Sunday, December 26, 2010

And now for something completely different...

On Christmas night it started snowing around 8:30 p.m.  We woke to between three and four inches of light, fluffy snow.  The Corgis had a few things to tell us about the snow as they bunny hopped around first thing this morning.  Monkey was quite disgusted that the snow was up to her tummy.

Gus built a rather bizarre snow creation - it started as an igloo and turned into a mutant snowman ala Calvin (and Hobbes).  He also threw snowballs for the Corgis to retrieve.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. We are looking forward to a fun filled new year.

Town Square/Asian Nights

I tried multiple color sets for this project. I thought I had finally decided on one and then discovered that I didn't have enough fabric in a few of the colors as they were fat quarter cuts instead of half-yard cuts. So I headed into my stash - I had already decided this would be one project instead of two - and chose the Asian Nights as I wasn't sure what to do with a square quilt.  I drafted a few color combinations once I settled on this grouping of fabric.

So far I've sewn all of the strips together and cut the pieces for the first small four-patch. 

I've pressed and starched all of the strips.  For the first time, strangely as I would have expected it earlier, I did have some puckering after the strips were starched that didn't show up before I starched and pressed again.  At this point it is not a crisis as I was able to straighten it during the cutting, and it isn't too noticeable.  One obvious culprit may be using too much starch and really saturating the strips rather than lightly misting.

For this project, I'm using Niagra heavy starch in a pump bottle.  I've been experimenting with different brands, though I did pick up a gallon of Best Press to refill my bottles once I run out of the other starches.  I do like the pump bottles over the aerosols.

Country Lanes Table Runner

I chose the striped fabric - which allowed me to fussy cut the horses and utilize the shields from the alternating stripes in the four patch blocks.  I briefly considered fussy cutting the shields and determined that a. I wouldn't have enough fabric and b. I really don't like fussy cutting as much as recent projects might suggest...

Gus informed me that if the runner ended up in the snow, it was my fault.  I finished this last week, after deciding that it can either be an extremely long table runner or a good sized bed runner. I will use insulbrite as the batting in case the recipient chooses to use it on her table.  I had thought about using a few of the strips to make a square table topper to go along with the runner.  When I was choosing fabrics (all of which came out of my stash), I played around with the graph paper and color pencils to decide what to do in terms of color values.

The runner does feature more fussy cutting - the horses came from a striped fabric - and the patterned squares in the four patches are from the same fabric - the stripes in between the columns of horses.  The border and probably the backing will be the dark paisley which is used in the rail fence blocks.

Overall, I like the way this one turned out.  It did make me think carefully about stacking and laying out the stacks as this project probably involved the most ripping out that I've had to do yet - either blocks were misaligned or at the start, one block got separated from its pile when I moved them over, and I didn't catch on until the first three rows were sewn.  Good practice with the seam ripper...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Excited for 2 Friday night Sew Ins this month!

On December 10th I'll be at Thimble Pleasures for much of the evening working on the last stage of my 9 patch challenge quilt(s) - the assembly portion.  And on the 17th, while Mike grades and Gus grumbles about me not paying any attention to him ... I'll park myself back in front of my machine.

Sadly the event for the 10th was cancelled due to there being only 1 RSVP (me) but we are working on a make-up date for the New Year.  I still intend to sew tonight.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Class 150 - working with Four Patch blocks

Over the past few weeks, I've been working my way through the opening lessons in Class 150 - Base Grids, Grid Sizes, Drafting and Mock-ups.  I utilized those skills (along with the valuable table on log sizes in Class 140) to enlarge the log cabin quilt to baby play mat size rather than table topper size.  Conveniently, the carpet in my office has 3 inch squares, so I could measure off approximations of how big the quilt would be using various size logs.

Last night I was moved on to lesson 6 - the four patch blocks.  This first involved locating the bag in which my sampler is stored - though while I located the bag for the fabric, the sampler itself appears to be AWOL. Fortunately I don't actually need it until I reach the Sophomore year, so I have time to figure out where I've stashed it.

I'm actually quite pleased with the way my four patch blocks turned out.  I did first attempt to fold the seams so that they would be on the darker fabric as is generally done and it just wasn't working the way it should - so when folding the seams towards the lighter fabric, I realized that the reason you get little four patches at the center of each block is that a few stitches are released to open those seams.  The blocks did open better for me when I first used my fingernails to set the seams since I wasn't pressing them to one side first. Otherwise they didn't press all the way open and had to be re-pressed.

Butting the seams to initially create the four patch blocks, it was easy to do as suggested to let the seam allowance lead in to the presser foot. Once I moved on to joining the four patches into eight patch blocks, I could not figure out how to do that again - looks like the seams didn't let me do it again - so had to be careful to butt them before feeding them in.

I did stop to check and trim the widths of the strips and blocks and happily had very little trimming to do along the way.  Finally, it was time to join the eight patch blocks together to create the 16 patch blocks.  I only had to undo one seam - as I managed to twist the alignment for one of the eight patches - and then had to redo the same seam as I didn't do a good job butting the seams together the second time.  Once again, the twist to open the center point seams worked out nicely - and I finished the evening measuring the blocks to be sure that they came out correctly.  The blocks are now safely bagged with the remaining material waiting for the next steps.

Dr. Seuss Log Cabin

Done - and I'm quite pleased with the way it came out.  Switching to the red with white dots for the final logs was definitely the right decision.

So what did I learn from this project?
  • My trimming can still use some work - mostly in the area of not letting the ruler slip as the best measuring job can go astray when the ruler shifts ever so slightly - step one is to move more slowly. Step two is to spend the extra time to rotate the block rather than try to trim across the top.
  • Using a directional print - such as fussy cutting the faces/characters, means that one should plan ahead a little more.  If I were to do it over again, I'd rotate the faces in each subset of four rather than have all of them oriented the way the Lorax is here.  Also - the blocks that have the red stripe at the base of the character stand out better than the ones that do not as those blend into the light logs.
When I trimmed the last logs and squared up the blocks, my logical method failed me. Instead of trimming the red/white dots to 1.5 inches, I trimmed so that the finished block would be the required 10.5 inches.  Somewhere in there though, at least one of the other logs or perhaps the center block didn't get trimmed correctly as a few of the blocks have narrower logs than others, which leads to a little wonkiness on the final assembly.  A better way to do this clearly would have been to trim the red logs correctly and then square up the block.
 Once I finished squaring the blocks, I tried a couple layouts to find the "just right" one.  I quickly confirmed that I didn't really care for the first one - with the four faces of each set clustered together.  Then moved on to a traditional diagonal strip - and while I do like it (and this one is Gus's favorite), I don't feel like it does justice to the characters.

So I moved on to the winning combination. Then also added the striped fabric which I had cut originally for the outer logs on each block.  I thought about using it as sashing - which would have worked for the first layout, but not so much for the final choice.  Unfortunately the strips are a bit narrow to use for the binding, but I think I will use them as a small border and then bind with a solid red.  The backing for this quilt is going to be primarily the black & white scatter print with red accent pieces as early on, babies are drawn to red/white/black combinations.

And let me just say - thank goodness I took a picture of my design as I sewed the first four blocks wrong and had to remove those seams and rearrange to get them going in the correct direction.

Gus then helped to model the final for now product - it is now safely stored with my other works in progress until I reach the lesson on borders.

Close up of the Green Eggs and Ham panels

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wow - what a weekend...

I'm not so sure I've been this productive in awhile.  After the successful cutting and pressing and sewing of Friday, I followed up with a few hours each on Saturday and Sunday.  The Cub Scout/Boy Scout event turned out to be one in which I did not have to stay out in the woods for 6 hours.  So I headed home and added another set of logs to my blocks.  After burning myself on my iron (fortunately just a first degree - matches the one I got from the oven on Friday) and then cutting myself with my rotary trimmer - YEP it is sharp, I decided someone was telling me to go pick up my son (that and the phone call from one of the leaders that they were winding up a little earlier than planned).

Sunday morning Gus and I headed out a O'dark 30 to his Select team hockey game in Greensboro.  The Sharks played a really good game, but unfortunately lost 3-2.  We played the same team a week ago and won 4-3 in another closely matched game.  I manged to get another hour of quilting in, which allowed me to get the next two logs sewn on, though the second was neither pressed nor trimmed before we headed out to the second hockey game.  Sharks won handily (the House team) and Gus scored twice - first time he has scored multiple goals in a game. His lifetime total goals now numbers 7 and he has 6 assists I think.

After coming home and finally getting a wired child to bed, I headed back to press the last set of light logs.  I then decided that I absolutely did not like the third dark log I chose - and since the third light log was in place, there was not really an option to just have two sets of logs (no way was I going to pull out 32 seams).  Mike agreed that the stripes were just too busy. So I pulled the red with white dots that I intended for use on the back, and cut 8 strips.  Though the logs won't follow the pattern of gradually getting darker as you move your eye from the center, there really isn't much traditional about these blocks. I got the first set attached and they are waiting to be pressed - hopefully before I start cooking our Thanksgiving dinner (must go shopping).

A note on the strip piecing of these blocks - I made this larger than the instructions in the book - 10 inch blocks instead of 8 inch blocks - and spent some time using an excel spreadsheet in order to calculate the new yardages since the ones in the chart provided were for the 8 inch blocks.  One thing I did learn is that it pays to cut an extra strip, especially for the outer logs - fortunately I had carefully laid the fabrics to one side so I didn't have to start from scratch on squaring the fabrics.  While the math worked out that I'd have enough inches for each of the logs, the reality is that one also needs to figure out how many logs you can get from the 42 usable inches. For the red with white dots, I ended up cutting the strips so that I would remember to use for two of log 1 and two of log 2 in that set as it was not possible to get four of log 2 from a single strip. Fortunately I figured it out before wasting fabric.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Night Sew In

The men of the house have gone out for Pizza and to see Megamind.  My grand plan worked.  Trans Siberian Orchestra is playing and I'm cutting and pressing the next project quilt - as well as gradually pressing the nine-patch blocks for the nine patch challenge.

Pictures later as I don't want to lose momentum.

Okay - I'm back. Very successful evening. The guys had fun at the movie and I had fun with fabric.

This next project is a log cabin quilt - I cut all of the strips tonight and then fussy cut 16 centers.  I'm using the Dr. Seuss fabric by Kaufman - the back will be the black & white print with the red dots on white. 

I cut four Hortons, four from The Cat in the Hat (lots of Things 1 & 2), two from Sneeches which is my favorite Dr. Seuss story, the Lorax, four from Green Eggs and Ham and a fox which I think if from Fox in Socks. I completed the first set of logs, there will be three sets altogether.

Between cutting, starching and pressing, I also pressed most of the 9 patch challenge blocks that I finished over the last week.  The next step for that project will be to square the blocks - lots of trimming to go, and I do need to finish some of the lingering blocks.

Hopefully I'll get more sewing time this weekend - though we do have a Cub Scout activity all day tomorrow and two hockey games on Sunday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Continuing the 9 patch challenge

I really like the color combination and possibilities
Throughout the week, hockey got in the way a bit. Though I did spend Tuesday night cutting the rest of the strips into 3 inch rows of 3 blocks and Thursday I grouped the rows into threes in order to be ready to sit down and sew. I really like chain stitching!  I also finally figured out how leaders/enders work in the chain stitching, at least the way I am conceptualizing, so I'll get my squares ready for the dragon border soon to try to get as many of those put together while working on the next QA project.

The problem came in with the blue speckled fabric.
I made three sets with the speckles on the outside.
One slight hitch, which may send me back to Thimble Pleasures this weekend was finding that I suddenly have a plethora of strips with dark middles, and not enough with dark corners. I can see exactly where I went wrong when I was constructing sets - and I'm not sure if I got two strips mixed up while chain stitching or if I just was not paying enough attention.  I think I can fix it without the extra trip for another quarter yard of fabric...

I think I mentioned that I've decided to use the blocks in two lap sized quilts rather than one Huge quilt as I'm not ready to face wrestling a Queen sized quilt through the quilting process. This way I won't be scared to finish the project. I've got enough apprehension as it is about starting to actually sandwich and quilt some of these projects.

My new iron arrived. I purchased one of the Classic style Black & Decker steam irons with as few bells and whistles as possible. I did not want anything digital as that is just one more item to break.  So far I'm very satisfied with the weight and I can see an improvement in some of my pressing.  The blocks I finished last week have not yet been pressed as I'm saving that pleasure for when I'm in the mood to steam.

My helpers are also quite attentive to the process, and I am careful to keep curious noses away from hot irons.
I've been looking at lots of 9 patch layouts and had initially thought about doing a disappearing 9 patch, but I think I'm heading for something with clusters of blocks and sashing.  Nothing too complex.  Far in the future, I'm thinking that this will be quilted with wavy lines given the dolphin theme in the quilts to invoke thoughts of the sea.

 By the end of the weekend, I should have many more blocks ready to press!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A 9 patch challenge...

Almost to the half-way point.

My local quilt store - Thimble Pleasures - issued a challenge - 1 9 patch/day for September - November and there will be a gathering in December to assemble the quilts.  Part of the challenge is to get you sewing for 10-15 minutes a day. Unfortunately, due to my wild travel schedule in September-October, I am a little bit behind, but have plans to catch up.  I think another goal of the project was to help people reduce their stash, and reduce their scraps or pre-cut blocks. However, I am on the stash building side, so have used this as an excuse to add a few fabrics to my collection - and further build my stash. 

When I came home from Denmark & Cameroon and unpacked, I got overwhelmed by the volume of fabric on my sewing table, a place I had pledged to keep clean as it is in the corner of our bedroom.

Sunday I started tackling the problem.  I did three loads of fabric, with a color catcher to prevent tragedies, to catch up on the fabric that is in the queue for the next projects (the Log Cabin and the table runner are washed, pressed, starched and ready to go).

Monday I opened up my new iron and re-pressed blocks that ended up wrinkled at the bottom of the pile and starched and pressed the fabric that was washed on Sunday.  Gus griped about the starch while I was working as he planted himself next to the ironing board to do his reading.  We then played part of a game of monopoly (I'm being whomped at the moment - he owns both Boardwalk and Park Place, fortunately hasn't started building on them - though that doesn't seem to be a problem for me yet as I keep landing on Go to Jail - but I digress) while I continued to press fabric.

Tuesday I ignored the call of the fabric.

Wednesday I re-pressed the strips that are waiting to be transformed into 9 patch blocks as they got crushed too, and straightened and pressed 3 more fabrics for my 9-patch project - while listening to Gus read.  We then took turns reading aloud - me from Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid and Gus from the Magic Treehouse - Afternoon on the Amazon.

Thursday - cut what should be the final 21 strips needed and pressed them flat. Friday I hope to match up all of the cut strips so that I can sew the together and then cut again.  Did learn that cutting height makes a difference. I was cutting standing at the ironing board last night, and while it is not as stable as I'd like, it was much easier on my body to make accurate cuts.

I bought the dolphin batik because Gus's school mascot is the Dolphins.  I then added some solids in teal, royal and purple and branched out to other batiks with varying intensities of teal, blue and purple.  I'm thinking about using white sashing between the blocks and probably a white or light blue back.  It will be interesting to see how this one comes out as I am doing this without a set pattern.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The pieced Triple Rail quilt

I really like the way this quilt turned out.  I have several ideas for the borders but am waiting to work my way to Class 180.  This quilt did remind me that it matters to take the time to square each of the blocks.  On this one, I also learned that I need to purchase a little more fabric than the book calls for as I ended up back at Thimble Pleasures picking up more of the white floral.  At this point, I think the inner border will be the dark blue and the wide border will be either the white paisley or the Hoffman Gypsy paisley - my concern is that I don't have enough of that to go around.  I may do a scrappy binding, or a solid, haven't quite decided and I think I have enough to back with the white floral, or the light blue. 

I actually completed this top prior to starting my travels in September and took the pictures before I left.  And somehow managed to not post anything in nearly a month...  Over the past six weeks, I've spent a week at Disney with Gus, a week in Cameroon for work, a week in Denmark with my Mother to visit my Mormor who turns 98 on Halloween, and finally 2 days in New York City and with just 8 days in the office scattered throughout. Oh, and I've also camped with the Cub Scouts and spent a morning on a very neat hike, plus cheered Gus on at 2 hockey games... I missed playing with fabric - and have thought a lot about what I want to do for the upcoming projects.

I'm also suffering a little paralysis getting started again.  I am looking forward to the weekend, and if nothing else will sort and store the 30 plus yards of fabric I carried home with me from my travels.  The customs officer questioned my volume of fabric (and the $$) - but between a crummy exchange rate and the price of fabric in Denmark, it didn't take much to add it to an outrageous amount. He accepted "I quilt" as an explanation.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Project that started this journey...

... Or an example of how my mind works...

Last spring, a finished rag quilt was posted on Scrapshare.  I looked at it and thought, hey, even I could make one of those.  I've long admired quilters but always been concerned about straight lines and points meeting up - you know - accuracy issues.  But rag quilts look so forgiving. As I've blogged previously, they are less forgiving than I thought.

After reading about rag quilts on and mentally redesigning one based upon two different patterns they use, I ordered the fabric.  This first involved searching for the PERFECT Florida State fabric.  Which I finally found at Suzanne's Quilt Shop in Moultrie, GA.

The fabric arrived. And then it sat, as I was paralyzed by the "what ifs" of cutting and sewing. Well what better way than get started said I than to make a practice quilt.  Thus Rag Quilt 1 was born.  Upon learning that the baby would be a girl, I pulled some of the blue out and substituted pink, resulting in a stack of already cut blue squares, thus Rag Quilt 2 was born.  These were also influenced by the purchase of the Rag Quilt scissors as I need to use them in more than one project don't I???

This one is a little more complex due to the triple rail blocks and the four patch blocks which exponentially increases the number of sandwiches to prepare.  To maintain my sanity, I created strip sandwiches and sewed the fabric/flannel/fabric along the long edges. Afterward, I cut the rails and patches. The seams for the short sides were sewn when I joined the pieces together to complete the blocks.  I also did a better job with setting up my stacks for the chain piecing. The quilt came together very quickly, especially as I didn't have to stop to set seams along the way.

On the other hand, snipping took forever.  When I learned that Suzanne and Christopher were going to join us for a day at Disney over Gus's birthday, I moved up my deadline for presentation of the quilt from Christmas to a time when I could give it to Christopher myself - and so that he can enjoy it during football season.  There are probably still snippets from the quilt at the timeshare in Orlando as I spent several evenings snipping and snipping and snipping.  This one I washed three times and I really like the fuzziness of the ragging.

A boy and his quilt... Hopefully Christopher
will enjoy this for years to come.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quilting is a universal language!

No pictures just now. I've been traveling for work and pleasure for three of the last four weeks. I am writing now from my grandmother's house (my Mormor) just south of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Yesterday, Mom and I discovered a lovely quilt store - Issi Works - and spent quite a lot on fabric by Danish designers.  The owner understands some English though she speaks little. I understand a little Danish and can say please and thank you...  However - we could easily communicate over fabric and we spent some very enjoyable time admiring her completed quilts as well as being inspired by one she is working on for her daughter (leading to the purchase of 7 meters of Dansk Julen fabrics for my stash).

This afternoon, we visited a quilt store in Helsingbor, Sweden - after blundering into two general fabric stores and getting directions to the real quilt store.  Fortunately, Mom speaks Danish and understands Swedish, as I understand/speak less Swedish than Danish...  In this store, we found a panel related to the fabrics we purchased yesterday for an Advent Calendar. I now have 4 of these to make for the four households in our family - hopefully by Christmas - but some will be more likely done in time for Christmas 2011.  Again, the owner and I had a delightful time admiring her work. She has pieced a Bargello top from one of the Hoffman Batik rolls that she did during the Icelandic volcano eruption - and it is reminiscent of the mountains.

Tomorrow I plan to visit one or two more stores before returning home.  I have seen many bolts of fabric that I can purchase at home and continue to seek out those that I cannot.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Triple Rail Quilt, Class 140 continued.

I am addicted to gadgets and tools (my scrapbook supplies are taking over the house and the quilting items are threatening to catch up).

However, I do wish that I had purchased Quilter's Academy before I went ruler and notion shopping as I'd have saved myself some money.  For more expensive items, I do spend some time researching them and I'll buy the best that I can afford. Case in point - my favored rotary cutter is by Gingher - and I did find a good deal on one of the designer sets which came with a seam ripper - and it is wonderful.  I like the balance of both tools in my hand.  I also have three different brands of rulers and of cutting mats. I've got a couple brands of pins too, and I like the IBC silk pins better than the yellow tipped quilters pins.  I also like some of the flat head pins.  I do pin the strips because I don't yet feel confident that the strips won't slip apart.

So after finishing cutting and squaring the 99 blocks for this quilt, I unfolded my design wall and laid it across the bed.  And reduced some of the need to bend by working on the layout in sections and then walking around the bed to pull it across. Both Corgis gave their seal of approval by jumping up and landing on the layout.  Monkey landed so gently she barely moved the blocks. Dash landed like an elephant and dislodged quite a few.  He is now sleeping on my foot so has forgiven me shoving him off the bed.

I photographed the layout from directions to see how it would look upside down.

I like it both ways.

The blocks are now nicely stacked on my handy dandy tray and ready for me to start sewing.