Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tree Quilt

Sandra over at mmm!quilts told me this was a squirrel. I didn't think of it while I was making it, but she's right!

It all started with this doodle I made while watching TV (yes a "bad" Christmas movie) a few evenings ago.
The next morning, I grabbed some newsprint and drew a rectangle on it using an old cutting mat as a template. Eyeballing proportions, I drew some wonky-ish horizontal lines and then diagonals, pretty much like my doodle. I had decided to paper foundation piece (or I guess you could say string piece) the quilt, not for precision, but to keep the size contained so that the quilt would fit on my front door. I taped the drawing to my patio door window and traced it in reverse onto another piece of newsprint. That way I could save the pattern in case I ever want to make another similar quilt. Here's my "lightbox" window. A bit dark here. I think it was raining--or even snowing a bit outside. There are lots of scribbles, as I kept changing my mind about the order of piecing while I made notations. Yup, a squirrel. No time for neatness.
I cut my pattern into five horizontal rows. Then I dug into my drawerful of greens, thinking I'd use up some of my ancient stash. (Yeah, right. I barely made a dent.) For each section of the quilt I quickly laid out some fabrics. The only thing I really paid attention to was making sure there was a sprinkling of white in each section--sort of like snow on the branches.
I chose three blues in graduated tints (or is it values) for the sky. That was easy because I have my fabric colors arranged by value. I just grabbed three that were next to each other--and luckily there was enough of each for three rows. And for the white fabric, I chose Kona Snow. Of course!
Sorry, bad lighting and focus here. 
I stitched my five strips, roughly following the lines I had drawn.

Then joined them--and that was that! 

I found a piece of blue print for the back--it's the leftover of a quilt I made many years ago and has some mystery stains, so it works well to cut up for small quilt backs. I quilted abstract bough shapes in each green strip of the tree, wavy "drifts" in the snow and tiny circular loops in the sky to mimic blowing snowflakes. Then I dug into my drawer once more for some red for the binding. I was tempted to add a star or some button ornaments, but in the end I decided to leave it simple so that I can display it throughout the winter.

Here it is on the door again.

And the back, that no one will see. Except here.

And on the driveway in the sun to show the quilting texture. (I love doing dense quilting on tiny projects!)


I tried to get a picture of the front of the house with the quilt on the door, but the time of day wasn't right. I'll try to get one later after I decorate outside.

This was such a fun little project. And I am thrilled that no shopping trip was involved in the making. I was going to treat it with anti-UV spray to resist fading but decided not to. Some of the fabrics are very old (like from the '80s!) and brittle, with very unstable dye. I didn't want to risk bleeding from the greens and red into the light fabrics. So I'll just cross my fingers and hope that I'll get a couple of seasons out of it before it fades too much. I can do that with a no-cost project, I think. And then I can make another. 

Here are some quick stats:
Pattern: My own doodle
Size: 18 1/2 by 24 1/2 inches. I started with an 18 by 24 cutting mat for the pattern, but left extra fabric when sewing so I could add binding width to the size. 
Fabrics: All scraps
Batting: Hobbs Premium 80/20 scrap.
Thread: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; Aurifil 40 wt. in Pewter (2630) for quilting in tree (seems finer than what I usually use for quilting, but it's what I had available for quilting dark fabrics.); Superior King Tut in White Linen for quilting snow and sky. 
Quilting: Treadle Free-motion
Binding: Cut 2 1/2 inches for about a 3/8 inch width.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 treadle for quilting and binding. 

Okay, one more photo--close up on the driveway:
Forgot to quilt my initials and date, so I embroidered them after it was done.
I'm linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social, Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it Up Friday, Lizzie Lenard Vintage Sewing for Free Motion MavericksQuilting is More Fun than Housework for Oh, Scrap and with mmm!quilts for DrEAMi because this is definitely a Drop Everything And Make it quilt. Yup, a squirrel. I'll link up with the parties as they go live. You might have noticed that I have removed the linky buttons from the sidebar on the right. I discovered that a certain photo storage company has defaced my blog with ugly icons covering up some of the link buttons. So I've decided to just remove them all. I'll still be sure to provide links in my posts. That's probably easier for people who link up from apps anyway, but it was fun to promote my favorite linky parties with those buttons. Sigh. Such is digital life.

Have a good week, everybody, and if you live in the US, Happy Thanksgiving! (This quilt won't go up on my door until the day after!)



Saturday, November 11, 2017

Quilt for Vegas

I've been away from social media more than I've been on it recently, but a few weeks ago I noticed that the Las Vegas Modern Quilt Guild was collecting quilts to give to first responders and families of victims of the mass shooting there on October 1. They were asking for quilts (as well as quilt components and financial support) made from Grayscale blocks and heart blocks from patterns by Cluck Cluck Sew. The recommendation was for each block to be made from white fabric and a cheerful color. So while I was on vacation in East Tawas a couple of weeks ago, I selected some bright prints in rainbow colors at the Ben Franklin store for my contribution. I'm not sure why I chose those colors--probably because that was the range of colors of the sample quilt the guild shared and I liked the look. Certainly cheerful! I already had some white fabric, so I figured I was all set, and on October 31, I got started. 

Okay, first a teaser. Then the story of how this came to be. Then some photos and stats--

My first decision was to make just Block A of the Grayscale blocks and place them in a zig zag like in the sample quilt. And I thought I might mix things up and make the colored parts of the block scrappy. I also thought I would make the quilt from 42 blocks (41 Grayscale blocks plus 1 heart block). While cutting strips, I realized that I did not have enough white fabric, so I made a quick run to the closest fabric store for some Kona White. When I got home, I noticed that the fabric didn't look and feel quite like the white I already had. Perhaps that first white wasn't Kona after all. No problem. I cut the rest of my pieces and then stacked the two sets of white randomly so that if they looked or felt different from each other, it would look like I planned it that way. 

Before I started chain piecing everything, I decided to make a test block. Here's what that looked like: one pieced, one laid out.

I have to say, it just wasn't grabbing me. Since then, I have seen other quilts made with scrappy colored blocks, and I like them a lot, but I just couldn't picture the end result. I stopped sewing long enough to color some ideas on graph paper.



Somewhere along the line, I knew that what I really wanted to do was make each block with white and just one color. I colored 7 blocks of each color, cut them out and then just played with different arrangements of the 42 blocks. As I messed around with them, I discovered that the arrangements I liked best were actually square quilts made with 36 blocks.

I kept arranging and came up with this:
It looks like it, but no wine was involved.
And finally, this:
The blank spot is for the heart
So much easier than making a bunch of blocks and then arranging them on a design wall. Since I had cut enough material for 42 blocks, I decided to make them all and put leftovers on the back. Once all those decisions were made, piecing was a piece of cake and the top was done in no time. I made one more trip to the store for backing fabric and batting (no wait, it was two trips; on the first trip, the store was closed due to a power outage--that's a whole other story I won't go into here).

I really wanted to do something special with the quilting, but my time was limited. My plan was to quilt straight lines (or something like that) in the colored parts and meanders in the background. I pin basted carefully (I thought) and then did the background quilting first. Not the best idea I've had. After the background was done, I could tell that the colored strips were too puckery on the front--and especially on the back--to do straight lines without problems with pleating. I ended up doing meanders in the colored parts, too. During that time, I had all manner of problems with my presser bar adjustment, needles breaking, and tension problems, and I spent a couple of frustrating hours cleaning, oiling, adjusting and doing whatever else I could to get things back on track. The quilting on the front didn't look like I had envisioned it, and it looked worse on the back with lots of bunching. I was so bummed. 

I pressed on. I had enough fabric to make a scrappy binding. I placed the colors pretty much randomly but made sure that I did not use the color of whatever block was next to the binding. It went together without issue, and I spent Thursday evening and Friday hand stitching it to the back while watching Christmas movies (really, already!) on TV.

As soon as the quilt was done, I ran outside to photograph it on our neighbor's fence. The light was terrible, so I'm not going to show you those photos. It was also freezing--literally. Temps in the 20's (F). Cold for this time of year, and especially after having ridiculously warm weather this autumn. Here are the bits of snow that stayed on the ground ALL DAY because it was so cold. Thanks, Canada. I'm assuming this is a gift from you.

I ran back in the house and threw the quilt in the washer and then the dryer, drying it on medium instead of low to work as many crinkles into the back as possible. And you know what? It worked. It came out cozy and just crinkly enough to hide the problems. This is the second quilt I've made this year that gave me fits on the back. Both quilts were made in haste, so maybe that's part of the problem. I may not have been careful enough to pull the backing taut. But I'm thinking now that some adjustment problems with my presser bar might have been putting too much drag on the quilt, so before I do the next one, I'll have to do a little more fiddling. But I sure am glad that a good wash and drying cover up the problems. I took more pictures this morning, with decent light in our living room and on the driveway, and now I'm pleased to share what I made. 



This next one is actually from the evening photos, but I wanted to record my initials/date. See the blue cast? Thanks, Eastern Standard Time change.

Still cold (below freezing), but sunny.

And a bit windy.

Texture!

Self-portrait--the challenge of sunny.


I had to restrain myself from grabbing fabric markers and coloring in the backing.



I have two leftover blocks, which I'll send along with the quilt for other quilts.

How about some stats?
Dates constructed: October 31 to November 10, 2017
Pattern: Grayscale Block A  and Heart Block from Cluck Cluck Sew
Fabrics: Kona White and possibly other white (who knows); Polynesian Waters by Liora Manne for EBI fabrics (turquoise); Greta Lynn's Boo Basics Baby Zebra in Orange for KANVAS Benartex; KANVAS Studio's Zoo Baby Plaid Yellow, Benartex; mystery green, red and purple fabrics (no info on selvage, and no bolt info because they were flat folds), Coloring Book Floral in Black and White Keepsake Cotton (Joann)

Batting: Warm and White
Thread: Superior Masterpiece cotton in Granite for piecing; Superior King Tut cotton in White Linen for quilting and machine binding, Superior Treasure cotton in Old Lace for Hand stitching binding.
Binding: cut 2 1/4 inch wide, pieced from scraps of front
Size: Blocks: 10 1/2 inches unfinished, Quilt: 60 1/4 inches square pieced; 59 1/4 inches square quilted; 56 1/4 inches square after machine washing on cold and machine drying on medium.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 Treadle for free-motion quilting.



This quilt was a bit more of a challenge than I expected due to traffic/power outage problems, machine issues and quilt bunching, but it's really an easy, versatile pattern, and I have a feeling I'll make it again someday. 

The greatest challenge was trying to make something to cheer victims and responders of one horrific event while hearing the news of other unimaginable, devastating events. When will the madness end? I won't say anything further about it here, but you know how I feel. 


I'm linking up today with Lizzie Lenard Vintage Sewing for Free Motion Mavericks (because this is the first quilt I've been able to totally FMQ in more than a year since my accident), Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop? and Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it Up Friday (yes, this is Saturday, but it was finished on Friday).

Keep quilting comfort!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Stitching and Wanderlust

We've been away again. Autumn is for wanderlust. This time we ran off to the east coast--the sunrise side, and quieter side--of our beautiful state. It was sunny and cool--just as autumn should be. We had a blast staying at a tiny cabin on Lake Huron, and hiking and biking on trails along the lake. It's an area we know almost nothing about because we always seem to gravitate to the more touristy and heavily promoted west coast. Because we were on a bay, we were able to watch both sunrise and sunset each day. What a delight! And at this time of year, we could watch the sunrise without having to get up super early. It was lovely. 

East Tawas, the town we stayed in, had--drum roll, please--a Ben Franklin!! Yay! I remember shopping at Ben Franklin when I was a kid, but there are none near our home, so this was a real treat. Years ago, I would have loitered in the craft department, or maybe candy or toys, but this time I headed straight for the fabric department. I had been looking forward to this all summer. At first, I was a little overwhelmed. There were stacks and stacks of flat folded fabric. I had to narrow my focus a bit, so I decided to buy some half-yard cuts of rainbow solid-ish prints.


And then I spotted a large floral that I just couldn't pass up. Two yards, which is more than I usually buy of one fabric. I have some ideas, but time will tell what I do with this. Isn't it fun?

In the evenings, I worked on the Hollyhocks quilt. The cabin light was dim (cozy!), but I had the foresight to bring along a little high intensity lamp, and that was just right for hand quilting. I had unquilted the parts of the leaves that bothered me, and during our trip was able to finish them with a simpler design.
I like it better. Now all the interesting parts of the quilt are done. The rest will just be background quilting for texture, but that's okay. It will be a good project for evenings this fall. 

Right after we got home from vacation, we ran away for a Saturday bike ride (also on the east side of the state) because the awesome autumn weather was hanging on, and there were predictions for rain this week. But yesterday, I did manage to finish the quilting on the Lake Michigan quilt. 
The color is off here, but low light showed the quilting the best. I used my walking foot to follow the applique'd pieces in the water and land and then did more wavy lines in the sky. Next up is the hand embroidery of the grasses in the foreground. Another evening project--or maybe a deck project if the weather's nice.

This weekend the Grands are coming and we'll be celebrating our youngest grandson's second birthday (and early Halloween). Fun, fun, fun! Next week our lives will settle down a bit, and I hope to get started on a new donation quilt. 

I'll leave you with some pictures of our most recent adventures. Of course, the first photo I took just had to be of a sewing machine we saw while touring the Tawas Point Lighthouse.
We visited the lighthouse at least four times during our trip. And every day the sky was different. A rain storm was just leaving the area when we first arrived.



Our last visit was in the pink light at sunset.

We hiked along Lake Huron and Tawas Bay.

Monarchs flitted ahead of us. The area is a gathering spot for them as they get ready to fly to Mexico. This year they were lingering longer than usual.



Sunset was gorgeous.


But the real thrill for me was sunrise over the water. 


The bike trail led along the bay,


past parks (Isn't this seagull slide cute?),

through an arboretum,
through a meadow--the ghost of a once bustling company town (The houses are long gone, but the odd configuration of trees marks where they once stood),

and along colorful roadsides.
It was everything an autumn vacation should be. A vacation with a coda! That little Saturday ride, might have been through the last of our autumn color. The leaves were falling like glitter, and this week the rain might finish off most of them. 

Okay, enough with the wanderlust. I'm linking up today with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social. Hopefully, I'll have something new to share next week.