Friday, June 22, 2018

Improv Quilt Finish That Took Forever

This past week, I finally finished a long neglected project that I started back in 2014.  You can read about its beginnings HERE

I had been given some corduroy and other fabric by a friend who was cleaning out her scraps.  After making a little corduroy and flannel quilt, I took the left over corduroy scraps, along with some other scraps from deconstructed clothing, and started playing, improv style.  I even made a video about it (see above link).

I had in mind a Gee's Bend style quilt, something like this one:
(Image source)
My quilt top was completed in late 2014.  In 2015, I started quilting it (see HERE and HERE).  First, ditch quilting to hold the layers together, then hand quilting in a few places with pearl cotton. 

What bothered me a little was that I wasn't able to bury my knots in the quilt.  I tried hiding them in a seam where I could, but it seemed that more often than not, they were going to be visible on the back. 
- - -
Let me digress for a minute here and tell you a funny/interesting story.  It'll relate back to this quilt, I promise.

This past winter, February 2018, I went to a presentation by Heidi Parkes at the Museum of Wisconsin Art.  I didn't know anything about her, just that she was a quilter, and that was enough for me.  I did know that I had a serious case of cabin fever and needed to get out of the house.  The weather was cooperative that day, so I hopped in the car and drove a couple counties over to where she was speaking.

(Heidi Parkes at MOWA)
She talked about her process, how she came to quilting from not a sewing background, but from an art background.  She used repurposed clothing, linens, etc. in her work, and she often hand quilted with pearl cotton across the entire quilt in lovely, long parallel lines.

During the Q and A, I asked her how she hid her knots.

She said she didn't.

She explained that she just started with a long, long thread (however long she needed) and quilted in one continuous line until she reached the other end of the quilt.  That blew my mind!

I realized she didn't have any particular rules ingrained in her (like I did) about not using a super long thread when hand sewing or quilting, because...I don't know, it might knot or otherwise be too unwieldy? 

For Heidi, having a long distance to quilt meant using a long thread.  Simple as that!
- - -
Back to my improv quilt, my intention for finishing the quilt had initially been that I would free motion quilt the rest of it...somehow, some way, some day, no real clue as to a specific plan.

Having no real direction, and a varying sense of indifference bordering on disappointment, it was easy to let myself get distracted by shinier things. 

Fast forward to last week.  I picked up the quilt to move it (AGAIN), but then stopped to look at it more closely.  Then, I can't say "I decided to finish it," but I decided to thread a needle and take another stab at it, literally. 

I made it up as I went along. Moving around the quilt, looking at what it needed where.

Starting with some vertical lines through the center portion, which had always seemed so starkly divided looking to me.  

Some cross-hatching stitches, too.

Hand quilting some single lines here, and parallel lines there.

More cross-hatching stitches.  

I thought of Heidi Parkes as I stitched long parallel lines in the borders of the quilt, with several feet of thread in my needle, sufficient to make it from one end to the other without stopping.  It worked just fine.

Finally, in the tan corduroy spaces inside the border, I didn't have a coordinating colored thread, so tried simply tying the quilt there in a contrasting thread.  That didn't look right by itself.  Anchored with buttons, though, it was better and added a little something.

And soon enough, that was that.

It measures about 40 inches square(ish).  The back is a vintage thrifted piece.

It's currently on the wall in the living room.  No more moving it around the sewing room, neglected and unfinished.  It's officially done!

Linking to:  Can I Get a Whoop-Whoop?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

It's the Little Things

This is absolutely my favorite time of year.  I just came back from a walk and the sky was such a clear blue, the trees and lawns so lushly green, new flowers vivid and bright, the air light and breezy.  What's not to love?
(View from the bike trail a couple weeks ago.)
(Another bike trail view.)
Pollen, I suppose.  Mosquitoes, depending on the time of day.  There are those too, but the good things far outweigh the nuisances most days.

I have been posting regularly on Facebook (mostly family in that group), but I need to catch up a bit here on the blog.  
(Purple martins enjoying the evening.)
Sewing-wise, I've finished up a couple small things in the past few weeks.  These star pillows, from Dad's shirts and ties, got backs made and were stuffed.
I used a denim shirt of Dad's for the back of one.  He was a big man, so his size XXL shirt back was just right for an 18-1/2 inch, envelope style pillow back.  For the other pillow back, I just used a medium brown Kona cotton.
My niece got married last September and my Dad was able to attend the wedding.  She posted a picture on Facebook recently where I noticed Dad was wearing the blue shirt I'd used in the pillows, so I gave her one of them as a keepsake.
I also picked up the memory quilt from Betty, the longarm quilter.  She did a great job with an overall design.
(Memory quilt from Dad's shirts.)
I bound the quilt in the same brown Kona as mentioned above for the pillow back.

As I was tidying up the sewing space recently, I came upon a small pile of bonus half-square triangles.  I thought I'd given the whole lot of these to a friend to whom I'd recently sent a box of orphan blocks.  Yet here were some stragglers that got left behind.
Well, you know how it goes when you start playing with scraps.  Pretty soon I had them laid out, then sewn together, then bordered, etc.  And then I thought it needed buttons, just because.
I call this a procrastination project.  Had other things I probably should have been doing, but following this little bunny trail seemed more compelling.  

Another thing I found while putting things away was an Amish doll quilt flimsy I'd pieced well over 15 years ago.

(Found Amish doll quilt flimsy)
I'd stuffed it way back in a drawer.  I remember being somewhat disappointed in the fact that I'd had to piece the border in two places because the scrap of purple fabric I was using wasn't quite long enough.  And I didn't want to buy more fabric just to finish a silly little doll quilt.  

It makes me chuckle now, remembering that I was bummed about the minor details of having a couple extra seams in a border.  Since then, I've pieced together a lot of borders and know it doesn't matter much at all in the scheme of things.

I also remember getting to the "now what?" point after it was a flimsy.  I didn't have any free-motion quilting skills yet, and the thought of hand quilting felt like too much effort.  So it was put away.

After rediscovering it recently, I decided it deserved finishing.  And so I did.
I used a walking foot and cross-hatched the center part in red thread.  Then I used an older plastic template I had to chalk on an outline for the wavy braid-like border.  I used a vintage turquoise thread from the 1970s called "Super Sheen" (thrifted!) to quilt the border, again with the walking foot.
Interestingly, I had bought that template for an Amish quilter to use many years ago.  She hand-quilted a Smoky Mountain Stars quilt for me and used the same quilting design in the border.

Next in line (maybe) is to finish quilting a String-X quilt that's been basted and waiting for a few weeks already.  It might be aged just enough to start—unless I find another procrastination project in the meantime.   
And did I mention it's my favorite time of year?  There are trails to hike or bike, roses to smell, sunsets to watch...

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Hands2Help Quilt

My donation to this year's Hands2Help charity quilt challenge was a scrap quilt that came from bonus half-square triangles resulting from another quilt (blogged about HERE).

The fabric is from a beautiful layer cake of Aspen Frost I'd won in the H2H participants' giveaway in 2016.
Once I sewed all the bonus HSTs together, I added a wide border to bring it up to a comfortable lap quilt size, about 58 x 63.
I used some other winter-themed fabrics in the scrappy backing.
This was sent off to Quilty Hugs for Happy Chemo.  My hope is that it will brighten someone's day, perhaps during the holiday season, as they're going through treatment and recovery.

During the past few months, I've also donated a few quilts locally.  There was an incident in our city earlier in the year where a man was making explosives in his apartment and there was an explosion and fire.  Not only did he destroy himself and his own apartment, but the entire complex had to be evacuated and, some weeks later, leveled completely due to the risk of further explosions and structural instability.  Fifteen or so families were never able to return to their homes after the initial blast. 

There were several fundraisers in the community to raise money for those displaced.  I went through my quilt closet and selected three quilts to be donated for silent auctions or raffles.

This 16-patch and X-block quilt (blogged HERE and HERE) was one I'd made a couple years ago during Sarah's Sweet 16 Quilt Along, in advance of the 2015 Hands2Help challenge (I had held onto this quilt and made and donated another to H2H that year).
In March, I donated this to the local fire department's fundraiser for the displaced victims of the apartment explosion, which raised a total of over $20,000.
This Scrappy Mountain Majesties quilt was one I'd made in a quilt-along with my friend Marei a couple years ago.  It went to another successful fundraiser for the apartment families.
It has been heartwarming to see the community response in coming together to help the folks affected by this tragedy.

Linking to:  Confessions of a Fabric Addict - H2H Final Linkup

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sunday Sundry 5-6-18

Spring has finally arrived, all of a sudden it seems.  Hard to believe that this was the backyard view just two and a half weeks ago.

Now the landscape has transformed into a sea of green, dotted with golden daffodils, dandelions, hyacinths, tulips, etc. 

(Mallards enjoying the new greenery and mud puddles at the park.)
I've done a little raking, some mulching, but no digging in the dirt quite yet (it's been pretty wet).  Looking forward to it, though.

Went for a walk and gained 10 pounds...
One glorious spring morning this week, as I hiked through the neighborhood enjoying the bird songs on the warm breeze, I noticed it must also be that time of year when the city crews pick up random household items, the stuff that doesn't go in the usual trash bin.  There were various piles sitting at the curb as I passed through the blocks.  Broken bed frames, pet-ravaged furniture, damaged dressers, ancient plastic flowerpots, etc.

Coming up on my walk in one such pile were a couple of hard-used Coleman coolers and shattered shelving unit.  As I got closer, however, something else caught the corner of my eye.

Sitting on the ground in an open cardboard box were two crocks, a smaller brown one nested inside a larger light colored one.  I stopped and removed the smaller crock so I could hoist the larger crock out of the box, because it looked like it could be—why, yes indeed it was—a Red Wing!

If I had been thrifting in a store, this would have been a "Start the car!" moment—when you find something too good to be true.  Your insides are jumping up and down, but you keep a poker face, play it cool, and make a beeline for the checkout and the safety of your getaway vehicle.

Back at the curb, it was 10 seconds, tops, and I was scuttling back down the sidewalk on my way home, now 10 pounds heavier, cradling a dirty, paint spattered crock.

A quick bath and a couple minutes with a razor blade to remove the red paint (talking about the crock here), it was spiffed up and ready for some "after" shots. 

I was expecting to discover at least a hairline crack or a chip or two, but it was pristine!  Now it's ready for some spring flowers—if I can bring myself to fill it with dirt, that is.  Maybe I'll find a pot that will fit inside.

What I couldn't quite throw away...

I was tidying up in the sewing room the other night when I grabbed what remained of Dad's three ties and took a couple steps toward the garbage can with them.  But then I stopped and laid the silky fabric back down.  Just toss it already and move on.  But am I really done with it?  There isn't much there to do anything with.  It was late, I was tired, so decided to sleep on it.

The next morning, I was still on the fence, but I started playing with the pieces on the table, like a jigsaw puzzle.  I laid out what could be sewn together into a slab of "made fabric" and then started doing just that.  Thinking this was probably an exercise in futility, but at least I'd spend a few more minutes playing with it, and mentally processing, before tossing it out, and maybe that's all I needed to do.

Eventually I had two slabs, each a little smaller than a sheet of paper.  I happened to have a 6.5-inch square ruler on the table and put that down on top of the slabs in various ways, looking through it like a camera lens for an interesting vignette.  

Finally, I cut a square from each slab.  The center of a wonky star, perhaps?  Maybe I could even squeak out some of the star points from the leftover bits from the slabs?

So that's what I did, using Dad's shirt scraps for the blue background and red star points.

And today I made a second one with the other center square from ties, the rest from shirts.  My thought is to make two 18-inch pillows from these big blocks.  I've got a large piece of denim from one of Dad's shirts that will make a great pillow back for one of them.  I'll rustle up something else for the other.

I guess reconsidering the fate of the ties was a good move after all.

There's a chain a-coming...

I also started cutting strips for a Carolina Chain quilt, a Bonnie Hunter/Quiltville free pattern, which can be found HERE. 

Started sewing a couple of these together, just to see how it might go.  Sometimes I have doubts about whether my "lights" and "darks" are going to work together overall.  That ever happen to you?

You wonder, will it be okay or just a beautiful mess?  After putting a few together, I'm ready to trust the process and let things take their course.  So we'll see.

Housekeeping and a boo-boo...

I checked my email subscription list for this blog last week and was surprised to find that during the time I had not been blogging much during the first part of 2018, over 1,000 new email subscriptions had been added.  Why all the sudden interest in this small, semi-neglected corner of the blogosphere, I wondered? 

Turns out, on closer analysis, these seemed to be bogus email addresses all ending in, likely planted by a bot of some sort.  A little maintenance/housekeeping was going to be required to remove these.  The bummer was, I was going to have to delete each and every one of the bogus addresses by hand, all 1,000-something of them.

But I did that over the course of a few days, a few hundred at a time.  Unfortunately, at one point I got a little carried away in the rhythm of it (click delete, enter delete, enter okay), and I accidentally removed a handful (maybe about 4) legitimate email subscribers.  If you have received this blog post in your email, you were not one of them, so no worries.

However, if you subscribed to the blog by email between February 19 and the third week of April, and you aren't seeing this post in your email, I sincerely apologize and ask that you kindly take a moment to re-subscribe. 

The bogus email subscriptions have no effect whatsoever on legitimate subscribers.  It's just something I need to be aware of and handle on my end if it comes up again.

As always, thank you all so much for reading!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Thrifting and Stash Enhancement

One day a few weeks ago, I met up with my sister in a neighboring town.  We planned to go for a walk and then have lunch and catch up.  We agreed to meet up in the parking lot of the True Value hardware store, but since I got there first, I went into the store to look around.  It'd been quite a while, maybe 10 years, since I'd been in there and I remembered there used to be a fabric section tucked back in the corner of the store when it shared space with Ben Franklin.  

Ben Franklin was a "dime store" kind of place, back before the big box stores were popular (and everywhere).  Little towns might have a Ben Franklin, where they sold all sorts of household items and other stuff.

I don't know what happened to Ben Franklin stores, but this True Value store still had the fabric section back along two short walls, and, oh my gosh, you guys, it was great!
By that I mean, not a huge selection, but what WAS there was some pretty nice stuff!  And they were having a sale where everything was 30% off—which might not sound like such a big deal, but when most of the original bolt prices are $5.99 to $7.99 a yard for popular brand fabric, that is fabulous!

Not pictured are some blender type fabrics, and I also found a 108" wide backing at $8.99 a yard, minus 30% off—plus I signed up for the True Value rewards card at the checkout counter, and they gave me another 10% off my total purchase.

(This was a thrift store find - I thought it looked like brains, at first, but it's raspberries!)
I've also been doing a little thrift store shopping here and there.  Trying not to get carried away, just looking for more useful things like fabric, thread, zippers, drinking glasses, etc.  I've driven loads TO the thrift store since the first of the year, in sorting out Dad's effects, and in general, my desire is to keep more stuff going out than coming in.

However...when your husband helpfully points out two matching pieces of mid-century vintage Royal Haeger pottery you just so happen to collect, what are you going to do?
(Vintage Royal Haeger)
That's right.  You are going to take them home.

On a different thrift store stop, I found some pretty iced tea glasses to replace the ones we've lost over the past year (let's just say "Don't break my dishes" has become a popular refrain when Somebody is loading and unloading the dishwasher). 

So I went up to the cash register to pay for the glasses, which were going to set me back a whopping two dollars, and the lady said, "Did you draw a paddle?"  

Huh? I blinked.  "" I finally replied.

She reached for a pail of paint stirrers ("paddles") and told me to pick one.  The one I chose had the number 75 written in black marker on the far end of it.

"Oh, 75 percent off!" she clucked.  "That's a good one!  Do you want to shop some more?"

She did not have to ask me twice.  I dashed back to the "art department" of the store and pulled a large, professionally framed and matted original watercolor off the wall.  It had a price tag of $39.99, which seemed completely reasonable for that kind of work, but it wasn't something I really needed.  Until that moment.

"You found something!" the lady said as I strode back to the register a few minutes later.

I did, indeed.  
It's signed by "Dick Greene."  I don't know anything about the artist, but I think he did a brilliant job(Pardon the reflection of my door window on the glass.)

It's now hanging on the wall in my entryway.  He's watching you!


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