Friday, May 01, 2015

New Challenge for May

I thought I would take this opportunity to update the challenges I listed in my March post, when I started participating in A Lovely Year of Finishes Challenge.

To date, I've been able to finish both my March and April challenges. It seems that the trick is to choose something I want to work on as well as something that can very realistically be completed. It also helps when there’s another deadline for the project!

One type of exchange block
One type of exchange block 
I mentioned in my March post that I had blocks to prepare for the Frayed Knots Spring/Summer Garden 2015 Block Exchange. The task was to complete 23 blocks (mine are all 9” by 9”) with the garden theme and pastel backgrounds. At the time I had 10 blocks completed. Last weekend, I decided to tackle the blocks. I chose another pattern to work on to help with my motivation. After making 4 of the new blocks, I discovered that they were all too small (X*!Z&#!!!!) Yup, too small.
Another type of exchange block
Another type of exchange block

My extra blocks

I rechecked my calculations because I had adapted a pattern – they were correct. So, if the pattern is correct, that means that my sewing isn't. Sure enough, I've been using my ¼ inch foot and generally not caring if it was accurate or not. I figured that as long as I was consistent, who cared! Well, I’m sure that the ladies receiving my blocks will care…, I tentatively made another block using a “scant” ¼ inch. It worked like a charm. The good news, my 23 squares are finished and I have a whole bunch of extra squares for my own quilt. I’m sure that I can make a row of slightly smaller squares and no one will notice.

To re-quilt
My challenge for May is to finish re-quilting a quilt my mother made about 20 years ago for my brother. My mother hand-quilted it but about half of the quilting has become undone. I've already re-stitched some of the blocks and I now have to complete the hand quilting. My mother made this quilt before she took any classes, so she wasn't using hand-quilting thread.

Since the quilt has been lovingly used, it just needs a little TLC. I've had the quilt for over a year and keep procrastinating… this challenge will make my brother happy.

What I've learned:

  • When deciding on a project for a challenge it’s important to be realistic and motivated.
  • It's good to under promise and over deliver (I am working hard on this one).
  • In the end, it doesn't really matter if I achieve my challenge goal, but I do enjoy having something specific to work at since I can sometimes be a little bit scattered in my approach to quilting. I'm like a cat easily distracted by shiny things! It’s also a good reason to celebrate my successes. 
Check out other quilter’s goals at Lovely Year of Finishes May Goal Setting Party.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Making a Mini Gem

A few weekends ago I decided to make a quick and easy project using mostly scraps.

Spinner mini-quilt
Spinner mini-quilt
Here is the result! It was finished in less than a weekend.

It’s a paper-pieced project from the book: Little Gems, 15 paper-pieced miniature quilts by Connie Kauffman.  The book is eye-candy. I would love to make most of the mini-quilts in the book.

Little Gems by Connie Kauffman
Little Gems by Connie Kauffman
This pattern is called Spinner. The quilt in the book is made up mostly of softer pastels. I started that way, but that didn’t last. I just had to use my bright lovely fabrics!

I loved making these paper pieced blocks and I didn't spend much time planning the fabrics. For the amount of effort I put into it, it’s really great. Sometimes it’s great just to grab some fabric and sew. The worse thing that can happen is that it won’t come out, but then I can always use the blocks to make more scrappy blocks.

I placed the 12” by 12” quilt on a metal hanger I bough over a year ago. It’ll be fun to make different mini-quilts and rotate them.

I finally got around to taking pictures of the quilt. I love pictures of quilts taken outdoor so this quilt was perfect since it has its own hanger and wouldn't get dirty.

What I learned:

  • The colours work well but for the next one I may plan the final layout a little more.
  • As much as I love FMQ, this little piece didn't need it. I only stitched-in-the-ditch.
  • Making a mini-quilt on the spur of the moment is a great way to have fun and play with fabrics and colours.

Here is a photo of some beautiful miniature irises in my garden. They were at their best last week.

This post is linked up at Quilt Story's Fabric Tuesday. Check out the gorgeous quilts!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April Challenge Completed

I did well this month. For the April version of the Lovely Year of Finishes, I wrote that I would complete my South-West art quilt from 2010, since it was also one of my Common Thread Quilt Guild UFO (Unfinished Objects) Challenge projects. I was hoping to finish it for our May Guild meeting, but ended up finishing it for the April meeting.
Landscape quilt completed
Landscape quilt completed

To be honest, I only had about an hour and a half of embroidery left to do, but I did have to FMQ it and bind it. I just have the label to make before it goes to its new home – my daughter’s room. She’s my biggest fan :-)

I couched most of the grass area located in the bottom third of the quilt. I used three kinds of novelty yarn and then embroidered some areas with different colours of floss to represent various grasses and flowers. Since the view is from afar, I just added splashes of colour rather than individual plants.

At first I didn't like the sparkles within one of the novelty yarn, but then as I finished the piece and worked on completing the lightning, the sparkles look like they are reflecting the lightning.

Grasses using mostly couched novelty yarns
Grasses using mostly couched novelty yarns
I wasn't sure how to quilt this piece since I didn't want to take anything away from the landscape. I did do some thread painting / FMQ around the lightning to help emphasize it and create a little more contrast where it begins.

I then quilted around the different parts of the rock to emphasize it. I finished by doing a little bit of quilting in the sky to create some mouvement within the clouds.

hread painting and FMQ the lightning and sky
Thread painting and FMQ the lightning and sky
What I learned:

  • As always, when I’m not sure what to do, it’s best to leave the project until the answers come to me, either through ideas but more often by looking at how other quilters have handled that same issue.
  • I used a fine brown permanent market to touch up some of the thread that was showing on the rock. It’s allowed since it’s an art quilt!!!
  • I really love the way this came out and how much I enjoyed working on it, once I knew what to do! I suspect this is the beginning of many more landscape quilts.

Check out the other finished quilts at the Lovely Year of Finishes – Finishes Party.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Learning Through a Table Runner

The Common Thread Quilt Guild in Orleans, Ontario organised a Print Windows table runner workshop last November with teacher / designer Valerie Miller. Her designs are quite modern and incorporate some lovely details – gentle curves, piping, mini squares, etc.  When I saw a sample of her runner, I decided to take her course to learn the techniques involved in making these.

Here is the link to her Print Windows table runner pattern.

Details of Print Windows Table Runner
Details of Print Windows Table Runner
Valery came to our guild as a guest speaker, so that evening I chose my fabrics for the weekend workshop. I liked the fabrics, although I have made few projects with a black background.

The workshop was enjoyable and I did learn a few tips and tricks. For instance, the fabrics that make up the mini windows within the grey strip were strip pieced. Since I don’t usually have great success with these, I did get a couple of tips to help me.
Print Windows Table Runner
Print Windows Table Runner

  1. Sew the strips together from alternate directions. This helps the fabric stay flat.
  2. Use a smaller stitch so that they won’t fall apart after you cut them.
Sewing gentle curves isn't difficult. You just have to take your time. The trick is to use pins and then to clip the seam allowance once you've sewn the curve. I just find that this gives the piece a nice flat finish once it’s pressed. I've included a link to a Connecting Threads tutorial, in case you’d like to learn to sew curved pieces.

Finally, when cutting and inserting the grey strip into the runner, you just have to be careful to adjust the curved piece that it’s going through so that the curve will continue evenly on both sides of the strip.

What I learned:
  • The sewing tips I've written while making this runner are above. 
  • My life lesson was more difficult. As much as I enjoyed the workshop, it was during the time that my “best friend” Bandit died. The quilting helped me get through those rough days but as lovely as it is, it will forever be associated with those difficult times. I guess that’s how life and perception works (and the black background doesn't help.)
This post is listed on Link-a-Finish Friday. See what other quilters have been up to!

Monday, April 06, 2015

April Challenge

This is a quick post about the upcoming Lovely Year of Finishes Goal Setting Party.

In April, I will finish one of my Common Thread Quilt Guild UFO (Unfinished Objects) Challenge projects. I wrote about this challenge in my March Goal Setting.

South-west art quilt to finish by the end of April
I originally entered five UFO projects to complete. I wrote that there was a possibility of completing two of the projects:

  • Snippet flowers in a vase from 2008 (ready to FMQ if I can find it); and
  • South-West art quilt from 2010 (I've written about the project in September 2014)

I did find the Snippet flowers quilt (it was stored under the bed!) but I really don't like the borders that I put on it. It's ready for some thread painting though, so once I undo the borders, I'll start on that part of it. It will not be ready for the guild challenge since the deadline is our May guild meeting.

I will therefore finish my South-West art quilt by the end of April! Come by and see  me at me at the April Finishing Party.

I am presently visiting relatives in Vancouver BC. We spent some time driving through the mountains. I can't wait to review my photos to see if there is another art quilt that I can start (after I finish this one of course). Stay tuned.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Update on March Challenge

2015 A Lovely Year of Finishes - March Challenge

Imagine Quilt based on John Lennon's song
It would seem that I am making the wrong choices when setting priorities these days. I’m used to my work priorities changing, but not my quilting ones, probably because I don’t usually have priorities and deadlines for quilting and I try to keep it that way.

My motivation for posting my priority in March was to encourage myself to write in my blog about it – but I may have forgotten that I needed to actually finish the quilting that I set as an objective! Quilting almost every day is not an issue for me, but what I’m actually working on seems to be. Oh well, live and learn.

I am happy to report that I finished my Guild Music Challenge quilt. I worked on it at the beginning of the month, but typically left the embellishment till the last minute.

Close-up of Imagine
I was intimidated by the FMQ of the “world” part of the quilt because I wasn't sure how that would go. Turns out it was great. I started by stitching in-the-ditch, which wasn't technically “in-the-ditch” because of the embroidery located around each piece. I then did some FMQ of the different fabrics. I had a ball. It was so hard to stop!

I was also unsure of how to FMQ the background because I wanted the people holding hands to stand out. I started by echoing the top of the people. After that, I FMQ clouds in the sky. I looked all over the internet for inspiration and finally ended up using a variation of Angela Walter’s work that she had done for a client. 
Sky quilting based on Angela Walter's work

When I attached the world and the background together, I just quilted in-the-ditch and quilted around the outside edge to make sure that both pieces stayed together. 

Close-up of John Lennon and some beading
What I learned:
  • If I was fussier, I would have re-done the embroidery around some of the pieces of the world, as well as some located on the outside edge of the world. On the other hand, there’s nothing stopping me from re-doing these at any time, if it does bother me. I am truly not a perfectionnist!
  • I’m ambivalent about the end project. I like it, but I think that the finished project in my mind might have been better than the real thing.
    Details of beading
  • I did learn a lot throughout this project. I really enjoyed the embroidery as well as the embellishment with beads. I could have kept going, but for the amount of time it would have taken, I’m not sure that it would have added anything more to it. You have to stop sometime.
  • I loved the FMQ of both the world and the background. In the end, I think that adding an echo around the people holding hands was a good idea. I don’t really think that it needs to stand out more. I have to learn that subtle is good too!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

No Rules Scrappy Piecing

A long weekend of quilting was just what I needed to recharge my batteries.

I hadn't participated in any quilting retreats since last spring. I was overdue. I love quilting at home but sometimes it's great to be sociable; see what others are making; and of course, learn and try new things.

The night before the retreat, I was planning what to bring. I had energy since I was taking the next day, a Friday, off. I tried to make a new block for my garden exchange - it was a dud. I made a stand from fabric and cardboard for my IPod Touch - it turned out ok, but I managed to get the measurements wrong. No big deal, but a sure sign that I was tired. Very tired.

So Friday I went to the retreat with at least 5 projects to work on. When I got there, I knew that if I did anything that required concentration, that it would be a disaster - so I took out my box of scraps. Turns out I didn't even have the energy to trim them. Not a good sign.
Box of scraps

So what did I do? I started sewing the scraps together. Any old way - it didn't matter, as long as I was sewing. After an hour of this, I decided to do the social thing and go see what my friends were doing. Quite a few of the quilters were making this very cool quilt called Toes in the Sand. It's a quilt of wonderfully pieced triangles set between solid triangles. Very intricate and very, very lovely. I wanted to make one - but that wasn't going to happen that weekend, until it hit me that I could make my triangles out of scraps. No measuring, no fussing with seams, just sewing tons of scraps together and then cutting the pieces into triangles!

When I got home on Sunday afternoon, I had 18 triangles completed. I even made a couple more Sunday evening!

Cutting a triangle from a scrappy block
Scrappy triangle is 12.5 inches on all sides
Tonight I got back into my scrap box since I need 24 scrappy triangles for the quilt. I don't usually write about my process (mostly because I keep forgetting to take pictures!) so this time I made an effort.

Leftovers attached to new piece
 Once I have a block that is big enough for my triangle template, I cut out the triangle. To make another triangle, I can attach the leftover fabric to a new piece. I trim the sides to make it easier to add more fabric, and keep going until the piece is large enough.
Trim to be able to add more scraps

I keep going like this, either adding leftover pieces to new blocks or just starting new blocks.
Isn't it adorable?
Pieced block from another project
Old blocks that never quite made it into a project can also be used to build up the scrappy piece. In this instance, this block was for my Beginner's quilt-along. I was using monochromatic colours within each block. I thought that black and white might look good, but they were definitely not monochromatic! Since the points on the block are pretty rough, I really didn't mind cutting it up for this project.

Here is the resulting triangle.

What I learned:

  • Not following any rules, not measuring and just playing with fabric is very therapeutic.
  • Although there are no rules, there are some best practices! The first one is to iron - a lot!
  • I made some of my triangles around a focal point, but tried not to make too many of these.
  • I have often played with my scraps when I want to sew but don't know what to do. When I started making these triangles, I had all kinds of partially sewn pieces that I could put together.
  • When you think a piece is doing well, cut it up and place a thin strip of fabric between the two pieces. It's also fun to invert the pieces when you put them back together.
  • The resulting triangle is often a surprise. Since I used a paper template, I'm never sure what my triangle will look like until it's been cut.

I now have 22 triangles and have chosen my background fabric. The next part of this project will be more structured. It'll be back to following the rules - just like going back to work after a vacation!

I've linked up to Fabric Tuesday and Link-a-Finish Friday (the quilt isn't finished but most of the triangles are!). Check out our fellow quilters!