Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Victoriana Quilt Designs Quilter's Meet-n-Greet Intro

Wow ... the pressure is on!  Benita of Victoriana Quilt Designs invited me to participate in her September 2018 "Quilter's Meet -n- Greet" !   This is very exciting because you, the reader, will have a fantastic opportunity to read about and visit the blogs of all sorts of quilters.  Click on the high-lighted Meet-n-Greet link to visit all the blogs of great, participating quilters!

Benita is also having a contest with the Meet-n-Greet to encourage all of you to visit the participating blogs! You can check out the amazing prizes available here or just click on the picture to the right/

I was tickled pink!  Except that ... seeing as I have not been part of such an event before .. what do I write about?  Well, apparently, this introduction post is supposed to be just that .. and intro to me and my quilting.  Goodness gracious .. I can talk for HOURS about that topic!  (yeah .. just ask my family!)  :-)

So, where to start?  The Good Fairy of the Wizard of Oz suggested to Dorothy that is it is always best to start at the beginning .. so I shall do so.

First .. welcome!  I'm so pleased that you are here!

In the dim recesses of my memory, I have mental pictures of one of the first quilts I made.  It was circa 1970's and I made a strip quilt for the brother of my older brother's girlfriend (who he later married).  It was VERY simple, as my skills were VERY basic at that time.  It turned out to be a usable quilt and I was pleased with it.  Unfortunately, I have no pictures.

In the ensuing years, I did less quilting but MEGA amounts of garment sewing for myself and needlework.   In 1979-ish, I was married and moved into a new-to-us house.  At that time, I was subscribing to Family Circle magazine and they had an article to buy a kit which would enable to you to "make a quilt in a weekend".

one of my first quilts

Oh, stop laughing!  I *believed* them.  They wouldn't publish something that wasn't true, would they?  Well, I bought the quilt and one Friday afternoon, upon arriving home from work, I informed my new husband that I was going to be sewing all weekend and please don't interrupt or bother me.  I had a quilt to make.   Little did he realize this would be a scenario repeated ad naseum over the life of our marriage (now at 39 years!).  Poor him.  :-)

That quilt was a quilt as you go, Log Cabin.  King size.  Why a king size quilt?  Well, we had a king sized bed!!!   And you know what?  **I FINISHED THAT QUILT** by the end of Sunday evening.  It was pieced, quilted together and bound.  I had no doubt that I would accomplish the task because .. well .. the magazine SAID that I could make it in a weekend. :-)
I actually have a blog post about that quilt and you can read about the details here.

I made a *few* quilts after that but then we started a family and I returned to my garment-sewing roots and began years and years and years of making gorgeous, adorable garments for our three daughters.  Dang, I gotta say that they were the best dressed little girls in town.

But, around middle school, they decided they wanted to look more like the other girls .. fair enough .. and I greatly reduced my garment sewing .. but resumed my quilting.  It was in 2000 that we did a fairly major remodel on our house that knocked down the old, non-functional back porch and rebuilt it into a 10'x20' sewing studio for me (with an adjacent office for my home business .... when I closed that business about 15 years later, I converted that office space into my paper crafting hobby room.  No space is ever wasted!)

It was at that time .. 2000 .. that I realized that making quilts was FAR EASIER than making garments!  Dang .. no bodily curves to accommodate!   And quilts never get out grown!  Woo hoo!  I began quilting With A Vengeance.    From then, I have never stopped.

I made quilts for us, for the girls, for relatives, for gifts, for events, for no reason at all other than I liked the layout.   And I started collecting fabric suitable for quilting.  (DO NOT mention to my husband that I STILL have fabric for garments ... he doesn't quite understand the difference in fabric types!).   I now have a lovely inventory of quilting fabrics but never quite seem to have THE fabric necessary for any particular project.  How on earth is that possible?  (rhetorical question!)

I started with geometric patterns because they were the easiest to conceptualize.  Over the years, I have taken classes (both online and physical). I have expanded my skills to the point where I think I have done just about every technique .. or at least it certainly seems that way.

After not liking hand applique at all, I learned a technique from Nancy Lee Chong of Pacific Rim Quilting Company, that made me an absolute gushing Fan Girl of her technique and patterns.  Now, I will happily and contentedly do needleturn applique at the drop of a hat.

I started my concept of a Forever Project™  ... this is a long-term project that doesn't have a fixed finish date.  It gets worked on when I get around to it.  My first Forever Project was a hand embroidered throw pillow of a sitting unicorn.  It was for my oldest daughter (who was born in 1983).  It took me 10 years to finish that *small* throw pillow because I kept putting it away!  Sadly, I don't have a picture of it.  But it eventually got done and I needed something else to do.

hand stitched Cathedral Window
My second Forever Project™ was a hand stitched Cathedral Window.  I had found some fabric of my Mom's (who had passed away in 1989) and I felt very emotional and sentimental about it.  There wasn't a whole lot but I made some Cathedral Window blocks and made them the center focal point of a quilt.   It took me 7 years before I decided that it was "big enough".

After that, I had a fairly flexible mindset about Forever Project™ quilts.  Some were small, some were large.  Some took no time at all, some took years.

But always, they are projects that are hand work .. something portable .. something that I could work on in doctor's office waiting rooms, in the car on road trips, on vacations while away from my sewing machine.  And they never, ever, ever had a firm finish date.  When they got done, they got done.

I think I've done about a dozen ???? or so Forever Projects™ thus far.  They just never seem to end. :-)

I love sewing.  I LOVE quilting.  Like every other quilter I know, I have far more potential projects, UFOs, WIPs and inventory for projects than I will use in my lifetime.  But that doesn't stop me because I'M NOT A QUITTER!!  :-)

Lone Star with applique
You might be wondering about the dramatic lone star and applique quilt by my link on Victoriana Quilt Designs.  *That* quilt was a delight to make. Although the basic design is a Lone Star, the whole thing is an original design (with inspiration from a Ricky Tim's quilt) that had its ups and downs during construction.  The fabrics are hand-dyes and absolutely seem to *glow*.  It remains one of my favorites.  (and *one of these days*, I'll even get around to posting the gallery web page about it!)

I do have a web site which is a gallery of my quilts.  I started the web site as an online scrapbook of sorts to remind me what I had created and what I was thinking during that project.  Of late, I've been quite the lamer about keeping it up to date but seeing as I am feeling more energized about returning to blogging ... then my web site gallery must need to be updated as well!  And so I shall.  My quilting-specific part of my web site is The Dread Pirate Rodgers Quilting Projects.   The main site can be found at The Dread Pirate Rodgers Home Page.

Don't forget to visit all the other quilter participants of the Victoriana Quilt Designs Meet -n- Greet!

Click on the link below or the picture above for the contest!

Happy quilting!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Shimmer Braid top completed ... 3 years later

Shimmer Braid
with original pieced border

Waaaaay back in 2015, I saw a post from the Fort Worth Fabric Studio, in which they were announcing a new kit available at the time.  The name of the pattern is "Shimmer Braid" and was designed by Deanna Jennings.
the standard Log Cabin blocks
I don't normally buy kits (i.e. the pattern plus fabrics) because I have a pretty extensive stash and can envision a pattern in the fabrics that I have.  But this example?  Oh. My. Gosh.  It was drop dead gorgeous.  

the uneven Log Cabin blocks
THE COLORS!!!   Purples and teals and blues and turquoises and sea green .... they sang to my heart!  I absolutely knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was NOTHING in my stash that could rival this selection.  I had to have it.  So, I bought the kit .. the pattern and fabrics.

French Braid segment for interior

In time, the box arrived.  The fabrics *were* exactly as the picture portrayed.  Lordy, lordy, they were gorgeous.  But, I probably was hip-deep in other projects at the time, so it was put away.  I do remember pulling the box out from time to time over the intervening years but always put the box back on the shelf.  
There was also a Facebook group specifically for this project as a quilt-along but since I wasn't going to be working on it in 2015, I never was a part of that group.  The group still exists, if you care to look it up for pictures of the different variations that were made by the members.  They are simply breath-taking.  Quilters are SO creative and this Facebook group is no exception.

French Braid for the corners
This past July (2018), Mr. Pirate & I took a road trip in our travel trailer to see the Sisters, OR annual quilt show and to join in the celebration of a quilting friend's 50th birthday.  Since we were going to be "camped" there for about 4 days, I brought along Shimmer Braid to work on, in addition to my typical handwork.  

two of the stars in the center
Once I opened up the box and started reading the 5 part tutorials for cutting and assembly, I realized why I kept putting it back.  I was having trouble making heads or tails of the cutting directions.  I even had one of my *very* experienced quilting friends look over the directions with me, in the hopes that another set of eyes would set me straight.  But .. no ... she couldn't figure the directions out either.   Eventually, I just bundled all the fabric back into the box and brought it, unsewn, back home.

I must say, at this point, that I usually have positive posts.  I've been quilting for over 30 years and have made all kinds of different patterns.  I haven't shied away from "difficult" layouts and I've been extremely successful in creating lovely tops and quilts.  I say this because I had *serious* issues with the directions and assembly directions, as written.  For me, they were difficult to follow.  When I read the comments on the Facebook group, everyone was extremely supportive, so the only conclusion that I can come to is that *I* am in the distinct minority here and the problems in following the cutting and assembly directions must lie with me.  If so, i take full responsibility for that failing.
I also had an issue with the fabrics that were included in the kit.  There was yardage for the sashing and the background.  Fat quarter bundles were included for all the lovely focus fabric.  While the directions come right out and STRESS that if you are using fat quarters, you MUST cut all the strips along the 20"22" length, not the 18" length.  Fair enough ... good warning.  And I was very, very careful to check, double-check and triple-check that I was cutting along the correct dimension.  I was paranoid about incorrect cutting and running out of fabric (at this point, I didn't realize how much extra fabric had been included.)
the 3" stack of leftover, unused fat quarter pieces
However, even with that caution, the directions also say that one fat quarter bundle wasn't *quite* enough to yield all the pieces necessary for the top ... so ... the shop included *two* fat quarter bundles of the focus fabric so that the top could be successfully completed.  What this REALLY meant was that, when completed, there was WAAAAAAY more fat quarter pieces left over that *were not needed* but the customer had to pay for them.   My opinion is that the store should have cut the focus fabric from *yardage* instead of using precut fat quarter bundles.

Having said all of that, eventually, after all lot of gnashing of teeth, frustration and annoyance with the assembly directions, I eventually did get the top successfully pieced.  I love, *love*, LOVE the colors and the arrangement!  Except ... the outer border.  The directions have the option of sizing the top up to a queen size.  This is accomplished by adding on plain, white borders to the outside.  While this does give the quilter lots and lots and lots of white space for creative quilting, those slabs-o-borders did absolutely nothing to enhance the basic layout.  I will say that the original, smaller size is lovely and the only reason I didn't make it is because I tend to like bed-sized quilts.

So, I ignored the directions for the white slab-o-border and with the help of my reference books, made a staggered piano key border from the TONS of leftover focus fabrics.   (And there is STILL enough focus fabric fat quarters to make another decent sized quilt.)  Truthfully, I like my pieced border a whole lot better than the plain, white borders.  But *that* is a matter of personal preference and many quilters may like the plain borders precisely for the quilting opportunities.
It took me from mid-July to mid-August 2018 to complete this top .. and do note that this is still just a top.  I've made the necessary bias binding and have pinned the binding to the top (so it doesn't get lost).  The finished top is hanging neatly in a closet, with all the other tops, waiting for its turn to be quilted.  
I haven't a clue when I'll get around to quilting it but I'm sure glad it is now pieced!
  It's a very large UFO off my list and has left a lovely HUGE empty space on my bookshelf!  I really to love it when I can cross a UFO off my list.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Stash Busting Stars top finally completed

When last we met, I was working on Esther Aliu's "Stash Busting Stars" and had left you hanging at the half-stars used in the borders.  Totally my fault.  For a long while, I had been in the midst of blogging-blahs.  I was still piecing tops, but just could *not* generate the energy to take that last step to blog about it or make the web page.  I think I am emerging from that phase of ennui and feeling a renewed sense of eagerness.  Lucky you. :-)

I am pleased to share that I have FINISHED all the Stash Busting Stars that I needed for my top and then augmented the layout with some leaves and vines.  I started the first hand-pieced star in September 2016 and finished the last hand-appliqued leaf in February 2018.  The blocks themselves are machine-pieced together.

Keiko Miyauchi - June 2000
You see, waaaaay back in 2001 I bought a quilter's calendar.  Each month had an awe inspiring quilt from a master quilter.  One month truly took my breath away and when the year was over, I saved that one page for the day when I might use it as inspiration.  Well, finally, that day had arrived.   I KNEW the minute I saw Esther's stars that the intertwining vines and leaves would be PERFECT for the setting of Esther's stars.  The quilt on that calendar page was made by Keiko Miyauchy.

I had deferred the background fabric until I had made all the stars.  I wanted to let them tell me what would look good.  And they did.

I chose a soft pastel yellow .. a color that I normally don't use at all .. but it just seemed to work well with all the colors in the stars.   I had found a lovely white tone-on-tone fabric "someplace" and used Rit dye to color it that soft yellow.  The overall look-and-feel of the fabric is a very subtle pastel yellow but upon closer inspection, you can see the tone-on-tone design.   It came out perfectly. 
dyed tone on tone background fabric

Except for the binding!  I had JUST enough of the tone-on-tone that I had dyed myself for the background fabric but not enough to make the binding.  However, I wasn't concerned because I have a magic card up my sleeve!    To get the amount of yardage that I needed for the binding in the precise shade I wanted, I used the excellent services of Tammy Salzman, "Always Unique Hand Dyed Fabric".    I've used Tammy before to get the most luscious hand-dyed fabric for my appliques and have never been disappointed in the quality of her fabrics.  I sent Tammy a swatch of my dyed fabric and .. as I knew she would .. she matched it EXACTLY.   I am simply delighted.

I appliqued all the stars onto the background yellow but instead of using squares as the background shape, I intentionally used rectangles, so I would have room for my vines and leaves.

Once the rectangles of stars were sewn together into a HUGE top, then I began applying the bias binding vines and making the double-pointed leaves.  OH MY GOSH, I quickly became SO BORED with vines and leaves!  There were a gazillion of them!

Remember my inspiration photo?  Well, Keiko Miyauchy is a saint.  There was absolutely NO WAY that I could have EVER replicated her intricate design.  I was having enough trouble slogging through my pared down version!   So, my own version is a very simplified version of Keiko's.  My rationale is that I figured that I could actually FINISH my version, whereas the time required for hers was waaaaay beyond what I wanted to devote to this project!

But, eventually, after simply putting my nose to the grindstone, pulling up my big girl panties, and applique-applique-applique .. in February 2018, I put my last stitch into the last leaf.  My goodness ... the 800 lb gorilla was off my shoulders!  I didn't quite know what to do with all of my "free" time!  :-)  (Well, that feeling lasted for about 5 minutes because I have a STACK of unfinished projects to be worked on and they were all calling my name.)

I have neatly folded up the top and binding fabric and they are hanging in the closet, with all the other tops that are waiting to be quilted.  I have NO idea how I'm going to quilt this.  My Muse hasn't spoken to me ... yet. :-)

Here is my finished top .. it measures 90" x 102".

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Stash Busting Stars: half-star #4

And *just like that* .. bingo! ... half-star #4 was finished!

oooooooh!  I'm half way done with the half-stars!  A milestone!

Work continues with half-star #5, using the dark hued striped fabric.  I'm using  the striped fabric in position 2, so I hope that the entire effect is pleasing.  If not ... eh, shrug.  :-)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Stash Busting Stars: half-star #3

Yup, here it is, in all its glory ... the next completed half-star!

This makes #3 of 8.

If you count the fabrics from the center outwards,
#1 is the blue diamonds
#2 is a pink floral
#3 is a pink/green print
#4 is the green

Fabrics #2 and #3 were 'donation' fabrics, in that they were given to me by a quilter who was purging her stash.  They are perfectly good fabrics; the prints are simply something that I wouldn't have normally chosen for myself.

But, this project has been pushing me to consider fabrics that I wouldn't ordinarily use.  Fabric #2 is actually rather old-fashioned looking, where as fabric #3 is VERY VERY busy.  I really can't even describe the over all impact of fabric #3.  :-)

But, together?  I actually think they work rather nicely.  I'm sure that's a metaphor for something in life. :-)

Work on half-star #4 is progressing onwards.

As I was rummaging through my fabric bins for something else, I came across a dark hued striped fabric.  In keeping with using fabrics that are a tad outside my limits, I decided that it would be a good candidate as an anchor fabric for a half-star.  It has enough other colors for coordination.  We'll see how that one turns out. :-) 

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Stash Busting Stars: half star #2

Having finished all my full Stash Busting Stars, I have turned my attention to the half-stars that are needed for the layout.

Here is the second half-star I've completed.

And then ... listen to my tale of woe.  Woe is me.  (there's more).

The quilt project that I am currently working on is out of my comfort zone.  Yes, I did intentionally decide to do this.  It's a (for me) artsy-fartsy sort of design of leaves "blowing in the wind" but in a controlled sort of way.

Additionally, I am using some rainbow ombre quilter's lamé fabric, purchased God knows when or from where.  I had about 1/4 yard and that was *IT*.  There's not a glimmer of a chance of getting more, so that is exactly how much fabric I have to work with.  Therefore, I cut out exactly as many leaves as I could ... and that's all there is.  Period.  I gotta make this design work with the number of leaves in the colors that I have.

After looking at lots of inspirational pictures, I came up with a design that I kinda/sorta like and can live with.  It's not as dismal at you might think because, having no original design gene in my make-up, I never "know" what exactly to do, so everything is shades of "can I live with this?"   And the design I came up with was on the "yes" side of that question.

But, the design felt as though it needed an "anchor point", so to speak.  I figured a green stalk would hold down the design in an asymmetrical sort of way.   I do have a shimmery green fabric in my stash but it's more of a remnant than yardage and was nowhere near the amount that I needed for this stalk.

So, I went shopping online.  I figured some shot cotton would be cool and I found some.  While I was waiting for my order to be delivered, I came across a design that *immediately* jumped out at me and said .. OH YES!  THIS IS THE DESIGN TO USE!   Not only was I so pleased to be enthusiastic about it, it happened to be a free tutorial!  With the pattern!  Oh, hooray, hooray!  This design is a lovely, lovely bare tree trunk and branches with leaves scattered all over.  It was a MUCH better design than what I had come up with.

I eagerly started reading the tutorial only to find that the design had found the process of getting her pattern pieces to the publisher (she apparently had it published at some point) rather difficult because the design is just so large that she point-blank told her readers that there was no way she could provide the tree pattern on the blog and her Dear Readers should simply ... *draw it freehand*.  Oh My Goodness.

Well .. I suppose that having  a picture of her tree will guide me to drawing FREEHAND my own tree.   :: gritting my teeth ::

But now ... if you remember .. I've already ordered the green stalk fabric.  It's on it's way and can't be cancelled.  Tree trunks are NOT green.  Unless they are covered with moss and even then, there's some "tree trunk" color showing through.  Sooooooo ... since my leaves are ombre rainbow anyway (and not real leaf colors), should I just use the green fabric for the tree trunk?  It'll look rather surrealistic.  Or should I put the green shot cotton into my inventory for another project and go looking for some brown tree trunk fabric?  Would a realistic brown tree trunk go well with rainbow colored leaves?  Or should I just leave the tree green because the whole image is preposterous anyway.   :-)    I'll think on it.

Meanwhile, back at the online site, I decided that it was about time that I came to a conclusion about the background fabric for the Stash Busting Stars (and you thought that topic was finished for this post, right?)

Looking at the clearance section ( ... LOOK at how much money I'm saving by purchasing it on SALE!!  :-)   ), I saw a very soft butter yellow fabric that, in my mind's eye, would work rather nicely with the stars that I have made.  Unfortunately, I ran into a problem when I added the butter yellow fabric to my cart: they didn't have enough of it for my background.  Aaarrgghh.

Back to the clearance section ... and I found a white-on-white design that would suffice.

The fabric was ordered and my life moved on.   Several days later, my bundle of joy arrived in the mail.  Hooray!  This was my green stalk fabric and my butter yellow background!  Oh yes, I could definitely see that butter yellow as the background!  It was going to be so pretty!

But wait, you say.  Didn't you actually buy the white on white?  

Well, yeah, but my one remaining brain cell hadn't remembered that.  To say that I was 1) puzzled 2) annoyed and 3) disappointed when I pulled out 7 yards of white on white is an understatement.  Then I remembered why it was white on white and not butter yellow.

Unfortunately, my brain is still fixated on the butter yellow.  It's not really *liking* the white on white.  And I'm stewing.  My mind is frowning.  What can be done to remedy this situation?

BUT WAIT!!  A solution has been thought of!!  Dang, I can DYE THAT FABRIC!    I've dyed white on white fabric before and it comes out a wonderful tone-on-tone because the printed white design absorbs the dye differently than the base fabric.  When the dyeing gets done, it will be a yellow tone-on-tone in a very unobtrusive sort of way .. and it will be *fantastic*!

Yay, me!  :-)   So, *that* project needs to be done before I can proceed with using it as the background for my Stash Busting Stars.

Post Script:  as I was writing the above, the image of a green tree trunk VS a brown tree trunk was swirling in the back of my mind.   I'm leaning on the side of using the green because the leaves are outrageous already.  :-)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Stash Busting Star #11; Ribbon Box top

Wow ... I have FINALLY completed my very LAST full Stash Busting Star!  It was 5 months ago in September 2016 that I started this project with the VERY ambitious plan of doing a star a week.

O.M.G.  A star a week.  How formidable a goal was that?  Reality certainly set me straight in short order.

But, I have now finished 11 full stars and 1 half star.  I must admit that even though I am certainly capable of dedicated working on a project for many months .. even years ... I am kinda tired of working on these full stars.

Luckily, I need only 8 half stars .. and one of those is already made.   Half stars should go twice as fast as the full stars, right?

Right.  :-)

And then ... this past weekend, Dear Husband and I stayed at Skyline Wilderness RV Park in Napa, CA.  It's nearby to us but we had never been there before.  It's a gorgeous low hill area that abounds with trails to walk on, paths to ride your horse (bring your own!) and even has an archery range (bring your own gear).

Due to an unfortunate car mechanical problem, we were unable to enjoy Saturday at our leisure but Sunday was just for relaxing.  The weather wasn't quite as nice on Sunday as it was the previous day but Dear Husband decided to go for a "walk" anyway.

I took one look at the gathering clouds and the chilly temperature outside and wished him safe travels ... *I* would stay inside the trailer and SEW!  :-)  

I had prepped for this particular project by cutting all the pieces at home, labeling and bagging them.  I was very pleased to have been able to use my flannel scraps/remnants to construct the top ... including the background.

The pattern, "Ribbon Box Quilt", a freebie available from Cloud9Fabrics.com, was easy enough to sew together .. provided that you paid attention to which piece was going where!  The overall layout was woven ribbons, so if you got a piece out of place, the entire effect would be ruined.

sewing station at the dinette
This was the first time that I actually sewed *inside* the trailer.  All of my previous sewing endeavors have been outside on a table.  But with the cold temperatures and sporadic wind, it was much better for me to be inside.

pressing station at sink counter top
I was able to sew all afternoon and made excellent progress.  When Dear Husband returned from his walk (uphill both ways, of course), we went out for dinner.  After that break, I continued with sewing and was able to finish the top that evening.

Back at home, I found an extra wide piece of flannel to serve as the backing (seamless!  score!) and I made the double fold bias binding so that when this top eventually gets quilted, it can be bound in short order.