Friday, February 24, 2017

Hearts and flowers

How has your week been?  Mine was busy, busy, busy, and also warm.  What is happening with the weather?  Not that I am complaining!  I'll take warm and rainy over cold and snowy any time.  But it's certainly weird to have the windows open in February.

This week in the sewing room, I quilted up the small hearts quilt that I chose for my One Monthly Goal!  Whoo-hoo!  Here it is:

If it looks a little wrinkled, that's because I forgot to take pictures before I washed it. Brain cramp, I guess! I made this little quilt in 2015, and I wanted to have it done for Valentine's Day this year, but that didn't happen.  Oh, well!  It's still February, and it's still finished!  It was free-motion quilted with a loop and heart meander, which I admit has more loops than hearts. 

I quilted this on my almost 50-year-old Pfaff 362 after thread basting it nice and secure, which was good because this got squished a lot when I was quilting it.  Somehow I can never avoid crossing over, doubling back, and generally having the quilting plan go off track.  It usually turns out okay, though, and I'm happy enough with this one.

Every time I talk about thread basting I get comments and emails about how it's done, so this time I used dark thread and took a picture:

It's just lines of big stitches put in by hand instead of safety pins or straight pins, and it doesn't take long, plus it holds everything very secure.  I pre-threaded four needles and basting this took less than 15 minutes.

I gave this quilt a zippy green binding, which I thought gave the quilt a little zing, and also. . .

. . .made the quilt reversible!  It's not just for Valentine's Day any more!  The flowers are a bit bright, but they'll be perfect for spring and make it feel fresh in the dining room. This is just singing right now, with the windows open and all.

So there's another little quilt out of the closet and in use.  Feels good!

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend.  It's going to be 70 degrees here, which is almost unbelievable.  I had planned to clean out my machines and change needles and things, but maybe I'll have to do something outside instead!  It's just a sin to waste a great day, isn't it?

Sharing at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Finished or Not Friday, crazymomquilts, and One Monthly Goal.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Lemons to lemonade

Well, I don't know about you, but I could certainly use a nice glass of lemonade!  The hubs and I went away for the weekend, to a place that is generally not warm in February, and it was over 60 degrees!  Not saying it wasn't wonderful, but it was quite odd. 

If you recall, last week I started making some blocks that can only be made with templates.  One turned out well and the other was a failure, mostly because of the set-in seams.  I've worked on it some, and there's a picture later, but mainly it served as inspiration for a Dresden Plate quilt.  Take a look:

I love turquoise and yellow together, don't you?  Looks like I have to reposition the center circle here.  Oh, well.  One of my goals for this year is to make a Dresden Plate quilt, but I initially didn't know what type of Dresden quilt to make.  I think I've found it.  In fact, I'm so sure I made two of these lovelies:

Okay, I'll straighten that one up, too. Not sure what happened when I was appliqueing these down.  I wanted 12-inch blocks, but miscalculated a bit and ended up with 10-inch blocks.  I'm actually okay with that and I'm pretty sure that I can come up with a layout that incorporates a few different sizes.  Not sure if this is an RSC project or not, but the turquoise was a good place to start.

As for the Gardener's Prize block which started the whole thing, this is the mess it was last week:

And this is the block now:

The center still needs to be stitched down, obviously.  I ended up stitching the diamonds to the backgrounds and the sides of the yellow sections, then appliqueing the yellow peaks to the background pieces.  There just wasn't a better way to make it work.  I'm still pretty sure that no one ever used those templates.  It would make so much more sense to make it like a Dresden Plate and then applique it to a background.  I gotta learn to go with my instincts!

So there's my "lemons to lemonade" idea.  I think the Dresdens will work out, and the template block will be finished and I will not have to make another.  Hope you are having a lovely and productive week, and all the lemonade you want.

Sharing at Let's Bee Social, Oh Scrap! and soscrappy for RSC17.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Thrifty finish

Hi everyone!  Someone told me this week that I shouldn't start a blog post that way, but I can't help it, I just want to start by saying hello!  It just feels polite, you know?

This was a very, very busy week for me, but I did finish something I started a few weeks ago.  You may remember that I got some 12-inch blocks in a scrap bag shortly after Christmas.  This week I finished assembling those blocks into a top, ready to be quilted up and donated.  Here's how it ended up:

I think it's cute, especially for cobbling together some thrifted blocks and a piece of yardage from my stash.  This top is about 40 by 60 and will have some great space for quilty practice.  The center blocks look huge but they're the same size as the pieced blocks, 14 inches with the sashing included.  It was very windy when I was taking pictures, so if this reminds you of a sheet on a clothesline, that's why!

I didn't make these blocks, so I want to show you a problem I had with one of them.  I don't know if you can see the shadows behind the light colors in this block, but they are definitely there:

This is the back of the block, which shows why those shadows are there:

The block maker didn't trim off the connector corners after folding up the triangle pieces on the flying geese and some other pieces, which means that they showed through the lighter fabrics.  Keeping these pieces on also made the block very heavy, so I ended up snipping all of those connectors out with a very sharp small scissors.  It was tedious, but it made for a much better block. 

Soon to be a backing!

So, now that that's finished, I plan to quilt this one up for practice and donate it, most likely to the Hands to Help Challenge when that comes around.  Since it was so inexpensive and quick to make, I've been calling this the Thrifty quilt.  If only all thrift was this cute!

When I was outside to take pictures of this quilt, it was cold and windy, but look what's coming up in the front garden:

I think those are daffodil shoots!  And look--some sunshine!  It only lasted a few minutes, but it was very welcome!  Can spring be far behind?

Hope you all have a great weekend.  The hubs and I are off on a small adventure, so here's hoping we have some decent weather.  I feel like it's been gray for weeks, so some more sunshine would be awesome.

Sharing at Finished or Not Friday, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and crazymomquilts.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New project

Hi everyone!  Hope you all had a lovely Valentine's Day and time with your significant other.  We got takeout--it was amazing.  Takeout is my favorite thing ever.  Also, I made brownies, so you know, pretty much perfect.

I decided to start a new project this week.  Because, you know, I need a new project because I don't have enough already. You all know that I love old blocks, especially the ones that don't get used a lot, mostly because they have a lot of pieces or steps.  I like taking these apart and figuring out how to make them using modern methods.  Usually that works, but there are a lot of vintage blocks that still can only be made using templates.  I've decided to make some of these and put them in a quilt.  Here's the first one I tried:

Letha's Electric Fan

This is Letha's Electric Fan, a Kansas City Star block from 1938.  Isn't this a great block?  I think I'm going to redo the center circle in a solid, though, because it looks off (and it does need better pressing) but it isn't.  The fussy cutting wasn't fussy enough, so that make it all look like it's the wrong size.

Even though it's made from templates, this was not a really hard block.  Really, the cutting was the hard part. 

Yay templates!

I used a rotary cutter to cut these pieces, stacking the fabric and cutting through all the pieces.  You know those tiny rotary cutters that look like they would be useless?  For some reason, I have an 18 mm cutter, and it works really well for cutting curved pieces!  After the cutting was done, it only took a few minutes to put this block together.  The curved was pretty gentle, not quite as bad as Drunkard's Path blocks. 

I will be making another Letha's Fan block, but in the interest of honesty, I have to show you the other template block I tried and seriously failed to complete because they're not all that easy:

Yep, that's a hot mess.

This block is Gardener's Prize, an Aunt Martha block from the 1930s.  I just could not make the set-in seams work.  In my defense, look at those pieces!  The diamonds are good, but the corners and side pieces are ridiculous.  Seriously, the Letha's Fan block was so much easier.

I think I'm going to have to baste this by hand and reinforce the seams by machine, or else applique the yellow and blue pieces to a background.  I really can't believe that anyone ever made this block using those corners.

So that's my new project, which I'm calling "the template block project."  Isn't that imaginative?  I have about a dozen blocks picked out, but I am looking for more.  If you have any good ideas, send them along!  Or if you have a good idea about what to do about the Gardener's Prize block, let me know!

Hope you're all having a good week!  Stitch happy!

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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Stashing from the sofa

Hi everyone!  I don't do a "stash enhancement" post very often, but last week I was plenty sick and spent a couple of days holed up on the sofa watching bad movies and reading waaayyy too much garbage on the Internet.  It also happens that I purchased a number of things from the sofa, a nice perk that the Internet has gifted us with.  It's truly a great time to be alive--you can order almost anything (including this) and it will appear at your door.  I think you can guess what I ordered.  The mailman has been bringing pretty things all week, and I thought I'd share!

First, did you know that there are actual fabric stores on Etsy?  True fact!  I knew that people sold fabric through Etsy but I generally thought they were selling off their own unwanted pieces.  Nope--there are some like that, but there are also many full service, new fabric stores.  I learned this when my friend Bernie at Needle and Foot expanded her shop to carry new lines of fabric.  I got a number of pieces from Bernie's shop, including these:

The houses are Village in neutral from the Maker, Maker line by Sarah Golden for Andover.  It's a linen/cotton blend that feels fairly stiff just off the bolt, so I plan to wash it before I use it.  To coordinate with it I got a piece of Small Letters in gray from the Basically Low line. I think these look good together!  I'm going to use them to make something just for myself.  What an idea, huh?

I also got these from Bernie's shop:

These pieces are Hip to Be Square by Kim Schaefer for Andover fabrics and Color Weave Textured Solid by PB Textiles.  These are both lovely additions to the stash, and Kim Schaefer's fabric feels amazing.  I may go back and get the panel that goes with this because it's very cute, too.

Finally, I got this bundle of Modern Tykes by Kim Diehl:

This is such cute fabric!  The birds and the dots are both bigger than anticipated, but I like them a lot.  There are some other pieces in the line, too, and they are equally nice.  This bundle is for a special project coming up in March.

I visited a couple of other shops, too.  I got these two pieces from The Red Hen Shop:

This is Hungry Animals Alphabet by Quilting Treasures and Colorfully Creative by Riley Blake and Crayola.  These feel great, too!  Plus I got a couple of yards of this:

This is City Life by Quilting Treasures and I don't really have a project for it, but who could resist?

I didn't get a picture, but I do also want to mention that I found a nice piece of the dark green that I'm using in my Steps to the Garden blocks from Auntie B's Quilts Etc. shop, and Barbara was very nice to work with.  And I was grateful that I found what I needed!

The last piece of my sofa  purchases were these 4 panels from Northcott:

These 4 panels are just called "Connector Playmats" by Deborah Edwards and they go together to create a road. The genius part of it is that you can put them together in any order and the roads will connect up!  You also don't need to have all of the panels to make something  good-looking and fun.  There are panels for a railroad and a town, and also a marina and an airport.  And each panel has the most important place--a quilt shop!

These are just darling, and I'll bet you can guess what I'll be doing with them as soon as my tiny grandson gets a bit bigger and stops chewing on cars and starts running them on "roads."

I don't think I'm expecting anything else from the mail carrier, but I think I had enough fun, don't you? (If only I could remember all of it.)  I'll be working on these for a while, I think.

Happy Sunday, everyone!  Hope you get some stitching in!

Sharing at Molli Sparkles's Sunday Stash.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

First things

Hi all!  How are you today?  It has been wild here--on Wednesday we had a record high in the 60s and Thursday we're supposed to get the heaviest snow of the year.  I'm watching the temperature fall as I write this! 

A little something different to show today.  Leanne at Devoted Quilter is having a My First Quilt link party and so this post is about my first quilt, which I still have.  It happens that I came across it a little while ago while trying to empty more boxes.  We are really trying to get rid of a lot of things and just generally clean out 30 years of stuff that never should have moved here, so we keep finding all kinds of things that we thought were lost.  This quilt is one of those things.  Here it is:

Wow. Just wow.  What a wonder in pastels. These are simple squares alternated with Rail Fence blocks to make a simple pattern. I made this quilt in 1989 on a very old machine while we lived for a time in Texas. That machine did not move with us back to Wisconsin.  I can't really remember why I made it, but I had a toddler daughter in 1989/90, plus an older daughter, so it was definitely for one of them.  Or maybe it was a play mat for the kids?  Honestly, I don't remember. 

There is no quilting in the border at all!  I guess I thought it was quilted enough without it.

This quilt measures about 48 by 56 and was machine pieced and quilted with about eleventy billion mistakes.  It is made of 100% cotton fabrics and has a cotton batting.  I know for sure that all of the materials came from a store called House of Fine Fabrics, which was soon to be swallowed up by the JoAnn behemoth.  At the time, though, it was a lovely store where one of my daughters once hid in the center of a circular fabric table and I nearly lost my mind looking for her. I was near sobbing by the time she came out of hiding.  Ah, memories!

Would you call that a quilting design?

All the people in my family sewed, and I had been sewing for a while myself, so at least I knew about 1/4 inch seams, matching and nesting seams, and how to bind quilts.  Nevertheless, there are lots of mistakes here.  In my defense, machine quilting was just getting started.  Most quilts prior to that time had been made by hand and hand quilted, or tied with yarn, and free motion quilting didn't really exist, which led to things like this:

Big wrinkles in the backing! But don't you love the fabric?

Yikes!  For all the mistakes, this quilt was used and loved, and isn't that what we make quilts for?  I know the kids used it for a long time for various reasons, including, apparently, painting:

It also appears in some family pictures on the sofa or wrapped around a sick child, and in one photo it's being used as a cape.  It's obviously very versatile!

My, what big stitches you have!

The quilt has held up remarkably well and only has one small hole in it.  After I pulled it out of the box, I washed it and it came out just great.  After I stitch that hole closed it will be ready for a whole new generation to drag around, cuddle up with, and use to become superheroes.  I'm making them keep it away from the paint this time, though.

In addition to my first quilt, I found something else in a box recently-- my first quilt book, which is a total scream.  This is it, by Judy Martin:

This book was published in 1988, which means it was right up to date when I made my first quilt.  There are no rotary cutters, acrylic rulers, or half-square triangles in this book.  Instead, she offers an easy method for cutting quilt pieces:

In case you can't read that, it involves cutting quilt pieces by pinning paper patterns to layers of fabric and then cutting them out-- just like you would if you were using a dress making pattern.  Hey, this was cutting edge!  Of course, there are block diagrams--and pattern pieces to trace and pin to your fabric.

Kind of makes you want to kiss your rotary cutter, doesn't it? The best part is that I used this book and used the templates for a couple of years.  Then I found an Eleanor Burns book, and shortly after, Trudie Hughes's Template Free Quiltmaking, and someone invented rotary cutters and rulers and it was off to the races.  I still love Judy Martin, though, and have many of her other books--where she definitely uses better methods!

I hope you all have enjoyed this trip down memory lane, and that you'll go over and check out some other "first quilt" stories at the link-up, and maybe consider telling your own stories.  We want pictures! We've all come a long way, haven't we?

Sharing at Devoted Quilter, and at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Constellations--Sea green

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Constellations quilt! This month's color is sea green, anything in the range from aqua to turquoise, which is wonderful because those are some of my favorite colors.  For my blocks this month I chose two colors that tended toward green and two others which tended towards blue, which I think made a nice mix.  True fact: astronomers classify stars by color, and there are blue ones but not green ones, though some blues look green due to optical illusions.  Really!

Here is block for this month, made up of 4 6-inch stars combined to make a larger block:

Why does this look so ragged?  Some of my pictures didn't turn out, so I had to rip the block to take new ones instead of making a new block, which I now realize would have been a better option.  Just ignore the threads!

Nancy Cabot called this block Magic Cross in the 1930s, but I've always thought of them as "jumping jack stars," because they look to me like people doing jumping jacks.  For this block using my instructions, you will need 4 pieces of aqua about 4-1/2 by 10, a couple of squares about 2-1/2 inches each of an accent color (mine is coral), and a background.

Let's get to it!


From the background color, cut:                      

For 1 star: 1 4-1/4 inch square                     For 4 stars:   4 4-1/4 inch squares
                2 2-3/8 inch squares                                         8 2-3/8 inch squares
                1 2-5/8 inch square                                           4 2-5/8 inch squares

2 2-1/2 by 6-1/2 inch rectangles
1 2 inch by 14-1/2 inch strip

To complete the quilt section, also cut from background:

1 3-1/2 by 14-1/2 inch strip
1 2-1/2 by 17 inch strip

From each aqua or turquoise piece, cut:

1 4-1/4 inch square
2 2-3/8 inch squares

From the accent color, cut:

2 2-3/8 inch squares  (can oversize these a bit if you'd like some wiggle room--not for hsts)


This construction method is my favorite and uses the least possible fabric.  It also goes quite fast.  If you read through the directions and are unsure about it, there is an alternate method using hsts at the end of these instructions.

To make the stars, take the aqua 4-1/4 inch squares and cut them corner to corner to make 4 triangles. Cut the aqua 2-3/8 inch squares in half once.  Do the same with the 2-3/8 inch background squares:

Take the triangles cut from the 2-3/8 inch squares and arrange them as shown.  Each star will need two pieces stitched together in each configuration:

Open out the joined triangles and either press the seam open or towards the background piece.  After pressing, take the joined triangles and stitch them to the aqua triangles cut from the 4-1/4 inch square as shown.  You will need two of each configuration for each star:

Each of these three-part squares should measure 2-5/8 inches before stitching into the rest of the block.  If you need to trim to square them up, be careful to make them 2-5/8 and not 2-1/2. (Ask me how I know.)

Almost there!  Next, cut the background 4-1/4 inch squares corner to corner twice to make 4 triangles, and cut the accent squares in half once:

Arrange the three part squares, the 2-5/8 inch background square, and the background triangles cut from the 4-1/4 inch square as shown:

Stitch the units into rows and join the rows into a block.  You should have an octagon shape, but don't panic!  It gets squared up next. Clip the dog ears and press well. You may want to press these seams open to avoid bulk in the corners.  Otherwise, press towards the background pieces, and press to nest the seams when joining the rows.

Take the accent triangles and join them to the octagon shape as shown:

I found it helpful to fold the accent triangles in half point to point and finger press to make a small crease, then line up that crease with the point of the corresponding background triangle.  If you have oversized these triangles, trim the stars to 6-1/2 inches square.  Press well.

Whoo-hoo, one star finished!  Seriously, these take longer to describe than to make. Stitch 4 stars total to complete this block.

Alternate method:

There is another way to get the same effect as the original Magic Cross block using hsts.  The proportions will be slightly different, and this method takes more fabric, but you may find it easier.

Make 12 2-inch half-square triangles in aqua and 4 2-inch half square triangles in an accent color using any method you desire.  These will finish at 1-1/2 inches in the block.  Arrange the hsts as shown and stitch into rows, then join the rows into a block.

Scrap hsts used as an example only!

Press well.  Make 4.

Completing the block:

Take the 4 stars you have made and join them into two pairs of two stars:

Add tbe 2-1/2 by 6-1/2 inch strips to the top of one pair and the bottom of the other pair.

Next, add the 2 by 14-1/2 inch strip between the pairs.

Give it a good press and give yourself a pat on the back--the block is done!

The block should measure 14 by 14-1/2, so not exactly square. This block is laid out this way for the purposes of this quilt only.  If you'd like to make it for another purpose, you could simply join all 4 Magic Cross blocks into a 4-star block that finishes at 12 inches and looks spectacular.  You could also do that for this quilt, but would have to add coping strips to bring the unfinished size of the block to the correct size, and would lose the effect of the section that will be stitched below this one in the finished quilt. 

Completing this quilt section:

Add the 3-1/2 inch by 14-1/2 inch strip to the right side of the block, then add the 2-1/2 inch background strip to the top of the block:

Section 2!

Join this section to the previously-made first section of the quilt, stitching the left edge of the second section to the 3-1/2 inch side of the first section and matching seams as appropriate.  The 2-1/2 inch background pieces should be on the left and the top of the finished piece as they are part of the first border. 

Press and do a happy dance!  If you have completed both sections, 17% of the quilt is together!

I hope you enjoyed making these fun stars.  Come back on March 7 for another exciting quilt section!

Sharing at Linky Tuesday, Let's Bee Social, and soscrappy for RSC17.