Search this blog

Monday, February 8, 2016

Pillow talk

I have finally finished a project that wraps up my recent Craftsy Class--Quick Strip Paper Piecing. I've really enjoyed this class, taught by Peggy Martin. This project is a pillow using Martin's New York Beauty Block. 
  
 
This is the completed pillow, both from the front and the back. It is pretty heavily quilted, and I enjoyed every minute of it.


 











Story behind the project


I really wanted to make a pillow. I had an old pillow--a very old pillow in fact--that I wanted to transform from a hugging pillow to a decorative pillow. For years, I have had this really comfy feather pillow. I've washed it, vacuumed it, hugged it, and more often than not, thrown it around in my sleep,...The poor thing was once a king-sized pillow, but due to its age, and feather loss, it was reduced to half its size.

One day when I was making the bed, I decided to fold the pillow case in half around my favorite pillow. What used to require a large king-sized pillow case was now reduced to half of a standard one. And they say people shrink when they get older!

That got me thinking. As much as I loved hugging this pillow, it was time to re-purpose it into something pretty. When I saw Peggy Martin's New York Beauty pattern, I knew this was my answer. The bedroom is decorated with sunflowers. I just love the yellow and orange tones of these smiley-faced flowers. I also love the sun shapes, such as those seen on CBS Sunday morning. I'm so drawn by those pleasant shapes that make up the beautiful star that shines on us and sustains us each and every day.

It took a little while because I don't have the time to quilt as much as I'd like these days, but I finally finished my pillow. I can't imagine making a whole quilt in this pattern, because I just don't have the time. But I know that if I did, it would be a real spectacle. I love the pattern. I love Martin's technique. And I love my new pillow.

Here's what it looks like on the bed surrounded by all the other flowery projects I've loved doing over the years. It matches my big sunflower, a painting I did in a class several years ago which remains one of my favorites. Now, if only I could get my act together and paint these walls yellow. I've been wanting to do this for years and just not yet gotten around to it. One of these days,...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

UFOs are starting to fill my world

Up until now I've been pretty good at keeping my UFOs (UnFinished Objects) to a minimum. It seems I just can't contain myself though. There are so many quilts I want to make and so many new techniques I want to try. Neither my hands nor the hours in the day can keep up with all my desires.

Since this is the first month in a new year, and I have warmed up my blogging chair a little, this might be as good a place as any to take a little inventory.

First, there is the above pictured Dresden Plate quilt top that needs to be quilted. initially I wanted to free motion quilt this, but it might be nice to quilt it by hand. It has been a while since I've done that and it might be nice to get back to basics with this classic Dresden design. Or, I could do a combination of both free-motion quilting and hand-quilting. Until I get it put together with backing and batting, I won't really know.

I still have Christmas fabric sitting next to my sewing machine, just begging me to cut it up into pieces, to be sewn together. It might be nice to get ahead of the game for a change.

I still have one more project to do from my recent Craftsy class, Quick Strip Paper Piecing. I have to try my hand at Peggy Martin's New York Beauty blocks.

I even have a calendar quilt top, one with a different block for each month, that I started a few years ago. It was a Block of the Month (BOM) project, probably my first. Kasey seems to like it, which is incentive enough to turn it into something lovely.

I liked making BOMs so much that I was hooked and have done several more since. This quilt is very busy with lots of different colors. I have actually been thinking about this one a lot lately. It is a lap size quilt at the moment, but there is no reason I couldn't add a border to it, or even several borders. I think it would make a really lovely quilt when it is all finished. I would like to put it together and perhaps quilt it on the machine. It would be very challenging to come up with quilt designs for all twelve of these very diverse blocks.

There is the Jinny Beyer quilt kit from Jinny's Craftsy class--the 2015 BOM--that remains in the plastic sleeve it came in. I look at it every night, as it sits on a table in my room. I have been waiting for a large block of time to start on this one, but haven't found that yet. This one will be special, as Jinny is another one of my quilting heroes. She is such an incredibly talented quilter and lovely woman who I have related to since the first days I saw her on Simply Quilts, many years ago.

I now have one more thing to add. Craftsy has another BOM for 2016. It is taught by Lynette Jensen, another quilting icon. I really like this quilt and have decided that if at all possible, I'd like to make it. It starts out with a medallion-like center filled with hourglass blocks. It is done with borders and includes a pretty applique border.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Quilting is my therapy; needed it recently

Quilting is not just a challenge for me; it is also a respite that is vitally important to my well-being. I'm anxious to return to it when time permits.

I've been 'away' from blogging, and from quilting for awhile, since just days before Thanksgiving, when my husband John, who has been slowly recovering from a stroke a year ago, passed out and fell backwards, hitting his head hard on the floor. We suspect he was suffering from low blood pressure.

He was unconscious for a short time and remembers none of it, which is probably a blessing. I called 911 and followed the paramedics to the hospital. Tests revealed that he had a brain bleed, which is being considered another stroke, so they decided to transport him via helicopter to another hospital, in a neighboring state, where there was an available neurosurgeon standing by if necessary. The hospital was more than two hours away. I went the next morning and stayed one night with him, but had things to tend to at home. We stayed in close contact.

Sadly, all of the progress John had made in the last year was gone, and even exacerbated with this latest incident. His had no mobility on his entire right side.

John stayed in the hospital for a few days and was transferred to a rehabilitation center for in-hospital rehab. He's home now and receives at home therapy three times per week as he struggles to regain his mobility in his hand, arm, leg, and foot. I've resumed my caretaker responsibilities which doesn't leave much idle time. I've taken to reading, while he takes an afternoon nap, since it isn't long enough to get "into" a quilting project.

Quilting isn't far from my mind though, as I do steal away some moments when I can, to watch quilting videos and ponder current and future projects.

Between visits, while John was in the hospital, I spent an entire day satisfying my own mental health needs, as I worked on a project from the Craftsy class I mentioned previously, Quick strip paper piecing with Peggy Martin.

I love how this Christmas table topper turned out. It is about 22" square.

It is from Peggy Martin's 'Sailor's Delight' pattern. It just screamed Christmas to me.

I wanted to do more of these, perhaps make Christmas gifts, but we didn't get around to celebrating this year.

This piece was great fun though and was so much easier than it looks.

I've decided I may not be finished with this pattern yet. I'm not going to store my Christmas fabrics just yet, just in case I get some free time.





Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Teachers are the ultimate

None of us would be who we are, or where we are, were it not for the people who have inspired us, taught us, and helped with our struggles along the way. The people who teach are some of the greatest gifts any of us has ever received.

The most inspiring teachers in my life, and there have been many, are not just those poised in front of a chalk board, while some were. But they are those who loved and shared knowledge, inspiring me to learn what they knew. Some of them were the greatest influences of my life.

Image result for leah dayI was fortunate to have people like that throughout my life, including my quilting life.

Recently, I was enjoying seeing two women who could be considered my strongest influences. They were together, in the same time and place--Alex Anderson and Leah Day. Search this blog to see several instances where I've written about both of them.


The two of them appeared on the subscription-based The Quilt Show, an online production by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims. More information can be found here.

I love The Quilt Show. I was elated when I learned that Leah Day would be the guest on yesterday's show.

For me, it was nirvana, to see both of these women, each of whom excels at her craft and has given so much of herself in the form of experience and education. It is clear to me that the most inspiration comes from people who simply love what they do and want to share it. These two ladies exemplify the best teaching has to offer.

It was a joy to watch as Alex and Leah relate to one another far beyond just how they make their living. They bonded as women who speak a similar language and who connected in a much deeper way, as women as well as artists. As I watched, I felt the connection too, as I have since I first 'met' them, relating to their experience and the language they speak.

To say the least, it was a very excellent way to begin my day. I love quilting. I am so grateful to Alex Anderson and Leah Day for introducing me to an activity I will always cherish. Quilting is precious to me.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Love the learning, expanding horizons

The latest tool in my quilting arsenal is foundation paper piecing. 

I'm taking a Craftsy class by Peggy Martin using her technique which really does streamline the paper piecing process. I've dabbled in paper piecing in the past and wasn't completely enamored with it. I do like the results though. Who doesn't want sharp angles and points that aren't cut off? 

Peggy's Quick Strip Paper Piecing method eliminates one of my biggest problems--working with triangles of fabric. I've listened to the entire class, which began months ago. I'm going over it a second time now, and actually making the blocks. 

There are several blocks in the various lessons in the class. They may or may not end up as entire quilts--but I want to at least try making them. They seem to get more complex as we go through the lessons. I'm anxious to do more, now that I've gotten my feet wet.

So far I made a table runner, out of Peggy's Dreamweaver quilt block, which consisted of three blocks and a woven sashing, which she also demonstrated. It was fun to do and much easier than traditional paper piecing as I had learned it.

pink and teal Dreamweaver table runner

Initially I thought this star would make a great Christmas star with red and green points. But, then I decided I'd really like to have a table runner to match my most recent quilt--my pink flamingo quilt, which is draped across the back of the couch in our Florida room.

Florida Room

I had just enough turquoise batiks left to make sashing strips.

Once I finished the three-block piece, I couldn't wait to start quilting it. This is a work in progress, but I'm pleased with it so far.

pink star table runner
First I printed out a sketch of the three-block piece. I let the quilt "talk to me" so I could decide what kind of quilting patterns I wanted to use.

pink star table runner - backThis is the result. I'm glad I decided to use two different colors of thread. The first is a pink variegated that I had from another project. Of course the teal color is from all those pink flamingos.

One of the three blocks is complete. Forgive the blue lines on the checkerboard design. I haven't washed them out yet. By the way, I absolutely love checkerboards in quilts--they just seem to go together.

This is what the back looks like. It reveals the dense quilting in the star that isn't very visible on the front.

All these colors in a project really is a new thing for me. I'm enjoying this expansion beyond the boundaries of my former monochromatic comfort zone. I really love color and the older I get, the bolder I want it to be. I'm anxious to finish this project and see what it looks like on the table. Have I mentioned lately that I absolutely love quilting?



Thursday, November 5, 2015

Quilting: always creative; always learning

Just when you think a project is simple, think again.

Donna's table topperMy friend Donna asked if I could re-create a simple table topper she had on her dining room table, at right. She liked it so much that she wanted one in Fall colors. 

I thought, easy-peasy. This is just a simple Dresden Plate pattern. It should be no trouble. Donna provided a sketch with some of the dimensions. The whole piece measured about 19 1/2 inches. 

I checked out my Dresden ruler and realized the smallest number of blades it contained was 16. That wouldn't work. Second option was to draft this pattern with Electric Quilt 7, the quilting software that has helped me out more than I can say. I am pretty new at working with this program, so I figured there might be a bit of a learning curve. That is OK. Learning new things never goes to waste. And, there is always something new to learn. It seems the more I get, the more I want. I think that is all part of the obsession.

First, I looked up Dresden Plate blocks in the block library. I found a 3-blade corner block. I figured I could copy the 3 blades and simply paste and rotate them to form a 9-blade block. I wasn't sure how to do that and figured there might be an easier way. Since I committed to this project, I wanted to get started on it, but I made myself a promise that in the future, I would work on using this software to modify existing designs.

I continued my search in the software's block library. I found a wheel block that was perfect. All it was missing were the points. I could draw those in once I printed out a template--no problem. 

fall fabricsNext I picked out three fabrics I thought would make a nice Fall piece. I sent the picture to Donna. She approved. 

I went back to the drafting stage. I printed out the finished "wheel" block with the points drawn in. 

Suddenly, I was horrified to realize the block only had eight blades rather than nine. So, I went back to the drawing board and redrew the pattern. I printed it out. I knew my improvisation wasn't perfect, but was a good place to start. The sizes weren't exact, so I decided to measure each blade at the base and take an average. The finished size would be my template for all nine blades.

I measured them all. I was surprised to find the nine blades ranged in size from 1 1/2 inches to more than 3 inches. Next I converted all the measurements to eighths, the smallest common denominator. Then I added them and divided by nine, the number of blades. That number measured 2 1/2 inches. I found one of the blades in my printout that measured 2 1/2 inches and made it my template. I also added 1/4 inch for the seam. 

I cut three blades from each fabric and sewed them together. I soon realized that the base measurement wasn't enough to know because once sewn together, the piece didn't lay flat. Next, I increased the seam allowance to 1/2 inch to take up some of the excess, cutting away the first seam to leave only a 1/4 inch seam. 

It was better, but still not right. The angle was off. I carefully measured the blades from the center point to the side at 3 1/2 inches, one of the measurements Donna had provided. So, I sewed each blade starting at that point, changing the angle slightly. 

It am getting pretty proficient at sewing with my fingers crossed. It worked. The piece laid flat and looked just like it was supposed to. 

I printed out a picture of the piece as a pencil sketch, and let it speak to me. Then, I quilted it.

Fall table topper
I checked You Tube videos to verify my own understanding of how to bind inside and outside angles. I finished the piece last night. This is how it turned out.

I actually like it, so I may make a template pattern from it and make one in Christmas colors.

I totally love little projects like this. They satisfy my need to create something and you just can't beat that instant gratification factor.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Happy Halloween!

I've finally finished my Halloween project--three table runners for my daughter. This is the third and final one. I think I like this one the best.

Halloween table runner 3


There is no denying, this is for Halloween! I rather like scrappy string quilt blocks. They are so versatile, easy and fun to do, and the results can be stunning.

While this pattern is just fine the way it is, serving the purpose of resembling spider webs, it is also quite dramatic when these blocks are duplicated into an entire quilt.

spider web quilt mock up
For quilt makers, you already are aware of the kind of magic that happens when individual blocks come together to form another shape. But for those who aren't quilters, check out the photo to the right. These same blocks are just copied and pasted into a three-by-three grid to reveal just what happens when the blocks are put together. Note the four-pointed stars that seemingly appear between the spider web blocks. Quilting is just so much fun!

If the orange sashing were removed, the stars would likely be even more apparent. So try to imagine a quilt, using different colored strips on a white background. Or on a colored background with contrasting strips. I may one day decide to make one of these, since I seem to be accumulating leftover pink and purple strips from other projects.

These blocks were constructed using foundation paper piecing. Varying strips of fabric are sewn onto pieces of (foundation) paper, in two different wedge designs. There are four of them for each block. The eight wedges are then sewn together to form the block. The paper is then removed. Because sewing is done on the printed line of the pattern, foundation piecing aids in creating sharp points and well aligned seams. In this 'scrappy' project, the seams were meant to be askew, so that wasn't important.

The only place the points mattered was in the middle where all eight seams came together. That is almost always a problem. On one of these blocks, I sewed the pieces together with the paper still attached. Never having done that before, it was a disaster. The points didn't come close to matching in the center.

So, once I removed all the (foundation) paper backing, which is sometimes more time consuming that crafting the entire block, I took all the seams apart. I had real second thoughts about that because what I was left with was a giant gaping hole in the center. The more I messed with it, the more the fabric began to fray. I was thinking there wouldn't be enough fabric left to make it work. I assumed I'd have to just toss that block and make another one. Much to my surprise though, I was able to sew all the seams together again. The points looked pretty good. I like to call that a quilting success. It doesn't happen often in cases like that, but I was pleased with how it turned out.

This was an easy block to construct. There are a variety of ways to do this, but I used a pattern I found online. There are oodles of them.

I just hope Jenny likes it. Now, off to the post office.