Search this blog

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.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A little better...

I think I fixed it, at least a little.

spider web table runner

While I won't say I'm happy with this, I am at least somewhat appeased with the project I wrote about recently--a Halloween table runner I created--as the second of three I am making for my daughter, Jenny. She is a total Halloween freak and said she wanted something very dark.  The border glows-in-the-dark.

spider web table runner blockI admit this was a difficult task for me. I love quilts, which I feel are beautiful works of art. And, I admit I am a more paisley, daisy, color-loving kind of person. So this was certainly not in my wheel-house. By the way, Jenny does not get her Halloween adoration from me. It is not a holiday I celebrate.

I did the best I could though. I was really unhappy with how it looked initially. I thought the quilting would help, but with black thread, it is practically invisible. Even the washing and drying process failed to reveal the spiderweb design I quilted into the center of the three squares.

So, my solution: I added a little fuzzy white yarn to enhance the web and at the same time, tone down the rows of skulls in the center of the block. They might have been OK if they were all one piece. But pieced skulls just didn't cut it. This project totally did not turn out like I envisioned, but, can't win 'em all, I guess. Thankfully, this is a once per year occurrence. It will soon be Jenny's to do with as she pleases.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Everybody's a critic!

Even cats know what they like and what they don't!

While I absolutely love every quilting project I've ever made; this one, not so much.

I just finished the second of three Halloween table runners for my daughter, Jenny. She requested a dark one, scary with all black fabrics. Even Junior the cat turned away from it--not a good sign at all.

Thankfully, it is just for Halloween and not something to be used every day.


There are elements of this that I really like.

I like the pattern--the bow-tie block--but there should have been more contrast. It is hard to distinguish that those are bow ties. And, the quilting isn't bad--but using black thread on black fabric; certainly doesn't showcase the quilting.


The bow ties are quilted with lightening bolts radiating from the center, though it is hard to see. There are even lightening bolts in the fill design in the space outside the bows, but who can see them? The center four squares are quilted in a spider web design, but again, it doesn't show. I was hoping that washing the piece would make the quilting stand out, but it really didn't.

At least there is the spiderweb border that glows-in-the-dark. That will be really cool.
I've already alerted Jenny to this situation, and sent her a photo. She isn't crazy about this one either, but I suppose we should just chalk this up to, 'it's only for Halloween,' and move on to the third and final project.  

I've already started on it and I know we'll like it so much more.

Disappointment all around; Learning experience:

When I set out to make a table runner, I looked for a pattern that would showcase a center patch. (That's funny, since the center is the part I dislike the most about this piece). When I saw the bow ties, I was drawn to it. I went to my Electric Quilt software to draft the block and estimate needed yardage. I also printed out the templates for the bow tie pattern. It never even occurred to me that there was an easier way.

Then, I didn't realize until I had all the fabric for the whole project cut out that I needed to make the dreaded "Y-seams" for this method.

It isn't that I've never done them; it is just that I don't like doing them.

In this video, one of my favorite quilters, Jinny Beyer, explains how to create a perfect Y-seam by both machine and by hand.

With four bow ties, each with 2 Y-seams, that translates into 8 per block and 24 in the three blocks. I actually thought about sewing all these by hand, since it is so much easier, but in the name of time, I decided not to. They turned out fine, however.

Once I had all of them completed, I realized what an inexperienced quilter I am. I found an online tutorial for a bow-tie block making this as simple as making a four-patch.

I have been quilting for how long now? It is alarming that I couldn't figure out this simple method. I'm over it now, and it was good to practice making Y-seams, but I was really mad at myself at first.

Check out Jenny Doan of Missouri Star Quilt Co. as she makes a quilt out of the bow-tie block.

I've always said, there is no end to learning in quilting. So, after more than fifteen years, I guess I'm still a newbie.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

First of three, check!


Jenny and Mike
Jenny and her husband Mike
I've had to take a little step back from my quilt progress. I have had a request from my daughter, Jenny, to make three Halloween table runners for her.

"I don't want anything cutesy," she said. "I want it to be scary." She even wanted fabric with blood stains printed on it, but that is where I drew the line.

"No way," I told her. I remember having a similar discussion with her many years ago. She came home from school, about fifth grade, with fake blood someone had given her. She wanted me to put it on her face. I was horrified. I told her that her beautiful face and blood, fake or otherwise, would never go together in my world.

In my job as a local reporter, I've seen more blood--real blood--than anyone needs to. I was certainly not going to allow her to simulate what is so often a sad or even tragic event.

I never really liked Halloween because people seem to have taken it too far for my taste. To me, fantasies include Cinderella, Snow White, Elsa and Anna; not zombies and walking dead. That stuff just creeps me out.

Anyway, I told her it didn't matter because despite the fabric, these table runners will be beautiful. Quilted pieces are always beautiful, never scary. I was happy when we agreed on a little glow-in-the-dark fabric instead.

Actually, this is a great step forward because until now Jenny hasn't shared my love of quilting. She has proclaimed her preference of crocheted afghans to quilts. I think she's coming around though, recognizing the amount of time and effort that goes into quilt making. She is also finding her own crafty legs, as she is starting to appreciate the beauty of being making something. I knew the creative gene was lurking in her somewhere and that it was just a matter of time. In fact, the older she gets, the more we have come to appreciate each other's abilities, personalities, and quirks. Sadly, we live miles apart with her in Massachusetts and me in Arkansas. I've noticed though that miles really don't matter as long as we can reach out through all the means of communication afforded us these days. Even though I know she is miles away, she is just a phone call away. That is comforting.

Anyway, I finished the first project. Here they are, front and back.

The glow-in-the-dark fabric is the frame around the center square and each of the small squares that form a line along the middle.

The best part is that she says she likes it and can't wait to see the next one; music to my ears.

Actually, I can't wait either, since I have only a slight notion about what I'm going to make for the other two. Ah, the creative process. I know something good will come out of my sewing space. I just don't know what right now. But soon!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Orchid Flowers is officially a quilt top

orchid flowers quilt top
I'd say a finished quilt top can be considered an accomplishment, especially when it was a bunch of pieces just laying around for so long.

I started this so long ago. Once I got back to it, I realized how much of it had been done already. I think there were only four more Dresden Plate blocks to finish, and of course the sashing. The sashing with its 25 9-patches and alternating strip sets was pretty epic considering I had never done such a thing before. Lots of pinning was necessary. I had it in my head though, that this was how I wanted to connect the blocks in Orchid Flowers.

I still plan to add borders, a small skinny white one, a lavender one and a huge deep violet one. The violet fabric is much darker than the sashing, so I'm thinking it will nicely frame the entire piece. I plan to machine quilt this quilt. I've never done an entire quilt in one piece before, rather than simply a block at a time, so this should be an interesting new experience. I love trying new things. If I hate trying to manipulate all that fabric on my sewing machine, I can always hand-quilt it. I do want to try though. I'm still daydreaming about the kind of quilt designs I want to use. (I'm open for suggestions.)

I will attach the borders after they are quilted, probably via the skinny, unquilted white border in the quilt-as-you-go method. Though it doesn't show in this photograph, each alternating block is white and off-white--both in a paisley print. (I absolutely adore paisley.) Perhaps I should make the joining strips alternating as well, although I'm not sure the design element would be worth the extra effort.

I'm taking another break from Orchid Flowers. My daughter is interested in some Halloween table runners, so that will take precedent. As long as I'm quilting, it's all good!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Quilting is good medicine!




It might be impossible to expect all aspects of our lives to be positive, successful, or even worth talking about. But, I have to say, quilting is one of those facets in my life that is worth it.

For me, quilting is good medicine. When life's challenges get to you, nothing says 'hang-in-there' better than some quality alone time working with a needle and thread. Whether it be by hand or by machine, quilting is such good therapy.

Since my husband's illness, I have been turning to my favorite pastime as much as I'm able. It really helps. Quilting has a calming quality about it that makes coping just a little easier. It has the added effect of satisfying that creative spark. It is so nice to just be able to make something pretty. Let's face it, quilts are pretty. Rarely, if ever, have I seen an ugly quilt.

My quilt life is getting exciting once again, as I now have two projects to work on, at least so far. I once belonged to the get'r done camp, thinking that I had to finish one before I could start on another. But with quilts taking sometimes more than a year to finish, I gave myself permission to work on more than one at a time.

Orchid Flowers is coming along. In fact, I have all the Dresden Plate blocks finished and have started on the sashing. Who knew that the sashing would be as much or more work than the Dresdens, which are the focal point? I sure didn't, until I started sewing and cutting and sewing some more, all those strips.

Orchid Flowers
Here is my progress so far.

I have sashing on all the blocks. I just finished the 9-patches and sashing for the first row. I was worried that the sashing would overtake the Dresdens, since it is 2" wide and the Dresden strips are about 1.4" wide. But, it like the look. I'm anxious to finish the entire quilt top. I have no idea what kind of backing to use.

I've decided that I am going to quilt this on the machine, which will be a first for me--quilting a whole quilt top--rather than just a block at a time. I'm looking forward to this challenge.

There is still lots left to do before any more decisions are made. I have cut all the pieces for the sashing and cornerstones, I think. I'm not that great at math, so it will be fun to see if I came anywhere close to how many strips I'll actually need. No matter--I have more fabric if I need it. Aren't those colors just delicious?

I started this quilt a very long time ago. I was surprised when I came back to it, that I cut the initial blocks 12". I did it before I realized there should be a seam allowance added to the block. So, the blocks will finish at 11 1/2" No big deal. I will make up for it with the wider sashing and eventual borders around the entire quilt. I have a very dark violet color for the outside border.

The outside border fabric for Orchid Flowers is a Jinny Beyer fabric.

I have long been a fan of hers, since the early days of my watching Simply Quilts, which I mentioned in a previous post. I also mentioned that I was considering ordering Jinny's Block of the Month Club quilt kit from Craftsy.

She is teaching a class detailing so many of her techniques.

I bit the bullet. I decided to order the quilt kit. I have never ordered a kit before. It was a bit pricey, but was on sale since the class started months ago. I'm glad I waited.

The kit arrived yesterday. I haven't even taken it out of the bag yet, although I did stick my hand inside, so I could pet the luscious fabrics. Jinny's taste in colors and fabrics she designs are just magnificent. I love her border prints, which really is what sold me on this class and this kit. I don't plan to open it until I am ready to begin the project. Until then, I just plan to ogle it.



Thursday, August 6, 2015

Quilting roots revisited; back to my first qulit




As I continue along my quilting journey, I decided to take a trip back to my roots. I finally signed up for a star membership in The Quilt Show, which is not unlike an online television show. I have no idea what has taken me so long to jump into this.

The Quilt Show, hosted by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims will keep me on my learning quest. It isn't that I needed more to learn because every time I pick up a needle I'm learning something new. I already have the motivation and inspiration. I could use a little more time to practice, but that will come. For now, I'm still enjoying the seemingly endless quest for quilting knowledge.

first quilt
This is where it all began
My very first quilt top
I spent yesterday watching a few of the past shows, with access to all the teachers and techniques that have been on the show since 2007. I may go through the episodes one at a time eventually, but for now, I'm just picking and choosing.

Simply QuiltsAlex Anderson provided some of my earliest inspirations for quilting. Not only did she host "Simply Quilts," a wonderful quilting show, but she was an excellent quilter in her own right. I used to watch religiously. If I knew I was going to miss it, I recorded it. Like so many others, when I learned it was going off the air, I was crushed. I learned so much from that show. Most importantly, I learned that I really wanted to make a quilt. I wasn't a quilter when I first started watching.

When I finally did get around to making my first quilt, I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to follow the steps laid out in my head from all I had observed for years. Finally, one day my daughter and I went to Joanne Fabrics in Orland Park, IL to pick out fabric. I hoped I was getting the right amount. I was exhilarating, but frightening to look at that pile of folded fabric. I realized right then that I loved having all those yards, half-yards, and quarter-yards in my hands. Nothing was as terrified as cutting into that beautiful bleached muslin the first time.

The picture is just the quilt top. I did finish the quilt. Never having done applique before, I made some mistakes, but when looking at the overall pattern, I can cut myself some slack. I never did needle-turn applique before. I figured back then that I can only get better. I picked out a simple rosette to hand-quilt into the empty spaces and outline quilted the elements of the Rose of Sharon blocks. It isn't the best-looking quilt ever, but it made me very happy to complete it.

I'm not sure when I finished this quilt. Judging from the photo though, this had to be taken sometime between 2003 and 2005. I notice a Delft blue container on the dresser that was from an arrangement I bought for my father's funeral in June, 2003. We moved out of that house in Jan. 2005. I completed that quilt in 2004 because it was done before we moved. I guess the moral of this story is to always make a label for our completed quilts.

I still put this quilt on the bed now and then. But mostly, it rests in good company, sitting on a quilt rack with the quilt my husband's mother made him when he graduated from eighth grade and one his late grandmother cross-stitched and quilted that she used on her bed.