Search this blog

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.

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.