Monday, February 02, 2015

Winter Door Hanging

Winter Door Hanging
Winter Door Hanging
I'm getting's still winter and I finished my last seasonal door hanging! And is winter here with a vengeance today:-)

I always make up my door hangings in sections while trying to incorporate different quilting techniques. Of course, since it's my creation, there has to be lots of colour.

The first thing I did was take out my Christmas fabric stash (I hadn't taken it out yet - I wasn't in a very merry mood). I knew that I didn't want just a Christmas theme, but all of my winter fabrics with snowflakes and such are stored together. I decided that I would use the amazing blue fabric with snowflakes as my sky, so of course, a few stars had to be incorporated.

The second layer includes a couple of shapes I received at the Common Thread Quilt Guild social. I found a lovely Santa with polar bears fabric to add to the reindeer and sleigh.
All Bundled Up Snowman
All Bundled Up Snowman

Looking through my magazines, books and quilting patterns, I found a gorgeous snowman pattern called All Bundled Up designed by Kelly Mueller for The Wooden Bear. It doesn't seem to be available any more - that's really too bad.

Next to the snowman, I incorporated a winter cabin which was paper pieced from the book Quilter's Home - Winter by Lois Krushina Fletcher. I couldn't resist putting the Christmas tree in the window and of course, adding a red door. I was going to appliqué a few trees in the background when I found some lovely fabric with romping deer in a snowy forest. It was just perfect for the background.

At the bottom of the hanging, I added more abstract blocks. I had never made snowball blocks, so I incorporated two of them at one end. I had planned on hand-embroidering the snowflakes within them based on &Stitches' blog but finally I got impatient and used FMQ.

I've been wanting to make a log cabin block in dark and light fabrics for a long time. This was my chance. I adapted Block 8 - Winter Cabin from the Quilter's Home - Winter by Lois Krushina Fletcher.

Finally, the last panel is made up following Rayna Gillman's Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts technique. I've used this technique in several projects and find it most effective when the free-form quilt includes a print as a focal point. I think that so far, my best pieces using this technique are my scrappy Christmas wall hangings.

Although the photos don't really show the quilting (except for the coloured snowflakes within the snowballs and the snowflakes behind the snowman), I used this project to keep practicing my free-motion quilting skills. I echoed around the stars, the reindeer, the sleigh and the circle for the two top panels.

I quilted around the trees in the background as well as the cabin itself. For the log cabin and the free-form blocks, I practiced many of the free-motion quilting background patterns that would fit within 1½ inch strips.

What I learned:

  • These door hangings are very improvisational - however, when I put the bottom panel together, I could see that my snowball blocks were too large and sticking out. I really should have reduced the log cabin block or the free-form block by an inch ....but I was too lazy to undo these three blocks. It's too bad, because it would have looked much better. 
  • Amazingly enough, the FMQ snowflakes came out well - except that I really could have measured out the six branches of the snowflake. It's a good thing no 2 snowflakes are the same!

I'm really proud of my 4 seasonal door hangings. Here they all are!
Spring Door Hanging
Spring Door Hanging
Summer Door Hanging
Summer Door Hanging

Winter Door Hanging
Winter Door Hanging

Fall Door Hanging
Fall Door Hanging

This post is included in the following link-ups:

Go see what's going on in the quilting blog world!

February 10, 2015
Check out the new section on my blog: Projects from Books, Mags and Patterns. Since I learned to create new pages and a navigation bar, I am unstoppable :-) I am sooooo happy that this much fun is NOT illegal!

Monday, January 26, 2015

A New Look

Since July, I've been learning how to change and design my blog by following
Beautify Your Blog button and table of content
Beautify your Blog
Erin's Beautify your Blog series.

So far, I've learned to:
  • create a new page within the blog;
  • create and add a header; 
  • change my background colour; and
  • create and add a navigation bar (or tabs).
You can follow my journey through my Learning and Design blog.

I auditioned many headers for this blog, but since I'm still missing Bandit so much, I decided to use the header that included his photo. I'm sure that eventually I'll be able to let go - but that time hasn't come yet.

For posterity, here is a photo of the Quilting and Learning Blog as it's been since my first post in March 2012.
Original look

Please use my new navigation bar above to check out my "About Moi" page (it's an ongoing project) and my "Learning and Design" blog.

What I've learned:

  • There is a lot of work involved in designing and re-designing a blog.
  • Creating a test blog to play with is necessary.
  • Even transferring your new look from the test blog to the "real" blog can be tricky.
  • It's an ongoing project...
  • I LOVE IT!!!!! Not bad for a non-techie :-)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Remembering Bandit (2002-2014)

Two women’s best friend died this week. Bandit brought joy to our lives, especially to my daughter and me.
Andrée and daughter with Bandit
Adopting Bandit

Bandit was a rescue dog from Florida. Apparently there are a lot of cocker spaniels in Florida and so older dogs have more difficulty getting adopted. Bandit obviously had some wonderful owners in Florida. He was generally well trained and confident…sometimes a little too much!

Bandit's two moms
Two mothers
This is my daughter and I adopting Bandit in January 2012. We got him from a wonderful foster mom. Thanks Margaret for all of your support! Although I had a dog growing up, he wasn't my responsibility so it was a steep learning curve. We also had a good coach in Jane Madigan of Inspired K9s.

Bandit in Northern Ontario
Bandit in Northern Ontario
Within a month of moving in, Bandit went on his first road trip to Northern Ontario to my grandmother’s funeral. For a Florida dog, he sure loved snow, especially when he discovered that he could eat it all! He had no problems adapting to the cold and the snow. He was also wonderful in the hotel room. A perfect gentleman.
A confident Bandit on his pink and brown quilt
A confident Bandit on his pink and brown quilt

Of course as soon he moved in he got his first quilt. He would lie down on the couch on his pink and brown quilt. No doubt about it, he was a confident cocker!

Bandit and Twix on the quilt
Bandit and Twix

Bandit on his new quilt
Bandit has his own quilt
Bandit was often in my room when I was quilting. Here he is with his cousin Twix (my brother’s dog). They both wanted to be there as I was binding the quilt before my brother and his family moved to Denmark.

Finally, Bandit got a quilt made just for him. I had a great time shopping for fabric in Philadelphia last fall. I also got to practice my free motion quilting.

Last Christmas I made mug rugs for my colleagues. Since I worked late into the evening, Bandit made himself at home in my Christmas stash. What a sweetheart.
Bandit nesting in the Christmas fabric stash
Bandit in the Christmas stash

This is one of the last photos of Bandit. He was quite sick and lost a lot of weight. He still loved to hang around with me when I was quilting. I think that one evening he decided that he wanted attention – lying down on my sewing machine pedal did the trick!

Thank you so much Bandit for your love. You are truly missed.

Bandit sleeping on my sewing machine pedal
Bandit wants attention
What I learned:
  • It turns out that having a healthy pancreas is important :-(
  • Unconditional love is rare and precious.
  • It's almost more upsetting that it hurts less as time goes by.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Projects Update

December is here! Somehow it always sneaks up on me. Today it feels like fall is finished and winter is on its way. That’s tough because I haven't started my winter door hanging yet…. Although it feels like there is never enough time to quilt, I did get ahead on a few projects, and even managed to finish one!
Orange Peel update

Orange Peel Quilt-along Update

In my last Orange Peel related post, I had finished 29 of my original 36 peels. I had purchased more Tula Pink fabrics and needed more background fabric. Since I wasn't sure which “white” fabric I was using, I ordered a meter of two whites and one neutral. For the record, I’m using the Kona White. Of course, I've now used up my meter and ordered more at Mad About Patchwork…. Got it yesterday. It’ll be in the wash tonight!

Three weeks late, I added an update to the bottom of my original post. By then, I had started cutting and preparing more peels, from both the original and the new Tula Pink fabrics.

Peel chart
Here are the latest numbers:
  • 68 finished peel blocks
  • 21 basted peels
  • 14 peels ready to baste (I got energetic after I took the picture
Now that I have 144 peels to complete (instead of 36), I’ve prepared a charts to keep me on track and motivated. I get to add a check mark whenever I finish a peel block.

What I've learned:
  • Might be a good idea to plan ahead…..does that sound familiar? It’s not a lesson I’ve assimilated yet!
  • My second batch of peels weren’t as precise as the first batch (i.e. the points aren’t as pointy!) I’m now being more careful about the points. They are much better this time around.
Re-quilting a Batik Runner

A few years ago I fell in love with a pattern for a runner. It was from 'tis the Season by Mount Redoubt Designs. In my head, I had a vision of a beautiful runner in batiks. I completed the runner (without the appliqués) but wasn't really impressed with the result. I used beautiful batiks but it just didn't do anything for me. At the time, I was also very new at machine quilting so the runner had very little quilting.

Centre quilting to highlight the flowers
Centre quilting to highlight the flowers
Since I've been re-quilting various projects, when I last came upon the runner in my linen closet, I took it out. I finally got around to FMQ it. What a difference it makes! I thought I had taken a picture of it when I originally finished it, but I guess I was so disappointed that I didn't.

I started by stitching each seam in the ditch. That was actually a real improvement. I had created this runner around the middle fabric – which has daisy shapes painted on in different colours. I was able to quilt around the daisy shapes and make them stand out. I left the pink blocks around them un-quilted to highlight the daisy blocks.

A rounded feather for a corner triangle
A rounded feather for a corner triangle
I FMQ the light fabric at the ends of the runner with a feathered heart. I wasn't quite brave enough to quilt it free-hand so I drew it on and then sort of followed the pattern. The pattern comes from Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs Volume 4 - Full-Size Patterns for Blocks and Borders by Mary M. Covey. It’s the Rounded Feather for a corner triangle.

For the light blue squares near the end, I FMQ flower designs within 4 squares and then quilted a smaller flower in the two remaining squares. The large flower pattern is from Eva A. Larkin's Free-Motion Quilting Made Easy. The design is a diagonal double loop. I used a simple design since anything fancy would not have shown against the batik background.
Finished re-quilted table runner
Finished re-quilted table runner

In the four on-point red squares next to the light blue squares, I just followed some of the lines that are within the fabric. Finally for the dark blue batik squares surrounding the centre piece, I FMQ a continuous-line lotus flower in each block.

I'm really happy with the result. FMQ has turned a drab table runner into one with pizzazz!

What I learned:

  • The second feathered heart came out much better than the first. I should have practiced it before quilting it on the runner.
  • When I FMQ free-hand, I always practice beforehand. However, when I use stencils or follow hand-drawn patterns, I tend to just “wing it” instead of practicing these new patterns. Invariably, my quilting always gets better with practice.
  • I really need to prepare some sandwiched fabric pieces to practice these patterns. I’ve used up all of my good practice sandwiches. I’ve learned that it’s important to use dull fabrics, otherwise I can’t see the FMQ on the busy fabrics. Let’s face it, the real problem is that I don’t want to use any of my fabric to practice on!
This post is linked to Fabric Tuesday - Quilt StoryAnything Goes Mondays and Needle and Thread Thursday. Check out these links.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Better Late Than Never! A Fall Door Hanging

I seem to be running behind on my seasons! I just finished my fall door hanging....and just put it up last night. It was too dark to see but I'm sure it'll be awesome in the daylight :-) I guess I'm not that late since there is still no snow on the ground and many of the Canada Geese are still hanging around.
The two foundation paper pieced blocks

I love these door hanging projects because I tend to create them from different blocks and then I challenge myself by putting them together, hopefully into a cohesive whole. They are also perfect for practicing my free motion quilting (FMQ).

This project is made up of four primary blocks:

  • two are foundation paper pieced; 
  • one is an appliqué; and 
  • the other is pieced.

The pieced basket
Appliquéd oak leaf
The two foundation paper pieced blocks are from a miniature collection that I've received through the Quilting by the Square's newsletter (both are from Month #4). I was intrigued by the Twisted Log Cabin. I love the mouvement within it. I couldn't make a fall project without some red maple leaves in it to represent Canada! I love the contrast between the bright yellow and the red.

The appliquéd oak leaf is a block from "Turning Leaves", from the September/October 2002 issue of Quiltmaker. I really wanted to incorporate the black leaf fabric but didn't want it to overwhelm the hanging. I think that it contrasts well with the basket weave type fabric in the other half of the block.

I also found some tiny bits of apple fabric that I had to somehow incorporate. I thought that the basket block would be the best place for it. The basket comes from "Bounty of Baskets" quilt by Betsy Chutchian. The quilt is in the June 2012 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting. I also wanted to add something within the basket. The free motion quilted plant looks better in person than on the photo. I added some emphasis by quilting several times within some parts of it. The design is from Mary M. Covey's Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs, Volume 4.

Fall Door Hanging
Since the door hanging represents fall, I included flying geese borders that are heading both south and east. Even if the Canada Geese are still here, they are bound to leave soon. I love the sound of they make in the spring, but I find it sad in the fall!

I had a great time quilting the project. As Cindy Needham's Design it, Quilt it: Free-Form Techniques suggests in , I "stitched in the ditch most of the stinking seams". That helps me get into the groove of FMQ and stabilizes the project at the same time. Since I wanted some consistency within the quilting, I chose to use an oak leaf with a nut in most of the brown solid spaces. As Cindy suggests, I let my quilted design go outside of the area. This gives the quilt more depth.
I added mouvement to the quilt by emphasizing the direction of the flying geese with some dot-to-dot quilting. That helps the eyes follow the direction of the blocks.

This door hanging is less densely quilted than my spring and summer door hangings. This was done intentionally to highlight the leaf and nut FMQ. I really like the balance of empty space and quilted space.

On the door before the snow!
What I learned:
  • I keep forgetting that stitching-in-the-ditch is really effective and almost invisible when done with thread that blends in, such as Superior Thread's Bottom Line. I almost always use this in the bobbin when FMQ but I forget how versatile it is. 
  • I bought some shiny light Madeira polyester thread (Polyneon No. 40) last week. It's more than eye candy - I used three shades of gold/brown on the FMQ of the oak leaf with a nut pattern. I then used a couple of shades of green on the plant within the basket.
  • My other two door hangings had our family name embroidered within it. I prefer more anonymity so my daughter suggested I add the house number instead. What a great idea.
  • What's next? Should I make a winter and/or Christmas door hanging before spring?
I've linked my post to a couple of websites. Have a look at what everyone else is doing!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Appliquéd in China

I'm back from an amazing 24 days in China - what a trip! It was wonderful, exotic and exhausting.

Orange Peel Quilt-along
I had brought two projects with me to work on. The first one, that I wrote about in my last post, didn't get touched. Maybe it was the heat that made working with wool totally uninteresting. I did however bring an appliqué project that was perfect for the trip, even if I only got to it a few times. Just before leaving, I joined Julie's Orange Peel Quilt-Along at Button Button.

From Tula Pink's Fox Field collection
Since I had a million things to organize before leaving, I chose coordinating fabrics from Tula Pink's Fox Field. I originally bought a package of fat quarters at our guild's quilt show at the Mad about Patchwork booth. I fell in love with the large pink polka dots with random bunnies.

The background fabric is one of the white's from Kona Cottons. Before I left on my trip, I ordered more fabric from the Fox Field collection - in case I decided to make a larger quilt. I'm not sure which white I used as the background, so I guess I'll have to order a variety and keep the others for future projects.

Julie's instructions are clear and contain some good hints. Since the appliqué pieces would be travelling, I followed her instructions by cutting the orange peels from freezer paper templates and adding the 1\4 inch seam allowance. I ironed the seam allowance before leaving and then as soon as I got to Beijing, I basted each of the orange peels. This ensured that each peel was ready to appliqué, even if they got battered a little in my luggage.

The peels are quite large, so it was really nice to appliqué.  After appliquéing a few, I figured out that for me, it worked best when I was sewing counter-clockwise.

I posted a picture of my fabrics before I left for China but wasn't able to access anything other than email while on my trip. I took a picture of my work-in-progress while cruising on the Yangtze River. I posted my progress on the second check-in, once I returned.

I originally prepared 36 orange peels to make a wall quilt, but I definitely want to make a larger quilt, now that I have the "orange peel bug". Of the 36 peels, I only have 7 more to appliqué. After that, I'll have to order more white Kona fabric and start cutting more orange peels from the left over fat quarters and from the two new fabrics I got from the collection.

Taken on the Yangtze River Cruise
What I learned:

  • I thought I would be able to appliqué while on the plane or the bus, but that didn't work out. It was just too cramped.
  • Basting and appliquéing in the evenings, when not too tired, worked out well, especially when relaxing during the cruise.
  • The project traveled really well and required only the fabric, scissors, needles, a couple of pins and the thread.
  • I love the size of the orange peels. They are large enough that it makes the appliquéing quite easy. Who knows, maybe one day I'll be brave enough to tackle smaller projects!
  • I really missed sewing and quilting during my trip. Twenty four days is a long time to go without. I was glad to have this project with me since lugging a sewing machine across China just wasn't feasible!
  • It's great to be home :-) Travelling makes me very grateful for all that I have.

Update - November 13, 2014
Adding to the fabrics

I have started cutting and preparing more appliques to make a larger quilt. I have added two more fabrics from Tula Pink's fabric line. They are so cool!!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Travelling with an UnFinished Object (UFO)

This summer didn't yield as many finished projects as I would have hoped, but it sure was a creative one based on the projects that I started and worked on.

One revived UFO was an art quilt that I started in 2010. I took a class at Quilty Pleasures on creating an art quilt. When the teacher saw the picture that I wanted my project to be based on, her comment was:"That is very ambitious". That really should have been my first clue!
Photo of Lightning at Ayers Rock From Time Nature's Wonders

Since that photo was what I had brought, it's what I worked on. The photo is of Ayers Rock in Australia. It reminded me of the south-west of the US, which we had recently visited. Since I'm the author of my project, it's now the South-West Rock art quilt.

Creating the sky and the rock itself wasn't really difficult. The ambitious part is all of the scruffy landscape in front of it. I started working on it but it was beyond my ability, so I left it. However, every time that I would see embroideries or art quilts that resembled my foreground; I took mental notes of how I could accomplish this.

Four years later, I'm back at it. Since the beginning of the project, I've learned a few things:

  • When working on an art quilt, you want to start with the back and move forward so that you can layer and add to it;
  • You don't have to add one blade of grass, bush or flower at a time. It's possible, and probably best to give the illusion of many blades of grass etc. This is where the couching stitch comes in handy. It's essentially tacking on a thicker thread (like wool) with another thread. If you use interesting wool, it can look like many bushes or patches of vegetation.

I took out the project because I wanted embroidery work to do during very long car trips. It's amazing how quickly time flies when you embroider! Actually the first time I embroidered in the car, we were heading to North and South Dakota. It's great that this project is a result of those wonderful car trips and that I'm working on it on other trips.

I got about half of the foreground completed going back and forth to Northern Ontario this summer. I'll be working on it during my next trip - which is to China! Between the 15 hour flight and the various buses, I'm hoping to have the project finished by the time I come home.

South-West Rock Art Quilt - only the foreground and lightning to finish!