Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Liberating Some Stars

As I mentioned in my last post, I took two classes with Gwen Marston recently.  Today features the second class - "Liberated Stars".

Gwen's Liberated Stars quilt

Some of the students (like me) had already made the liberated stars, and some were new to it.  When I've made stars in the past, I've always cut the background fabric away after sewing and trimming the star point.  Gwen said she doesn't do that very often anymore, so I tried not trimming.  It didn't seem to make a big difference for 6 inch stars, but seemed too thick for the little 3 inch stars as well as the 9 inch stars.  Maybe it's just because I'm used to trimming?  I haven't made up my mind which I prefer yet.

Here are all the students' work that I managed to get photos of.

Some fun bits going on in these stars!

Love what the striped fabrics do!

fun background!

Do you remember the string blocks from my last post?  Well, this student added the stars to her string blocks.  Cute, huh?

And here are my stars - I did a 3 inch, a 6 inch and a 9 inch star.  For this project, I decided to use my hand-dyed fabrics.  Most of those fabrics have been "aging" in my stash for a number of years, waiting to be used in the right project.  I think this is it!  I'm using a Kona Snow background, with a couple of low-volume black and white prints to mix things up.  

I found the 3 inch star fairly challenging to make, but I think it's really cute.  I'm sure they will get easier as I make more.  

I haven't made any more stars since the class, as higher-priority things have claimed my time.  But I can't wait to get back to making stars.

One of the students brought a liberated log cabin quilt to show off.  It is made using mostly solids, but the print fabrics in there are a fun touch.

I've been so busy lately that I haven't had time to post.  I have lots to share with you.  I hope to do another post soon.

See ya soon!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Playing with Strings with Gwen

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to be able to take another class with Gwen Marston.  I actually took two classes, but this post is on the Strings class.  The other class will be another post.

I've made lots of string quilts, but I've never done Gwen's method of strings - sewn without using a foundation.  Of course, Gwen started us out by talking about her method and doing a demo for us.

Here are some of the quilts Gwen brought to show us.

This one is all in solids and Gwen quilted it (by hand, of course) in black thread.

The blocks in this quilt started with a base square.  

Same with this quilt.

A cute little dolly quilt!

In this photo, Gwen is showing us how to cut up strings sewn into a strata.

Laying out the blocks.

And then sewing the blocks together.

So, we all got to work and sewed furiously.  I went around the room and took photos of everyone's work as the class was coming to a close.  I thought everyone's blocks looked great, no matter which method the student used.

Made using men's old ties.

One student brought a log cabin top she had made, and was making string blocks to go in the border.

And these are her border blocks.

I loved these blocks!   Both the colors and the design.  This person told me she was using a jelly roll!  I'd never thought of that.

Rectangular blocks.

These blocks were made by sewing a strata together first.  You'll see more of these blocks in the next post.

Also made by sewing a strata first.

And these are my first blocks (on the top right).  (The others were another student's first attempts)  Incredibly, and in spite of a huge stockpile of strings, I wasn't actually using strings.  I brought yardage and cut strips to use.  That was a first for me! 

And, miracle of miracles, I managed to get my quilt top finished this last week!

I think this quilt has kind of an African and/or "jungle" vibe to it, which was unintentional.  It's made with all batiks, but no actual African fabric.  I was making this little quilt to go on the wall in my guest bath downstairs.  There's only a toilet and a sink in there, so I'm not worried about the water.  (I don't know that I'd put a quilt in a bathroom where someone is taking a shower on a regular basis.  In this Pacific NW environment, it would probably grow mold before too long.)  This bathroom is decorated in a fairly sophisticated style (it was that way when we moved in), with beige striped wall paper and some fancy mirrors over the sink and I wanted it to fit with that.  And that room is kind of on the dim side (no natural light), so I didn't want anything too dark.  I think I actually succeeded in having it fit in the room both size-wise and style-wise, and it looks good in it's appointed place.  I'll get some photos when it's done and hanging in there.

It's been quite a while since I made a wall quilt a particular size (25 x 30 inches) for a specific place.  Kind of fun to challenge myself that way.  So, it feels good to feel successful!  Also, I knew that, being on the small side, I could get it finished in a reasonable amount of time. So, now to get it quilted.  Hopefully that won't take too long either.

My sister is coming to visit this week.  As a matter of fact, she'll be arriving in a couple of hours.  This will be her vacation and she wants us to sew together.  The Potter is OK with us taking over the living room!  What a great guy, huh?  I think we'll have fun!

I hope you have a creative week!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Some Bits of This and Bits of That

I've been sewing!  I'm starting to feel caught up on a few projects I'm working on, but I'm still behind in others.

I've been working on the Traveling Round Robin.

my block for the Traveling Round Robin

I've completed my block.

B's blocks
And I've completed B's block as well.  Here it is with her first block.  So now I'm ready to pass these on and get the next ones.  B tells me she has 2 to pass to me.  I get them Friday and have 2 weeks to get them done.

Last Friday I went and sewed with friends.  I'm keeping the black & white blocks project (see it here - you'll need to scroll down a ways) with my traveling machine and I worked on those. 

I'm 1/3rd of the way on making the blocks.  I have 8 of each and I need 24 of each.  I'm liking them so far.  I'll only be working on those with my traveling machine (my Brother) because I get a different 1/4 inch seam allowance on that machine as compared to my Bernina.  Why is that??  Both machines have a 1/4 inch foot, but no matter what I do, the seam allowances are always different.  So I've decided the easy answer is to just not switch machines in the middle of a project.

What with being sick, going to Florida and then just being busy, last week was the first chance I had to lay out all the Big O blocks I won from the Block Lotto in December.  As you can see, Dunkel was holding down the pesky blocks for me.  This is not my plan for how I will be setting the blocks.  You'll just have to wait and see!  (insert evil laugh here)

I have a 'secret' project that needs to be done this month and it's only in units at this point.  I really need to get busy on that!

This was very strange labeling on a package of ground beef that I bought the other day.  Maybe because we're so close to Canada here?  The meat came from Oregon.  Any one else seen this on their meat packages??

We've had such a mild February that plants are thinking it is truly Spring.  The crocus and the daffodils are blooming.  Most of the fruit trees are in bloom too.  And the grass is growing too, much to DH's dismay.  This is my new trillium I just planted last fall.  I've never had a trillium before, and I'm looking forward to seeing it bloom.  It's supposed to be a purple trillium.

And don't hate us, East Coast people, but this is my camellia plant.  There were three blossoms on Saturday!  And more flowers about to pop open.  Crazy.  This plant/tree usually blooms in the April/May time period.  

I have a suspicion that Mother Nature isn't done with winter yet, in spite of the warmer, sunshiny weather we've been having. It was down in the 20's (F) last night.  I'm afraid we just might get a big snow storm one of these days.  It's not impossible in March or even April here.  But I have to say that I'm really enjoying all the lovely sunshine we've been having.  It is a welcome little miracle in the middle of our usually gloomy grey rainy winter.

Stay warm!  And I hope you get the time to be creative this week!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Decisions, Decisions

I'm going to be participating in a couple of projects that my quilt guild is doing this year, so I've had to make some decisions lately.  It's been fun but also kind of painful.  I have a hard time making decisions about quilting projects because I can get all wrapped up in the possibilities and then can't narrow it down.  Silly me.  And the worst of it is that I drive myself crazy when I do this!

My Mystery Quilt fabics

The first project we're doing is a Mystery Quilt.  I decided to shop my stash for this one, but I had to look at lots of fabrics.  I needed three yards of background, and two yards each of a focus fabric and an accent fabric.  I don't usually buy big chunks of fabric, so not all of them were big enough for this project.  But, after going through my entire stash, pulling out anything that looked like it might be big enough, I finally found a focus fabric I liked AND had enough of!  I even had enough of the dragonfly print background fabric as well.  Both the wild print and the background fabrics have been in my stash for a few years.  I did have to buy the green fabric, but that wasn't a problem.  *grin*

The second project the guild will be doing this year is a Traveling Round Robin. This is a different Round Robin than is usually done.  How this Round Robin works is this:  I decide which fabrics I want my quilt made from, and put them all into a box or a bin with my name on it.   I then decide which 12 inch block I want to make for everyone's Round Robin quilt. Then I make a block in my chosen pattern, using my fabrics, which I also place in my box.  Then I pass my box/bin to the next person on the list, and I also receive a box from another person.  For each box that I receive, I will make the same block in "my" pattern using the fabrics that are in their box, then put the block I made in their box and pass it to the next person on the list.  I'll always pass and receive from the same two people throughout the Round Robin. (As an example,  I always pass to Julie and receive from Bonnie.)  After the Round Robin is all done, I'll have 15 12-inch blocks for a sampler quilt, all in different patterns but all in my fabrics.  Then I'll decide if I need to make more blocks (I might want 20 blocks), how I want to set them together and then finish the quilt.

My Traveling Round Robin fabrics

I went to my LQS and spent about 2 hours looking at fabrics.  Nothing really captured my attention.  At least, nothing I really wanted a quilt made from.  So then I went to Ben Franklin's and looked around.  The only focus fabric there that I loved, I've already bought!  (you can see the pillowcase I made from this fabric here.  You'll need to scroll down a little ways - it's the pillowcase on the right in the photo, with the orange cuff)  So that's what I went with.  I bought another 2 1/2 yards of the fabric (thinking of a possible border) and bought some companion fabric and a bunch of solids.

The next, hardest decision was which block to make??  I would love to do something free-pieced or improvisational, but I don't think it would be the same sort of style as everyone else will be doing, which, to my mind, is important when you're doing a sampler quilt.  I spent hours (days!) poring over quilt books, trying to decide what block to do.  I used up some older scraps to make sample blocks.

The first block I tried is called "Album" and I found it in Judy Hopkins' 501 Rotary Cut Blocks.  Nice enough, but not really "it".

Another block from the same book called "Irish Chain".  I didn't even finish sewing this one together after I decided I really didn't like that yellow fabric - it's thin and flimsy.  I wish I had switched the position of the lights and the darks.  I could just switch the yellow triangles out for the blue, but I don't care enough to spend the time to remake this block.  Again, I like this block but it's still not what I was hoping for.  

So, I really thought about what I would be doing with the block, and decided that I needed a block that could use multiple fabrics easily, as well as look complex without being too difficult to do.  We'll be passing our boxes twice a month in order to have the quilts finished in time for the quilt show in October - hopefully.  So, I thought that complex piecing would make it difficult for me to do the blocks in a timely manner.  That ruled out blocks with a lot of triangles.  I knew I just wouldn't be happy making those.  So I changed my parameters for this and looked in some other books.

not too bad for scraps, huh?
Here is the block I decided on.  It's a Sister's Choice variation and I found it in Kim Diehl's book Simple Charm.  I can use up to 11 fabrics per block, those triangles are really easy to do, I don't need to worry about cutting off the points of the triangles on the edge of the block, and it has easy cutting and assembly.  This will work for me!

Now all I have to do is make my block with my fabrics and I'm ready to pass it on to Julie.  I already have Bonnie's box and I need to make this block with her fabrics as well.

But first, I have to deal with the disaster that my quilt studio has become. Ugh.  No room to work or even walk, so it has become a priority now.  Hopefully that won't take too many days.

Happy quilting!

Sunday, February 08, 2015

February Already?

Whoa!  What happened to January??  I can't believe it's been a whole month since I posted!   Oh, and by the way, my last post was my 300th post!

I went to the mini quilt retreat and had a good time.  I even got some things accomplished.  But I came down with a nasty cold with a vicious cough almost the next day.  And, just when I was getting over that, it turned into a sinus infection.  Ugh.  We were going to be leaving for Florida in a few days when the sinus thing happened, so I quickly took myself to Urgent Care and got some antibiotics and cough medicine.  I finally felt better, right before we got on the plane, and I'm sure all the other passengers were as happy as I was that I was no longer infectious or coughing my lungs out!

We had a great time in Florida and really enjoyed the sunshine.  It wasn't real warm, as FL was getting the side effect of cooler temps during the "winter event" happening in the Northeast U.S.  But it was gloriously sunny, and that was wonderful.  We were in Tampa while DH was having a Professional Development conference with the Co. he works for.  There were 5 other wives there, and we had a grand time seeing the sights.  We went to Clearwater and saw the white sand beaches there (that looked just like powdered sugar!), along with lots of pelicans, and I even got to see wild dolphins playing in the ocean!  Then we went to Tarpon Springs and shopped and ate wonderful Greek food.  (I especially recommend the flaming cheese! Fun to see and yummy!)  Oh yeah, and I finally got some Key Lime Pie.  I had never had the real deal before and it lived up to it's reputation.  Sadly, I never found a fabric shop, but that was OK.  I had fun seeing someplace new, and sunshine in the middle of winter was just what the doctor ordered!

But enough blabbing.  Let's get to the good quilty stuff!

At the mini quilt retreat last month, I managed to make some real progress on my Split Flowers friendship quilt that has been languishing in my project bins for too many years.  I had finally gotten the blocks put together into a top before the retreat and got all the leaves sewn on while I had friends to talk to there.  Now that I've seen the photo, I can see that I need to add just a couple more leaves.

And then it'll be time for the major decision of what to do for the border.  I'm torn between doing some more raw edge applique like the flowers and leaves, probably using a serpentine vine, or doing something pieced.  Any suggestions?  It may come down to what will be faster, as I'd like to have this finished in time for the quilt show in October.

Edited to add: this pattern is from the book Stitch and Split Applique and it's available on Amazon here. 

I didn't make great progress on the Split Decision quilt that I showed in my last post here.  But I got a few blocks made.

Here is an example of what a finished block will look like.  (one block is just folded in half and placed over the other)  I like this!

And that was the end of any sewing that happened in January.  But I have been sewing this past week.

I made some blocks for my guild's raffle quilt.  This year there's no set block size or color theme.  We're just going with the concept of friendship, stars and baskets.

This block finishes at 9 inches and is called "Measure For Measure".  I found the pattern in Judy Martin's book The Block Book.  There are templates you're supposed to use to make these patterns, but I tried to get cute and fake it.  It got ugly.  But I got it done!

This is my second block for the raffle quilt.  It will finish at 12 inches and is called "Crystal Star".  This pattern came from Judy Hopkins' book 501 Rotary Cut Quilt Blocks.  I love that book!  And this block was easy.  I think it took me longer to decide on the fabric than to construct the block!

That's all for now, folks, but I hope to be back soon.  I've got more quilt-y goings-on to blab about.

Have a creative week!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

New Projects

Doing a quick post today, as I'm busy getting ready to go to a quilt retreat this weekend.

I teased you, in my last post, with mention of a new project that isn't a quilt.  I'm learning a new instrument!  This is my Christmas present:

My darling husband gave me a soprano ukulele!  I've been intrigued with ukes for a while now, and thought that just maybe I could play one.  I played violin when I was in elementary school, and never got any good at it.  Then I found piano, and I've been happy with that ever since.  I don't play really well, or often enough any more, but I love my piano.  So I don't know know why I wanted the uke, but I'm so happy I have one!  There is something about a ukulele that just makes people smile. 

My DS The Kid plays guitar, but I couldn't wrap my fingers around that guitar neck and hold down a string.  My hand fits the uke, and I'm getting a little better at doing the strings.  I can now play the "Happy Birthday" song and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" - both veeeerrrry slowly!  I'm not good at changing chords yet.  But I'm managing to get in at least 30 minutes of practice a day, so am slowly making progress.  It makes me happy.  And I'd like to say a big "Thanks!" to the internets for on-line classes and help.  It's just amazing how much is out there!

I have also started a new project, just for the retreat I'm going on.  I'm taking one older project that needs some machine applique done on it.  I find the process of machine applique very boring, so doing it in a group setting should help.  My new project came from the latest issue of McCall's "America Loves Scrap Quilts" magazine.  

I'm actually using the same colors of fabrics.

I've always loved turquoise and lime together, and also graphic black and white prints, so I shopped my stash for everything I need for this quilt!  Yay!  I may need more fabrics for borders or binding, but that will come later.  I like this pattern so much I might even be able to do it like the pattern calls for!  We'll see how I do with that.  So, I've been furiously ironing and cutting fabric for a few days now. It's nice to cut into some yardage - I hardly ever do that anymore.  Some of these fabrics are pretty old, although there are some newer ones in the mix too.  And I'm even throwing in some of my hand-dyed fabrics.  I find a new project so exciting!  

Here are some potholders I made back before Thanksgiving, and I don't think I ever showed them on the blog.  I haven't been using them since T-Day - I want them to stay nice for awhile!  I made these with some 3 inch string blocks.  These make me smile every time I see them.

I hope you have a fun weekend, and get to do some stitching!  See ya on the other side!