CHQuilts: September 2021

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Bigger isn't always better

CHQuilts: my quilting space with friends
When my husband John and I retired, we downsized from a five-bedroom house. While I miss the square footage, I don’t miss the upkeep. That was the place however, where I made my first two quilts. The funny thing is, I didn’t have a quilt studio then either. It was just a room with a table and a sewing machine.

I was a beginning quilter, so I had no fabric stash, and just one quilting ruler that came with a kit of sorts with a rotary cutter and cutting mat. I did have a quilting book or two and was starting to collect quilting magazines. Still, I had no idea how much fun it would be to collect all the goodies we quilters swear we can’t live without. It was, after all, the early 1990’s. I had no idea what I was doing. I only knew I wanted to do more of it. Those days were way before I ever considered turning my spare room into a quilting studio.

I realize now what a treasure that little room at the top of the stairs could have become. But alas, that was then. This is now. I do all of my work, with a few exceptions, at a small breakfast counter just steps away from my kitchen. I have divided the space into two main areas; the left side is for cutting/pressing and the right is for sewing. What more could a girl need?

I really can’t complain. My space may be small, but it is mighty. Every quilt I’ve made in the last 16 years since we moved to our little house in the woods in the Arkansas Ozarks has been done in this space. I’ve free-motion quilted several huge quilts and put together several quilt-as-you-go projects. Both of these require maneuvering bed-size quilts in my tiny space.

No doubt I am envious of the beautiful quilt studios I’ve seen in magazines, or online which resemble quilt shops I’ve visited over the years. But, I’ve made this work. It is all doable, as long as I follow the guidelines I’ve laid out for myself.

Rarely can I work on more than one project at a time, unless they are small projects. But that fits into my philosophy of finishing what I start. I like working on a project to completion.

In the near future I want to make The Quilt Show’s Ricky Tims’ Kool Kaleidoscope quilt – there will be more on that when I get into it. But suffice it to say it will require that I have some kind of design wall. For non-quilters, a design wall is a designated area, often covered with batting or felt, where quilt blocks or other elements of a project can be placed for review. Fabric can be placed upon the wall and it will generally stick without having to use pins. It can be viewed so as to check for color, placement, or layout. It offers a distant perspective that is next to impossible any other way. Many quilters consider a design wall to be mandatory.

For this specific project, it will be necessary to create a design using many small pieces that fit together like a puzzle. Without it, this project might not be doable. I currently have no space for a design wall. I can pin some batting onto one of the small walls on either side of my space, but it is hardly big enough. I suppose I could cover my window with batting and use that, but I like my huge picture window overlooking the backyard and the woods behind. I also like the natural light from that south window.

I have been thinking about ways to solve this problem. I think I have one. I have a folded cardboard cutting board (for scissors, not a rotary cutter) that I could cover with batting. It is about 3 feet by 6 ft., so it would serve my purpose. And, it could be folded up and stored when not in use. The more I think about it, the more I think this might be my next project.

Because my space is so small, the only way I can make it functional is to keep it organized. I don’t think quilters set out to be messy, but it is almost impossible not to be. While I haven’t quite gotten to the point of throwing things over my shoulder and onto the floor, Eleanor Burns style, there are always scraps of fabric, threads, pins, pin cushion, scissors, needles, a seam ripper, extra bobbins, spools of thread, templates, rulers, as well as fabric that needs to be put away, to name some of what quiltmakers need. My space requirements just dictate that I have to clean up my mess before I start something.

Fortunately, I rather like the cleaning up and organizing my precious ‘stuff.’ I consider it a part of ‘quilting.’ It is a project all its own, that is almost as satisfying as quilting itself. It is positively mindless, which makes for good therapy. When my mind isn’t wandering, I’m listening to music or an audible book on my earbuds. Either way, I’m in another world, one where there is no pressure or pain, no drama, no obligation. It is freedom! What could be better?

At the same time, sorting scraps of fabric into squares and strips, often times by color is a way to keep things neat. Big pieces are put into a basket—I have baskets for everything—and scraps that are too small are either thrown away or kept for applique projects. I am not quite as organized as I’d like to be in this area, at least not yet. Maybe someday…Usually, I just discard small pieces because I really don’t have the room to keep them. I have to say though; it is painful to throw them away. I dearly love fabric, even little pieces of it. When I’m done with a project, I sweep all the scraps that aren’t big enough to sort, into a brown paper grocery bag. When it is full I will make the painful decision to finally toss it into the trash. Until then however, I can always rummage through it to see if there is anything I’d like to keep. Saving tiny scraps that way postpones the inevitable, but because it takes so long to fill up the bag, I might have a better solution before that happens.

My quilting space may never be a feature in a magazine, but it will suffice because where there is a will, there is a way. Oh, and bigger is not always better.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Is it time to make a traditional Grandmother's Flower Garden?

 
Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt I have been thinking I'd like to make a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt, but I wasn't sure I was ready for all the work involved. I've never done English Paper Piecing (EPP) before. Was I ready for all the work this would be? It is really an ambitious project. Heck, I didn't even know if I would like this technique.
 
I've done paper piecing before, but this was very different. The only real similarity between the two techniques, is that both require removing the paper in the final project.  
 
With EPP, the paper is a simple template that determines the shape of the fabric piece. Once pieces are constructed, they are sewn together, often by hand. With paper piecing, the paper is a portion of a shape, which determines where fabric is cut and sewn together on the sewing machine to form intricate designs.
 
Even after quilting for more than 20 years, I still consider myself a newbie, likely because there seems to be an endless supply of skills and techniques I have yet to learn. So, when in doubt, make a table topper. I love table toppers because they are just the ticket for practicing new skills.
CHQuilts:Hexi sample
I find I am attracted to hand-sewing. I love that zen feeling that comes over me when I'm stitching. So, I bought a set of templates that included a couple different sizes of hexagons, watched a few YouTube videos, and decided to tackle this new task. 
 
I Googled 1" hexagon shapes and found a downloadable sheet of 8.5" x 11" hexi shapes. I printed a couple pages onto freezer paper sheets. I simply, but carefully, cut them out. Because the shapes can be reused a couple times, I am now well-stocked with papers.

I liked the glue stick method, rather than basting the fabric around the template.  I also like to press them to make them really crisp and easy to sew together. I admit that makes it a little more difficult to get the papers out, but I can always print and cut out more if I need to.

I decided to make a couple of "flowers" using 1" hexis out of one of my favorite fabrics, a paisley print that for some odd reason I've never been able to use in any other project. I have often picked it out to use in a pinkish quilt, but it just never quite fit. The fabric always read "peach."
 
No worries though; I decided that it didn't really matter with the sampler project I was planning to use for my EPP practice piece.
 
Hah, no matter how I try to tell myself colors don't matter, I just can't fool myself. Colors will always matter. But, I decided to play a little trick on my own eyes and everybody else's, by adding bubble gum pink fabric as a background color. It worked too. No one would ever mistake this as too peach-colored.
 
This is a trick I learned when I was putting tile down in our old house. I bought some pink tile that ended up looking very peachy. I was really disappointed when I got it home. But, I put it on the floor and painted a burgundy accent wall and wallpaper with tiny pink flowers. The peach vanished. These tiles were pink!
 
I have finished this project and am pretty happy with how it turned out. I hand-quilted it just for fun and I really like it.
 
All-in-all, I decided that I like English Paper Piecing. I'd like to do And, I like hexagons. I like hand-sewing. I'm just still not sure I want to make a whole quilt with them. Maybe if I used bigger hexis, or a less than traditional pattern than the typical Grandmother's Flower Garden. The jury is still out. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

I just love, love, love this quilt


This morning I woke up feeling proud, accomplished, and satisfied. Last night at 9 p.m., I knotted my thread, cut it, and let out a sign. I finished hand sewing the binding to the back. After 18 months, I finished my quilt.

This one was my favorite—no really. I know I say that each time I work on a quilt, but this one is special. This one challenged me. This one honed skills I didn’t have when I began more than 18 months ago. This one has certainly beefed up my quilting resume.

My only disappointment, and that may be too strong a word since I’m elated with this quilt, is that it wasn’t my own design. I’m not sure why I’m stuck on that element, because I only choose to make quilts from patterns I love and want to complete, but creating my own design is the one thing I want to master. I want to sit down with graph paper and colored pencils, or at the computer keyboard and let my imagination run wild.

I’m not sure this will ever happen. After all, every quilt I make since my first quilt was complete in 2003, is uniquely my own, always one of a kind; it is similar to others, but always different. Despite all the people who have sewn this quilt commonly known as Afternoon Delight, no one has this one. The pattern, designed by the late Sue Garman, will have been made by hundreds, and perhaps even tens of thousands of people. Mine is but one of those, but still, this one is all mine. Though it was Garman’s pattern, I collected all the fabrics. I picked the the colors. I decided on the quilting designs. And, of course, I did all the cutting, piecing, hand applique, and quilting.

I have no way of knowing if I will ever achieve this element of my quilting journey—designing my own quilt. I’ve modified existing designs, which could qualify as making them my own, but in my mind, it isn’t quite the same. I hope I can someday achieve designing, but who knows. If I never do, that is OK too because I love quilting. I love every quilt I’ve ever made.

And the list is long for those I still want to make—traditional patterns—like Grandmother’s Flower Garden, Double Wedding Ring, and so many more. I plan to stay busy as long as my fingers still function and my eyes still see, despite a growing difficulty.

I’d have to go pretty far though to love a quilt as much as this one. I loved making this one. I’m enamored with this quilt. It turned out so much better than I imagined.

Finishing a quilt is always joyful, but this one has taken my breath away. I’ve loved every stitch.