Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mulling it Over

I've spent the last few days walking past the design wall. I don't have much to show, but I'll show it anyway while I mull over the sashes for the Deconstructed Coin Quilt. I started out with bits and pieces (leftover from cuttings) divided by skinny strips and squares.

Here's how they look from far:

Thinking that was maybe a little too choppy, I subbed in longer pieces

and added skinny pieces to those

plus the little squares.

I tried fragmenting things a bit

and then a bit more.

Here's a close up:

This is a little closer to what I was imagining. I think maybe a combination of longer and shorter pieces, some of those skinny strips with little squares and some other bigger squares. Maybe a few more longer pieces than what are here. We'll see. I'm thinking it's starting to have just the barest hint of Piet Mondrian--even some of his early colors, which is fine with me. I have lots more playing around to go. I think my next step is to cut some long pieces of each color and lay those out and start whittling them down a bit from there. My goal is to have something interesting without overwhelming the printed coins. 

In the meantime, I've been working on the Painted Daisy Quilt. Since my last post about it, I tried out various threads for Big Stitch quilting. 

I was hoping to use Perle Cotton #8, but I couldn't find any locally. Well I finally did, and it was beautiful, but an expensive brand and not in the colors I wanted. I didn't want to order any, so I tried out some threads I had on hand. The yellow line of stitches above is Perle Cotton #5. I liked how it looked, but it was a lot of work to pull through the fabric (especially the knots). The next line (dark green) is four strands of embroidery thread, and the rest are various greens done with three strands. I decided that doing Big Stitch with four strands of thread and a big embroidery needle was good enough for me for this project. I bought a few more skeins of thread and did another sample to try them out on the various fabrics of the quilt. 

I tried out four shades of green and then one row of stitches with all four shades (one strand of each).Then two shades each of pink and red and one row of stitches with all four of those shades (one strand of each) on the pink and red fabrics. This little test showed me that there's not a lot of difference between different shades and that there really needs to be a lot of contrast (either much lighter or much darker) for a thread to really show up. Oh well, embroidery thread is cheap so it was an inexpensive lesson. 

After I made my little samples, we took off to my daughter and son-in-law for a week to do daycare while their usual daycare provider was on vacation. We had a blast!! Spending extended time, both day and night, with the Grands is such a treat. They were so sweet to take care of and play with. I took my little quilt along to work on in the evenings, but didn't really expect to spend much time with it. I did do a little outlining on the flower, and I have finished that part since I've come back home. 

This piece is so small that I've found it's easiest to do without a hoop. I used threads that matched the fabrics most closely to do the outlining. I also did some cross hatching in the center. I think next I'll add some veins in the petals, maybe with more contrasting thread, and then I'll have to figure out the rest of the background. I'm enjoying it well enough, and it will be a nice little diversion when I need some handwork, but so far I'm not enjoying it as much as my usual hand quilting with regular quilting thread. It's hard for me to think of it as quilting and not embroidery. Maybe I'd enjoy it more with Perle cotton #8. 

Here's a close-up:

The temperatures are in the 80s this week, so I've been sidetracked from quilting to plant flowers. Two weeks earlier than I usually do!! The "rule" where I live is no planting until Memorial Day to ensure no danger from frost, but it's just too nice out to wait. Here are some pansies and violas I planted just before we left to do daycare:
Blue flowers make me swoon!
There was frost predicted for while we were gone, but my husband moved the pots up against the house and the flowers came through just fine. Not much else is blooming in the perennial garden, except the candy tuft

and some of the columbine.

We also have iris ready to pop. Eventually the other flowers will find their way into this blog. For now, I'll keep walking past that design wall and experimenting with fabric pieces for my sashings. And maybe I'll also sit out on the deck with my hand quilting so I can enjoy my fabric flower and my real flowers at the same time. 

I'm linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social this week. I hope you are having a beautiful spring/fall. Keep quilting!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Evening Up

I've made slow, almost undetectable progress on the Deconstructed Coins quilt this week--but it is progress, and it took a surprising amount of time. I finished the fifth--and last--row of coins. Then I measured to see how the lengths of the rows compared to each other. They ranged from 51 3/4 to 55 inches. This was pretty good, considering that I did not measure the rows as I sewed them together. The little coin blocks varied in width, and my only rule when sewing them together was to use 19 per row to use up as many as I could of the 96 available coins. I had one skinny coin leftover, so I sewed it to the shortest row, bringing that one up to 53 3/4 inches. Since that was the last of my coins, I added some solid scraps (plus navy edging) to three of the rows and trimmed the longest row back to make them all 54 3/4 inches. 
An added solid is on the left.
The other thing I did was even up the edges of the rows by trimming back the navy pieces. (If you saw my last post about this quilt, you'll see how uneven they were.) That took a long time. I marked the approximate mid-point of each coin from top to bottom, then figured out the narrowest width I could use that would work for all of the rows: 7 inches. So I marked a chalk line 3 1/2 inches in each direction from the midpoint before trimming. Marking before cutting seemed less risky than just eyeballing and cutting. I had to unsew one tiny bit of navy and attach a new piece to make it the right width, but I was pretty pleased that it all worked out.

Here's a portion of a trimmed row.

And here they all are together. The edges are straighter than they look with the rows slapped up and spilling off the wobbly design wall curtain.

I'm a tiny bit bothered by the more regular right edge of the rows, with their even solid strips. The left side has a mix of solids and prints. I have some ideas for changing things up a bit, but I'm going to let it all be for now and see how things look after I figure out the sashing rows. 

I'm really glad I slowed down on this project. Now that I've relaxed about it, I'm having more fun. 

I'm linking up today with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social. Have a great quilty week, quick progress or slow. It's all fun.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Quick Painted Daisy

I recently went on a tiny vacation, and during that time, I realized that I didn't have a hand sewing project to work on in the evenings. That just won't do. So I set about making a quick little wall hanging--actually a door hanging. I've been a hand quilter for a long time, but for this quilt, I'm going to try big stitch. I want something that won't take a lot of investment in time. It will be a summer quilt, so it needs to be finished fairly soon. Also, it's going to hang on my front door where it's likely to fade pretty fast, so it's not worth spending months quilting tiny stitches. I'm just a little apprehensive, though. I have a feeling that getting used to making big stitches might actually take me longer at first than traditional hand stitches. But we'll see.

I chose a daisy pattern from Ruth B McDowell's book Pieced Flowers. This book is fabulous if you enjoy freezer paper template piecing (hint: if you love making puzzles, this might be the technique for you). The book has a summary of the technique, but it's probably best to have her Piecing Workshop book handy as a reference. I needed it to refresh my memory since it's been a little while since I've used freezer paper templates. 

I was too lazy to scan in the pattern for enlargement or to go to the library to enlarge it on the copy machine, so I just used a ruler and graph paper to enlarge the measurements by 300%.
Master pattern

The flower is made in two identical halves, which are joined by a diagonal seam. I chose to alternate two colors for the flower petals, so my halves varied with opposite petal colors. For example, on one half, piece A1 is pink and on the other it is red.

I traced my master pattern onto the shiny side of freezer paper, then turned it over to label sections and colors and to make registration marks for piecing. I usually spend a lot of time color coding my registration marks, but for this little project, I just quickly marked with a pencil. Probably a little hard to see here. 
Freezer paper pattern (I made two, one for each half of the flower)

I turned the freezer paper pattern over and cut the templates apart following the lines on the shiny side. Then I used a hot iron to press them onto the back side of my fabrics--three Moda Grunges and a Free Spirit Joel Dewberry True Colors Woodgrain print. (I used bright colors since they will need to be seen from the street.)

I cut them out with a quarter-inch seam allowance using my rotary cutter, and then it was just a matter of stitching them all together like a puzzle. I can't believe I didn't take any in-process pictures. You'll have to forgive me. I was in the zone because this was a DrEAMi (Drop Everything And Make it) project. (There's a post here with a picture of that step on a different quilt if you'd like to look.) 

After I pieced the daisy, I added some more of the green Grunge fabric to extend the background a bit. The finished block is about 10 1/2 by 12 5/8 inches and the whole top is about 17 1/2 by 19 inches. Now all I have to do is baste the quilt, pick out some thread/needles for doing the big stitch, figure out my quilting plan, and sit back and enjoy stitching next time I go out of town. I'm not sure what kind of thread is available at my local stores, but we'll see what happens. 

Here's a close-up of the quilt top. I love how the seams are planned so they don't have to match up perfectly at intersections. So easy. I got this done so fast--the prep takes the longest with freezer paper piecing, but everything goes together so smoothly. It's really satisfying. This picture makes me think it would be fun to do this pattern really big with just a partial flower. 

I'm linking up with Sandra at mmm! quilts for her monthly DrEAMi linky party. I think I once said that I don't do many of these squirrely projects, but this link-up has shown me that I really do. Or maybe I'm doing them so I have something to post during the party?? Who knows? Who cares? The fact is I keep having these moments. So I'm finally putting up a button for this party.  

I'm also linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it Up Friday because for now, this is a finish.

Okay, now back to my regularly scheduled quilting. Have a great quilting week, DrEAMi or not.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why My Coins Aren't Done

It's time to link up our Improv pieces to the  Ad Hoc Improv Quilters party at Sew Slowly and Fret Not Yourself. I thought I might have the coin part of my Deconstructed Coins quilt done. But a giant squirrel popped up in the form of 70-degree temperatures. In April!! So I didn't get finished, but I'm going to share what I did and then I'll tell you about the squirrel. 

I do have 4 out of the 5 rows done, so here they are:

A bit floppy because they don't quite fit on my design wall, but good enough. They vary in length, but when I get the fifth one done, I'll figure out what to do about that. 

Last time I mentioned that I didn't have pictures of how I'm joining the navy bits. I took some to share this time. It's really just chain piecing. I cut navy width of fabric strips about 1 1/2 inches wide, lined up the little blocks along the edge, and stitched away. 

I cut them apart and did the same thing along the bottom edge. Then I trimmed them up and staggered them about a half inch when sewing the blocks together in a row.

I'll trim the outer edges even when I get ready to put the sashing between. I had some ideas of how to do that sashing, but I need to think about it a little more, especially after reading Kaja's post about combining two blocks for the next invitational. Maybe I can kind of work that in somehow. 

Meanwhile, that squirrel. Over the weekend the temperatures started heating up to the 70's, and before we knew it, we were on our way to the west side of the state for an impromptu vacation to Lake Michigan and Silver Lake. We have stayed by Lake Michigan as early as May, but never in April. We took advantage of off-season rates at a motel near Silver Lake (one of the few that are open at this time of year) and spent two nights with almost the whole place to ourselves. On Sunday afternoon we wandered the town, and stumbled on a little historic district museum. The buildings were closed but it was fun poking around looking in windows. So, of course, my first photo had to be of a Singer treadle sewing machine through the window of a one-room schoolhouse. (Eew, is that a dead bug on the window sill? Just saw that now.)

That evening, we went about 30 miles north to watch the sunset at one of our favorite lighthouses. (Okay, they're all our favorites.)

On Monday, we planned to hike the dunes at the south end of Silver Lake State Park. We had seen paths on these dunes in satellite maps of the area. It would be really hot and buggy in the summer, but hiking them at this time of year seemed appealing. After a short walk through the woods, we reached the first dune. But when we got to the top, we discovered that the dunes were much hillier than we expected and the trails were actually animal trails that led up and down instead of around the hills. After a few ups and downs we abandoned our plan to hike to Lake Michigan and just sat and enjoyed the view of the beautifully wild area.

At the base of the dunes we hiked a path through the woods.

We visited another favorite lighthouse--Little Point Sable.

Then we went to the dunes at the north end of the state park. Here's a cottage that has waged war against the dunes for years. This year, it finally succumbed. 

More dune hiking:

The sand is fairly firm and cool at this time of year, so easy to hike on.
Lake Michigan in the distance
Silver Lake in the distance
We also visited a little county park along the lakeshore. The lake is high this year, so there's not much beach right now.

In the evening we sat along Silver Lake for a couple of hours while the sun set. The lake is abuzz in the summer, with campers, cottages, stores, restaurants, dune buggies, and boats. At this time of year, it is deserted. There was almost complete silence except for bird calls and surfacing fish. Even the breeze died down, quieting the lapping of the waves. The lake must have been named on such an evening. A silver mirror. Sublime. 

A whole wonderful vacation in just 50 hours. Breathtaking. Lots of pictures here, but I did edit them way down. I really did. Sometimes I think off-season vacations are the best. I hope you enjoyed seeing Michigan's freshwater "ocean" and "desert."

We are back home again, and there is another squirrel scurrying around here, this time of the quilting variety. I realized while we were gone that I have no hand sewing project to take when I'm away from home. I've decided to stitch up a little hanging to try some big stitch quilting on. So for the next few days, I'm setting aside my Coins quilt to get the piecing done. 

I'm linking up this week with Ad Hoc Improv Quilters and Sew Fresh Quilts. I hope you are having fun sewing and chasing squirrels.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Three Kinds of Progress

Last week on Instagram I noticed some neat blocks being made by quilters for Leanne of Devoted Quilter. She had reported that the senior citizen residence across the street from her home had burned down resulting in the loss of everything for 21 people. You can read her post about it here. Wanting to make a quilt for each of the residents, she put a call out for donations of the 882 blocks she needed. That's a lot of blocks! I figured it would take her awhile to collect that many. I made up my mind to make some and planned to start working on them the day after Easter. They seemed like a perfect DrEAMi project. 

After rummaging in my fabrics Monday morning, I decided to check with her about what types of blocks she still needed. I had some gender-neutral fabrics, but also some that might be more appealing to men or to women. Imagine my surprise when I went to her blog and found that she had updated it to say that except for some backing and batting, all she needed had been pledged!!! I was bummed! My little contribution wouldn't be needed after all. I spent the next hour at loose ends. What would I do that day? Then it came to me. I shouldn't be disappointed at all. In just a few days' time, quilters from all over had responded to reach what seemed like a daunting goal. Isn't that awesome? 

So now I'm back working on my Deconstructed Coins quilt aka my improv quilt. You can read more about it here and here. Since my last post, I added some little vertical strips along the right side of each little block. I needed to do something to increase the total width of the quilt, and that seemed like a fun solution. In a comment to my last post, Louise from My Quilt Odyssey suggested trying some navy blue to set off the prints. I just happened to have a good-sized piece of Kona Prussian, so I started playing with it. Well, first I played with my Quiltography app.
Then I tried a version with my fabrics. 

I like it. I'll wait to figure out exactly how to do the solid bits between the print rows, but I've been sewing navy pieces on to each of the printed bits. Here's how they look so far:

I've got the third row almost done. There will be five print rows in all. The quilt will actually be a rectangle--wider than it is long as it is meant to be a sort of shawl worn during therapy sessions at a counseling center. 

This quilt may look more planned than improv, but I'm not using a pattern. I have used a ruler to cut the thin solid strips (1 inch unfinished), but placement of the strips in the middle of the blocks and the distance of displacement of the blocks to make the jagged navy edge is random. To add the navy, I lined up and sewed the top and bottom edges of printed blocks along width-of-fabric navy strips, and then cut them apart and staggered them when I sewed them back together. Sorry, no picture of that. Maybe I can include one in the next post. 

Thanks to Louise for the idea of using navy to calm down the "mess" I was working with when I last posted. I liked the pastel nature of what I had been working with, but it was too muddled, and the navy brings some order to it all. The virtual layout really helped me visualize how this might look, even though the actual quilt won't be as uniform in design. 

So that is the progress I've made in quilting this week. But here's some other progress that I'm excited to share:

After 7 1/2 months of recovery and rehab for my broken shoulder, I'm back on my bike!! I had to buy a new bike because during a spring tune-up, our bike mechanic discovered a crack in the frame of my old one that happened during the accident. It couldn't be fixed. I decided to get a "step through" bike. (I'm not getting any younger, and this makes me feel a little more secure.) I'm still working on rotator cuff issues in therapy, but I can ride again. (Rotator doesn't seem to be much required for bike riding--at least I hope so.) So far, I've just been riding around the neighborhood building up stamina and confidence, but it's going well. And I'm being very careful to not ride distracted. 

And one more sign of progress--spring! Here are some quick photos around the yard this week:
"Nature's first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold..." One of my favorite poems by Robert Frost. Our trees are waking up.

There is some de-grassing to be done...but the flowers are so cute!!

I'm linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts this week for Let's Bee Social. And I'm going to keep my eye on Devoted Quilter over the next few weeks to see all of those wonderful donated blocks come together for her special quilt project. She may still need some backing and batting, but you might want to contact her to be sure if you're thinking you might like to contribute.