitely. Plus, I want it on my bed!!! So it’s come out of retirement.

Part of the reason it got shelved was the curved piecing . I know I spoke about this before and I don’t think I was too negative about it at the time … but the truth is that the curved piecing got to me. I was really struggling with it and it shows. That first block looks very rough and the back is a boiling hot mess. :S I’m pretty sure I tore the fabric in the middle point during the 6th or 7th attempt to piece it, so I’ll be FMQing the crap out of it to keep it from coming apart when I assemble it. That is NOT the correct way to fix this problem, but I’m very very short on both the coral and the black fabric, so I have no margin for error. Anyways – problems with curved piecing were scaring me, so it went to UFO jail for a while.

I decided to take it to quilt camp. It’s very possibly the last quilt camp weekend for a bit, so I figured I’d take the orange peel to work on. I work slower at quilt camp with all the socializing I do, but I’m also more relaxed about my work, so I thought that might help. OMG … if you’re a newbie quilter like me, get into a quilting group! If it’s a guild with quilting days, that’s fine, but attending this quilt camp (some places call them “quilt retreats”) where you’re sitting with people who have been quilting for years is invaluable! The lady who was sitting on my right (coincidentally, she’s part of my quilt guild and we’ve been slowly getting better acquainted) saw I was attempting curved piecing and gave me a couple of very simple tips. Frickin’ witchcraft, I’m telling you! The curved piecing is going together like magic! There are no puckers, no flat spots, and it presses down perfectly! Nancy, I absolutely love you!! THANK YOU!!!!

My future quilt!

Now, my pieces aren’t exactly square and the center is HUGE because of all the meeting seams, but that’s mostly due to the crappy template I’m using. I’d get a plastic template to do this again in the future, but for now I just want to get this done. I’ll hide the wiggly edges in the piecing when I put the blocks together. Since I’ll only get 40″x40″ out of the fabric I have, I’m going to take advantage of the fact that Stacey over at Troll Brother’s Quilts is having a sale and found a couple of these coral bundles left over from last year. Picking up one more bundle will get me to 50″x70″. It’ll be slightly smaller than the twin quilt I originally intended for our double-sheet sleeping arrangement, but it’ll be miles better than a lap quilt and I’m short! 🙂 UFO#4 = moving into production status. Good enough! I won’t get it done in a weekend, but I can cut and piece it over the summer when I need a break from the niece quilt. Hopefully, I’ll have a bed quilt by the fall! Yay M!!! 😀

I have BOTM work to get done and a guild demonstration to prep for, but I’m happy with the work I did this month. 🙂 Come on, March! I know you’re hiding spring and I want to see it!

~M

Finished Projects · Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) · Piecing · Quilt Designs · Sewing Room

2020 Kickoff

I am so pumped for the 2020 quilting season! I’ve got some fun projects planned and I can’t wait to start!!! For the first year of the new decade, I’m only committing to projects I actually want to work on. That means signing up for only one BOTM (with FibreChick again) and not forcing myself to complete everything I start … unless there’s a deadline for some reason … speaking of, let’s introduce the first two quilts of 2020! 😀

I started this quilt on New Year’s Eve. My first cousin was expecting her second daughter in January and I decided to make a very brightly coloured quilt centered around an owl panel I picked up last year. I started of with two colour blocks – one warm and one cool, all the colours from the owl blocks. The solid colour blocks are called churn-dash blocks. The churn-dash pattern has many alternate names and is usually made with two colours to emphasize a specific design in the block, but I decided to use five colours. It causes different components to stand out on each block, which makes the pattern look different on each block.

I took a break to do something else with my sewing room. I hung up my design wall! I picked up some 0.5lb 3M Command hooks and stuck 4 of them on the wall. Then I hung my design felt to it and BOOM! Design walll!! The location is temporary. Do you see the plastic-covered item leaning against the wall? That is the glass form for the shower. When it’s installed and the room has been finished, the sewing room door will open against that wall. I intend to move the design wall behind the door. It will be a good use of the space without interfering with the door’s path. Plus, the wall won’t be facing the sunny window in that place. The sun will prematurely age the design wall and potentially fade quilt blocks where it is in the long-term.

Blocks on the wall

This allowed me to put up the blocks once I was finished. The warm blocks look beautiful, but they are too autumn-coloured to got with all the other blocks in the quilt. I cut and sewed four more churn-dash blocks using more jewel tones, but including a couple brighter fabrics to include some yellow and red to round out the owl-blocks.The owl blocks were set on a black fabric, so I decided to use black sashing to space all the blocks. I think the effect is bright, colourful, yet cohesive. The design wall was very helpful for laying out the blocks in the way looks best and to keep the rows organized.

I think the piecing took me three days, including the re-making of the warm blocks. It was immediately on to the quilting! I used scrap batting from my last two quilts and flannel I picked up at one of the guild meetings. Stash busting!!! I used an electric orange thread to do the quilting. I put continuous curves into the squares (this is swiftly turning into a favourite design for me) and a meander with loops around the owls. I also traced the owls, their eyes, and their wings. I ran a looping meander in the sashing between the blocks and around the border. The orange stands out beautifully on the black! I did something a little special with the top and bottom of the quilt. The baby was literally born as I was doing the quilting, so I “wrote” her first and middle name at the top of the quilt and the date at the bottom. It’s the first time I’ve ever done quilt-writing. It’s fairly easy – I just need a little practice!

I got to play with a new tool! Husqvarna came out with a binding tool for putting the binding on quilts. It’s not as perfect as doing it the long way yourself, but it saves me almost two days of pressing in half, then in quarters, then pinning on one side, then pinning on the other side. No folding, no pinning, and I only sew the binding once! It stitches the back and the front of the binding at the same time! It’s been worth every single penny for getting things done FAST. Merry Christmas to me!

Now that the quilt is in a box and on it’s way to the East Coast, I’ve started my next quilt for my great aunt. My grandmother has one sister left alive. She loved Grandma’s quilt, so I decided to make her a lap quilt. She’s recently re-located to a nursing home and I wanted something she could use all day long instead of something that stays on her bed. One of my favourite online quilting stores, Troll Brothers Quilt Designs, organized a de-stash to raise money for a sick individual who is close to her. I picked this beautiful pansy fabric. The pansies are outlined in metallic gold. I thought it would be a beautifully bright for her to look at. I asked Stacie to pick out three fat quarters of complimenting colours and include it in the bundle when she sent it to me. I want to make disappearing nine-patch blocks highlighting the pansies. I can’t wait to share it with you next!

~M

Block-of-the-Month · Quilt Designs

Catching Up

I had another block-of-the-month row that I almost didn’t get done. I pulled it off a couple of days before, though, and I had a lot of fun doing it! Yay for easy blocks!

Dancing Squares

This one is called dancing squares … I think. You make the blocs, then flip every other one 180 degrees. It’s super easy and makes an interesting design! This block can get a little wonky if you’re not careful pressing because you’re cutting on the bias and it’s really easy to stretch the material out of shape if you tug on it too much.

My big issue with this block was the colours. I already decided I wanted to use the pink pixelated fabric that I used for the ribbon row, mostly to make the ribbon row fit in with the rest of the quilt. That meant picking out two fabrics for the dancing squares that match. I already decided to use solids because the background was so busy. I also didn’t want to go with the pink colour because I wanted the squares to stand out. That meant using the two fringe colours – cream and rusty red. The cream was fine, but the rusty red worried me a bit. In the whole quilt, I’m missing one colour – orange. This rust looked very very orange when I was putting it together and I worried that it would make the row not look like it belonged with the rest of the quilt. So, once the row was done, I decided to lay out everything I had to see how they worked together!

Outside to the laundry line for the design wall!!! Oh wait – the rows are really heavy and don’t want to stay on. That’s okay, I’ll just pin them to the design sheet. Wait … wind … OH NO the blocks blew off again … so solution was to lay the sheet on the deck and lay out the rows on the deck. I did not want to do that because I knew the second I laid everything out, someone would leave his digging hole under the deck to come investigate …

OH LOOK I’M RIGHT AGAIN!!!
Snowdog the nuisance dog some days …

That being said – I’m super excited about this quilt! I think all the rows blend together really well! I’m getting excited to finish up the rows that need more work *cough*BIRDS*hack* and all the other assigned blocks as they come. I want to get this quilt finished so I can start loving it!

~M

Finished Projects · Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) · Quilt Designs

Quilt On!

I didn’t forget to blog this time … I just ran out of time. There was quilting to be done!

I managed to get the Grandma quilt done, but just under the wire (23 minutes to spare …). I didn’t even have a chance to wash it. I told her that if it ever needs to be washed, she’s to ask me to do it. I need to make sure no colours bleed. There’s a lot of white on that quilt!!! I did do a test of all the fabrics soaking in hot water and no dye came out, so maybe she’ll be okay if it gets washed without me. Let’s not tempt fate though, alright Grandma??

Let’s go!

Last we spoke, we had the quilt burrito on the table and ready to quilt. As usual, I started with the center. It’s the hardest part to quilt because it has the thickest quilt roll taking up space in the throat. I find it easier to do the hard part first when I’m all fired up to work and gradually reward and encourage myself to keep going as I get to easier and easier sections. First though, the planning. At work, I’ll go through lull periods once in a while. They’re usually only a few days long when the last project is all but wrapped up and the new project hasn’t been issued yet. It can get deadly dull, so I try to have a few personal projects to work on at these times. During the last lull, I just couldn’t get this quilt out of my head, so I took the opportunity to doodle quilt designs on a copy of the quilt top template during a meeting. Green is for the designs focused around the big stars and pink is around the small stars. I came up with most of these ideas while I was quilting the top, but it felt good to see it on paper! I decided to be daring and try to quilt *gasp* FEATHERS in the border. We’ll see how I did!

I also picked out the thread before quilting. White is for the white bits (duh), mint is for the small green-and-purple stars, green is for both the big and small green-and-yellow stars, and the purple is for the big purple-and-green stars. I tried to pick something that would blend well on both sides of the the star … except the purple. I went for broke on the purple thread. What can I say – I really like that purple thread! This is the new Glide thread that I bought two cases of back in the new year. It is a HUGE improvement over the 40 weight Superior Threads “So Fine” thread. My sewing machine does not like quilting with that stuff. I’m using it for piecing right now to use it up.

I just wanted to highlight the star blocks, so I used point-to-point straight lines to “point” at the stars. I used arcs and loops inside the stars. I was mostly playing with designs on this quilt. I messed up a good portion of them, but when the quilt is on the bed, you can’t even tell unless you’re looking at each individual block. 🙂 The mint green thread blended in perfectly on the small star, don’t you think? One last thing I did on this block after I put it back on the machine is I added one extra arrow line on the bottom triangle. I know all the others only had three, but because I left such a big gap, it was more noticeable to have three lines with a big gap than one triangle with an extra lines. Things that are good to know for the future!

After the center was done, I did the top and bottom, then left and right. I did not do the borders at this stage – I left that for the end so I could just spin the quilt and keep all the bulk off to the side of the sewing machine. This also made me less nervous to quilt the feather borders because I wasn’t also focusing on fighting the quilt bulk in the throat. Every time I completed a side, I had to drag the quilt downstairs to re-roll it for accessing the next edge. The joys of working in small spaces! The good thing about this is it helped me catch the one or two times that I accidentally sewed down a flap on the backing. ARRRRRG!!! I’d rip them out at the table and mark them with safety pins. Once I was finished everything (or if I got close to a pin while wuilting a different section, I hunted for pins and fixed any mistakes I had to rip out.

Feathers!! I’d never ever done them before this quilt and everyone online who tries them for the first time complains long and loud that they’re really hard. I was super nervous!!! As you go through life, you’ll find one or two things that just come naturally to you that everyone else seems to be struggling to do (I’m looking at you, math nerds. Your awesome brains suck. 😛 ) For me, it’s feathers. There are some patterns that feel super natural for me to make (like the wishbones or “fake cursive” I used in the eagle quilt). Thankfully, feathers were one of those things! I was actually happy how they turned out!

This part of the blog is where things fall apart a bit. While rushing to finish, I forgot to take pictures. Actually, I didn’t even remember to take pictures of me giving it to my grandmother for her birthday or of it on her bed for over a week. That’s okay, though, because I did eventually get a picture of it on her bed. She was so so happy with her quilt and that makes all the work totally worth it! 🙂

~M

Block-of-the-Month · Finished Projects · Non-Quilt Projects · Piecing · Quilt Designs

A Return to the Quilting

So … I didn’t start with either of the projects I have coming due. Who’s surprised?? No one? Me either. 😛

First, I got distracted by a new project I’ve been thinking of doing for some time now. I figured it would be super easy and super fast, so why not start there? I’m making sleep masks. 🙂 I’m extremely light-sensitive when I’m trying to sleep – oh, the wars over the lights that my brother and I fought as kids – and husband is often up later than me when he’s on call. Solution? A sleep mask. I’ve bought a few over the years – I usually wear out one a year – and thought, “Why don’t I just make them out of my scraps instead?”

First, I drew a template using a current sleep mask on to batting and cut it down. The pictures show version 2. Since I have a long, thin nose, some masks are uncomfortable because they put too much pressure on the bridge of my nose, so I cut the nose curve higher on version 1 and even higher on version 2. I think I have it about right now. Next step was to cut some scrap fabric the same size as the batting template. I had some long pieces of De La Luna that I couldn’t throw away (Again – no one shows surprise!), so I cut them up for this project. I tried to get the little butterflies to land in the middle of the mask. I was only successful with one, but they still function perfectly well as masks. I decided to use some thin elastic I had in my sewing kit to make the string around. Remember to put the elastic inside the mask before sewing!!! Guess what happened to version 1? Yeah … and remember to leave a gap at the top to pull the mask inside out. It has to be big enough that the fabric will fit through when bunched up. That part I did remember!

Once the mask was flipped out, I used my fingers to push out all the edges for a smoother look, pinned the open top in place, and pressed it with an iron to get a crisp line. Then it was simple to run a 1/8″ topstitch around the edge. Voila! Sleeping mask for Auntie M! I even modeled it for you.

Mmm so sexy. 😀 On version 2, I matched the thread colour for the top stitch, but on version 1, I just wanted to finish it to see what worked/didn’t work.

On to distraction #2! Wait … you didn’t think the sleep mask was the only thing keeping me from the work I was supposed to be doing, did you? Tut tut. Distraction #2 – a cousin called me last week to announce … her daughter is expecting a sister in January! 😀 Yay more family babies!!! The last time any babies were born to our family, I was crocheting baby blankets. I get to quilt a baby blanket instead this time!!! 😀 TO THE FABRIQUE ESTATES!!!

I have a few (very very few, surprisingly) panels in my stash, most of which are for babies. Since it’s super early, we don’t know the gender of the little one. That doesn’t really matter anyways for this cousin – when she was expecting her first daughter (and knew it was a girl), she decorated her baby room with seafoam green, royal purple, and robin-egg blue. She and I are cut from the same cloth! 😀 I decided to go with the owls panel I bought last winter. Kelly from The Cottage Quilter demoed the panel at quilt guild and as soon as I saw it, I had to have one. I’m so glad now that I did!! I also pulled one of my stocks of solid fabrics and coordinated up a cool tone and a warm tone collection of 4 fabrics each. Everything is now set aside now until winter – I have to work on the other quilts – but it felt so cool to be able to go into my nicely-sorted room and just pull out what I needed. 🙂 Plus, I’m in design mode for the new quilt!! I love design mode. 😀

Finally … on to what I’m supposed to be doing!

First order of business: Grandma quilt. I know the window for getting at least one block before class this week is swiftly closing, but I wanted to have this done first. And I was so close!!! I had no idea that I had one row to sew on, then the border, then done! Why did I avoid doing this quilt for so long! It was almost finished! Oh well … It’s finished now. 😀 Because it’s huge, I had to hang it on the clothes line in order to attach the border. Snowdog was such a little jerk!!! He wanted to go in the house (because it was hot out and we have A/C inside now), so he kept stepping on the part of the quilt I was working on to get my attention. I was afraid he’d track dirt on it, so I gave into his demands. Spoiled boy!

When I measured it on the clothes line, it came up to 93″ square. The Cottage Quilter had a summer sale a few weeks ago, so I’ve already picked up the backing and the batting. I’ll baste the quilt sometime this week – probably Thursday after quilt class – and get cracking on the quilting part. I only have two weeks (not including the week we’re in) to get the quilting done and we’re going to the family cottage for the August long weekend cause Auntie M needs a break! A little pressure never hurt anyone, right? Oh, yeah … there’s also an interview to prep for next week and we have to finish the shed painting project … *le sigh* I’m just not going to be able to quilt it as extensively as I quilted Dan’s. That’s fine, I didn’t really intend to do it that intensely, but I did want to do a medium amount of quilting on it! Chop chop Auntie M.

Final sewing adventure (man I got busy this week!): the BOTM. The one I need to have at least one of so I don’t get dinged with a $5 fine? Oh, and it’s complicated … yay … It’s paper piecing. Paper piecing is cool because you put the fabric on the back side side, the sew through the paper following the line, flip it over, press back the top fabric, and like magic – it’s perfect! It’s also annoying because it’s all angles and I don’t cut my fabric to match it very well, but I managed to get three birds done all the same! That’s more than I expected of myself!! There are supposed to be 5 large and 7 small birds strutting across the row. I’ll probably do what I did with the Dresden plates and finish them before I start the next row. Please oh please … next month be easy!!! I would have taken the model picture on the quilt topped cutting station … but it was occupied. Animals, I tell you …

~M

Piecing · Quilt Designs

Adventures with Humans

I did another first! I went on a quilt retreat!

My table and my table mates!

Basically, people show up for a weekend to sew in the same big room together. They can be at a remote location where you stay overnight, but this one was in town, so I got to sleep in my own bed and get woken up by my own dog at 6 freaking AM dog … The tears are real. Especially since my own husband kept me up to 1AM because he missed me all day (AWWW).

I went into this retreat with one objective: get started on the quilt that I’m making my brother-in-law for his wedding. Since none of my in-laws are aware of my blog, I can discuss it here without ruining the surprise 🙂

Log cabin block

I am planning on making a log cabin quilt. Traditionally, it was one of the first quilt patterns that a new bride would make with all black blocks on one side, all white blocks on the other, and a red “chimney” in the middle. I decided to modernize it a bit by working in some grey. I mocked up this block with some spare fat quarters (quarter-of-a-yard of fabric, in case you’re wondering) and I like the look. It makes a nice, big block that shouldn’t take too long to make up into a quilt. 18.5″ blocks, 5 blocks across by 5 blocks down will put it somewhere around 95″. I’m putting 5 different different colours in the chimney from a fat quarter pack. I intend to use the rest of the pack to make matching cushions for them for Christmas. I asked Kim from FibreChick to put together a kit for me and picked it up last week. It’s going to be SO PRETTY!! 😀

Step one to making a log cabin kit – pre-cut all the strips. As you can see from the sample block, it’s made up of a bunch of strips – in this case, 2.5″ strips – cut to different lengths. THIS PART IS SOOOO TEDIOUS. The first cutting to make up enough strips to do at least one block took me an hour. The subsequent partial cuttings (just cutting the strips you ran out of piecing the last block) took 30-40 minutes every time and I had to cut between every block. It’s just a lot of cutting. On the second evening, one of the women took pity on me and introduced me to a magic device.

The June Tailor version of the Stripology ruler

It’s known as a Stripology ruler. You put it on top of the fabric and cut in the gaps in the ruler to cut a bunch of matching widths. The one I used let me cut a bunch of 2.5 strips out of all my fabric at once, which will cut down my cutting time down (see what I did there???? 😀 ) as I’ll just have to grab a 2.5 strip and sub-cut it the proper length. I can get a block sewn in about 15-20 minutes once I have the strips. The quilt needs to be pieced and quilted by September. I can do this!

I got 7 blocks done over the course of the weekend! I started playing with the layout of the blocks to see how they look together with the colours and figure out the pattern. Log cabin patterns can make a lot of cool sub-patterns. Because this block is so big and there’s only going to be 5 each way, I’m just going to stick with the standard pattern for now. I totally want to do another log cabin in the future, though – the cross pattern looks SO RAD.

I feel pretty good about that, especially since I got distracted by a hosted project that took up a whole day. Guess what the next blog post will be?? 😀

~M

Piecing · Quilt Designs

Orange Peel Problems

Right from the outset, I want to say that I’m glad I did this pattern this way and I intend to finish it this way. You appreciate the easier ways and other people’s amazing work when you slog through it the hard way first.

I completely understand the appeal of applique now! 😀

Don’t be afraid of curved piecing. It is not that bad – just go slow! I will be doing more curved piecing in my future. The secret to curved piecing is using a small rotational cutter or scissors. So remember – I’m using a cardboard template. I can’t use the rotary cutter against the template as it bites into the the cardboard and changes the shape of the template. I traced around the template with a marker or chalk and used the small rotary cutter to cut along the line. The only issue with cutting the curved bits this way is that each piece is a slightly different size. If I were submitting this quilt for a competition, this would matter. Since it’s just for me, I don’t care!!! 😀

Something I need to be aware of when I do the next pieces is cutting the center for directional fabric. I cut this fabric the same way for each center. It didn’t really matter on this fabric because it points a bunch of directions and you can’t even tell. 😉

When cutting the outside charcoal bit, I made sure that the corners were square by lining them up on the square on my mat.
Look at that orange colour pop in charcoal!

After assembling the blocks, I had to put my four test blocks together. In a traditional orange peel, they’re set to make a circle and the star or “wings” pattern comes through as a secondary pattern. Because I’m using several orange fabrics, I decided to make the alternate pattern called “Pixie Wings”. I use the same fabric to make the wing design and the orange peel design comes out of the “wings” getting put together.

This is where I started getting frustrated with the piecing. Getting two points to meet was terrible. Getting four points to meet evenly in the middle was miserable!!! I literally ripped this block apart six times and re-sewed it together. You can see from the back that all the attempts and extra thread botched any hope of having my usually nice spun centers.

Now to do at least three more!! 😀 I’d ultimately like to do more than just four blocks – 12 maybe, do a lap quilt. I won’t be able to do the whole thing just now for two reasons. First, I just don’t have the time to do more than that. There’s a Grandma quilt and a wedding quilt to get finished before the summer is over. Second, I don’t think I have enough of the background fabric for 12 squares ( I might be wrong, but I don’t think I am). If that’s the case, I’m going to find two more fabrics of similar colour and do a slightly scrappy look.

The quilt guild had a full schedule on Monday, so no extra blocks were assigned this month. That leaves me with a bit of time to try something extra special! Stay tuned!

~M

Block-of-the-Month · Piecing · Quilt Designs

New Skills

One of my Block-of-the-Month classes is actually a Row-of-the-Month class. It’s hosted at a local library by The Cottage Quilter and we’re doing the Piper Girls’ row-by-row sampler.

This week, we were assigned the pinwheel row and some homework. Check out my pretty pinwheels! I’ve also included the other rows we have done to date.

The pinwheel row was actually Row #4. Kelly (our instructor) didn’t want to assign Row #3 until next week because it’s a new skill for most of the class (yaaay!! I’m not the only n00b!!) and she wants us to practice at home before doing it for real on the quilt. It’s called machine applique. It’s “machine” because you do it with your sewing machine and not by hand (which is what many people prefer). What is applique, you ask?

Applique is when you take a piece of fabric, cut out a design, and stitch it on to your quilt top. A lot of quilters make large portions of their quilts this way. I’ve never seen the appeal of it. I like doing piecing, not applique. And yes – I did do one bit of machine applique when I first started (as you can see above). My first issue was that the applique was a star. I have always had problems making star shapes and it has always bothered me, even as a small child. It looks wonky to me and I don’t like it. My second issue was that this was done back in … September? Maybe? I was still very new at quilting and I think I took on a little too much too soon.

I decided that my class practice is going to be a for-real practice … maybe. 😀 I got this beautiful fabric from Troll Brothers to make an orange peel quilt. As soon as I get around to picking out a background fabric, I intend to start! The problem with the orange peel design is that 90% of the patterns are an applique pattern. You can do a pieced orange peel block, but there aren’t a lot of tutorials because it’s curved piecing and I think most people prefer applique to curved piecing.

I have to veer off a bit at this point to talk about acquiring patterns. I try (whenever possible) to purchase a pattern instead of just looking at the design and doing it myself. It’s not that I can’t do that (and for husband’s quilt and niece’s quilt, they are my designs), but if I’m going to use someone else’s creativity to make a project, I’d like to compensate them for the effort. Plus, they’ve done all the maths to figure out the right sizes of things so you don’t wind up with pieces that don’t fit together.. 😀 I’ve been doing this more frequently with my knitting projects. The nice thing is that yarn patterns are usually only a few dollars on Ravelry.com. I only make … sorry, start (see last blog post) … a couple of things a year, so it doesn’t break the bank. Quilting patterns are different. The “professional” patterns can be quite expensive. You can often get blocks for free, but doing applique or curved piecing requires having a template of some sort. Ordering acrylic templates for this pattern has been a huge pain in the butt for me since the only places currently offering the orange peel templates are out of the US of A and the UK. I absolutely refuse to pay a foreigner’s tax (aka the import fees or duty) on something someone in Canada probably has for sale but I just can’t find. After 3 days of searching, I finally found an extremely old free paper pattern that has the templates included! In the spirit of doing the old thing, I cut out some cardboard using the paper pattern as a template and pulled out some test fabric to figure out what I want to do.

First, I made the curved piecing version. I don’t mind sewing curved piecing that much, but my scrap fabric decision made pressing the fabric a bit onerous. You’re supposed to press out away from the peel. Since my peel was a very dark fabric and my background was a very light, see-through fabric, there would be serious ghosting happening. Ghosting happens when you can see the seam right through the fabric – this is why most quilters press with the seam under the dark side – less chance for ghosting. When I do my quilt, though, I’ll be using a darker background fabric, so this won’t be a problem in the official version. The other issue was the cardboard template itself. Because I’m using a rotary cutter, I have to be very careful that I’m not accidentally trimming the cardboard. Not only does this dull the blade and make a mess, but it changes the size of the template over time. The last block might end up smaller than the first block. When I go to make my quilt, I will either need to invest in acrylic templates or mark the shapes from the cardboard template with a pen before cutting along the pen line.

With the curved test out of the way, we move on to the applique test. The interesting part is that these blocks will end up a little bigger because I’m not losing 1/4″ on each side of each piece to a seam allowance. It’s good to keep in mind.

I cut out the orange peel from scraps first, then I cut a couple of squares to use. I was going to go with scrap squares, but I thought it would be fun to play with the opposite dynamics by cutting squares from the original matching fabrics. I did make a mistake, though. You have to attach fabric stabilizer to the back of your applique pieces to give it some rigidity during sewing and to help keep the edges from fraying if you’re doing a raw-edge applique (more on that later). Usually, you attach the stabilizer to the fabric, then cut (so you don’t see the white stabilizer showing). I forgot to do this part, so I had to attach the cut pieces to stabilizer, then cut around the shapes with scissors. It wasn’t bad this time, but making this same mistake with the star applique was the part of the reason it started looking wonky. I was very careful about setting the pieces in the dead center with the same amount of background space on the mirrored sides. This isn’t super crucial because you can re-cut the block properly square afterwords, but I’m aiming for right the first time.I loaded up my bobbin with dark green and selected a yellow embroidery thread for the top. I’ve used it a little bit in the past – it comes up as a golden colour. It might not work out, but this is a test piece and I wanted to know how this thread will hold up on future projects (since I’ve got 6 spools of the stuff to use).

Note: I should have posted this blog last week in keeping with my one-a-week resolution, but this was as far as I got before my busy week and away-weekend ended my spare time. I did consider posting just this much, then decided to do a two-blog week so I could finish out this story. 🙂

My sewing machine has preset stitches specifically for machine applique. I didn’t know that when I made the star piece, so I made my life a little harder by having to manually set up my stitch type. This time, I just used my presets and it made life so much easier! I have three sizes for an applique satin stitch. In the samples, you will see me use sizes medium and small.

I started with the green-on-plaid piece under the medium satin stitch. The pictures should show why this is called a satin stitch – it looks soft and shiny when it’s done. After running for an inch or two with the default settings, I tightened up the stitch width to give it a bit more of that satiny sheen. In machine applique, the big challenge is points and turning corners. From the very limited reading I did on this (because why wouldn’t I want to learn the hard way with no pointers?? 😉 ), the two main ways of turning corners is to slowly walk around the point or to stitch slightly past the point, stitch backwards, turn the corner, stitch back again to get a sharpish point, then continue forwards. With green-on-plaid, I decided to try the walkaround method. From what I understand, the key to this method is making sure you always have your needle stop on the applique-side of the stitch, turn the fabric slightly, make another two stitches so you land back at the same spot on the applique side, and re-adjust again. You keep doing this until you are completely around the corner. As you can see, I needed a couple of attempts to get it looking okay.

Next up was the plaid-on-green with the small satin stitch. This was much harder as my margin for error with the edges of the applique piece was much tighter. With the medium stitch, all I had to do was make sure that the edge was somewhere between the two 1/8″ marks. This also allowed me to make a more gradual curve if my cuts were a little choppy (putting the interface on after cutting the shape only makes this worse). With the smaller stitch, I had to follow my cuts exactly. There are a couple of places where you can tell I didn’t schwoop very nicely in my cuts, but whatever – practice pieces! I also tried the back-and-forward corner method for the points this time. I think, in some ways, it actually works best with the small satin stitch because the tiny size hides the stitches a bit. In other ways, not so much – because stitch is so small, the edge of the applique was fraying a bit as I attempted to sink my stitches into the edge without having the applique fabric show on both sides of my stitches. At the corner, this fraying gets worse because I’m going back over it two extra times. Time will tell if the applique stands ups with the small stitch.

Look at me! I can machine applique!

My two completed looks! I had already decided before stitching that I didn’t like the green-on-plaid near as well. The patterned piece just looks better as a focal point. I’m still glad I went ahead with it, though, because I learned something else. When stitching on the applique, the background fabric got a little warped. It’s not bad and it will almost completely vanish once the the block is stitched in place, but it is a lot more obvious that it’s happening when you use a pattern fabric as your background fabric. Learning things! I also think I prefer the look of the small stitch over the look of the medium stitch as it starts to take emphasis away from the applique. I can’t even begin to imagine how the “big” satin stitch would turn out! I want to make two more of these blocks so I can make a completed orange peel block – maybe I’ll try the big satin stitch on one of them, just to see!

Orange peel quilt colors … so much in love!!!

Finally, I’m also glad I waited until after I got home before posting this because … I found the background fabric for my orange peel! Won’t it look nice with the charcoal grey?? I was in Ottawa, Ontario for the weekend visiting a friend and I made them pull over at a local fabric store (Sew For It) to see if I could find something. Good news – I found something! Bad news – there was only maybe 1/2 a meter left on the bolt. Not very much at all, maybe not even enough. I have to measure it out and see. I took what they had left just in case – worst case scenario, I’ll stash it and get something else. Oh darn. 😀 Because there’s so little of it, I will definitely be doing the curved piecing over the applique because I won’t have fabric to spare hiding under the orange peel. It was still worth doing the applique work just to learn how to do it. 🙂 No time is wasted time if you learn things!

~M

Piecing · Quilt Designs

Distracted Again …

Oh, it’s good to be distracted again!
I sorta kinda thought my quilting mojo had gone
It never had vanished, it’s just moving on …

Muppets Take Manhattan, creative liberties taken (in case you were wondering).

As you may have noticed from my last couple entries, I was starting to get frustrated with the process. I simply had no drive to do the quilting piecing I thought I needed to do. Oh, once the piecing was done, I was happy to have done it … but the process getting there was aggravating. I’ve learned through it that this is a hobby. If I don’t feel like doing it, I probably shouldn’t do too much of it. It just becomes work and that becomes stressful, not enjoyable, and then I avoid my sewing room. I don’t want to avoid my sewing room! I love my little room! That means I need to let myself do some of my fun sewing for a while. I think we all know what that means …

TIGER QUILT TIME!!!

I managed to get the other two colours cut and pieced (totaling 4 pieces each) and get the cutting done for another round. I need 9 blocks of each for the baby quilts I was originally planning to do. After the 9 each colour (27 total) are done, I’m going to build a planning wall and start playing with the blocks to see if we’re sticking with the baby quilt plan or making an M quilt. 🙂 I deserve a quilt too!!! (studiously ignores the large pile of De La Luna fabric I purchased specifically for an M quilt). It’s a little nerve-wracking, cutting into the middle of the fabric for the tiger faces and leaving big holes in the fabric. I have to be aware that I’ll be cutting more of these faces out and try not to take any extra. It’s a challenge – a fun challenge!

After piecing all the blocks, I laid them out on the bed to play around with making them into a large quilt. This is when I realized the bed is no longer a useful place to do this for several reasons.

1. We have separate bedding. I know this sounds very strange, but we both sleep much better if we have our own pile of blankets. That is the main reason the husband quilt is the husband’s quilt – a very large twin quilt. Having two sets of sheets and blankets on the bed make the terrain very uneven for laying out piecing.
2. I sleep with a body pillow. And not just any body pillow – a massive U-shaped pregnancy pillow. Husband bought it for Christmas for me a couple of years ago and I am IN LOVE with it! It replaced the 5-6 pillows that used to do the same thing (Husband would refer to it as the M barricade 😀 ). It makes my side of the bed an insurmountable pillow mountain.
3. Golddurn cats. The cat hideout is the bed. It’s too high for Snowdog the Wimp Dog to jump down from (it’s really not, but he thinks it is), so he won’t climb onto it after the cats because he knows we’ll leave him up there until we’re good and ready to rescue him. 😀 I don’t mind the kitty snuggles at night – they love to curl up at my feet. But dare I try to use the bed as a table for any reason – quilt piecing, filing sorting, laundry sorting, outfit planning – Neiko is in the middle of it, whining and crying and looking for the absolutely most obnoxious place to lay down on.

For these reasons, I’m going to try to figure out how to make a fold-able or a modular design wall. What’s a design wall, you ask? Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself! It’s usually a piece of styrofoam backed by a thin pressure board (also known as “plywood”) for stability and covered with flannel. Some of you old-timey Sunday School attendees might remember the Sunday School teacher using something like this to make pictures of the Bible story she was telling. A quick Google tells me this is actually called Flannelgraph … who knew??

There are so many ideas for these walls, including retractable (think of a pull-down window blind) or curtained. I’m going to have to do some reading up and see what works!! I can’t use anything that needs to be bolted to the wall. We want to sell our little house when Husband is finished renoing, so I’m keeping the holes to a minimum!

I totally meant to try this with the purple tigers in the middle – it has elements of both the other colourways in it – but I completely forgot. 😀 I like the idea of having pink in the middle though. It’s a warm break between the two cooler colours.

The next series of blocks should not take me long to finish at all, so hopefully by next blog, I’ll some ideas for them. If we’re lucky, I might even have a design wall of some sort … wait … I just had an epiphany … OHHHHHH THIS COULD BE FUN!

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures of Auntie M’s quilts!! (You always leave the episode on a cliffhanger, right? 😉 )

~M

Block-of-the-Month · Piecing · Quilt Designs

Ohhh the Grandma Quilt …

I shouldn’t complain so much. This problem is not limited to the Grandma quilt. My problem is me. I have a lack of attention to detail. Most of the time, I catch my own mistakes before they get too bad. Other times – like recently, when my head was full of flu – I do myself no favours.

For example: my block-of-the-month with Fabric Chick. It was a super easy block this month. I read it several times, did my sewing, read it again, did my cutting … and I cut a block in the wrong direction. I couldn’t make it work with what I had, no matter what I tried. My only option was to dip into my scraps and make a new block to cut. Unfortunately, I cut a big block, so I didn’t have big enough scraps to make a new block. That mean sewing scraps together to make a big enough block (aka Frankenstein block). ugh ….

Moving on to the Grandma quilt. I already knew I would have to do this because I ran out of one kind of fabric and I couldn’t get any more of it. When I was getting ready to put the project on hold back in October, I measured out what I would need to finish and went trash-diving for scraps to make up blocks. I thought I would need a lot more blocks than I eventually wound up making, so I have lots left to play with now.

The scrap pile and the “trash” can

At this point, I needed to figure out where the Frankenstein blocks were going to go. My original plan was to make the bottom two small stars out of Frankies. That was before I realized I had to rip out the finished top row to make my new piecing techniques fit (quiet crying commences). One of the upsides of ripping out the top row was having access to the top corner stars. By this point, I had realized that I only needed to make two Frankenstein squares and had decided to put them in the star points, where I figured it would be less noticeable. Each corner small star only had the points showing on two sides, so I only needed to make two star-point blocks for all four corners (two green/white and two purple/white). This will make more sense when the quilt is finished.

After piecing the Frankenstein squares, I started cutting up everything left for piecing. When I first started this quilt, I cut and pieced row by row. I’m still having trouble getting motivated to work on this quilt, so I thought motivation might be easier to achieve if I created all my blocks in one fell swoop and pieced afterwards. That sort of worked and sort of backfired. 😀

Pieced star (before ripping out)

Before going any further, let’s re-visit the 4-at-a-time half-square triangles (HSTs). The steps are as follows:
1. Cut your two fabric squares of the same size.
2. Sew the squares together around all 4 edges.
3. Cut point-to-point across (2-3 cuts, results in 4 pieces). This is where the 45 degree angle ruler came in handy to make sure I was squared up properly!
4. Press open squares to get 4 completed HSTs.

There is also a 2-at-a-time and an 8-at-a-time HST option. I really wish I’d know of the 8-at-a-time when I did the husband quilt (100% HSTs), but I’d only known about the 2-at-a-time. Ah well – we learn as we go!

Back to my project:
I cut up everything, ran them through the sewing machine, re-cut the HSTs, then ironed everything open. And immediately had problems. I’d evidently forgotten to cut two pieces of the green-only fabric for my small star centers, so I had pieces that were only purple, but nicely sewn together and cut up. *facepalm*. This meant ripping out the purple squares, cutting the green pieces to the original size, cross-cutting the pieces, then matching them to the purple triangles. I was really not on the ball, so I accidentally ripped out several purple HSTs that had been properly pieced to white, so I had to sew all those back together too … only to find out I’d gotten some of the purple pieces mixed up and the Frankie triangles were sewn to the wrong triangles. Ohhhh what a day.

Needless to say, I quit half-way through the re-piecing project that day. When you discover you’re making that many mistakes, take a break! I came back a couple of days later and finished piecing and cutting up the squares. I started working on my chintz pieces and realized that I needed to check the spin direction against the squares I had already done. Since I really did not want to mess with the purple-and-green small stars again, I checked them first. Thankfully, everything was spinning the same way – purple to green in a clockwise fashion. I took a picture of my remaining blocks to make sure that everyone was spinning the right way for the whole quilt. In future star quilts, I think I’d make a hemispheric spin – everything on the right spins opposite to that on the left. The one square I’d gotten wrong looked really nice sitting beside the original spin. In this case, however, I’d gotten way too far into the quilt to change what I was doing. Maybe if I’d been more motivated about this quilt, I would have changed it – but now I just want it DONE.

I watched through several Marvel comics movies to keep myself focused. One of the good piecing sessions happened during the Thor: Ragnarok viewing. I love my sewing space!

Cate Blanchett in Thor: Ragnarok

Next week is all about mini projects. I have a plan for my block-of-the-month projects – but I just have to stay focused!!

~M