Monday, December 31, 2018

Stringing in the New Year

I've seen some posts recently about a couple of string quilt-alongs getting off to a start.  There's one just underway at Moda and one about to get started at Humble Quilts.  

Well, sisters and brothers, I am IN.  I'll be stringing in the New Year!  It seems like the right time to hop back on the blogging train as well.

To say I love string quilts is putting it mildly.  I am Silly for String Quilts!  Which is what I named my Pinterest board several years ago, and there are now 600 gorgeous, string-a-licious pins on it.  You can check it out HERE

See what I mean?  

Feel free to also search the label string quilts on my blog's side bar or peruse the Gallery tab to see some of the string quilts and projects I've made in the past few years.

I have pulled some of my favorite string quilt books off the shelves and started paging through those, including the one my daughter just gave me for Christmas, String Fling by Bonnie Hunter.  I don't have her newest one, String Frenzy, yet, but it's on my wish list.
There will be no lack of inspiration, that's for sure!  

I'm excited to get started on something.  Not sure what just yet, but the wheels are turning, as this glimpse of my sewing table shows.
It may be a mess of a different color tomorrow, but this was the little bunny trail I found myself on this morning after opening just the first bin.

Will you be stringing in the New Year?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Checking In

Where, oh where has the summer gone?  I know it's not quite over yet, thankfully, but it's winding down and I feel like I haven't much to show for it and haven't done all the things yet.

(Cattle grazing along a bike trail.)
But I have gotten a couple items moved along, for however much (or little) time has been spent in the sewing room.  Specifically, the String-X quilt is now quilted and finished.  

I am planning to gift it to a nephew (who doesn't read this blog—I don't think, anyway).  He's an avid hunter and has a birthday in a couple months.  I'm hoping he will like the fall colors.

I had a couple extra blocks left, so I made two throw pillows.  One to go along with the quilt and one to keep.

Recently, the hubs and I took a little road trip to the southwestern part of the state.  

(View from Wyalusing State Park overlooking the Mississippi River - note smoke haze in distance from western wildfires)
I took my sewing machine along and worked on some Carolina Chain piecing in the evenings.

I thought I had cut enough strips/pieces for the quilt, but when I came to the end of the fabric I'd cut for the predominantly light blocks, I counted them up and compared it to the pattern instructions, and realized I was only ONE-THIRD of the way done making them!  And that was just the light ones.  Then there were the same number of predominantly dark ones to make. Augh!

When you're only part way through making the same quilt pieces (and, let's be honest, bored with the process), what do YOU do?  

Soldier on?  Work on something else?  Cut more bits?  Put it away completely for a while?  Bake some brownies?

(Recipe HERE)
All viable options.  What I decided (after baking the brownies) was to reduce the size of the quilt and change the layout from on-point to straight on (or whatever that's called), and probably add a stop border and an outer border, when I get that far.

That's the current plan, anyway.  Stay tuned...

In putzing around the sewing room, I recently rediscovered a piece of vintage decorator weight fabric among the stash.  It was fairly small and had a gnarly seam running through it (by the manufacturer), but I thought it might make a nice tea towel if I could piece it together somehow.  

But I know me.  If it's "too nice" a fabric, I won't want to get it all stained up using it.  And how many "nice" tea towels do I currently have languishing in drawers, unused?  (Answer: Quite enough already.)  

Looking around my sewing space a few days later, I spied my flatbed scanner with its vintage embroidered dresser scarf tossed over it as a dust cover.  Thus, a plan was hatched to go ahead and make the tea towel but use the piece as a new scanner cover.

And it makes me smile to now see it in use, serving a function versus decorating a different drawer.

(Courthouse Steps quilt in children's bedroom at Villa Louis.)
We toured an historic mansion, Villa Louis, on our recent getaway.  There were some beautiful antique quilts on some of the beds.

(Log cabin quilt in butler's quarters at Villa Louis.)
(Metal insert in door arch at Villa Louis.)
And I thought this metal insert in a high door arch was quilting inspiration, too!

There were a few stops along the way for fabric shopping.  A Ben Franklin store had a small table of fabrics at $2.99 per yard!  I bought a few.
At another very nice quilt shop, I left empty-handed but took a picture of this cool steampunk-inspired vintage sewing machine turned lamp. 

Pretty cool, huh?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Circle Quilt Finish

I finished the Circle of Friends quilt top—or was it Friendship Circle?  Hang on, un momento, while I check Facebook for the name I was going to give this quilt...

Okay, I checked.  Its name will be Friendship 360.

My brain is like a sieve some days, I swear.
(Spotted on a recent visit to the antique mall.)
In my defense (albeit a weak one), I finished this quilt top three weeks ago.  I can barely remember what I had for lunch, much less what I thought to name a quilt way back in mid-July.
(Friendship 360 Quilt Top)
ANYway, here it is!  

This quilt combines the circles I made during the Quilty 365 quilt-along during 2016 with the Friendship Star Wreath that I also made during that time.  

The Friendship Star Wreath was just a little bunny trail I took with the scraps I had left from the Quilt for Pulse.  The tutorial for it can be found here.  Since I was using leftover HSTs from the Pulse quilt, my dimensions were different than what was given in the tutorial (mine used 4.5-inch strips and HST blocks versus 3-inch).

The end result was a 36.5-inch square, which I was going to make into a wall hanging.  You know, some day.  It got put aside, is what I'm saying.  Literally moved to the far corner of the playground (i.e. design wall) and ignored while I did other stuff in 2016, including the Quilty 365 circles.

At the end of 2016, I really had no idea how to arrange all those circles together in a quilt.  I watched my fellow 365-ers finish lovely quilts in various ways.  Meanwhile, I had no real plan.  The circle blocks sat in colorful piles in the sewing room.  I'd pick up a few and riffle through them now and then or move them from one surface to another.

Then one day as I was milling around the laundry room, looking absently at the Friendship Star Wreath on the far end of the design wall, it dawned on me that it might work as a center medallion with the Quilty 365 circles.
Why it took so long to put the two together is...well, irrelevant.  The point is I finally did, and it worked.  Hooray!  Also, Ta-Da!
Now, full disclosure:  I only made 338 circles in 2016.  A detail I forgot until I was putting the circles together and ran short.  So I had to make a few more on the fly.  No big whoop, and kinda fun, actually, to be making these again.  Thankfully, I still had enough of the same or similar background fabrics and even my little cardboard circle template made from a Kleenex box.

I assembled the circle blocks into panels.  First the sides, at 9 blocks high x 6 blocks wide. These were sewn to the right and left of the center medallion.  Then the top and bottom panels, at 9 blocks high x 21 blocks wide.
And I still didn't get all the way to 365, because I only needed 360 circle blocks for the quilt top.  Hence, Friendship 360, and also because a circle is, of course, 360 degrees.  See what I did there?
You'd think its name would have been easier to remember!  But no matter, I'm pretty sure the quilt itself—with its I-spy, whimsical, colorful circles—will be unforgettable.

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