Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Grunge Quilt

You probably noticed that it seemed like I wasn't making much lately. That's because there was a bit of secret sewing going on. At the end of May a giant squirrel rose up in front of me in the form of the realization that my brother and sister-in-law were having an anniversary in June. An anniversary ending in zero. What to give them to celebrate that milestone? Well, of course, a quilt!! I had made them some tiny wall hangings over the years, but I hadn't made them anything bigger since the baby quilts for their girls in the 80's. Could I make a quilt in less than 3 weeks? Well, sure! If I didn't do anything else, like clean or cook, or--wait, I don't do much of those things anyway.

Now that my brother and sister-in-law have the quilt, I can share it. Let's look at some photos and then I'll tell you more. 
Helpful Hubby holding quilt. It was too long for the usual fence shot.

I knew that I needed to make a simple pattern due to the short time. I also knew what their living room furniture looked like and had some photos of family gatherings that seemed pretty true to color. They have a dark blue couch, golden yellow chairs and some red accents. Using my Quiltography app, I colored in the courthouse steps block in two different ways, going for a bold, kind of modern design. For the first time, I also used the yardage calculator on the app instead of trying to plan the yardage myself.

I went to the closest fabric store to see what I could find that would work. I was thinking solids to continue the scheme of the living room, but I wanted a little texture and was having a bit of a love affair with Moda Grunge fabric. I found exactly what I wanted in two different blues and a red. There was a yellow that was too light. But here's the neat thing. This store is a half block away from another fabric store, and when they buy fabric, they coordinate so that they have different colors of the same lines. The first store sent me over to the second store, where I found the exact shade of yellow I needed as well as a cream color that had some gray in it to coordinate with another living room chair. It was the easiest fabric search I have ever done. 

Here are the two versions of the block:

My initial plan was to make them 14 inches square but somewhere along the way, I went with 16 inches instead. This was supposed to be a throw quilt--now it's big enough to cover two people. But that's fine for an anniversary quilt, right? I added the lighter blue in random places and alternated the blocks in a 4 by 5 layout. When it came time to choose a back, I decided to go whole cloth instead of my usual piecing. I tried to find a floral or abstract print with all of the colors. I looked in all of the nearby stores and couldn't find anything. I did see a couple of fabrics online that might have worked, but I just wasn't certain--and then there was the whole problem of losing time waiting for the mail. So I went back to the second fabric store and bought the cream Grunge for the back--it was a wide backing, which really saved time. 

Here's a close up to show the quilting. 

Planning it really stumped me. I hadn't done much free-motion quilting since I broke my shoulder last year, but I didn't really want to do the whole quilt with my walking foot. I ended up using the walking foot for three parallel lines on the yellow strips and then did free-motion quilting for the rest of the quilt--meanders in the cream and blue areas, back and forth squiggles in the borders around the middles and free-form flowers in the red squares. I really wanted to do a vine with leaves in the blue parts, but decided that was really pushing it for my arm on a quilt this size. The squiggles and flowers are pretty wonky, but intentionally so. I knew I wouldn't have the greatest control, so doing it in a more folksy style was the solution. I did my usual initials and date in the lower right corner. I used two different thread colors, lighter in the cream and yellow fabrics and gray in the blues and red.

I love how the setting sun shows off the texture of the quilting.

The back ended up much better than I thought it would. I used a very thin cotton batting because I wanted a light weight, scrunched up quilt, especially since it was bigger than I had first planned. My machine was not thrilled with the batting. My needle sounded like a hammer on nails the whole time I was quilting. In addition, I may not have pulled the backing taut when I basted. The combination of unfamiliar batting for machine quilting, lackidaisical basting with an unfamiliar backing (wide back--different thread count?), and less than optimal control with FMQ resulted in some concerning puckers and pleats on the back. (Nevertheless, she persisted!) Aside from running my finger along the underside to check the tension from time to time, I stopped flipping the quilt to check the back because it was too discouraging. I just crossed my fingers hoping that washing would cover a multitude of errors in the end. And you know what? It worked. The puckering and pleating blended in to an acceptable degree, and I advised my brother and sister-in-law that if it shows up more over time, to just rewash and dry the quilt. I do love the scrunchy effect of the batting even though it was hard to quilt. It's just what I was hoping for.

For the binding I chose both the red and the yellow--partly because I only had enough red fabric left to cover a couple of sides. I brought the two colors about 8 inches around the corners so that I wouldn't have to splice in right at the corners to make the color change. 

Here are the stats:
Design: Courthouse Steps, with Quiltography app used to help plan and figure yardage.
Fabric: Moda Basic Grey Grunge in Peacoat, Regatta, Red (I think it is Rocacco), Elafin (yellow) and Creme. The Creme was wide back.
Binding: Rocacco and Elafin cut to 2 1/4 inches and folded. Machine and hand applied.
Threads: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing, Superior King Tut in White Linen and Silver Bullet. Superior Treasure in Old Lace for hand sewing on binding.
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose, cotton
Size: Blocks--16 inches square with 2 1/2 inch cut strips (finishing 2 inches wide) and 4 1/2 (4) inch centers.
Quilt: 64 1/2 by 80 1/2 inches before quilting, aproximately 63 1/4 by 79 inches after quilting, approximately 59 by 75 inches after washing/drying.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 treadle for quilting

Here are some closing thoughts:
1. Overall, I'm really pleased with the quilt, but I might need to have a stern talk with myself if I am tempted to make an almost twin sized quilt in less than three weeks again, and I would definitely check weather predictions. Not only was I racing an anniversary date, I was also racing to get most of the quilting done before a heat wave set in. (My quilting room is in the least comfortable room in the house, even with air conditioning.) Thankfully, the weather has settled down this week. I won't even complain that I had goosebumps writing this on the deck and had to come inside to warm up. 
2. I love the look and feel of Cream Rose batting. After washing, it is light and scrunchy. I used to use it a lot in hand quilted work. It was a bit much for my machine, though, so I would need to consider that for future projects. Maybe I need to figure out an alternative to topstitch needles for quilting with it. 
3. I love the look of Grunge as an alternative to solid fabrics. If I use the wide backing again, I may need to be more vigilante about anchoring it tightly when basting. 
4. I can free motion quilt again if I'm not too picky about consistency in my design. With time, though, I might improve. 
5. I was pleased with the Quiltography app for figuring yardage. It was generous without being over the top, and a real time saver. The app doesn't show how to lay out the fabric, of course, but that's understandable and okay. At least I had reasonable figures for how much fabric to buy.
6. I should probably stop calling this the Grunge Quilt. How about J and J's 40th Anniversary Quilt? That sounds better. But Grunge Quilt is accurate.

Okay one more photo. Here's the quilt in its new home:

I'm linking up this week with Freemotion by the River (Linky Tuesday), Sew Fresh Quilts (Let's Bee Social), Confessions of a Fabric Addict (Can I Get a Whoop Whoop?) and Crazy Mom Quilts. This will probably show up on mmm! quilts (DrEAMi--Drop Everything and Make it) at the end of the month. Buttons for most are on the side bar. 

If you'd like to see what I'm up to in non-quilting, check out my Instagram button on the sidebar. I'm making a blouse! Garment sewing in a summer sew along with Bernie over at Needle and Foot. Fun! And a real trip down memory lane. It's not too late to join!

Now it's time to tell the squirrels to go away. I've chased them a lot the last few months. I need to get back on track with my Deconstructed Coins quilt. Have a wonderful quilty week. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mini Board Storage

Lots of sewing going on here right now, but today I'm going to focus on organization. At the end of my last post, I showed you the neat gift I got from the Academic Quilter to kickstart my improved fabric storage system. Comic book boards! Well, I'm happy to say I've started using them. It's the perfect way to spend a few hours while watching TV (a great activity in the 90-degree heat we've been having). I even ventured out to a local comic book store for more boards. 

Since my storage needs are unique to me--but perhaps similar enough to yours for this to be useful to you--I thought I'd share what I've done. 

I have six drawers of a dresser where I keep my larger-than-scraps fabric. Most of the pieces are fairly small, but there are a few that are large enough to fit on comic book boards, which are about 10 1/2 by 6 3/4 inches. The typical way of using them for storage is with the long side vertical on a shelf. I won't go into the specifics of folding fabric here. You can read about it on this site or many others online. The shelf I want to store them on is only about 8 or 9 inches high. So I folded the fabric to store them with the shorter side vertically. The folding method is the same--I just adjust the folding to accommodate the board in the other direction:

Here's how a few fit on the shelf:

Because my drawers are fairly shallow, I cut the comic book boards in half for storing smaller pieces of fabric. I also bought a supply of plastic coated paper clips to neatly clip the fabric to the board. Those won't rust if the fabric stays in the drawer for an extended time period--likely!
The cut boards are just the right size to fit in my drawers with the short edge vertically. I try to fold the fabric so that raw edges aren't exposed:
Then I fold it onto the mini board in the usual way

and clip it with a paper clip to keep the edge in place.

If the fabric is narrow (such as an eighth yard), just fold it with the raw edges showing and clip the paper clip at the bottom. 
That's a little messy, but preferable to the mishmash I used to have in my drawers.
If the piece of fabric doesn't fit neatly on the board
I declare it a scrap and throw it in my scrap bin. That's new for me since my scraps are usually much smaller. 

So here's what I have so far:

Doesn't that look a lot better than this?
I have folded about one third of a drawer's worth of fabric. 1/18 of the way through. Good summer project. One thing I've noticed though. I'm really getting to know my stash, and these fabrics are OLD!! I'm hoping to get serious this year with some string piecing, so maybe lots of these will get used up. But I also think that some might be on their way (eventually) to a new home somewhere else. If I haven't used them in 30-some years, what are the odds I'll ever use them? Meanwhile, my drawers will be so pretty, I'll just want to admire them. 

This weekend I'm going to start a sew-along project with Bernie over at Needle and Foot. 

I haven't sewn clothing for myself in many, many years, but this blouse looks like a fun project, and I think it's neat that home garment construction is back in style, so here goes. Maybe as I share my progress, I'll share some pictures of things I made years ago. (I can't believe I wore some of them!!) So stay tuned. (I'll probably post about this mostly on Instagram.)

I also have a squirrel I've been working on, but this post is long enough, so I'll share that another time. 

I'm linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts today. Keep quilting! Or, maybe, try a garment. (And if you live anywhere near me, stay cool. I hear a cool-down is coming.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Hexie Care Package

What do you call a project that interrupts a project that interrupts a project? I guess most quilters would call that typical sewing. But it does have me rattled. I kind of like to work on one project at a time--or at least one type of project. I might have a long-term one on the side (such as hand quilting), but I'm usually most comfortable working on a project until it's done. Until this year. I blame Sandra at mmm! quilts for her DrEAMi (Drop Everything and Make it) linky parties because for some reason, I keep interrupting myself to make something else. 

It happened again this week. I was working on a project that was already a "squirrel" (I'll share that one another day) and then I read on Instagram (madebychrissied) that the Manchester Quilting Bee is collecting blocks to make quilts for the families of victims of one of the most recent terrorist attacks. They are collecting 6 1/2 inch blocks with hexagons appliqued to them. You can read more about the project at the above Instagram account or at Manchester Quilting Bee (either on Instagram or Facebook). There is a template for the hexies as well as instructions for how to make and send them. The timeline is tight, but the project is easy. The hexie shape refers to the worker bee, the symbol of Manchester and now a powerful symbol of their unity in the face of this tragedy. 

I just had to stop my current project and make a couple of blocks. In past blog posts, I've talked about my need to contribute to these kinds of quilts, so you know how I feel about them and the way our quilting community all across the planet gathers in support of those who are suffering great losses. 

I had some honeycomb fabric as well as a piece of floral fabric with a bee-like creature on it. Because the two fabrics were of pretty much the same value, I used a dark turquoise as a background for better contrast, and pretty much improv-pieced the hexie. 
I could have pressed that better!!
Then, on a shopping trip I saw some fabric with bees on it. Actually, there is a lot of fabric out there right now with bees! I just hadn't been paying attention before. I used that with a bit of a black print from my stash for the other block.

Because of the overwhelming amount of work to make these quilts (there are 99 blocks in each!) the Manchester Quilt Guild has asked block makers to stitch their blocks together to help ease the task a bit, so before popping these in the mail I sewed a quick seam.

There are various collection sites for the blocks to make getting them to Manchester more efficient for people who live in other countries. You can read about that on the sites noted above if you are interested in making a block or more.

That kind of sewing, although unwanted, helped me focus my attention on events in our world and on how we are all connected. We must care for each other. My contribution is small, but I hope that the thoughts and prayers that went into it were significant. 

Now it will be time for me to clean up my multi-project mess and get back to other sewing. Here's what the banquet table set up in my living room for my current projects looks like today. No more room to do anything! 

And the chairs. Oh, they are for sitting on? Not for this quilter.

I'll clean this up tomorrow. Meanwhile, I have some happy mail to share with you. 

Mari, at The Academic Quilter recently wrote a blog post (well, lots of them, actually) about her organization of her sewing space. The post that really struck a chord with me was about storing fabric. She showed how pretty her fabrics were wrapped around comic book boards to keep them neat and lined up on a shelf. In response to a comment I made, she sent me some of the boards to help me jumpstart improvement in my own fabric storage. And she included a yard of fabric folded around one of the boards to demonstrate how it fits. Isn't that sweet?! The fabric matches a fat quarter bundle I've been saving for my next project (after I finish the current WIPs, of course).

My fabric collection is kind of different from that of a lot of quilters. I usually buy barely enough yardage to complete a project so most of my fabric is what many other people think of as scraps. I do have storage bins for my tiniest scraps, and that works well, but the rest of my fabric is odd sizes, many around an eighth to a quarter yard. I keep them in six drawers of an old dresser, stored on edge so I can see them. The problem is that after awhile they get pretty messy from my pawing around to get something and jamming them back in and then I start having problems opening and closing the drawers and this happens:
Three of the drawers: red/orange, yellow/multi, and blue
My idea is to pull out the few pieces that are large enough to wrap on a comic book board and store those on a shelf and then cut boards in half to wrap the smaller pieces of fabric and store them on edge in the drawers. I'm excited to give this a try. I will post pictures. There. I've said it, so now I'm accountable for following through. This will take awhile, and that's okay. Mari said so. So this gift from Mari is much more than comic book boards and a yard of fabric--it's the gift of organization. Isn't that neat??!

Okay, time to relax and catch up on correspondence. Whenever I get in the sewing zone I get so behind on responding to comments and looking at what everyone else is working on. 
I'm linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday. I'm also linking up with mmm! quilts for DrEAMi even though technically this is a June finish instead of a May finish. By the end of June it will be past the timeline for the blocks for Manchester--and thus, old news for anyone who reads this and might want to take part. While you are at Sandra's site, be sure to check out the awesome caring quilt she made. And there are more pictures of it in her more recent post. 

Have a lovely weekend. Keep quilting. And keep caring. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Another Squirrel!

If you read my blog regularly, you'll know that I have been slowly, slowly working on a challenging (to me, anyway) improv quilt. I'm having fun with it, but this week a little squirrel kept jumping up for attention, and I couldn't resist it. It was time to take a break from the quilt and make something quick. I had some Moda Grunge and grunge-like fabrics left over from other projects and a block in my mind that wouldn't let me go: Blackford's Beauty. 

Here's what happened:

A little mug rug. I think it's about 6 1/2 inches square, but I forgot to measure it before popping it in the mail to a friend. (More about in a later post.) It was so satisfying to use these little scraps and another on the back:

After zipping around back and forth with my walking foot, I found that my tension wasn't perfect on the back, but I think it will be okay. I put little triangle hangers in the corners so it can be hung up, but I really picture it more with a glass of icy lemonade on it on a hot summer's day. 

I made this same block in giant size (I think about 36 or 40 inches square) years ago. I enjoyed the challenge, but it was dark and fussy cut with striped fabrics. I came across a photo of that quilt a few weeks ago while cleaning out a drawer. It was a happy surprise, as I didn't realize I had any photos of that quilt. But now I've misplaced the photo. How did that happen? If I find it again, I'll post it sometime. It's probably what prompted me to make this pattern as a mini. This one was much more relaxing to make, and a really good break from my current project. I'll go back to that project, but this weekend another squirrel has popped up, so...well, you know how it goes. 

I'm linking up today with Sandra at mmm! quilts for her DrEAMi linky party (I blame Sandra for getting me into this squirrelly quilting habit). And Crazy Mom Quilts, too, for Finish it up Friday, because it's tiny, but it's a finish and it was done by Friday.

Have a great weekend (holiday weekend if you're in the US), and watch out for squirrels! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sashing Progress

Oh my, it's time for the link-up for the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters. How did that happen? These months go so fast!! I did a post last week about my Deconstructed Coins quilt. I was dithering about how to go about making the sashings. Yes, I'm still working on the first challenge quilt for this year. But maybe I can squeak in on the second challenge, too--the two-block challenge--because I am making my sashings distinctly different from the rows of vertical coins. (Maybe they aren't sashings after all, but alternate rows?)

This week I cut some long wide strips of most of the quilt's solid colors and threw them up on the design wall without much thought. Then I started chopping them up adding narrower strips here and there as well as some squares/rectangles. 

My main objective is to introduce long horizontal lines to contrast with the short vertical lines of the rows of printed coins without overpowering the printed rows. I'm taking a lesson from Kaja's style of piecing by making small sections without joining them all together at once. For example, the row I chopped up has 7 sections. I'll wait to join them until I have the other rows laid out so that I can tweak placement if I need to. I'm a little uncertain about that area with the pink/salmon strip and curry square. I might lengthen the pink/salmon strip and put the curry square somewhere else (or maybe reverse them), but we'll see how they look after I get a few more rows made. I think the dark brown will play just a small role--a tiny square/rectangle here and there. It is so much darker than the other fabrics that it tends to want to take over when it's cut bigger, but I do like how it keeps my eye moving around. 

Meanwhile, I'll keep putting this puzzle together without a guide, or maybe I should say, model. I do have a guide in my general objective. I'm using a ruler and keeping those little inserted strips about the same width, but otherwise my ruler is merely a straight-edge, not a strict measuring tool. It's really quite fun! 

I still want to make a few changes to the outer edges of some of the printed rows to balance them out a bit, but I'll wait until I have more of the sashing done before I do that.

I'm linking up with Kaja at Sew Slowly and Ann at Fret Not Yourself. Either link will take you to the party. Go check them out, and see what fun other quilters are having with improv. I'm going to do the same, even though there are two squirrels of the quilty variety jumping up and down in front of me. I doubt I'll resist them for much longer. More on those later...

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!