Monday, December 29, 2014

Amish Baby: Is Black the New Pastel?

I know I said yesterday that I wasn't going to start any new projects until I finished my paper pieced pineapple log cabin quilt, but I may have lied.  I feel like taking a quick break and making a small, not-so-complicated "quickie" quilt.  So today I have been trying to design a baby quilt in EQ7 for a boy, and for some reason all of my favorite ideas are predominantly black.  And no, this is not for an Amish baby:

Storm At Sea Baby

See?  I tried it in so many different color combinations, but I didn't really love it until I used black.  Here's the other idea:

Fifty-Four Forty Or Fight Baby

Again, I was incredibly bored with this until the background was black.  I'm not sure what's up with that, but what do you think?  Is black too harsh and gloomy for a baby quilt no matter what, or is it okay as long as I use it with bright and cheerful colors? 

Naturally, there is not one single fabric in my stash that would work for either of these quilts.  Such a shame.  But the quilt shop is open tomorrow...

I'm linking up with Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts.  Happy New Year, everyone!

In Which Rowenta Loses Bladder Control, and Pees All Over My Ironing Board

How Can I Potty Train My Leaky Steam Iron?!
Good Monday Morning, and Happy 5th Day of Christmas!  As you can see above, the offending Rowenta is not a family member (thankfully!), but rather the latest in a string of household irons to have failed and disappointed me.  She was expensive, but she was German-engineered, she came highly recommended, and she was supposed to be worth it.  I followed her instruction manual to a T, emptying her tank between uses and filling her only with fresh water from the tap.  I have never dropped her.  I have never abused her for Craftsy DIY purposes for which she was never intended, and I haven't had her for even a full year.  And yet she has started intermittently peeing on my ironing board, and worse, all over my projects -- currently paper piecing.  Now, paper is pretty strong when it is dry, but not when it is wet!  Today, this caused a tear in my paper foundation that was fortunately near enough to the edge of an almost completed block, so it didn't result in ruined work.  Next time, I may not be so lucky.  I keep making excuses for Rowenta, like "I should have let her heat up before I refilled her tank," or "I must have tipped her sideways when the cord got caught on the ironing board," but deep down, I know her days are numbered.  Considering that her little sister, the Rowenta travel iron, nearly started an electrical fire a couple of months ago, I am no longer feeling the warm fuzzies about this brand!  If anyone has a recommendation for a reliable, potty-trained steam iron for quilters, please share that with me in the comments.

But it's Design Wall Monday, isn't it?  So enough about leaky irons -- let's check out that design wall:

Design Wall on Monday, December 29th, 2014: Pineapple Log Cabin

The biggest change to the wall since the last photo I posted is that I have taken down all of the bear paw blocks and the applique block so I can focus on just this one pineapple log cabin project until it is finished.  Now that I have 12 finished blocks I am officially a third of the way finished, if I stick with the original plan to make a California King sized quilt (6 x 6 layout of 17 3/4" finished blocks, about 106" before quilting and laundering shrinkage).  However, currently we have a Queen bed and my 6'8" husband is not 100% on board with the idea of getting a bigger bed, even though his feet stick out at the bottom of our bed like that Ned dude in the Dr. Seuss books:
Unlike Bernie, Ned Does NOT Like His Little Bed

A California King bed is 12" wider than a Queen, as well as 4" longer to accommodate those feet that have been sticking out from the end of the bed all these years!  Bernie's objection to the King bed is that "he likes to snuggle," but snuggling is not nearly as nice when one of the snugglers has a raging, sweaty fever and is a swarming flu hatchery.  I know I promised to be there "in sickness and in health," but scooting 12" away from a sick person gives you a fighting chance to stay healthy enough to take care of Mr. Sickie.  Plenty of couples who are smaller than we are manage to share a King sized bed without growing estranged from long distance!  Have you ever heard the saying, "If you build it, they will come?"  That's my philosophy with this quilt.  I'm making it California King sized, and once I've spent a thousand hours or so piecing and quilting it, I'm pretty sure the California King bed will come.  ;-)

Back to the main topic of this post, which was supposed to be the design process: I read somewhere online recently where a quilter said she "didn't like scrappy quilts."  I don't understand that at all.  I have certainly seen a lot of scrappy quilts that I did not like, but what I didn't like about them was the color or value choices (light/medium/dark, not morals!) made by the quilt maker, or something about the overall design of the quilt that didn't appeal to me.  I admire many quilts with more limited palettes than what I typically use, but I can't imagine making a whole bed sized quilt using only a few fabrics.  I would get so bored without the constant design decisions that happen throughout the entire piecing process with a "scrappy" quilt.  With my pineapple log cabin blocks, the paper piecing process is so smooth and easy that I can carry on conversations with my family, supervise homework, or listen to cartoons on television (Anders' favorites are the old Tom & Jerry cartoons) while I'm piecing without worrying about making mistakes.  What keeps the process interesting for me is the challenge of combining all of these different fabrics in a way that creates a unified look for the quilt as a whole even though every single block is unique. 

12th Block Completed

Each of these pineapple log cabin blocks contains 97 patches cut from 37 different fabric strips, and I have used a total of over 150 different fabrics so far for the twelve blocks that I have completed.  I have other fabrics waiting "in the wings" to be sliced into strips if needed.  ("Need" is when I look at the strips I have already cut and none of them look exciting, not when I run out of strips that have already been cut).  I select each fabric strip individually as I add it to the block, checking my design wall to make sure my new block doesn't look too much like any of the ones I've already finished.  The process of making the quilt is much more enjoyable for me when I'm using many different fabrics, and I love that the blocks make a dramatic impact from a distance, but there so many details to notice up close due to the interplay of so many different fabrics.  Anyway, that's enough blogging for today -- on to Block 13 of 36!

I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times and Esther's WOW: WIPs on Wednesday.  Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I Found the Perfect Christmas Tree Skirt!

"Holy Night" Appliqued Christmas Tree Skirt, available from Novica
I found the perfect Christmas tree skirt!  I know, I had planned to make one myself, but when I saw this "Holy Night" appliqued Christmas tree skirt on Novica's web site, it was exactly what I was looking for in so many ways.  Novica is fair trade organization with ties to National Geographic and Unicef that works to create opportunities for economically disadvantaged artisans around the world to sell their handmade goods for fair prices.  A Peruvian artisan named Balvina Huaytalla created this predominantly blue "Holy Night" tree skirt, which is perfect for tying in the blue star on my kitchen Christmas tree, and the folk art style of the dimensional stuffed applique complements the kiddo-themed ornaments on that tree as well (toys, sweets, and handmade ornaments going back to the boys' preschool years).  More importantly, I love that this tree skirt depicts the nativity, a reminder that the gift of our Redeemer's birth trumps any other gift we might find beneath the tree.  My parents used to set up a nativity scene beneath our Christmas tree, but when I tried that a couple years ago baby Jesus was abducted by our dog...  Since this holy family is stitched securely to the tree skirt, they should be safe from Lulu the Treacherous!

So, here's the Kitchen Christmas tree with the new tree skirt:
Kitchen Kiddo Tree with Nativity Tree Skirt
See how the blue at the bottom of the tree helps the blue star look less out of place?
Isn't it beautiful?
The Holy Family, Safe from Wicked Dogs

Could I have made my own version of this tree skirt instead?  Sure, but it would have taken a long time and I might not have finished it in time for Christmas this year.  Moreover, ripping off the artist's design instead of buying her tree skirt is really the OPPOSITE of fair trade, isn't it?

So, back to my pineapple log cabin quilt!  Happy Hannukah to all of my Jewish friends, and Happy Advent and Merry Christmas to my Christian friends and family.  May we all experience God's presence and peace this holiday season.

Monday, December 8, 2014

My Son Lars, Designer of Festive Holiday Decor

Remember how my 13-year-old son Lars took the Advanced Drawing EQ7 software class with Barb Vlack at Quilt Week over the summer?  Well, we need a new tree skirt for one of our Christmas trees, and I asked Lars to design one for me in EQ7.  This is what he came up with:

48" Diameter Christmas Tree Skirt, Designed by Lars

Hmmm...  Joy to the world, anyone????  I think it looks like that German Krampus devil that supposedly comes to punish all the bad kids who ended up on Santa's Naughty List:

See the resemblance?  Anyway, back to the drawing board, because that creepy dude is NOT going under my Christmas tree!

This is more of what I had in mind:
48" Diameter Tree Skirt, Designed by Mom

The fabrics are not to scale and the color is a little off since they are snapshots taken with my phone rather than scanned images, but you get the general idea.  I wonder if this is too ambitious to try to make before Christmas?  It's for the Christmas tree in my kitchen, which is decorated with ornaments that look like candy, gingerbread men, toys, and brightly colored balls.  It has a blue star on top.  I have novelty print fabrics with Christmas cookies, peppermint candies, hot chocolate, and some pretty blue fabrics with snowflakes, as well as a red, green and pink stripe fabric that reminds me of peppermint sticks that I'm planning for the binding. 

Now that I drew this lovely tree skirt on the computer, I wonder if I can figure out how to actually MAKE it?

I'm going to link up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times and with Anything Goes Monday at Stitch By Stitch.

Monday, December 1, 2014

FrankenWhiggish Rose Quilt Design Continues to Evolve

FrankenWhiggish Rose, Current Fave Design
Ah, EQ7, my virtual design wall -- how do I love thee?!  You may remember that I posted a photo of my first completed FrankenWhiggish Rose needle turned applique block back in mid October.  I did not have an entire quilt in mind when I started on that block -- I combined several different applique patterns to come up with a block that would be suitable for learning needle turn applique, incorporating different sizes and shapes of inside and outside points, curves, bias stems, reverse applique, and stuffed berries.  I knew I would be spending a lot of time hand stitching the block, so I put in the time up front to ensure that the design would appeal to me aesthetically.  The applique itself was a technical challenge for me, but I threw in a design challenge as well -- I wanted to create something with a country French vibe that would tie in with the mood and color scheme of my kitchen and family room drapery fabric:
Monado by Vervain, Havana colorway
This is the finished applique block:
Completed 16" FrankenWhiggish Rose Applique Block
I was really pleased with how the first block came out, and decided to make "some more of them" for a lap quilt that would live in the family room for sofa snuggling.  I cut out lots of yellow petals and I have been appliqueing them to coral red petals, assembly line style, for the past few weeks, still having no idea how I was going to use these blocks.

So today I fired up the EQ7 software and started playing around with different layouts.  I primarily wanted to figure out how many FrankenWhiggish Rose blocks I would need to prevent myself from wasting time making too many petals!

In these designs, I am using an imported photo of my one finished applique block and combining that with the sashing, border and block designs in the EQ7 software in order to preview some of the different quilts I could create using this block.  This is the second runner up:
Second Runner Up Design

...And this is my current favorite:
Favorite!  (Click to make the photo larger)

This quilt would finish at 74 1/4" x 74 1/4", which is on the generous side for a couch throw quilt but still okay, I think.  Those measurements would be BEFORE quilting and laundering, so the real quilt would finish a bit smaller.  The border blocks would be 7 1/4" square, so I should be able to do those pieced blocks without too much trouble.  Why do I like this design better than the first one?  I can't say for sure.  I really like the repeated Xs and plusses in the applique block, sashing posts and pieced border blocks.  I spent an hour or two playing around with different layouts and alternate blocks before I came up with this design, and I will probably play around with it some more before I commit to it 100%, but this will be the basic idea.

So that means I need a total of nine appliqued blocks (one down, eight more to go) and twenty of those pieced border blocks for this quilt.  I'm even more excited to make them now that I have a plan!

I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times as well as Anything Goes Monday at Stitch By Stitch.  Have a great week, everyone!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Crazy Stuff My Kid Would Buy

Life Size Tyrannosaurus Skeleton available here
So my son Lars is on the phone right now with the customer service representative at Hammacher Schlemmer, discussing shipping arrangements for their life size Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton replica, available here for discriminating buyers who have $100,000 burning a hole in their pockets, and who live in castles big enough to hold a forty-foot-long dinosaur.  Because in the catalog that came in the mail, it said "Please call and our customer service representatives will gladly answer any questions and provide additional information." 

Well, Lars did have questions, so he called.  Now he knows that the skeleton would get shipped in ten trucks at a cost of roughly a thousand dollars in shipping and handling costs, depending on where the buyer lives.  Hammacher Schlemmer would send workers to assemble the dinosaur skeleton initially into any "anatomically natural" position the buyer wanted.  For instance, you can have your dinosaur posed standing fully upright, as though he was scanning the savannah, or you can have him assembled in a lunging pose, as though he was about to snatch some tasty prey.  If you want your dinosaur moved into a different pose later, they will come out again to do this for you for another thousand dollars.  Lars has also learned that, when you call a catalog that sells six-figure toys, they call you Sir.  Lars likes this.

I think Lars is still on the phone.  I wonder if the customer service guy at Hammacher Schlemmer thinks my son is actually in the market for a $100,000 dinosaur...   

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Quilts Around the World: Anders' Charity Finish; Go Forth & Visit Wendy & Kerry!

Design Wall: Works In Progress
Ah, Monday morning, once again!  Are we tired of seeing my design wall yet?  I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday over at Patchwork Times and with Anything Goes Monday at Stitch By Stitch.  No progress on my bear paws and sawtooth stars, but I did finish another of my paper pieced pineapple log cabin blocks.  That makes 8 blocks complete, 28 more to go if I want the quilt to finish large enough for a California King.  I've also been working on some petals for more Frankenwhiggish Rose applique blocks, too, but I'm not going to show them to you because they look just like the finished block you already saw.  Boring, right? 

You know, this makes me wonder about how blogging might affect the creative process of quilting.  Do we feel pressure to come up with new content on a regular basis, and does that encourage shortcuts and simplifications just to get to that "finished" post?  Do we create more sampler and medallion quilts so that we can have a new block design to share each week or each month?  Do we opt for a straight line grid quilted with the walking foot because that's what we think is best for the quilt, or because it's a fast finish and we want to debut a new project on the blog?  Well, I'm nowhere near a quilt finish so if I run out of things to say about what I'm working on, this might morph into a Laundry Blog.  You have all been forewarned!
 
So, remember over the summer when I got this great idea that my son and I should go to one of our church's quilt guild meetings and help make quilts for Lutheran World Relief?  Anders worked hard to make his fabric "squares" meet up at the seams and he was disappointed that the donated fabrics he got to choose from were not very exciting, but he finally finished the quilt top just before school started and the ladies in the quilt guild layered it with batting, tied it and bound it to finish it off.  Yesterday we had the Blessing of the Quilts at church, and they were hanging on display all over the sanctuary so I was able to get a picture of Anders standing behind his quilt after the service.  I was zooming in from far away so the resolution is terrible, but here's Anders with the finished quilt:

Anders with his Charity Quilt for Lutheran World Relief
I wish I had known ahead of time that the quilts would be hanging up today -- I would have asked Bernie to bring his fancy schmancy camera and then we would have gotten a better picture!

 
But one thing I DO know ahead of time is that two of my favorite quilting bloggers, Wendy Sheppard of Ivory Springs and Kerry of Simple Bird Applique, will be blogging about their respective creative processes today because I tagged them for the Around the World Blog Tour.  I selected Wendy and Kerry because I've admired them both for their technical mastery and beautiful quilt desgns, but often wondered how they and other quilters who quilt for a living keep their creative juices flowing, deadline after deadline, always with fresh new ideas.  Wendy is a quilt designer whose work has been on the covers of so many magazines that she must have lost count by now, and Kerry designs and stitches the most beautifully intricate traditional applique patterns.  Both Kerry and Wendy teach quilting as well, and they each have fantastic blogs with excellent tutorials on applique and free-motion quilting with domestic sewing machines.  Please pop over to visit them when you have a moment, and tell them Rebecca sent you.  ;-)
Have a wonderful Monday, everyone!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Around the World Quilt Blog Tour: What, Why, and How I Create

I was thrilled and humbled when Greg Jones of Grey Dogwood Studio tagged me to participate in the Around the World Quilt Blog Tour.  I have been following Greg’s work for a while now, and I am continually inspired by his meticulous workmanship, his nostalgic vintage style, and his impressive creative output despite the demands of a busy career in NYC that involves business travel, conference calls, and the wearing of suits.  As a mother of creative sons, I also love that Greg doesn’t fit into the confining cultural stereotypes that continue to restrict and contain the creative energy of boys and men -- even while girls and women are finally allowed to do and be almost anything they want.  Greg, thanks for tagging me and for being such a cool role model for all the little dudes out there who love their crayons and colored pencils!

1.     What am I currently working on?

I’m currently working on a King sized (hopefully!) paper pieced Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt:
7 Blocks Done, 29 Blocks to Go

...and an experiment with Bear Paw and Sawtooth Star blocks that is starting to feel like I am aimlessly driving up and down the Interstate without a map:
Bear Paws and Sawtooth Stars, Making it Up As I Go Along
Center Medallion for my "Jingle" Quilt
Finished Border Blocks for Jingle Quilt
...and then I'm also working on my first attempt at needleturn applique, which is also proceeding without a clear plan – The FrankenWhiggish Rose Project:
FrankenWhiggish Rose, Block One of ???

Prior to this year, I only worked on one quilt at a time from start to finish.  This whole multiple project UFOs approach is an experiment for me that actually is not going very well.  I am finding that I have a really hard time forcing myself to come back to a project once I’ve set it aside for something else, and it bothers me that I have spent so much time and energy on these four projects without having any completed quilts to show for it.  I am wasting huge chunks of time spinning my wheels just trying to switch gears from one project to the next.  So I have decided to “kill these off” one quilt at a time, and then go back to my habitual Serial Quilt Monogamy. 
2.     How does my work differ from others?

This is the most difficult of the four questions for me.  I’m not sure how my work differs from others – that depends which “others” I’m being compared with!  Comparing myself to others who have been posting in this Around the World Blog Tour series, I would have to say that my work is different because there’s so much less of it!  I only manage to sneak in a couple of hours of quilting each week, and I work very slowly.  I made my first quilt in 2002 and I have only finished nine quilts in the past twelve years.  So my work is characterized by the blissful ignorance and fierce determination of the ambitious beginner!

Another way my work is different is that I’m usually working at the outer extremes of technology, either very high-tech or very low-tech, rarely in the middle.  I’m paper-piecing my giant pineapple blocks on a computerized Bernina 750 QE, using oversized foundation papers that I printed on a large format printer at the office supply store, and I played around in EQ7 software to preview color and value placement for that quilt before committing.  But the bear paw and sawtooth star blocks and most of my Jingle blocks were all pieced on my vintage 1935 Singer Featherweight.   I frequently design custom monograms and quilt labels on my computer using digitizing software for machine embroidery, but I don’t enjoy machine applique and prefer to do that by hand.  Sometimes I’ll stitch out a row of decorative stitches on the computerized Bernina and then embellish the stitching by hand with seed beads, French knots or paillettes: 
Computer Designed, Machine Embroidered, Bead Embellishments by Hand
Either I’m hand quilting old school style in a lap hoop, or machine quilting with computerized stitch length regulation on the Big ‘Nina.  This switching around and sampling of all different techniques is probably another reason why I’m still a beginner quilter after twelve years.  I’m a Jackie of all techniques, master of none!
Finally, my work is different because it is primarily utilitarian.  While I admire and enjoy the art quilts many others create for wall display, my quilts are created with a more traditional end purpose in mind.  I make quilts for my kids’ beds:
Lars's Drunken Dragons Bed Quilt
Lars's Drunken Dragons Quilt

...and quilts for us to snuggle under on the sofa while watching TV, like this one:
Bernie's Sugar Shack Leaves Quilt

I make quilts for my niece and nephew to drag around with them, like this one:
Sarah's Quilt with Minky Backing and Satin Binding

...and quilts to wrap around car seats and strollers for newborns, like this one:
Hungry Caterpillar Quilt for Gage, with Minky Backing and Satin Binding
In today’s mass-produced, throwaway consumer society, it just feels good to wrap a loved one in a handmade, one-of-a-kind quilt that I've created just for them.

3.     Why do I create?

This one is easy.  Creative people just can’t help being creative, and my favorite medium is beautiful fabric.  That’s how I accidentally became an interior designer for ten years (long story) even though I majored in history and didn’t take a single art or design course in college.  I’m a stay-home mom right now, and that’s definitely what’s best for me and my family, but I would go nuts if I wasn’t making anything.  So much of what I do disappears as soon as it’s finished.  I clean the bathrooms, but next week they will be dirty and I will have to clean them again.  I wash the same laundry week after week, shop for the same groceries, pay the bills and feed the dogs, pack lunches, cook the dinners and wash the dishes, and while all of that work is important, none of it is lasting. I have wiped so many noses over the years, changed so many diapers, and read so many bed time stories, and I’m fortunate to have been physically present for all of that for my sons -- but the accomplishments of my children belong to them and not to me.  I create because a quilt stitches together the fleeting memories of what was going on in my life in the year the quilt was made, honoring the most insignificant, ordinary days with permanence.  That process doesn’t stop when the final stitch secures the quilt binding, either.  Once the quilt is on the bed, it soaks up memories of all the bed time stories we share, the lost teeth left for the tooth fairy, the rowdy sleepovers and the Nintendo DS hidden under the pillow.  A well-made quilt lasts a long time if properly cared for.  Maybe one of them will someday outlast me!

4.     How do I work?

As I said, I only spend a few hours each week actually sewing anything.  I spend more time in “Research and Design Phase” than I do actually stitching.  I don’t have many opportunities to take classes, so I read and reread a lot of quilting books, blogs, and magazines to get ideas and learn new techniques.  I also love “speed dating” quilts on Pinterest.  While my husband is watching some awful show like Naked and Afraid or Fast 'N Loud Gas Monkey Garage, I zip through Pinterest and repin every quilt, photograph, or whatever catches my eye, quickly and without overthinking it – just anything that jumps off the screen at me.  Then I go back through my virtual bulletin boards to analyze my pins and look for common threads.  For instance, after reading Judi Madsen’s Wide Open Spaces book about contemporary heirloom quilting designs for negative spaces in quilts, and then analyzing the quilts I’d been pinning on Pinterest, I realized that many of the traditional and contemporary quilts I most admired had more contrast and used more solid fabrics than I had been using in my own quilts.  I looked at my fabric stash and realized that I was buying lots of diva print fabrics and hardly any neutral or “supporting actor” fabrics to balance out and contrast with those divas.  That’s how my bear paw project came about, as I challenged myself to buy plain old solid white fabric for the backgrounds and cut up a bold, large-scale print floral fabric from my stash in small enough pieces that the print itself is lost and it becomes more like abstract splashes of color against the white ground:

Anna Maria Horner Fabric, Chopped Up for my Bear Paws
 
Most of my quilts are Fake Scrappy, in that I emulate the effect of true vintage and antique thrifty scrap quilting by purchasing an enormous variety of brand-new fabric and then hacking it all into "scrap" pieces with my rotary cutter.  I do this for several reasons.  First and foremost, it’s because the greater the number of fabrics in the quilt, the less likely I am to get bored with the project before it is finished.  I also think it makes the finished quilt more interesting when you have the initial impact of the overall quilt viewed from a distance, and then upon closer inspection you have an additional level of detail as you discover each of those unique individual fabrics that make up the whole.  I do make a point of incorporating scraps from earlier quilts as much as possible, because those fabrics carry a lot of meaning for me and it’s very satisfying to make that deliberate connection between this year’s quilt and the quilt from seven years ago.  Finally, even if I’m not doing a scrappy thing, I never choose all of the fabrics for a quilt from one manufacturer’s collection and I could never make anything from a kit with all of the fabrics preselected for me.  Maybe it’s the interior designer in me creeping back in, but I need to pick out all of my own fabrics.  For years I made a living selecting combinations of colors, fabrics, and furnishings for other people.  Sometimes my clients gave me carte blanche, but other times I had to compromise a design that I was in love with in order to accommodate a client whose taste differed from my own.  Hand picking each and every fabric that goes into my quilts is my favorite part of the whole process.

Because I work so slowly and my finishes are few and far between, I’m heavily invested in each project and I challenge myself to explore new techniques with each one.  Now that I have the EQ7 quiltdesign software I will probably spend even more time on the design phase, trying out different settings and arrangements on the computer screen ahead of time to ensure that the design I commit to stitching into reality is really the best concept that I was able to conceive.

Whew – I made it!  And to think I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to think of anything to write.  If you’re a new visitor to my site for the blog tour, thanks for stopping by.  I’ve really enjoyed learning about the creative processes of other quilters on the Around the World Blog Tour, and I’m really looking forward to hearing from the two quilters I’ve tagged for next Monday, November 10th:  Kerry of Simple Bird Applique Studio and Wendy Sheppard of Ivory Spring.

Kerry of Simple Bird Applique Studio creates intricate, spectacular applique quilts that take my breath away.  I have just been in awe of her as I’ve watched her “Friends of Baltimore” quilt (designed by Sue Garman) near completion.  Kerry is a quilting teacher and that comes through in her blog, where she walks you through her process from fabric selection through the bumps and hurdles, right on down to the binding.  Kerry also designs original applique patterns that are available in her online store. 

Wendy Sheppard of Ivory Spring is another quilter who has really inspired me.  Her long-running “Thread Talk” blog series has been a valuable free-motion quilting resource for many beginners, myself included.  Her tutorials for free-motion quilting on a domestic sewing machine are better than most of the quilting books on my shelves.  Over the years, I’ve watched Wendy grow as a quilting teacher, commercial pattern designer, and cheered for her as her quilts have graced the covers of countless magazines.  I am delighted that Wendy has just published her first book, Recreating Antique Quilts.  I am really interested in learning about how the creative process of quilting is different for quilters like Wendy, for whom quilting is a career as well as a creative outlet.

I'm linking up with Anything Goes Monday, guest hosted today by Helen over at Till We Quilt Again, WIPs on Wednesday at Esther's blog, WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced, and with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times.  Thanks again for stopping by.  Happy stitching!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Whiggish Frankenstein Applique Block is FINISHED!

16" Whiggish Rose Block FINISHED!

I finally finished my Whig Rose applique block over the weekend!  Now that the tulips (that look like duck feet) and the stuffed berries are in place, the "rotary phone dial" rosebuds in the center of the big flower are nicely balanced and don't bug me anymore.  I love little stuffed berries on applique quilts, and I centered a tiny flower print on each of these to look like the end of the berry where it came off the vine.

Someone asked after my last post about where I got this pattern.  It's actually my own reinterpretation of Joyce Stewart's reinterpretation of Kim Diehl's reinterpretation of a classic Whig Rose block, combined with tulips from a reproduction quilt pattern that I found in a back issue of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, plus the stuffed berries that were Bernie's idea (he liked the stuffed berries on the Jingle applique project).  That's why I've nicknamed the block "Frankenstein."  So I can't point you to a pattern that you can purchase to make a block exactly like mine, but if you hunt down my sources you should be able to cobble together something similar -- hopefully with your own personal twist!  You can read more about the sources I combined and adapted for this block in my earlier post here

Meanwhile, I am still thinking about how I want to use this block in the quilt I'm planning, but I'm leaning towards either an alternate block layout (blank alternate blocks? pieced alternate blocks?  appliqued wreath alternate blocks) or else some kind of a medallion quilt that would use this block to anchor the outer corners.  So at some point next week I hope to get started with prepping at least three more blocks just like this one. 

I'm linking up with Slow Stitching Sunday at Kathy's Quilts and with  Design Wall Monday over at Patchwork Times, and I'm looking forward to seeing what others are working on this week.  Maybe I'll get some ideas for my Whiggish Rose project!  Have a wonderful Monday, everyone!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Design Indecisions: What to Do With My Bear Paw Blocks? And What's That Applique Block For, Anyway?

New Idea for My Bear Paw Blocks
I've had these bear paw blocks on my design wall for a couple of months now.  Originally they were going to be diagonal set with plain alternate blocks, then I thought I might straight set them with 4" wide white sashing and these sawtooth stars as sashing posts, but I just couldn't get excited about either of those two ideas.  So the new idea is something like this -- add white fabric around the sawtooth stars to make them kind of float in between the larger blocks.  Kind of like a square in a square block, except that the center square is smaller.  Alternatively, instead of floating the stars in plain white fabric, maybe I could surround my stars with some kind of newsprint or handwriting fabric to balance out the bright splashy print and marbled fabrics.  I'll leave them on the wall like this and see how I feel about this arrangement after I've lived with it for a few days.

Meanwhile, I finished appliqueing the tulips that look like duck tracks to my needle turn applique block:
Almost Finished, Just Needs Some Berries

Now all it needs is a smattering of stuffed berries that I haven't made yet.  My husband keeps asking me if this block is destined to be a pillow.  He usually asks me this while he is chucking other pillows onto the floor so he can sprawl on the couch.  The applique block will NOT turn into a pillow; it needs to grow into a throw sized quilt, but I have no idea what that quilt will look like.  Should I make a bunch more blocks just like this one?  Should I make a bunch more applique blocks in different patterns, but with the same fabrics, like a sampler quilt?  Should I make a mixture of different pieced and applique blocks in different sizes?  Once I get the berries done, I think I'll need to play with the block in the EQ7 software to explore some of those ideas.

This is what comes of starting off on projects with only a half-baked idea of where you're headed with it.  Not that that's a bad thing -- but it does present challenges!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Of Rose Buds and Rotary Phones


Broderie Perse Rosebuds Appliqued
After all that worrying, I finally appliqued my broderie perse rose buds to the center of my Whig Rose block this week, and they weren't as bad as I thought they would be.  Broderie Perse means that I cut the rose buds out of a scrap of my Vervain Monado print drapery fabric (it's 100% cotton, very lightweight, and I did prewash it). 
Monado print from Vervain, Havana colorway
 
I used Jeanne Sullivan's Patch Back product to give the rose buds a little dimension and preturned the fabric edges with glue stick, then used Roxanne's Glue Baste It to secure them in place for stitching. 

As you can see, the rose buds that initially appeared to be identical in the drapery fabric are more obviously NOT identical now that I've stitched them onto the dark brown fabric.  I think that's okay.  What may or may not be okay is that now the center of my Whig Rose block bears an uncanny resemblance to a rotary telephone dial: 

Would it help if I tried to squish additional rose buds between each of these to reduce the rotary dial effect, or should I leave it alone?  It would be a pretty tight fit if I tried to add more rose buds.  Alternatively, I could do some kind of embroidered embellishment between the rose buds.  Who knows -- maybe the rotary phone dial look will grow on me.
Tulip Thingys Up Next

Next up for this block will be the tulip thingys, or whatever they are supposed to be.  Today I think they look like Daffy Duck footprints.  I've already reverse appliqued the centers, and now the challenge will be in needle turning the tight outer curves smoothly as I stitch these onto the block.  Wish me luck!  I'll try to take the sharp curves slowly, just turning enough for one stitch at a time, and hope for the best.

Tulip, or Daffy Duck Foot Print?
Before I get back to more hand stitching, though, I have to dust off Sergei the Serger and thread him up for a cover stitch.  This will require a consult with his instruction manual, since I haven't done it in awhile.  The BBC Shop only sells Dr. Who tee shirts in adult sizes, and I bought Anders an adult size small that needs to be shortened for him lest anyone mistakes it for a nightgown!

I'm linking up with Slow Sunday Stitching at Kathy's Quilts today and Anything Goes Monday at Stitch By Stitch.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

More Pineapple Log Cabin Blocks

Six Blocks Finished, Thirty More to Go!
I've been mostly working on my pineapple log cabin blocks over the past week.  I keep telling myself that I'll set it aside when I get bored with it and work on one of my other projects, but I've been having fun experimenting with different fabric combinations and haven't gotten bored yet. 

With the strips finishing at only 3/4" wide in these blocks, it's amazing how everything just goes with everything else.  I have a wild assortment of fabrics that, according to popular wisdom, don't belong together in the same quilt: a few solid brights, some large scaled Kaffe Fassett floral prints that remind me of Mrs. Roper's mumu outfits from Three's Company, some batiks, hand dyed marbles, some reproduction 1930s small scale florals, some Japanese prints, some metallics, and whatever else caught my eye.  For some reason, I am especially liking the way newsprint fabrics, handwriting fabrics, and other printed text fabrics are looking in these blocks, too -- like old newspaper clippings and letters in a scrapbook.

I finally lugged the laundry drying rack upstairs to the studio and hung all of my blue fabric strips on one side and all of my green fabric strips on the other side, mostly freeing up the surface of the desk behind my sewing machine so that I can use my serger or my Featherweights there if I want to. 

Now that I've hung up all the fabric, it doesn't look like I have as much to work with as I thought I did.  I also have not found a good place for it in my room where it's easy for me to see all of the fabric at once, but out of the way of rampaging puppy dogs who occasionally stampede through my room!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Meanwhile, Applique... and Dog Arias

Leaves Finished on Whig Rose Applique Block
I finished the last of the leaves on my Whig Rose block a few days ago.  This is my first needle turned applique project (the applique shapes for the Jingle BOM project had preturned edges, starched and pressed over heat resistant mylar templates).  As you may remember from this post, I was having trouble getting that curved edge of the leaves nice and smooth at first.  As usual, I'm learning new skills by reading a book -- in this case, I'm following the instructions in The Best Ever Applique Sampler by Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins, a.k.a. Piece O'Cake Designs.  I contacted Becky Goldsmith via her web site and blog, and she was unbelievably generous and kind in helping me troubleshoot my Lumpy Leaf Dilemma.  You can read her wonderful suggestions on her blog here: http://pieceocakeblog.com/tag/curves/.  What helped me most was Becky's advice to work slowly and only worry about turning enough fabric for one stitch at a time on these tight outer curves.  I see a lot of improvement from that first leaf to the last leaf that I appliqued.

I'm still getting the hang of the whole vinyl overlay and pinning process.  With preturned edges, it was easy to use a lightbox with the pattern BENEATH my block to precisely position applique shapes and glue or pin them in place for stitching.  With needle turn applique, Piece O'Cake recommends tracing the pattern onto a clear vinyl overlay that you lay over your block and then carefully slide your shapes into position between the block fabric and the overlay, lining up the chalk lines on your applique shapes with the traced lines on your overlay, while using registration marks on the block fabric and overlay to keep everything straight and positioned properly.  I'm finding it difficult to do this as accurately as I would like it to be.  I get that, in nature, no two leaves are identical, but this is not a naturalistic applique design that I'm working on and for my purposes the goal is identical, perfectly symmetrical leaves and flowers. 

Evidence of Shape Shifting During Pinning
See how that one leaf shifted when I pinned it down and ended up touching the leaf below it?  If these leaves had preturned edges, that would have been much more obvious before I began stitching, but with the fabric allowance sticking out all the way around it was too late by the time I realized it.  My stitches are really tiny, which is good because you can't see them, but not so good if I have to pull them out with a seam ripper.  I'm not willing to risk accidentally cutting into the background fabric, so that leaf stays where it is.  What's next for this block?  The fussy-cut rosebuds that go around the center of the main flower!

Up Next: Rosebuds!
Another famous applique teacher and author has also gone out of her way to help me out.  Jeanne Sullivan, whose classes sell out faster than rock concerts, reached out to me in response to my post on the Applique Addicts Yahoo group.  I already had Jeanne's book, Simply Successful Applique, and she was kind enough to suggest that her prepared freezer paper template method would work well for these tiny shapes.  The difficulty I'm anticipating is in preserving the not-quite-round shape of the rosebuds without having them look lumpy and misshapen, like I tried to make them round and I just did a terrible job.  I also don't want the rosebuds to "shrink" when I turn them, but I can't let any of the off-white turning allowance show, either, because it would really stand out against the chocolate brown fabric to which these shapes will be applied.

This afternoon, Lars has a math tutor coming (don't ask) while Anders will be at church for his Youth Orchestra rehearsal.  I'm planning to set up my supplies on the kitchen counter so I can experiment with rosebuds while I eavesdrop on the tutoring session.

Anyone who has read through this entire boring post deserves a treat, so here you go: I made a recording yesterday of my three-year-old male Rottweiler puppy singing his favorite song, Mozart's Laudate Dominum aria.  Enjoy:


I'm linking up with Can I Get a Whoop Whoop Friday at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, because I think those leaves are definitely whoop-worthy.  Like I tell my son with regards to math (which we're not talking about here, because this is a happy place), being smart doesn't mean you automatically know how to do everything the first time you try it.  Your brain gets smarter every time you struggle with something that is NOT easy, and you keep working on it and ask for help if you need it and refuse to give up until you've learned how to do it.  Everything is difficult before it becomes easy!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Short and Sweet: Pineapple Log Cabin Blocks and Apple iPhone 6 Plus

I am still working on the same projects, and no, nothing particularly exciting has been accomplished.  I finished another of my 17 3/4" paper pieced pineapple log cabin blocks:
So that's four down, thirty-two more to go.  I had to go buy some more neutral fabric prints to get through with the fourth block, not because I didn't have any more of the fabrics I used for the first three blocks, but because I was bored of those fabrics already.  Looking around my studio, you can see that I have chopped up LOTS of different fabrics into strips already:

See?  My Featherweight is completely surrounded by the blue fabric strips.  I just hope most of them make it into the quilt and don't end up as waste (or scrap bin replenishment).  I'm finding that I need more light/neutral fabrics than I originally anticipated because the neutral fabric strips are used on all four sides whereas the blues and greens are only used on two corners for each fabric.  I got some good suggestions in the comments from my last post about how to store and organize my fabric strips while this project is in progress, but so far I haven't implemented them.

In other news, I ordered a new iContraption last week but I haven't received it yet:

I ordered the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, shown on the right, to replace my iPhone 5s, shown on the left.  (Yes, I have heard about the iPhone 6 Plus supposedly bending when people shove it in their back pocket and sit on it.  If I was buying the phone with the intent of sitting on it, that would be a big concern...)  Consumer Reports tested a variety of smartphones for this issue and found that it takes 90 pounds of pressure to bend an iPhone 6 Plus:


As far as I'm concerned, resistance to bending under extreme pressure is not something I'm looking for in an iPhone (although it might be a concern to those who like to carry their phones in their back pockets).  I bought it to live in my purse, to hopefully take the place of the big and bulky iPad 2 when I'm out and about, and I almost never sit on my purse or put it in giant Consumer Reports phone smashing machines.  I'm more than happy to accept a slightly less rugged device in exchange for lightening the weight it adds to my handbag.

I was previously paying for a cellular data plan on the old iPhone as well as on the iPad, but the only time I was actually using the data for the phone was when I had left the iPad at home because it was too heavy.  I didn't like the redundancy of carrying and paying for data plans on two devices that do essentially the same thing, one of them a bit too small and the other one a lot too big.  I think the larger screen on the 6 Plus will be just big enough that I will be able to use it for checking emails, reading the newspaper, online shopping while waiting at red lights, and using Pinterest.  And of course, a new iPhone needs a new case (which presumably will also help to inhibit the ever-so-slight possibility of bending), which has also been ordered but that will probably take longer to arrive than the phone:
Leather iPhone 6 Plus Case in Brown Stingray from Piel Frama

I love Piel Frama leather tech covers.  They are handcrafted in Spain with a 30-day lead time, but totally worth the wait because they feel good in your hand, offer excellent protection, and last forever (or at least until I'm ready to upgrade to a newer device).

Well, I promised to keep it short and sweet with this post, so that's it for today.  Back to my pineapple log cabin blocks!  I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Judy's blog.
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