Monday, October 26, 2020

My latest favorite quilt is done

Orchid Flowers
Every quilt I work on is always my favorite. And the best part of the process is the finish.

I’m really pleased to have finished this one, since it has been hanging around unfinished far too long.

In fact, I started it so long ago that I had forgotten naming it “Orchid Flowers.” I am not exactly sure when I started this quilt. I decided I wanted to make a traditional Dresden Plate quilt, and had begun sewing the pieces together before having a real concept in mind. Each of the ‘plates’ is made up of 20 ‘blades,’ which are appliqued onto a piece of background fabric. It doesn’t show up well in the photo, but each square contains alternating white and cream-colored paisley prints. The circle in the center is also the opposite and alternate color. From what I can piece together, (pun intended) once I had made 20 of them, I started to conceptualize an actual quilt. That was around July of 2015.

This was a bit of a storied project

According to what I’ve written previously in CHQuilts, I finished this quilt top in August, 2015. That was a few months after my husband suffered a debilitating stroke. There was no time for quilting with so many doctor and therapy appointments. It was a pretty stressful time, so when I eventually did get back to working on it, this was indeed my therapy. I wrote about that too, how quilting is good medicine.

I had planned to hand-quilt this quilt, since it is such a traditional pattern, established back in the 1920’s. I found though, that hand-quilting it proved to be quite a chore. It was hard to needle through the seams in all the blades. When I had about nine of the 20 blocks quilted, I realized I wasn’t having much fun doing it. My stress-relief project was actually having the opposite of its desired effect, so I decided to rip out everything I had done. I decided that quilting it on the machine was a much better option that might result in actually finishing it. I’m so glad I made that decision. I truly enjoyed the quilting process. 
So, in all, it took about about three or four months to complete. Every project I do is a challenge in some way. The challenge here was to learn to quilt feathers free-hand—no marking. I am so much more comfortable after doing these lovely, traditional quilting designs. I love how they look and am anxious to use them more often in future projects.

Another challenge was to decide on the border option. I finally decided on a leaf and swirl motif, also free-hand. I love how it turned out. I will use this motif again.

Dresden border
I enjoyed doing it. 

 The border took longer than I had anticipated. It is pretty densely quilted, but it very random and free.

I told myself I would have a finished quilt this weekend. So, I started the day Sunday, early, before breakfast, with two sides to finish.

Once that final border motif met the place where I started, I could call it done. It was a thrill to cut that final thread. But it wasn’t the end yet.

There was still the binding. I like to sew my binding onto the back of the quilt by hand. That always takes longer than I’d like. So, by the time I worked my way around all the way to where I started, I was pretty tired. My fingers hurt. I hadn’t done hand sewing for some time and was out of practice. Well, I certainly got the practice yesterday. I spent about 12 hours in all, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. And I still wasn’t done.

To me, a quilt is never complete until after it is washed and dried. That is when all the fabric shrinks around the stitches making the whole thing poufy, textural. I call it ‘quilty.’

I never pre-wash my fabric. I just put a Shout Color Catcher into the wash, two in fact, just to be sure. I have never had a problem with dyes running or fading.

So last night, I took the warm quilt out of the dryer and spread it out onto my lap as I sit on my favorite chair, just so I could inspect it. Before I could look over the whole thing, a couple of cats jumped onto my lap and snuggled into the soft, warmth of it . Now it is done. And, it is oh, so satisfying.

Thursday, August 13, 2020


Pictured above is my beloved cat, Ryan napping on my latest project, a Dresden Plate quilt I’ve been anxious to finish. I started it years ago. But I decided it was time to finish. Well thanks to Ryan, maybe not today.

Ryan loves to make herself comfortable on my quilts. I take her adoration as an extreme compliment.

I guess she fell asleep after wearing herself out stretching, writhing, and contorting herself into odd angles, as cats often do. I realized quilting was futile, so I gave up trying to free motion quilt with a cat on top of the fabric. This is a pretty large quilt and moving it under limited space of my little sewing machine is a challenge anyway, but with the weight on one end, really made things difficult. I decided it was time for a lunch break.

Ryan is always up for providing the entertainment to my tiny quilting space, or pretty much any other activity for that matter. This cat is like none other I’ve ever known.

Ryan and her sisters were born 13 years ago on a hot July day on the front porch of the home I share with my husband, John. Her mother is a pretty and petite Calico cat, a stray until she decided to adopt us.  She kept hanging around the house, peeking in windows until we finally gave in and let her come into the house. She wasn’t much more than a kitten. But one day she decided indoors was not her thing. She broke out the screen of an open window and took off into the woods. She didn’t go far, and rarely was out of sight, but it was far enough apparently. One day I noticed her girth had changed. She was a little rounder in her middle. I knew immediately that she was pregnant.

Timi was pretty young to give birth, so I wasn’t sure how well things would go. I was there to help if need be. I read up on what to do before the big day so I was prepared. I had a birthing box ready for Timi, all lined with the latest edition of the local news of our town. Another box was lined with a baby afghan left over from my own kids.

One late morning I was sitting at my computer desk when Timi jumped up to the window next to me. She climbed onto the screen and was clawing in a frenzy and was meowing in a voice I hadn’t heard before. I knew it was time. I met her on the front porch, she jumped into the box and before long I saw the most adorable little gray and white kitten. Timi cleaned it, licking, licking, licking until it was dry and fluffy. She had no qualms about letting me take her kitten. That was my introduction to Ryan and it was love at first sight. I held her gently, talked to her, and kept her warm in my hands.

Timi then delivered another, and another, until there were five. I love them all, but Ryan and I have something special between us.

I was very impressed with how Timi settled into her new role of motherhood. I’m not sure what my role was, but I know it changed my life as much or more than it did hers.

I decided I couldn’t part with any of the kittens, so I kept them all. The last one born lived only 11 days. The third one—Boo—was born with a deformity and weakness on her right side. She was basically a three-legged cat. She lived to be 11 years old and was my second favorite. I still miss her every day. Then there are Kenni and Kasey. There is no shortage of kitty love around here.

This period of my life marked a huge quilting hiatus for me, but once I got back to it, I found I had partners. The girls just love snuggling in a new quilt, or an old one for that matter. Only Ryan likes to be involved in the process however. I guess it started when I did most of my quilting by hand. She loved to sit beneath the quilt while I worked on it. I guess once I decided to adapt to machine quilting, Ryan did too. Now, she seems pretty content to sit on top rather than under it.

Having cats just adds one more dimension to my love of quilting. Now if only I could get the girls to stitch-in-the-ditch or hand sew binding, I’d have it made.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Revamping a project, quilting feathers

One of the best aspects of quilting is learning a new skill. I’ve just done my first freehand feathers on a quilt I haven’t worked on in what seems like ages.

I mentioned this quilt project in a recent post—a Dresden Plate quilt that I was hand-quilting. I started it quite some time ago, but decided I wasn’t enjoying working on it very much.

I haven’t given up on hand-quilting by any means. I still find it to be fulfilling in many ways, but this just wasn’t the right project for it. Perhaps my problem was the way I was quilting it.

I started in the middle of the quilt, stitching in the ditch on all 20 blades of the Dresden plate motif. With all the seams coming together, I found I was fighting with needle, wearing out my poor ole, aging hands, and just was unable to achieve the kind of stitches for which I knew I was capable. I ended up abandoning the project after completing about 6 blocks. There were 20 in all. I loved how the quilt looked, but the struggle I was having just took away from any enjoyment I know quilting can be.

I also made the mistake of not using a hoop. That wasn’t as much of a problem, but added to it, as I decided to leave work on just the blocks, leaving the sashing until later. Since I had spray-basted the backing and batting, and left the quilt sitting for so long, I noticed that the layers weren’t as tight as they had been. I didn’t have actual pleats and puckers in the backing fabric that was where I was headed. It could have become a real problem. It didn’t help that a soft, cushy, bulk of fabric sat in the middle of the living room for months at a time in a house full of cats.

One day I decided that if I was ever going to finish what would likely be a beautiful quilt, as well as one I would enjoy completing, I needed to rip out the hand quilting stitches and begin anew on the machine. I am so glad I did.

This was like starting a whole new project

I am still stitching in the ditch between and around the blades, but it is so much easier to let the machine do the hard work. I didn’t know how I was going to quilt the sashing and nine patches connecting them, or the space around the initial design. So, I did what I always do; I let the quilt speak to me. It did. I would do feathers inside the sashing and horizontal and vertical stitches in the 9-patches along with simple radiating lines in the background of the block so as to not take away from the beautiful fabrics in the motif.

My only problem is that I’ve pretty much avoided quilting feathers. I’m just not very good at them.So, to gain my confidence; I watched You Tube videos and searched for beautiful images of feathers all over the internet. My goodness, there are some beautiful creations out there. The only problem with this is that sometimes it gets to be overwhelming.

My next step was to do what I always do when I have decisions to make; I pondered what I had just learned. Then, I got out the paper and pencil and drew four lines to represent my sashing and started making feathers. They were pretty weird-looking at first, but soon, I got the hang of it.

So, once I felt comfortable drawing them on paper, I went to my sewing machine. There, I drew a nice curved spine and made my first free-motion, free-form feather.

I am pretty pleased with myself, but more importantly, I’m excited about working on and finishing this quilt. This is the second time I will have quilted a full sized quilt on my little Janome sewing machine. At one time I never would have believed it possible. Quilting has reinforced what I already knew; anything is possible.