Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A UFO bin emptied!

I *really* have been concentrating on working on finishing up various UFOs that I had organized (some time ago) into a number of bins.   When that organization was done, I had at least 5 bins full of UFOs and WIPs.  I put my nose to the grindstone and steadily worked on either 1) finishing the UFO into a top or 2) deciding that the UFO wasn't giving me enough love to be worthy of being worked on.

I'm not sure exactly when I started on this specific bin but it was MANY months ago.  My efforts have been limited to simply making the UFO into a quiltable *top* ... but not necessarily *quilting* the top.  That step will occur later.  A lot later.

ohmygosh, a Red Letter Day!
An empty bin!
BUT ... today, I achieved an incredible accomplishment: I EMPTIED A UFO BIN.  Lordy, lordy ... do I feel ecstatic!!  I can't even tell you how many UFOs were in that bin, as I didn't think to count them when I started.  However, there were A LOT.  This bin was FULL of UFO packages .. all of them complete with patterns and fabric to make them.

Most of the UFOs were actually pieced together into a quiltable top.  As I remember, only 3 items were put into the "reject" pile, to be disposed of later on.  Two of those items were soft pre-printed fabric book panels, originally destined for a toddler, now long since grown out of that age group.  Fortunately, one of my forum quilting associates said that she was interested in buying them .. so voila!  Those items are now disposed of!   The one other "reject" had the fabrics put back into the general population and I will attempt to sell the pattern.

uh oh ... 13 UFO projects in here!
Not to waste time, I promptly pulled the next UFO bin from the shelf and put it in the batter's box, so to speak.

I counted the UFOs and there are 13 packages in this bin.  However, as I went through them, there is at least one that isn't going to be made .. it's a vest and I'm not into wearing vests any longer.

I'll put that pattern in the "to sell" pile and repurpose the fabrics.  I recognized some real humdingers in that bin; it's going to be an interesting assortment to work on.

Yep, time to organize this pile of scraps
And as long as I was tidying up and reorganizing that area of my sewing room, I decided that it was finally time to put my collection of scraps into their appropriate scrap baskets.   When I'm sewing, I have *one* all-purpose scrap bin that I toss all remnants, cut offs, etc into.  When it reaches the over-flowing stage ... that you see here ... then I'll stop what I'm doing and sort the scraps into colored bins.  And I did exactly that.

So, along with a new UFO bin to work from, I also have a newly emptied scrap basket.

"Stash Busting Stars" - star 3

First half star ... so pretty!
I came >thisclose< to finishing MUCH earlier than I actually did with this star.   The 6 inner diamonds were to be made from a printed green marble .. a very pretty design, if I say so myself.

I stitched all the appropriate pieces and sub-units.  Then came the assembling of the star itself ... first one half and then the other.  The first half turned out beautifully.

ACK!!   How did those pieces get in the center??
The second half was stitched together in good fashion but when I put the two halves to together to admire my work ...


Remember that I said the green marble was to be in the center?  Well, somewhere along the line, I simply wasn't paying attention and assembled the WRONG PIECES in the center.

Geez, Louise.   What an incredibly STUPID thing to have done.  Not only do I have to rip out all that hand stitching but then I have to go back over the same real estate and stitch it back together .... CORRECTLY.

I tell you, I was sorely vexed.

ahhhh!!!  A nicely completed star!
But ... it obviously needed to be done, since the second half was unusable as it was.  Even with sporadic interruptions during the rest of the evening, I did get Stash Busting Star #3 completed.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

English Paper Piecing (EPP) question

I am currently in love with EPP.  It's working with small, little units that I can pick up and finish on a moment's notice.  It's a fantastic portable project that I can take anywhere.  I made myself "grab-n-go" little bag that contains all the supplies necessary to work on an EPP project so I can be usefully occupied on road trips ... or waiting during appointments, etc.

I've finished at least one big bed quilt top with the EPP method (hooray!) and am currently working on my next one.  (hooray!)  I have even mapped out a continuous thread (OH HOORAY!) quilting design for the big bed quilt top, although I haven't started quilting it yet.

I whip stitch my seams, about 12-14 stitches per inch (yep, I counted them!), so it's a pretty substantial bit of stitching to hold the pieces together.   I don't use the ladder stitch *at all* because I can see, even when I gently pull the EPP pieces opposite each other, the ladder stitch does not hold well, as it "opens up" and creates gaps.  My whip stitches absolutely show no gaps when the EPP pieces are similarly pulled.

I recently took a class from a national instructor on longarm quilting designs.  He got to chatting about his other interests and one of them being EPP.  One aspect of quilting EPP never occurred to me and I'd really appreciate any and all of you, dear Readers, to comment on your thoughts on this aspect.

The instructor mentioned, quite rightly, that when you sew all your EPP pieces together, the edges are butted right up to each other.  Obviously, these seamlines are *not* nested.  As such, there is *no* ditch to do a stitch-in-the-ditch quilting.  Sure, you can do an echo stitch to the side of the seamline, but you can't do a SITD because there IS NO ditch!  If you tried to do a SITD, you'd just be stitching between the EPP pieces and not through them at all.  The best quilting design would be some sort of overall design because that doesn't require any SITD stabilization stitching.

BUT ... even if you do a nice overall design, those butted seamlines are going to be stressed when the quilt is used.  So, what can you do to augment this circumstance?

Well, the instructor said what he does is to put a large, seamless piece of muslin *under* the EPP top and on top of the batting, rather like a false top.  There would be *four* layers of fabric.  The muslin would act to help stabilize all the EPP pieces by helping absorb the stress of the quilt being pulled about when used.

While this may be true, it occurs to me that quilt tops are heavy enough as they are.  Add in the weight of batting and backing and sometimes you end up with a quilt that you could literally smother someone with love!  If you add *another* layer of fabric, the weight is only going to increase.  Is this something that is considerable enough to be concerned about?  Or would the extra weight of the "false top" negligible?

Has anyone ever done this?  Ever considered it?

For those of you who have actually quilted your EPP tops, have you experienced any stress problems with the seams?  .. i.e. have they pulled apart?

Friday, October 14, 2016

"Stash Busting Stars" - star 2

Continuing with my progress on Esther Aliu's "Stash Busting Stars" project, I have finally finished star #2.  This one is made with rich, luxurious blues.

For the center, I chose a printed marble.  Obviously, real marbled fabric would be luscious, but printed marble is what I had in my stash.

Next came a hand dyed, mottled white/yellow/gray.  I had only a fat quarter of this fabric and it was just enough.  I found this fabric in a now-defunct fabric store in Alta, CA on our annual family camping vacation.  It's sad that quilting stores don't stay in business .... for a variety of reasons.  I know there is a HUGE quilt guild in that area but I suppose that the general economy just couldn't support a new quilt store when there were already three in the general vicinity .. although a major one that was simply overwhelming in its inventory closed its doors last year when the owners wanted to retire.

The third round was made from the remnants of a royal blue gradient fabric that is over-printed with gilt.  Oh My Goodness .. this fabric is SOOOOOOO beautiful!  I was exceedingly happy that I had enough leftover to be able to cut enough pieces for this round!

The last round is a solid navy blue.  I felt that a solid (or something that read as "solid") was needed just to give your eyeballs a place to rest, as the remainder of the stars are going to be busy enough. :-)

I've already picked out and cut the fabric for the Star #3 ... that will be green.   I'm looking forward to working on this new color.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Stash Busting Stars" - progress continues with star #1

I've started a new hand-pieced project, Esther Aliu's "Stashing Busting Stars".   You can read about the first half-star I made here.

I thought that I would proceed on a 'one star a week' basis.  After all, once the fabric pieces have been cut out, all you have to do is wrap them around the templates and sew them up, right?

Bwahahahahaaaaa!   Yeah, right.

Seems that I forgot about how Life Gets In The Way. :-)

Right after I finished that half-star, I immediately plunged into my scrap bins and pulled out some fabric to make my first full star.  It took me slightly more than a week ... as I missed last Wednesday's linky on Esther's blog ... but as of today (Saturday, 9/24/16), I *have* finished it!  Woo hoo!

This is just the circular star portion of the block.  It finished at 19" diameter, which is less than the 21" dimension of the full block .. but that's because I have NOT determined what my background fabric will be.  The background fabric will make up the difference.

I don't intend on even thinking about the background fabric until I have more stars made .. a LOT more stars.  Since I plan in making these stars without regard to color planning, I can certainly defer decisions of the background fabric until much later.  Or until I find a Really Good Deal on an Obviously Suitable Background Fabric. :-)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I need a new Forever Project™

A "Forever Project™" is a handwork one, that I can do while I am away from home.  When I'm home, I'm using my sewing machine.  So, when I'm away from home .. appointments, road trips, whatever .. I want to still be productive and creative.  I get antsy and feel as though I am wasting my time if my hands aren't busy with some sort of handwork.  My Forever Projects™ sometimes really DO feel as though they are going to last "forever" but eventually they become completed. On the other hand, if it gets put aside and never gets done, that's OK with me also.  After all, it *is* a "Forever Project™"!

I've just finished a Forever Project™ and need a new one.  I have discovered that I absolutely adore English Paper Piecing (EPP).  It was in 2013 that I first began my tentative exploration of EPP and hexagons.  My first hexies were HUGE .. like 2" on a side huge!  When I realized that I really did like this procedure, I dropped the size of my hexies .. although I've never gone to the extreme of making 1/4" hexies. :-)

All the while, almost the only shape I did was hexies.  Three years and many projects later, even I will admit that hexies are getting a little stale.   Although, having said that, I have a zip pouch of fabric squares, hexie templates and supplies as my "grab bag" for working on something in the car .... hexies are absolutely mindless creativity for me these days.

I have been thinking that it would be nice to work on OTHER shapes for EPP projects.  So, it was rather fortuitous that I read Esther Aliu's blog of September 5, 2016 where she launched her newest pattern, "Stash Busting Stars".  Eventually, I succumbed to it's siren call and purchased the pattern.

Let me preface this next part by saying that I *DID* read the pattern before making the templates.  Apparently, I glossed over the fact that a full star block is 21".  Let me repeat that .. TWENTY-ONE INCHES square.  It just didn't register ... at the time!

From my stash, I pulled out a lovely piece of black background with hot pink polka dots.  This would be *perfect* for the center star.

But .. hmmm ...  I only had enough to cut 3 star pieces (out of a total of 6 needed).  Not to worry; I'm certain that more of the fabric is in my scrap box.

Only, I don't.  I up-ended my scrapbox and there was simply no scrap of this fabric in sight.  And neither did this fabric exist in my yardage inventory.  Oy vey!

So .. hmmm ... what to do.   Well, the pattern DOES call for a certain number of half-blocks and with only 3 star pieces that is exactly what I could make!  Continuing onwards, I pulled out some compatible fabrics for the other block pieces and happily stitched away.

Do you know ... really KNOW ... how BIG a 21" block is???  Good LORD .. it's HUGE!!   (insert picture of my hitting my head on the wall).  After working with the small hexies, these pieces felt incredibly awkward in my hands but I'm sure with repeated use, they will feel less so.

The round star block is designed to be inset into a square block .. or alternatively, you could applique onto a background square.  But, I am worlds away from making a decision on what the background fabric should be.  So, what I did was to simply baste, with big, galloping stitches, the folded under edges of my half-star block onto a piece of muslin ... just to keep those pesky seam allowances in check!

I am really, *really*, REALLY pleased with the way this (half) block came out!  I can see why this pattern is perfect for scrap busting ... you really only need a little bit of four fabrics to make the block.   Sure, you'll need a whole bunch of yardage for the background .... but you can defer that decision for a LONG time ... as you continue to make bunches of round stars.  :-)

Thank you to Esther for coming up with this pattern.  I'm looking forward to this being my next Forever Project™!!  :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Reaching Out" - my Forever Project™ top is finished!

YES! the top is finally done.  Borders and everything!.

My own "rule" for Forever Projects™ is that they are handwork and done only when I am away from my house .. doctor's appointments, Little League games, road trips, vacations.  I don't work on them at home because when I'm at home, I using my sewing machine to work other projects.

But, because I was just a tad paranoid that I had underestimated the border fabric (and the store only had a little more AND it wasn't even a local store for me), I plunked my rear end down in a chair and stitched away until I was done, *done*, DONE!  

It feels very, very weird not to have it around to work on.  :-)

All of the hexie flowers were hand-stitched.  All of the applique was hand done.  The borders that connect to the hexie flowers (the sides) were hand stitched/appliqued but the top/bottom borders, which were straight lines, were machine stitched on.

I wanted to be able to have all of the applique pieces "complete" before I ever stitched them to the base fabric.  This is because, if left to my typical practices, I will keep picking ONE color and then I'd have a concentration of THAT color in ONE spot rather than it being scattered all over the top.  In order to have that apparent random scattering of color, for me, it would be best if all the applique shapes were prepped before hand.

To do that, I used a fusible, water-soluable stabilizer as my applique template.  These come in sheets that can be fed through your ink jet printer.  So, I scanned all the applique shapes, put them into a graphic and then *printed* the applique shapes onto the water-soluable sheet.  Afterwards, I cut the template shapes out, fused them to the wrong side of the appropriate fabric and used a washable glue stick to adhere the seam allowance to the back of the template.  

THEN, I could plop the appliques wherever I wanted and rearrange them easily before stitching them to the base fabric.  I also used a swipe of washable glue to stick the applique to the base fabric, instead of using pins .. because I just do not like getting stuck with pins when I am sewing!

Eventually (egads, is *that* a vast understatement!), all the applique shapes were stitched to their columns, the hexie flowers stitched to the edges of the columns, the columns were sewn together and the borders sewn on.  Whew.  1 year and 4 months of work.  I must add that I wasn't steadily stitching that entire time.  I was a lamer as I put it aside to work on other projects. :-)
The size is weird .. due to my hexie flower columns and the width of the borders; it's 75" wide and 101" long.   That makes it slightly less wide than a double/full but as long as a queen.   It is what it is. :-)
The jagged sides of the hexie flower columns were hand stitched to the appropriate base fabric (the border print or the white background fabric), while the straight line of the top & bottom borders were machine stitched.  Obviously, you can't tell the difference from a casual look, but *I* know just how much hand work went into it!
I didn't even TRY to match the pattern of the border lattice print!  While all the borders were cut with straight of grain, the sides were oriented vertically and the top/bottom borders were oriented sideways.  There is simply *no way* you can match up printed fabric when they are placed 90° to each other.

Here's my favorite hexie flower, the fabric is compliments of a quilting buddy.  It's a fussy cut hexie flower featuring piles of poo.  :-)

Some of the hexie flowers were fussy cut, some were just plain fabric and *some* were .. "oops.  I ran out of this fabric.  Let's see if I have something that coordinates."  :-)
As for the quilting .. well, that's an entirely separate project.  Although I'd be lying if I said I haven't been thinking about it.  I'll probably do a SITD around all the appliques.  Ugh .. yes, that a lot of SITD which is *not* the easiest thing to do with a longarm.  BUT, it will certainly stabilize the quilt and make the appliques more defined.  The background (white) will get some sort of filler but not a stipple.  I haven't a clue what I'm going to do with the hexie flower columns.  The borders could get a swag quilted design.  I like swags and although they may not be readily seen due to the lattice print, once again, it's my quilt and I can quilt whatever (inappropriate) design I want. :-)

But that's for the future.  Right now, I'm taking a break from quilting by attempting to get some household chores done.  After the HOURS of sitting required for the hand applique, I really, really, really feel the need to be moving around!  :-)

And yes, I do have another Forever Project lined up.  Details at 11. :-)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"Reaching Out" - has a light at the end of the tunnel

My current Forever Project™ has the end in sight!  This layout alternates columns of hexie flowers with columns of vines & floral appliques all surrounded by a slab-o-border.

I've been working on this hand-stitched project since .. well .. Forever.  (Actually April 2015).  I recently finished stitching all the panels (columns) together, since all the applique work was FINALLY done.  Oh, woo hooo ... I tell you, I am rather tired of those flowers and leaves.

I've been worrying about what to do about the border.  Generally speaking, I don't care for slab-o-borders but in this case, I think that is exactly what the layout calls for.  Any pieced or appliqued border would be just way too much when combined with the "busy-ness" of the interior.

When I was on a recent vacation, I hauled my Forever Project™ in to a local quilt store.  I was quite gratified when my applique column was ooooh'd and ahhhh'd over.  :-)    The employee, Lindy, helped me audition various fabrics, after I explained what I was .. and was not .. looking for.   I even entertained the notion that I wouldn't find anything.

left: edge to be appliqued.   Right: edge appliqued onto border fabric
So, it was with some surprise that I discovered a basketweave/lattice print that worked very nicely with the floral appliques and hexie flowers.   We calculated what we thought was a reasonable/correct amount for the border ... and I added on another half yard.    Being that I was on vacation, this particular quilt store was nowhere near my usual haunts and I knew if I had miscalculated and ran short of this print, I would be hard-pressed to find it locally.

So, after the last stitch was fastened off, which connected the last columns together, I took a HUGE breath and cut my borders.  And hallelujah!!  I will have enough.  Whew!

To be sure, there is more appliquing to be done .. as that is how I am going to attach the columns to the borders ... but ya know?  .... IT'S ALMOST DONE!!!  woo hoo!