Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Back to the machines

Hi everyone!  Long time no see!  I don't know what happened, but I didn't sew a stitch for about 10 days.  Just didn't feel like it. (Not exactly true--I actually hemmed and mended some clothes. The horror!) That ever happen to you?  Pretty sure everyone has a spell like that once in a while.  How do you get interested again?

Here's what got me going again:


Yep, I started making a bunch of Drunkard's Path blocks from my leftover hand-dyed fabrics.  I started putting together the Grandma's top and I finally found a border that I thought would go really well with it.  Here's a sneak peek of the border:


The border is 3 blocks wide, but until I put this up on the wall I forgot that I needed to cut some full squares.  I guess I'd better do that before I get too far along.  I need 76 of these babies, so it might be a bit before they're finished.  They're fun to make, though, and you can't say the border won't be colorful.

And what is that?


I'm not sure, but I *know* that can't be squares and strips for neutral 4-patches, because I am not making Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt. Nope. No.  Besides, I really hate making 4-patches, so you know I'm really not doing it, right?

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.  One really fun thing that I got to do over the holiday was meet up with Preeti of Sew Preeti Quilts.

Preeti (left) and me at breakfast.

It was so fun!  We had breakfast together and it was as if we had known each other forever.  She brought some show and tell and her quilts were even prettier in person.  And look what she brought me:


A zipper bag of my very own, filled with fun fabric just right for a grandson quilt! Plus some great-smelling sandalwood soap! It was so generous and kind, and I love it.  I'll be keeping my colored pencils in it, and there's some extra room for a little pad of paper too, so I can take it along in the car.  Thank you so much, Preeti!

I also got a chance to meet up with Nancy of PugMom Quilts, and her lovely husband Mike.

Don't we look like fun people?

It was so great of them to take time from their family vacation to stop by and see us, and I hope we get to do it again soon.  This is the best part of blogging--getting to meet people who are as obsessed as I am with fabric and the fun things you can make out of it.  I got to see some of Nancys great quilts, too, along with some works in progress.  We had a great time together!

Finally, thanks to everyone who has participated in the Gratitude Sale so far.  At this point, there's been about $250 donated to the three charities, including some donations I made on behalf of others.  Yay!  I decided to keep it open until the end of the year, so there's still time to head over and take a look.  

Hope you all are having a great week.  Now that I'm getting my mojo back, I'm ready to sew up a storm.  But I am *not* making 4-patches.  Nope.  Really.

Sharing at Let's Bee Social, Oh Scrap! and soscrappy for RSC16!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Gratitude Sale!

Hi everyone, and welcome to the Gratitude Sale!  It's the week of Thanksgiving here in the US, and I am giving thanks for all of the good things that have come to us this year.  It's time to clean out the sewing room and raise a little money for charity at the same time.

UPDATE:  I've decided to keep this sale open until the end of the year.  Congratulations to Tami, our giveaway winner!




I have listed the items for sale on three of the tabs above, right under the picture at the top of the blog. (Patterns are listed with notions.) There you will find all kinds of treasures to bless your sewing room and help you turn fabric and thread into fun quilty things. Those of you who read all the way to the end of this post will find a small Thanksgiving giveaway, too!

Let's get started!

Here's how it works:

1.  You spend some fun time picking out stuff you want from the tabs above.
2. Send me an email (academicquilter@gmail.com) with your list.  **ONLY emails to that address count.  Comments on this post (or any other) will NOT reserve any items for you.**
3. I will check your list and make sure that everything you want is still available, then send you a friendly email with a total and anything else you need to know. 
4. You choose one of the charities below and make a donation in at least that amount.  Consider rounding up! Never fear, the items will be set aside with your name on them as soon as I get your email, so they won't be "sold" before you get a chance to donate.
5. You send me the acknowledgement or receipt from your donation.
6. I tote up your postage and tell you how to pay it.
7. You pay the postage!
8. I send your items!
9. We both do a happy dance!


It seems like a lot of steps, but it's really easy!  Additional information, some ground rules, and disclaimers are below, but for now, here are the charities I've chosen:

I've picked three charities for this sale, all of which are highly rated and use their donations very wisely.  We have donated to them many times and are confident in their integrity, but you can check any of these out for yourself on Charity Navigator or other evaluation sites:

Partners in Health, a global health organization. Right now they are dealing especially with the after effects of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. If you want to know more about their work and to donate, click HERE.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the primary research center for childhood cancer.  No child is turned away because of inability to pay.  To find out more about their work and to donate, click HERE.

Fisher House Foundation, a "home away from home" for families of military personnel or veterans receiving treatment.  There are 71 Fisher Houses in the US. To find out more about Fisher House or to donate, click HERE.

(For this one, you can donate either to the Foundation or to your local Fisher House.  Either way works!)



Additional information:

First come, first served.  I will go entirely by the time stamp on your email.  **ONLY emails to academicquilter@gmail.com will count**  Comments on this post or any other do not reserve any items for you.

Please note that I'm not going to haggle over the prices. I think they're fair and I hate arguments, so please don't ask. 

If you aren't comfortable donating online: Be aware that you probably will get more emails if you donate online.  This is how all charities raise money and is just a fact of life.  These three are pretty good about opt-outs, but if you don't want to, I will take your money and donate it (cross my heart!).  Be aware that you won't get a tax deduction, though.

If you don't want to use Paypal:  Paypal is MUCH easier and very secure, and you can use a credit card. But if you don't want to do that, you can also pay by check, either personal, cashier's, or money order. Send an email so that we can talk about it. I will send you my address, you send a check, we wait until the bank says it's cleared, I send your things. We both do a happy dance!

Shipping options: Well, shipping is a fact of life and I can't afford to send it all without charge, as much as I would like to.  We can talk about shipping options and prices when I tote up your order.  Your choices are basically between flat-rate envelopes and boxes and regular padded envelopes sent by weight.  I have a postal scale and can weigh your items and estimate shipping options when I send your total. (Even if you only order books, I'm not comfortable with media mail.)

Any other questions?  Either send me an email or leave a comment here.  I'll get back to you as quickly as I can!

This sale will end Saturday morning November 26 or when everything sells out (cross your fingers!).  Everything remainig will be donated to various charitable organizations--books to the library sale, for example.

Giveaway!

Did someone say giveaway?  Yes!  What's a Gratitude Sale without something to be especially grateful for?  I am especially grateful for all of you who read this blog, so here's a small token of that gratitude:


Two fat quarters of Gardenvale, plus a blue fat quarter of a beautiful Kona solid!  To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this post with something you are especially grateful for this year.  This is open to anyone, and you won't even have to pay postage! I will choose a winner after dinner on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.  

The giveaway is closed!  Tami was the winner!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Eat and shop safely!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Layout auditions

Hi everyone!  How is your week going?  I've done a hundred things already this week and it hasn't hardly made a dent in my list! 

This week I am auditioning layouts for the Intricate Stitches quilt.  I know that I drew this all out before I even started, but now that the blocks are done I want to try something new and different with them.  Story of my quilty life--get halfway through the pattern and decide that I'd rather do it differently.  (As a side note, it's the story of my professional life, too.  I'll get halfway through writing something and have an even better idea so that I have to start over.) Anyway, here's the basic layout that I drew out a year ago:



Basic is the word for it, isn't it?  It's my intention to add some pieced borders like a traditional medallion quilt, but also to have plenty of space for the blocks themselves to shine.  What would we call that?  Modern traditional? Modernitional?  Heritage modern?

Here's the same blocks but in an on-point setting, what I'm calling the diamond layout:



This would give a lot of  more modern "wiggle room," but I don't really like it.  Too much empty space and not a great way to include any pieced borders. 

I thought I would like this one, which I call the crowded layout:



The string blocks and cut fabric pieces are stand-ins for some new, smaller blocks that I would have to make.  I really thought I would like this, but there is just too much going on.  Lots of white space and plenty of room for pieced borders, but just visually awful.

One more layout to audition:



I call this the modern layout.  I'm really surprised how much I like this one and how harmonious it seems.  Lots of space for the eyes to rest. I considered this for a long time and had it up on the wall for several days.  Ultimately, though, it doesn't fit with the vintage blocks or have the feel that I'm going for.  I do think this would be awesome with all one block in the two different sizes.

So, I guess we're back to basics!  Now to consider some other piecing that will bring these all together. I know that I will have to incorporate a lot of white space because this is already a riot of color, but I think the empty space will seriously enhance the blocks.

So which layout is *your* favorite?  Any good suggestions for pieced borders to consider?  I have a couple in mind, but I'm always open to new ideas.

Hope you're all having a good week!  Can you believe we're halfway through November?  Yikes!

It's almost here!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social and soscrappy for RSC16.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Failed finish

Hi everyone!  Is it getting colder where you are?  It certainly was chilly here this week.  I shouldn't be surprised, though, because it's November, right?  Winter is coming, whether we want it to or not.  I'm actually looking forward to some cold and some other things about winter, but I know there will be white stuff falling from the sky soon, and I'm not looking forward to that.  I have seen how badly they clear the roads here, and it's just not pretty.

Also not pretty?  The little quilt that I wanted to be my finish for this week:



This little quilt is cute, but it counts as a fail for me, at least for now. I finished this a long time ago and chose the backing and everything. It's time for it to be completely finished! I tried two new things on this quilt and messed up both of them.  I should stick to just one new thing at a time.

It all started with this:



Yikes!  What can that possibly be?  That, my friends, is all the quilting work I've been putting off for at least the last year.  Okay, maybe a little longer.  Some of these were tops from before we moved that I never got around to, so I just folded them up and packed them away, but most are from the last year at the condo, when I had no space to actually quilt them up.  Now that there's room, I have both of my machines set up *plus* a table just to quilt on, so I thought I would spend much of the next few weeks quilting these up.  I thought I would start with the smallest ones and work my way up from there.  Great plan, right?


Here's where I went wrong--I almost always thread baste the old fashioned way.  I only use pins on tiny things where it doesn't matter that much, like mug rugs or very small wall hangings. Thread basting goes so much faster for me and works really, really well. It holds everything together nice and secure and I haven't had wrinkles in the back. But I thought I'd use pins here and just try it.  Yeah, here's what happened:


A big wrinkle!  Stitched in! There are a couple of smaller ones too. Before you ask, yes, I used a walking foot,  I smoothed everything, I checked the back all the time, and I used lots of pins.  I should not have wrinkles! What to do now?  Ripping it out seems to be the only solution, but the very thought makes me tired.

Here's my other mistake-- the spiral quilting.  It turn out looking pretty nice here, but I think I made it too close together.  It took forever and the top is very stiff. How far apart would you make your spirals?  These are about a half-inch apart, which seemed to be right for a small quilt. I was wrong about that. Again, ripping seems to be the only solution.


So, I was going to admit defeat and start on another one, doing something completely different (and more fun), but then this happened:


Siiiggghhh.  How does this even happen?  It's just completely unspooling. Time to pack it in for now.

So, that was my big fail for the week!  I did mean what I said earlier, though--I have to work my way through those tops.  Seems like a good project for the holiday period, doesn't it? We'll see how it goes!  I'm going to spend the weekend piecing together some batting and cutting some backings.  Hope you have something fun lined up!  If you have any good suggestions for my failed little quilt, let me know!

Sharing at Finished or Not Friday.




Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Intricate Stitches--Center Medallion

Hi everyone, and welcome to the last block of the Intricate Stitches quilt!  This is my center medallion, and I have wanted to make this block literally for years.  This project finally made me sit down and figure it all out and I am thrilled with how it turned out.    Here it is:


This is a block called Unfolding Star, a Nancy Cabot block from 1936.  I won't lie, this is one of the most complicated blocks I've ever made.  Nancy must have had a lot of time on her hands, because this block took me about 4 hours to make over the course of several days.  I was doing math and stopping to take pictures, though, so it won't take nearly as long for you. The important thing is that it's completely do-able with a little patience. You can make this block!  And look how great it turns out!


My block finished at 22-1/2 inches square.  I made it this size mainly because I wanted to avoid weird cut sizes and odd finished sizes of the components.  You'll see what I mean as we go.  Also, for this block I pressed the seams open, which I very rarely do.  There are a lot of strange intersections in this block and pressing them open meant that I didn't have to worry about how they would fit together.

Let's get started!

Cutting:

I'm going to do this one a little bit differently, mainly because I used the pieces left over from making the blocks.


Cutting sizes will be given as we make the individual units that make up the block.  I chose colors based on the size of the pieces I had, and I'll give the colors that I used throughout these instructions.  The biggest piece I used was about a fat eighth, and I used almost a half yard of Kona white for the background.  To make the block exactly as I did, you will generally need:

*enough of a single color to make 24 2-1/2 inch finished half-square triangles (about a 10 by 14 inch piece), or 24 multicolored scraps about 3-1/2 inches square

*about a half-yard of background, or scraps at least 3-1/2 inches square to equal about that length

*scraps of 8 different colors, at least 6-1/2 inches square each

*a piece about 10 by 18 inches for the corners, or scraps at least 3-1/2 inches square to make 8 hsts and 8 squares

*a piece of scrap paper or card stock about 9 inches square, plus a pencil and some scissors for paper (an old manila folder or a magazine cover works well)

*lots of pins and some Magic Sizing, Best Press, or spray starch

Making the units:

Let's make a bunch of half-square triangles!

Start with making the half-square triangle blocks for the ring around the center star.  I chose to make all of mine in a lovely medium-value green, but you could choose to make them all multi-colored.  Medium or darker values will stand out the best. Use any method (and any colors) to get 3 inch half-square triangles that will finish at 2-1/2 inches in the block.  You will need 24 of these triangles total. To make the hsts individually, use 3-3/8 inch squares of the color and the background.  To use the Magic 8 method, use 6-3/4 inch squares.  Put these aside for a later step.



Next, choose a color for the corners, the wide "rays" that come from the center star.  Paler colors work well here, but a dark that contrasts strongly with the hsts made in the previous step will also create a striking block. I chose a pale yellow green.  Use any method to make 8 hsts that will finish to 2-1/2 inches. (These should be 3 inches before they're sewn into the block.) The same measurements given above will work for these hsts as well.  In addition to the hsts, cut 8 3-inch squares of the same color.

Make the first corner units:

Cut 4 3-inch squares from the background fabric. Use these squares, plus 8 of the medium green triangles from the first step and 4 of the pale yellow-green squares from the second step above, to make 4 corner units.  Arrange the hsts and squares as shown:


Stitch and press.  These units should measure 5-1/2 inches square. Make 4 of these units and put aside for now.

Make some templates to save some fabric:

Okay, here's what's next: making some templates.  Don't be scared!  There is nothing to download and these are very easy!  The only reason to use the templates is to save fabric, so stay with me here.  Use some scrap paper or anything that's getting thrown out anyway.  I used an old manila folder.  If you don't want to make templates: just cut each piece of fabric in the sizes given for the templates.  There will be a bunch of waste.

There are 4 templates to make.  First, cut an 8-3/4 inch square from scrap paper.  Cut this piece from corner to corner twice, giving you 4 pieces.  Save one of these pieces and discard the others.  Mark this as template 1.  (Yes, there's some waste, but it's scrap paper--better than wasting fabric!)


Next, cut a 5-7/8 inch square from scrap paper.  Cut this once from corner to corner and save one side.  Label this as template 2.

For template 3, cut a 6-1/4 inch square from paper, then cut it from corner to corner twice.  Discard 3 of the pieces and label the one you save as template 3.

For the last template, cut a 3-3/8 inch square from paper, and cut it in half from corner to corner.  Discard one side and label the remaining half template 4.



Now the fun begins!

Take the 8 colors that you have chosen and lay them out in a circle.  Fuss with the colors until you are happy with how they look together.  When you're happy with it, label the pieces A through H, as shown (This is important! Don't skip it!  It's too easy to get confused later!):



Take fabric A, C, E, and G and cut 1 each of template 1 and template 3 from these fabrics.  If you arrange the templates as shown, the grain lines and the bias will be correctly placed in the block:



Next, take fabrics B, D, F, and H and cut one each of templates 2 and 4, as shown:



All done with the templates!  Feel free to recycle these.  Again--better than wasting fabric!

In addition to the templates, cut one 8-3/4 inch square from background fabric and cut it twice from corner to corner, so that there are 4 pieces.


Last, cut one 3-inch square from any color or from the background.  This is the center, so a paler color works better than a darker one.  I used the same light yellow-green color as I used for the corner "rays."

Make the outer star pieces:

Lay out the pieces cut from template 1 (fabrics A, C, E, and G) and the white triangles as shown:


Stitch and press.

Lay out the corner pieces and the pieces cut from template 2 (fabrics B, D, F, and H) as shown:


Stitch and press.

These are the outer pieces of the center star.  It's a good idea to arrange them in color order, just to keep everything straight.


Make the center star piece: 

This is the most complicated part of the construction of this block.  It's a little putzy, but go slowly and stitch carefully and you will have it done in no time.  First, take the remaining pieces cut from templates 3 and 4. Arrange them in a rough circle in the same order as they were originally arranged:



Notice that the B piece is on "top." These pieces will go together to make an octagon, which the outer star pieces will then attach to.  Begin constructing the octagon by joining the triangles into pairs as shown above-- B and C, D and E, F and G, and H and A.

Be a better quilter than me--clip the dog ears right away!

These pieces are joined to the center square using partial seams.  As I said, these are putzy, but not hard.  Start with the H--A piece and the center square.  Flip the H--A piece onto the center square, right sides together, aligning the straight edges.  Use a pin to mark the the center of the square on the seam edge.  Stitch from the left edge to the pin and backstitch a couple of stitches.  Remove the piece from the machine, clip your threads, and press the short seam you've created.  The right edge of the piece should be free of the seam.


Next, flip the B--C  piece onto the center square and attach a partial seam in the same manner. It helps to pin the free edge of the H--A piece out of the way.


After the second partial seam is created, return to the first seam. Flip the H--A piece right sides together with the center square and stitch the remaining seam, including the edge of the B--C piece.  Clip your threads and press the remainder of the seam.


Continue around the center square, attaching the remaining pieces in the same manner.  Clip threads and press your seams, and you should have a completed octagon. This is a good time to add a little spray starch or Magic Sizing to the center to keep it stable.  I always do this from the back, then give it a good press on the front:


Hurray!  Time for a break! After you've cleared your head, it's time to attach the outer star pieces.  Again, this is a little putzy, but not hard, and only has one partial seam! Take the octagon you just created and lay it out with the outer star pieces, aligning the same colors:


Start at the bottom of the octagon, with the F triangle which is attached to the corner square.  This first seam will be a partial seam like the ones in the octagon, but is the only one left in this block.  Place the F piece on the octagon, matching the F piece in the octagon.  Carefully stitch a partial seam, which will only be about an inch long.  Open out the piece and finger press the very short seam.  (So as not to distort it with the iron.)


The rest of the construction moves around the octagon to the right, and attaches using complete seams.  Align the remaining pieces, matching the colors, as shown above.  There are plenty of bias edges, so use lots of pins (even if you don't usually use pins) and be sure not to stretch the pieces out of shape (sizing or starch may help here).


When you get to the final piece (piece G) stitch the final seam, then return to the first seam and close it up, all the way across the G piece.  This should give you a square with a colorful star unfolding in the center!


Whoo-hoo!  Give this a good press and take a break!  You deserve it!

Add the block borders:

All that remains is to add the borders to the block.  Cut 4 more 3 inch squares. Lay out these 4 squares, the remaining green hsts, and the remaining yellow-green hsts as shown, paying attention to the directions of the hsts:


Make 4 of these strips.  Take 2 of them and add the remaining 4 yellow-green squares (for the "rays") to the ends.

Attach to the center square as shown:



Trim the threads, give it a good press, and stand back and admire!



Wow, that was an intricate block!  And a fitting end to this quilt! This completes the blocks and the center medallion.  All that's left to do is put it all together.  Come back on December 6 for the thrilling conclusion to this year-long quilt, when I will show the completed quilt top and some other layout options.  Sure to be a real winner!

Thanks so much for coming along on this quilt journey!  Sharing at Linky Tuesday, Let's Bee Social, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and soscrappy for RSC16.


Coming soon!