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.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

K's Quilt

You may have noticed I've been sort of absent on social media lately. When that happens, it usually means that I'm so wrapped up in a project that I just can't tear myself away. A couple of weeks ago I had a sudden need to make a quilt. My daughter sent me a heartbreaking message that a friend of hers (one of the first people she met when she started college) had been diagnosed with cancer and was anticipating chemotherapy after surgery. My daughter wondered whether I was up for making a quilt. I didn't need even a split second to answer that question and immediately went into overdrive to make it as quickly as possible.

About three years ago I had made another suddenly-needed quilt for someone. That quilt was much smaller to be used with a wheelchair, but I remembered that it only took a few days to make. I decided to make that pattern--All in a Row by Leni Levenson Wiener from her book 3-Fabric Quilts. I liked the modern simplicity of the design. Here's what that quilt looked like:



This quilt needed to be bigger--I thought roughly 60 inches square would work nicely. My daughter's only instruction was to make it pretty--cheerful. I spent a lot of time at a local fabric store taking pictures of fabric and consulting with my daughter by message (what did I ever do before I had a smartphone?!!) before settling on these two fabrics for the main part of the quilt:

I'm not sure what drew me to these, but I thought they had kind of a folkloric vibe. And later while I was sewing, I discovered that the brighter fabric actually has ghost images of the circles in the lighter fabric. Do you see them? (Look above the butterfly.) And they are from two different designers and fabric companies. 

That decision was pretty easy, but I got stuck when picking the accent fabric for the squares. I thought I wanted some kind of orange print but never found exactly what I was looking for. I ended up buying several orange and reddish fabrics as well as some yellow and then tried out lots of variations. None of the arrangements of orange alone, yellow alone, or a combination of the two seemed right. Finally after lots of experimenting with my Quiltography app (LOVE that app) I decided to combine the yellow and orange into a bordered square. Before cutting fabric I "made" the block with my app. (The yellow here is not what I ended up with, but it was what I had in my "stash" on my app at the time.)



I actually tried several widths of the border and laid them out as whole quilts on the app and then sent the various versions in a message to my daughter to see what she liked best. We settled on 2 1/2 inch yellow squares with 3/4 inch borders (finished). 


Did I say I LOVE this app? Oh, I did? Yes, I do. I could waste a lot of time just making virtual quilts. 

It took me a long time to settle on those squares, but once I did, sewing the quilt top was a snap. And then the back... I tried out several backs on my Quiltography app based on the amount of fabric I had left.



I settled on the third one, with some added orange borders on the yellow strip. The scale of the fabrics isn't right, but it did help me choose how I wanted to make the back. 

Inspired by the luscious wavy quilting that Lorna over at Sew Fresh Quilts does, I tried my own wavy quilting. Well maybe I should call mine wobble quilting. I have a long way to go to master the smooth curves of the technique, but it was fun and added a wonderful puffy texture. I decided to do a matched binding--well not matched. Maybe reverse matched? Fun! I'm pretty sure I'll make this quilt again someday. I keep thinking of different ways to do the fabric combinations--but I would also like to try the wavy quilting in the same direction as the strips instead of across them. In fact, I had second thoughts about doing the lines crosswise when I was halfway done, but it would have been REALLY dumb to pick out what I had done and start over!

Okay, how about some pictures? Of the real quilt.  A lot of pictures. It was raining all day yesterday and now there are big puddles at the base of the fence I usually use for photo shoots. So my husband came to the rescue with his long arms and held up the quilt on the front porch. Today is delightfully sunny with almost no breeze!! Yippee!


I also tried some photos in our crabapple tree sans leaves.

Some breeze back there and dappled sunlight, but still fun.


How about some close ups?

Did you catch that reverse-matched binding?

Super close-up. Do you see my initials and date in teeny tiny stitches?




Oh, why not a few more?



Here are the stats:
Design: Variation of All In A Row by Leni Levenson Wiener
Fabric: Faithfully Yours by Barb Tourtillotte for Clothworks; Roman Glass in Pastel by Kaffe Fassett for Free Spirit; Timeless Treasures of SoHo Studio C 3096 in Citrus (the yellow); Wild by Nature by Kathy Deggendorfer for Maywood Studio (orange). Plus two reddish orange fabrics that I don't have records of. 
Binding: Reverse matched to main fabrics on front. Cut 2 1/4 inches wide and folded for 3/8 inch width. 
Threads: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing. Superior King Tut in Mint Julep for the quilting on the front and in Temple in the bobbin. (Same combination I used on the last quilt I made. I thought I would use up the Mint Julep, but it looks like there's enough for another quilt. Neverending thread cone!!) Superior Treasure Hand Quilting in Old Lace for the hand part of the binding. 
Batting: Hobbs Heirloom Premium 80/20 Bleached Cotton
Size: 61 by 61 inches after piecing; 60 1/4 by 59 3/4 inches after quilting and binding; 58 inches square after machine washing on cold and drying on low.

I pieced K's Quilt on my Singer Featherweight and quilted it with a walking foot on my Singer 115 treadle. 

With the two-colored squares, the quilt has lost the graphic punch of the original design, and maybe it's a little more traditional than folkloric, but I like it. I love the pretty prints and cheerful colors.

One more picture of the yummy texture after washing:

It was fun sharing this quilt with you. But I haven't lost site of the serious need to make it. K's Quilt will soon be on it's way to her with hopes that it will be a comforting hug during therapy and with prayers for healing. God knows she's been on my mind throughout this whole project.

Because I made this quilt feverishly on the spur of the moment, I'm linking to mmm! quilts for the DrEAMi party, even though it's not the kind of DrEAMi project we should ever have to make. Isn't that the way it is so often with quilts that suddenly need to be made? I'm glad I could do it, though. I'm also linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Sew Fresh Quilts for their next weekly linky parties. 




Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Fine Mess

Last month I shared a post about my Deconstructed Coins project, which was prompted by an Ad Hoc Improv Quilters challenge from Ann of Fret Not Yourself and Kaja from Sew Slowly. In that post, I said I would be taking my time with the project. Well, it seems I'm taking a lot more time than I thought I would. This project was sidelined for the past two weeks by a sudden need to make a different quilt. I'll share that project in a few days. 

Meanwhile, I'll share what I did get done earlier in the month. I added a few more sliced coins and then put them up on the wall pretty randomly. I also cut a few coin shaped pieces from some coordinating solids to try out an idea that kept going through my mind. I put them up on the wall as you see here:

My thought was to place the printed coins vertically in rows and then use solids horizontally in columns so that the printed and solid coins would sort of "weave" through each other. I added some more of the printed coins (without the slices of solids in them) and more of the solids to try to get better idea. Here is the result after it hung on the wall the last couple of weeks. Notice there are lots of holes where I ran out of cut solids. Some pieces also fell off as I brushed against them while working on my other project. I just kind of threw them back on the wall, and some ended up in a bowl somewhere. 

Every time I walk by I think, "well there's another fine mess I've gotten myself into." When I stand back from the wall, it all just looks muddy and choppy, and the solids start to take over as the dominant feature, which is not what I intended. I finished my other project today, so now I'll get back to playing with this one. I need to intersperse more coins without the little slice in them, and maybe try some other options for the solids. Perhaps put some of them vertically along with the prints or use some longer strips to make sashing instead of columns, or maybe include some white sashes to help the prints stand out more. 

Who knows where this will end up? I sure don't. But I'm going to keep at it. I'm sure it will continue to be a slow project. Stay tuned. Hopefully things will sort themselves out over time. 

I'm linking up with the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters because even though I haven't made much progress, I'm keeping it real and making myself accountable to follow through on this project. Feel free to comment away with your two cents worth of ideas.