Pineapple Progress and Less Lumpy Leaves

Progress on Pineapples and Applique

I finished another pineapple log cabin block this week!  So now that's three down, thirty-three to go in order to make a California King sized quilt.  Paper piecing these blocks is fun and relaxing, and the only downside is that I have strips of fabric in blues, greens, and neutrals covering every available surface in my studio, which makes it hard to work on other projects.  I have not yet come up with a good way to move this project out of the way when I want to work on something else.  I could just toss the fabric strips into three bins according to color, but then they would get all rumpled and wrinkled and I'd have to iron each strip before sewing it to my block.  Hmmm...  I really wanted to be able to alternate between sewing pineapple log cabin blocks on the 'Nina 750 and piecing more 4" sawtooth stars on Bette (the 1935 Singer Featherweight), but right now I can't even get to the Featherweight for all of the fabric strips spread out around that machine. 
 I also found time in odd moments to add a few more leaves to my Whig Rose needle turned applique block.  Ta da:

3 Leaves Stitched, 3 More Pinned and Ready to Go
 Subsequent leaves (top two quadrants of the block) came out slightly less lumpy than the first attempt (lower left quadrant).  None of the little leaves are as perfectly shaped as I would like them to be, but this is a learning project.  Since it's getting better, I'm counting it as a win!

The first two weeks of having the boys in a new school went fairly smoothly.  Their workload is much more reasonable, and they are both enjoying having some time for normal childhood activities like bike riding and shooting baskets in the driveway after school.  Less homework doesn't mean less learning, though.  From what I've seen so far, much more emphasis is put on teaching the structure and process of writing at the new school, both in 6th and in 8th grade Honors Language Arts.  I like that they have an A/B schedule where they have math and language arts every single school day for 90 minutes, but that social studies and science alternate.  After all, math, reading, and writing are the foundation of all future learning in science and in the humanities.  Those skills need to be rock solid by the time they get to high school.  Anders is getting his violin practice done in the mornings before school, and both boys are joining academic clubs this year as well (Chess Club for both boys, LEGO Robotics League for Anders, and Science Olympiad for Lars).  I think Lars is planning to get involved with the school musical, too.  So we're off to a good start this school year.

Best of all, the school principal called me personally yesterday to ask how Lars and Anders were adjusting to the new school and whether there was anything she or her staff could do better.  Can you believe that?  I never got a call like that from anyone at their old school, the much smaller charter school that was supposed to be like one big happy family.  Not even when Lars was the only new transfer student in the entire 5th grade, skipping an entire year of math and having to catch up with kids who had been taking Chinese since kindergarten.  No one from the charter school ever bothered to call me unless there was a problem, or unless they wanted me to donate more money to the capital fundraising campaign.  I am hugely impressed with Community House Middle School!

Since today is Friday and I did finish another block this week, I'm linking up with Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, and Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.  Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Design Wall Monday: Back to the Whig Rose Applique

Needle Turn Applique In Progress
I finally got back to my needle turn applique practice block over the weekend.  After several unsatisfactory attempts to needle turn the stacked flower center circles and stitch them off the block, I finally adjusted the circle diameters slightly so that I could use my Perfect Circle templates: I ran a gathering stitch around the outer edge of the circles and then used the starch and press method to preturn the edges. 

Smooth Circles, but Uneven Petal Gaps
Once I had lovely preturned circles ready to go, I used Roxanne's Glue Baste It to position the circles on my block for hand stitching. 

Now, I'm pleased with how nice and smooth the circles are, but it is obvious that something went awry when I stitched the stacked petals to my quilt block earlier.  See how there is more of a gap between petal and stem in some places than in others?  I couldn't tell that happened until I had the center circles in place, and by then it was too late to move the petals.  Either I turned under a little too much of the dark brown print on some of those petals, or I didn't get them positioned accurately enough.  This could be an issue with the chalk pencil I'm using to mark the turning line on my applique shapes, because the chalk does seem to smudge as I'm handling the applique for hand stitching and it is sometimes unclear just where edge of the line is.  Or the inaccuracy could be happening when I'm positioning the applique shapes and pinning them to the background fabric.  I must say, I'm not enjoying fiddling with the giant vinyl overlay and it seems to me that each time I lay that placement overlay back on the block, it's harder and harder to get the block to match up with the lines on the overlay.  With my earlier applique project, I preturned the edges of all of my shapes and then glue basted them in place with a light box instead of reaching under a sheet of vinyl, and I think that method might be more accurate for me.  Should I have lightly traced some of the major placement lines on my block background with a pencil? 

But this is a learning project, so on we go!  I will probably add something to the design to hide those oopses later.

Last night I finger pressed a few leaves and pinned them in place for stitching.  This block is my first attempt at needle turn applique and I knew that the tight outer curve on the small leaves would be more challenging than the softer curved edges on the large flower petals.  My first leaf came out kind of lumpy, as you can see in the photo:
Lumpy First Leaf
I suppose it isn't terrible for a first attempt.  My applique stitches are really tiny and close together, so it's not easy to take of an applique shape without risking a hole in the background fabric.  I can probably live with this leaf as long as the others come out better.  I think I had an issue with the chalk line smudging as I was working, and I also probably need to go slower around the curve and only turn enough of the fabric edge for one stitch at a time.  I'm going to try a few more leaves this way, but if they all come out looking like rocks I might have to preturn the edges of the rest of these leaves with templates.

Which wouldn't really be the end of the world.  One of the primary reasons I wanted to learn to turn the fabric edges under at the point of stitching the applique is that I thought it would make my projects more portable -- no more hours spent at the ironing board, fiddling with starch or sizing and pressing the raw fabric edges around my templates.  However, as you can see, I'm not exactly making speedy progress with this method, either.  With preturned shapes I was able to glue baste more shapes onto my block at a time and it was easier to make sure I always had something ready to hand stitch when I headed out the door.  With the method I'm using for this block, I can only really position one or two pieces at a time, and then I have to fiddle around with the vinyl overlay and the pins at home every time I need a new piece to stitch. 

Once I've figured out my leaves, I'll go back to the rosebuds that go in the center of the flower.  I do want them to have a little bit of dimension, so I'm going to try Jeanne Sullivan's Patch Back product using the instructions in her book Simply Successful Applique


Design Wall Today
Meanwhile, I think I'd like to start another pineapple log cabin block today, if I can manage to accomplish laundry and grocery shopping before the kids get home from school!  I'm linking up with Judy's blog for Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times, WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced, and WIPs On Wednesday at Esther's blog.
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