Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sharon's Progress

To clarify, that would be her progress as of last week. I have been so lax in posting, that a full week later, I am just now getting around to posting this.

Sharon worked diligently on her second version of Chock Full of Charms. You can click back here to see her beginning it. The yardstick is for marking the lines where she will eventually cut. The time consuming part for her was to try to keep like fabrics from touching when sewn back together on point. She removed and repositioned, and still found that more was necessary after all was said and done. No pics of that, unfortunately, but she took it home to work things out.

Today she is back and we are set to get lots done. Hopefully I will bring you news of our accomplishments in under a week this time.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Problem Solving

First, let's take a moment to honor and remember our veterans who have served and sacrificed for our country. We honor and thank them for their service and for our freedoms.

I left yesterday's post with a bit of a tease: what was going on with the edge of my quilt?

Let me explain. One of harder things (for me) to figure out when reaching borders or in this case edges of quilts in a quilting frame is how to stitch those borders or edges while also keeping the quilt as taut as possible. This had me stymied until I recalled how my grandmother handled the sides of a quilt when it was in her old, traditional-style quilt frame.

The picture above is vintage  - probably 1980s - but it's the only one I have of Grandma at her quilt frame. If you look at the edge that's in front of me, you can see some slack on that side. Grandma had strips of muslin - usually just two for each side - that she used to stretch the quilt taut on the horizontal. The quilt frame took care of tautness on the vertical.

I figured that what worked for Grandma would also work for me, so I found scrap strips of fabric and some straight pins. I positioned the quilt so that the edge I needed to access was just a couple of inches away from the frame. After pulling all three other sides as tight as possible, I pinned one end of each strip to the underside of the quilt at regular intervals on the edge I wanted to quilt. Then I pulled it under the bar of the frame and back towards the quilt on the top. I gently tugged the quilt outward to an acceptable tautness and pinned the strip.  Can you see it from the pictures I've provided?

This gives me access to quilt right to the edge of the quilt, and I have the tautness I desire for pleasing results. What an ingenious method - one that is at least a century old. And if Grandma used this method, there's a good chance that she saw her own mother use it, and perhaps even farther back the line.


Well, back to quilting, and I hope you all enjoy your Memorial Day picnics!

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hand Quilting

It has been a slow and lazy Sunday here at the homestead. We had baseball on television - Tribe vs. Orioles (Tribe lost) - this afternoon, so I took the opportunity to get in some good quality quilting time.

Even with a ballgame on, I still find my mind wandering as I stitch; and these particular stitches reminded me of dimples. I like dimply quilts, and I am fortunate to own several. Grandma hand quilted quite a few that are upstairs in the closet or the cupboard. Some she pieced for me; some she pieced for others; some I pieced, but she hand quilted nearly everything.

This particular quilt I am currently working on has not had a single machine touch it, unless you count an iron. I hand pieced the entire quilt top, beginning way back in the late 1990s when I needed hand projects for road trips to cross country and track meets. After I had all the stars made, I decided to attach them to one another with the muslin diamonds. That gave me more hand work to do. Over time, I had a quilt top on my hands, and I had no idea of how to finish it because of the uneven edges. That's when it went into a decade-long hibernation. In late 2014, I decided to bite the bullet and make the remaining bits to finish off the quilt top; I remember the excruciating decision to c-c-c-cut some star points off just to have a squared-up quilt. (It was not as hard as I imagined.)

I began hand quilting last November; I put it away over Christmas and brought it out again this spring. I decided that I could quilt while watching Final Four, MLB and NBA. I have been relatively productive, and I find myself now having to deal with edges.

I wonder if you can figure out what I've got going on there on the right-hand side of the quilt? It's a trick learned from Grandma when she quilted at her old quilting frame. I adapted it to my Q-Snap frame. Come on back tomorrow and I will explain.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Gray Stripes, Anyone?

I haven't been overly busy this week on Elisa's modern king-size quilt, but I have made significant progress - enough to know that I am heading in the right direction, and that it is going to come together very easily. Besides working on this, I am continuing my hand quilting on the 6-pointed star quilt.

If you recall, I cut all the strips into two lengths - 18" and 24". That 24-inch measurement is going to be adjusted eventually, because not all my fabrics were exactly 42" wide. So the resulting measurement might be more in the range of 21 or 22 inches.

But that's a problem to work out later.

Right now, my goal is to sew all the long columns together. I decided to go with doing all the 24-inch columns first, to see if I have cut enough to make a king-size length - somewhere in the range of 100-105 inches.

I brought all my 24" strips over to the sewing machine, and began randomly grabbing two at a time, sewing them together in chain-piecing fashion. What started out as neat and orderly stacks quickly became a tangled mess, but the system worked, so I kept going. Click back here to see "neat and orderly."

After pressing all the random pairs, I took the strips to the guest room and spread them out on the bed to see how they'd look. Through all, I am trying to be as random as possible.

I snapped the pictures and sent them to Elisa. Waiting on her reply was excruciating - like waiting to see if your name has been drawn for a grand prize - but I didn't have to wait long and she gave it a resounding thumbs up. She used words like "pumped" and "OH.MY.GOODNESS" - I think I'm doing okay. *grin*

Since these pictures were taken, I have sewn more 24" strips together, pressed them, and laid them out on the bed. I will add on until I get 3 lengths in that king-size range.

In addition to working on this quilt, I had to read a book for our book club meeting (later today). This month's selection was Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen. I spent Wednesday reading it, and it was a mostly satisfying effort. It was a bit impatient at times, for it seemed like she could have been a bit less tedious in unfolding her narrative. On the plus side, I liked the characters and her skill with describing a setting is magnificent. I won't hesitate to read another of her books, certainly.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Frankfort Girls Update

Friday morning found me playing hostess to our little quilting group that I have fondly dubbed Frankfort Girls, even though not all live in Frankfort anymore. Nonetheless, it helps me to differentiate, so that is what I go with.

Brunch consisted of an extra-gooey, yummy sticky-bun (recipe courtesy of Pinterest) complemented by a big bowl of fresh strawberries. One freshly cut rose from my DH's bushes dotted table center.

On the counter, I put more flowers from hubby's gardens - these full and fluffy irises which have been especially showy this year.

Our numbers were small; only 50% strength! Three were absent; three attended. Here's a look at what we worked on.

Jan was stitching the binding on a fun fall-themed quilt that she colored with crayons.

She purchased the set of panels as line drawn designs, and used regular school crayons to color each one, even going so far as to blend colors. (Jan knows a little bit about coloring; she was a primary school teacher in her previous life.)

Sheryll worked on quilting a patriotic wall hanging that looks simply spectacular. I'd love to have this to display for the Fourth of July.

My own work consisted of continued quilting on my 6-pointed star quilt. If I can make myself maintain my current pace, this quilt might actually be finished soon. I recently moved it - again - to a new section and have begun running into edges! This is significant progress!

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cutting for a Commission

The big quilt I've been commissioned to make for Elisa has been weighing on my mind, so I figured I'd better just get busy on it.

Last Tuesday, when Sharon was here to sew, I worked entirely on cutting.

I have to say that this is a quilt I am inventing as I go; consequently, I am also making decisions as I go. My original thought was that I would use 3 widths of fabric - 2 inches; 3 inches; and 3.5 inches. That is what you see above.

As I have no idea how much I need to cut, I just stopped there, and gave more thought to my process. I checked the inspiration picture that we found on Pinterest. This made me think I needed more size variety.


Back to cutting - this time doing more narrow strips - 1.5 inches, and more 2 inches. I also added more of the darker fabrics, as I understand that Elisa prefers this quilt to be darker to match her bedroom decor.

It still looks too light as I study this big pile of strips.

Maybe it will be darker as I begin sewing the strips together.

I have spent a good amount of time thinking about how I will construct this as efficiently as possible. I know that I am going to have 5 vertical sections on this quilt, which is to be king size. I estimate that I will go with 24", 18", 24", 18" and 24 ". This comes to 108". It may actually end up being slightly smaller, but still will turn out to be king size, even if it goes down to 105". I have cut all these strips into 18" and 24" segments, and now I am ready to do some power sewing.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sharon Is On A Roll!

Don't we all know that sewing with others is a good way to make ourselves stay focused and productive? I firmly believe it works that way for me. And I suspect it's true for Sharon as well, as I show you her recent productivity.

When she was here on Tuesday, she finished the center portion of her color block quilt; it is now ready for its border which will be 8.5" of white. The colors will look like they are floating on the white and it will be spectacular.

When she had that quilt center done, she went to work on a second Chock Full of Charms quilt, this time using 3 Charm Packs from Laundry Basket Quilts called Heart's Content.

And she got pretty far along with construction, as shown below.

We know from our previous Chock Full experience that this will be a winner, for sure.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mini Quilts on the Walls

Hand quilting on the 6-pointed star quilt does not make for riveting blog posts, so I will show you a couple of quilt displays that I pass every time I walk into my sewing room.

Since retiring in 2009, I have made lots of little quilts. (That was a goal upon retiring: make stuff, and lots of it.) *grin*

Consequently, when figuring out how to store all of it, I have had to think outside the box. But not too far, actually, because quilters put their creations on the walls all the time. However, I just never thought about doing it upstairs in our hallway and in my sewing room. So let me show you.

The two pictures above are one wall of the hallway leading to the sewing room. The sewing room is further to the right in that second picture. Nearly all have been made and/or finished since retiring.

In the top picture we have the little 4-patch doll quilt that I made earlier this year on a whim. (Thanks to Pinterest!) And next to it is the Pincushion Stars also made earlier this year. These are the two newest quilts of the bunch.

Under Pincushion is Pink Lemonade, a quilt made in a QAL with Lori from Humble Quilts Blog. The small square star is made with Patriotic fabrics using a paper-piecing pattern. It's the oldest of the bunch; I made it years and years ago and gave it to my grandmother who kept it on her bar, often with a candle on it. Upon her death, it came back to me.

On the end, shown in the second picture is a Schnibbles quilt called Tagalong.

On the wall opposite are these two mini quilts, above. The one on the left is a Thimbleberries pattern, and the one on the right is Midnight Stars, another QAL from Humble Quilts.

 Standing in the doorway to my sewing room you see a design wall straight ahead. I have my hexie project up there and down below is a Lucy Boston block. Beside the design wall are more minis.

The brown and navy quilt is yet another Humble Quilts QAL called Midwinter Blues. Then there is my Friendship Wreath - remember when I made 8 of these at Christmas time for the Frienzies? This one was my prototype. Under those we have a little heart mini from a Thimbleberries pattern and a solitary star, an orphan block also from a Thimbleberries pattern. The two stacked minis are two versions of my own design used in the hand-piecing class I taught last year at Spark! Creative Space.

My hand quilting on the 6-pointed star continues as a respectable pace. I moved the quilt to a new section earlier today; that's always a satisfying accomplishment.

Tomorrow Sharon will be coming and I have no idea what I will work on. It's not like I don't have an extensive to-do list; I expect I will find something.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Hexie Tutorial

About a week ago, I posted about the hand-stitching project I worked on when the Frankfort Girls met at Sheryll's. If you want to go back and read that post, I will wait...

Did you read all the way down to the comment? Karen, a no-reply commenter, asked if I would do a tutorial on making these, so today, I will show you step-by-step how I did it. Is it the only way? Of course not. But it's my way. So let's begin.

First I will explain that when I cut out that first batch of hexagons - hexies, for short - I had a proper template. Since it was borrowed and now returned, for demonstration purposes here, I am using one of the hexies as a template. If I were going to need lots of them, I would certainly get a real template. Another option for a hard-core hexie project, would be to use one of those die-cutters - I think 2 popular brands are Go-Cutter and Cricut.

Since my hexagon is 4" wide, I cut a strip of fabric to that width. Then I lay the template on that strip and line up my ruler for the first cut.
I definitely layer several fabrics and cut multiples to save time. Depending on how skilled you are with a rotary cutter and ruler, you could easily cut 6 or 8 layers. I would not feel comfortable doing more than that, but perhaps really confident seamstresses would.

 Cut as many as you need or want in whatever variety you want. Since I am just stitching to be stitching and I don't have a particular project I'm cutting for, I stopped cutting when I was sure I had plenty to keep me busy for the next few get-togethers with the girls.

And that pretty much sums up my cutting method.

Moving on to my sewing method: I considered doing the EPP (English Paper Piecing) method for these, but that is an extra - and somewhat tedious - step that I knew I could skip. If I were working with tiny little hexies, I probably would have used the EPP method, but with these big boys, I knew I didn't need to.

Let me say here that I truly enjoy hand-piecing and all hand-sewing. I always have, and I don't rightly know to what this can be attributed. Off the top of my head, I can think of about 5 full-size quilts that I have hand-pieced. (The 6-pointed star that I am currently hand-quilting was entirely hand-pieced. Interestingly, it has a hexie in the center of each star. Click here to take a quick peek.)

The key thing to remember when sewing hexies is NOT to sew end-to-end. You have to leave a quarter-inch free at each intersection in order to turn the hexie into the next piece of fabric without having little puckers and pleats. In the photo above, my finger is pulling back the fabric to show the quarter-inch seam allowance. If you look at the other corner, you can see how I turned the corner leaving the seam allowance free of stitches.

Here's another angle of a turned corner. I often take a stitch on top of a stitch at intersections just to add strength. You can see that I have not drawn stitching lines, but you could. I probably did draw lines when I was a beginner, but I've been hand-piecing for so long now that I can pretty well 'eye-ball' my seam lines. I have noticed that using a smaller needle will yield smaller stitches, but I usually just grab whatever needles happen to be handy.

 Here is a block ready to be added to the project. I match it with the edge of the piece I'm stitching it to and begin a quarter-inch in from the the edge. Note where my needle is inserted above.

 I work my way across the block taking about 3 stitches at a time before pulling the thread through.

When I get to the end, I either knot it and snip the thread, or I take a second stitch at the end before turning the corner and beginning the next seam. If you really study the seam above, you can see that my quarter-inch is not exactly true all the way across. If I get way, way off, then I will remove stitches and do it over. In this case, I think the discrepancy is negligible, so I am leaving it as is.

The quilt police aren't going to inspect this so carefully as to call me on this or any other less-than-perfect aspects of my work, which I assure you, are plentiful! I know that imperfections exist in all quilts, so I have learned not to sweat the small stuff. If I were a total OCD-type, however, I can see where this seam would be troublesome.

And there you  have it. My tutorial on making a hexie project. Leave a comment if something needs additional explanation. What seems basic to me might not be so crystal-clear to another, and while I am by no means an expert, I am glad to help if I can.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hand Quilting Update

Lest you think I have not been tending to the hand quilting project I took downstairs about a week ago, let me assure you that I have been working steadily on it. I have the calloused fingers to show for it, too.

Last time I wrote about resuming this project, I mentioned that I was close to moving to a new section, as that current section was nearly entirely quilted. I have now done that, and surprisingly, I find that I am tooling right along on this new section. Yesterday, for example, I loaded 10 needles and quilted all of them! Now, this was not done all in one sitting, but when I set a goal of a certain number of needles to quilt, then I find that I stay on task better.

 One block quilted. I don't mark my quilting lines, so some lines are a bit crooked and some are not as "on" the quarter-inch line as I would like, but when it's all finished, no one will notice or care.

 My tools. I went shopping for a new thimble earlier in the week, but couldn't find this kind in the stores I visited. I did buy those rubber needle grippers (the pink and blue things). These help me pull the needle out when I've loaded on too many stitches.

Today I am meeting a high school classmate for lunch in Chillicothe. She and her husband live in Pennsylvania and will be in town for an archaeological seminar at our Hopewell Mound site. It will be wonderful to linger over a bowl of hot potato soup and a steaming cuppa' jo and catch up with her!

Happy Quilting, Friends!