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Friday, October 12, 2018

Quilting again, better with color

CHQuilts: double star block
Life is busy. And, it seems that sometimes it is just too busy to enjoy the things I really love, like quilting. I haven’t touched my sewing machine in way too long. I have a quilt in the works to be hand-quilted and one that just needs to be put together with backing and batting to be quilted. There just always seems to be something else more pressing to do. Ironically, that is the very reason quilting is so necessary. It soothes me, makes me happy, and keeps me somewhat sane.

Recently I decided to add some color to my kitchen. More info is available about this color choice at my personal blog at CHMusings.

What better project for a kitchen face-lift than a new table runner? I chose my new color in the kitchen to be turquoise, so I went through my fabric stash and picked out some fabrics. I have come to love this color and enjoyed working with it.

I decided to make the same table runner I have made many times before using the Double Star quilt block. I like to think of this as my signature block because I have made so many of them.

The table runner consists of three blocks, joined by a strip of sashing, with a similar border all around.


CHQuilts: double star quilted block
Rather than use my own pattern since I wasn’t quite sure where it was, and I was anxious to get started, I decided to just look for one online. Big mistake. There are several flying geese in this block and there are many different ways to make them. The pattern I downloaded used templates to cut and sew the pieces together. Have I mentioned before that I hate working with triangles? It may bear repeating. Although there was no waste involved in this method, the precision, at least for me, left much to be desired. I finished one block and was glad I didn’t cut out the pieces for all three, because I didn’t like the result. Haste does make waste. So, I decided to find the pattern I’m familiar with.
CHQuilts: turquoise table runner
I like the method, such as in this tutorial from Connecting Threads, which makes flying geese using squares sewn to rectangles and then trimming the corners. There is a bit of waste involved, but it is so worth it to have points match and end up with uniform pieces.

I became acquainted with this block during a Craftsy project, the 2012 Block of the Month. I loved making that quilt and fell in love with the Double Star.

Once I found the pattern, I cut out all my pieces and began to sew them together. It went much smoother this time around. In fact, I found it all to be pretty enjoyable. It was nice to be back into the swing of it. I’ve really missed working with my sewing machine. While a little out of practice, I like how the table runner turned out. I’m pretty happy with it. It adds just the right splash of color to an ordinary drab part of my kitchen.

Friday, September 14, 2018

I got lucky

I am a firm believer in luck, of being in the right place at the right time. And I hit the jackpot recently when I attended a local estate sale that advertised “fabric.”

I walked into an outbuilding, along with a huge crush of others, into what had clearly been used as a sewing studio at one time. Talk about a kid in a candy store. That is exactly how I felt. My vision was filled with dreamy colors: paisleys, plaids, stripes, polka dots, and solids. The studio contained numerous sewing machines, dozens of bolts of fabric, all neatly stacked in shelves along the walls. There were a number of bins filled with sewing notions from pins and needles to scissors and rotary cutters. There were yards of batting, cutting mats, and more. But most of all, there were boxes and boxes of fabric on tables, some sorted, some not. This was a fabric stash that was a quilter’s dream come true.

Normally when I buy fabric, I take my time, studying the colors, and thinking about various projects I might create. I try to visualize what is in my own stash, and what is lacking there. Yet, when I walked into this place, there wasn’t time to consider what I wanted. I just let it speak to me. I picked up what I liked with no thought to what I would do with it. There just wasn’t time for that. And, if I liked something and didn’t grab it, one of the others shopping there would have. So, I wasn’t even really aware of what I bought until I got home and spent some time with it, imagining what part it would play in future quilts. One of the first things I did was wind it onto cardboard in preparation for storage. I love
fabric and everything about it makes me happy.

I spent about $40 for material that would have otherwise cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars. This was a sale of a lifetime.

That said I would be remiss not to mention the downside.

I’m aware that my joy is related to someone else’s agony. I don’t know the story of what became of the person who owned that studio, the person who initially bought each and every yard of fabric contained there. I can’t even speculate. But it always makes me sad to realize that when someone’s household items are ‘liquidated,’ it is usually because someone died or was forced to move away.

I cherish each and every yard of fabric I have, but I respect this even more because of how it was obtained. I hope when the day comes that my children have to dispose of my fabric that it will be go to quilters. Quilters are very caring people, and they understand what our fabric means to us.

I’m anxious to start my next project.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Quilting is learning

Every quilting project is a learning experience. My latest one, an incomplete project, was no exception.

I actually wrote about this quilt –my calendar block of the month quilt--last month when I decided to finish it. http://chquilts.ozarkattitude.com/2018/01/pretty-doesnt-need-perfection.html I love doing block of the month (BOM) projects because they tend to keep me interested. Every month is a challenge. Because I started this in 2012, there were some real challenges for me because of some techniques I had never done before. I had never done paper piecing and hadn’t done too many appliques either. This had both.

This was the first BOM I ever did. I really enjoyed learning new techniques and practicing the skills I already knew. Piecing was difficult for me back then, as was matching seams and achieving perfect points. To be sure, I did neither in this project, but I did the best I could at the time. Thankfully, I have improved since then.

Although I loved making the individual blocks, I wasn’t so enamored with the quilt itself. It was smaller than I would have liked. It never occurred to me to add blocks or borders to increase its size. If I was to do another one like this, I would probably do both of those things. I thought this project had little cohesiveness. I was bothered that it all seemed so helter-skelter.

Now that I have finished it, I really like how it turned out. I am no longer “afraid” of all the colors in it. I’m pleased that it has a theme—months of the year-- which really is its cohesiveness. My thinking has evolved since I first looked at all these unrelated blocks. I’ve also grown in my color appreciation. I am no longer turned off by the many colors here.


Quilting the quilt

One of the hardest things to do for myself and many other quilters is to decide how to quilt the quilt. I’ve often heard it said, and I now agree, the quilt will tell you how to quilt it. I know how hokey this sounds, but it is true; the quilt will speak to you.

For example, I had no idea how I was going to quilt the February block.

I knew I wanted the cats to stand out. I was rather fond of this block because I happen to have four cats. So, I used a tiny stipple to make the background dense. I also densely quilted the hearts, so the cats themselves would come forward.

One of the cats had a seam that had come loose. So, I decided to quilt an outline around the heart shape, which in turn, would tame that seam. Worked out great. This remains one of my favorite blocks.


Another one that gave me fits was the July block. I decided to use a red, white, and blue variegated thread. Big mistake, but I didn’t learn until it was way too late.

The blue stars didn’t turn out quite like I wanted them too. The red and white portion of the thread shows up on the blue background, but the blue does not. The problem with the feathers was that the white portion of the thread just looked like an unquilted space. I decided to do what so many quilters tell you to do if you are unhappy with how something turns out. Just throw more thread at it. I did that and they look so much better without the blank spots. 

I had no idea what to do with those pesky bird houses depicting June. There were no holes for the birds to fly into, so that was the first thing I had to do. I wanted to quilt them all differently, so I looked at the fabric and let it tell me what to do. On the blue/yellow one, I quilted wonky lines, following the fabric grid. I did the same on the yellow roof. In order to add some cohesion to the block, I added diagonal lines for the background. So, all of them look like they belong together, but remain all different.

Another place I used the fabric print to guide the quilting was on the jar that is the September block. I’ve been asked what the significance of that is. I assumed the jar was chosen to depict jelly making or canning vegetables from the harvest. My quilt is mine though, so I chose my jar to be filled with bugs. It reminded me of catching lightening bugs when I was a little girl. The fabric has bugs on it. So, I simply drew circles around them, in a form of pebbling. I like how the texture turned out on this block.

And that was the approach I took to all of the blocks. I enjoyed thinking through some of these issues.

This was the biggest project I have made with free-motion quilting. Everyone says it can be done, so I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Normally, I do quilt-as-you-go project, where the quilting is done on each block and they are assembled afterward. This was done traditionally. Truthfully, I didn’t see any real problem with quilting the whole quilt. Oh, it did take a little more muscle to fit the bulk of the fabric in the tiny space, but it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. I’m no longer afraid of quilting a large quilt.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Quilting is always on my mind

Toaster Strudel
While free-motion quilting is serious business resulting in beautiful pieces of art, I like to remind myself that it is also an enjoyable pastime. 

I never want to take myself too seriously, so I try to keep it light sometimes, which is why I prepare my morning breakfast--Toaster Strudel--with all kinds of swirls, squiggles, and potential quilting designs.

While a hearty breakfast often consists of a more healthy fare, there are just times when my sweet tooth wakes up and demands one of my favorite go-tos. So, why not?

There isn't much skill included in my breakfast design which caters more to my sense of humor than to actual quilting practice, but, that's OK too. 

I plan to work on my latest quilting project later this afternoon, but for now, clearly, quilting is on my mind.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Pretty doesn't need perfection

My latest quilting project is actually six years old--a quilt top I finished in 2012--a calendar quilt--with the 12 blocks representing each month of the year. Blocks were chosen by members of the Quiltingboard, an online quilter’s group that I joined just before starting this project.

This was my first Block of the Month (BOM) project, one of many I have done since. I love BOMs. Having something to quilt every month keeps me at my sewing machine and always gives me something to look forward to.

I admit that I was not really crazy about this quilt which is why it sat around for six years unfinished. But I am bound and determined to turn it into a pretty quilt.

It took me all these years to decide what to do with it. I admit I never really liked it. It is too small to put on the bed. I was never crazy about all those colors. And I thought it was rather busy for my taste. Frankly, it is not my best work either. 


I now recognize that perfection isn’t what makes a quilt pretty. And there is nothing wrong with lots of color, since it is all tied together by the black sashing strips. After all, it does have a theme to it. So, I’ve decided to enjoy this project for what it is. Never mind the wonky sashing strips or the less-than-perfect points. I am happy with the knowledge that this was an early endeavor and I’ve honed my skills since then. This can still be a very pretty quilt, once it is completed. Quilt tops are hard to judge anyway, because the quilting is where the magic happens. 

How bad can this be? Bug, alias Junior, our little 3-legged cat seems to like it. Funny she picked the October block to sit on. I suppose that block was meant to represent canning food from the harvest, but I used fabric with tiny bugs on my jar. It reminded me of catching lightning bugs when I was a little girl.
The more I think about this project, the happier I am to be finishing it. After all, it represents a few firsts for me. It was my first BOM. That first block for January used English paper-piecing, a technique I had never tried before. And this will be the first quilt I will free-motion quilt on my sewing machine that is bigger than a baby quilt. All of the others I have done have used the quilt-as-you-go method, whereby the blocks are quilted first and then sewn together to form the quilt. Because I’ve never worked on a whole quilt, I’m glad this is a small one. It will be good practice. I have another project waiting in the wings, a medallion quilt designed by Lynette Jennings previously mentioned in CHQuilts that I finished piecing last November. It is a Queen size quilt that I plan to free-motion quilt on my machine. 
     As I was cleaning my sewing area, de-linting my machine, and putting in a 
     new needle, as I always do before starting a new project, it started to snow. 
    his is an event in the Ozarks. What better way to enjoy this snowy day than 
    to quilt?

Today was a perfect day to begin working on this quilt. It marked the first time I touched my machine in 2018. I spray-basted the quilt top with its batting and backing fabric last week, so I was ready to start. Another first--I used my walking foot to stitch-in-the-ditch around each block and sashing strip. The quilt is now stabilized. So the fun is about to begin. Right now I have no idea what designs I will use in each block. I think I will figure that out as I go. I’m thinking I will use lots of colorful thread. I’m not afraid of color anymore. I’m getting a little excited. I think that despite the imperfections in this quilt, it is going to be pretty when it’s done.