Monday, April 12, 2021

Vertical Diamonds quilt from 2012 is finally finished

A Long-term UFO finally is finished!

Long before October 2012, I had accumulated a collection of brown and red "vintage-y" looking squares, about 7" big.   I made a few quilt tops with those squares.  At the time of this writing (2021), I'm thinking that I had pieced those tops both by machine and by hand (as a Forever Project).

In October 2012, I finished one such hand-pieced top, which I called Vertical Diamonds because the top was a set of diamonds, set in columns.   Truly, an original inspiration.  :-)

Seeing as I had put a LOT of time into the hand-piecing, I decided I wanted it to be hand-quilted, as well.  My major road block is that I do not hand-quilt.  I've done only a handful of small hand-quilted items and that was more than enough for me.  I nearly drove myself mad with boredom.

However, I like solutions, not problems.  I bartered with a hand-quilting friend of mine .... I would piece a top for her and she would hand-quilt my top.

In 2016, my friend completed the hand-quilting, much to my utter delight!  But, being the Master of Procrastination that I am, it took until now, April 2021, to get that top labeled and bound. 

Yeah, I'm a complete lamer.  :-)

I've actually made a web page to document this quilt .. will wonders and miracles never cease?

That was just a teaser for you! Please wander on over to Vertical Diamonds for more, detailed pictures and verbiage.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Deco Garden: border blocks DONE! floral block #47 DONE!

O.M.G.  I almost can't stand it.

The 28 border blocks with their accent circles
In my last post, I mentioned that I have completely, totally, absolutely, positively FINISHED all the border blocks for the Deco Garden Forever Project™!  That's 4 sides of the quilt .... 7 blocks per side .... for a total of 28 border blocks and a total of 112 small accent circles.

The 4 corner blocks and their accent circles
And then I remembered .... I had kinda/sorta forgotten about the corner blocks.  Oops.    I prepped those blocks, made the 24 MORE small accent circles and got everything stitched down.

As with all things, this was finally accomplished and with that ... YES!  WOO HOO, YES!  My border blocks AND corner blocks have been completed. 

I am mentally exhausted.

Bonus Block 49: Cyclamen
However, there is no rest for the wicked and my floral blocks still have some designs left to do.

This block is Bonus Block #49 (Cyclamen) from Reeze Hanson's "Deco Garden" patterns. 

It is the 47th floral block to be done.  TWO MORE FLORAL BLOCKS TO GO!!   Boy, I am rapidly approaching the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Deco Garden: bonus block 37, border blocks, and cornerstones

My focus lately has been on my heritage scrapbook albums. 

I finished one maternal line of my husband's, going back as far as I could reasonably verify, which was to a gentleman named Andrew Watson Robertson, born in 1825 in Ohio.  I can't go back further because I can't *absolutely* nail down Andrew's parents.  I have a hint on a Census that they might be in South Carolina but Census records from 1840 and earlier only *tally* the number of people in a household.  It doesn't give names or relationships or any details.  So although there are a number of "Robertsons" in South Carolina in the 1840 Federal Census, I can't definitively tie any of them to having a son named Andrew Watson Robertson.

This is excessively annoying because you KNOW the parents are out there ... I just can't definitively say "This is them."  So .. that's my brick wall for the Robertson family and that's as far back as I can go.  I was very pleased to have finished that album because it had languished for quite a while as my interest waxed and waned.  It's amazing how much productivity doesn't get done when you're not actively working on it.  :-)

After finishing that album, I almost started on the next family line, when I remembered a military service album that I had started for my Dad ages ago.  I figured it would be better to get that partially completed album finished so it could go on the bookcase, rather than take up space in my work room.

I was very, very fortunate in that my Dad saved quite a few official US Army papers, from which I was able to piece together his military service from basic training to infantry during World War II (South Pacific theater) to US Army Reserves during the Korean War.

I might do a dedicated post on that album later on but for now, I will simply feel very, very pleased that the album is done.

Which left me to return to my Deco Garden Forever Project ™.   Tom & I took a weekend away where I was able to do a substantial amount of work during the drive to/from and more work once we arrived at our destination.

bonus block 37 - Periwinkle
Bonus Block 37 (Periwinkle) was the next 12" floral block to be finished.

I have (4) more 12" floral blocks to do.  Although the applique templates have been cut and the applique placement guides have been made, I haven't yet prepped any of those blocks.

It occurs to me that perhaps a future blog post ought to be how my technique for the applique evolved over time.  But not today. :-)

All 28 border blocks

While completing a floral block is certainly cause for a major celebration, I gotta say that wasn't the case for this weekend trip.

THIS trip resulted in my finishing ALL THE BORDER BLOCKS!   Oh My Goodness .. all TWENTY EIGHT border blocks are now finished!  Working on these small blocks has certainly been tedious at times, since the blocks are all the same but putting in that last stitch was SO satisfying!

However, that self-satisfied smug smile was short-lived.  As I was stacking up all the border blocks, feeling inordinately proud of myself, I realized that ... oooooh noooooo!   those border blocks weren't QUITE 100% finished after all.

close-up of a border block with accent circles

Nope .. each of them required (4) small circles to be appliqued between the leaf elements.  Sigh.  That meant 28 blocks times 4 circles per block = 112 total small circles.  These circles are about 1/2" in diameter, so they are somewhat of a pain to deal with.

To get nicely uniform circles, I like to use a stiff template and make a  gathered circle around the template .. and that's exactly what I'm doing.  This is excessively tedious work and I'm not particularly looking forward to it.  But it's one more step that needs to be done.  Sigh.

the four corner blocks
AND THEN ... the very last blocks to be prepped were the (4) cornerstones.  I just finished those and they are ready to be stitched.   Except for the required small accent circles.  Yeah, these blocks want them also.  Sigh.

I've mentioned previously that I use Nancy Lee Chong's (of Pacific Rim Quilting Company) basted applique technique for all of my needleturn applique pieces.  It's the only method that didn't annoy me excessively or have a lot of unnecessary steps.  I highly recommend it.

So, the four cornerstones have been prepped ... the lighter green leaf elements and the color spot element have been basted on the turn line, following Nancy Lee Chong's method.  The darker green leaf unit was done differently.

There were waaaaaay too many narrow ins-and-out for me to want to negotiate.  I've done narrow "V" shapes plenty of times but by the time I was looking at these shapes, my brain was screaming NOOOOOOO.   :-)

So, I used an alternative method that is useful when the shape is just too complicated or tedious to stitch with a traditional needleturn method.  I call this "shaped applique", although that is strictly my term for it; I don't know if there is an official name.   This alternative technique calls for the finished shape to be cut from fusible, wash away stabilizer.  I use a product from Floriani.  The cut shape is fused to the wrong side of the applique fabric and trimmed to leave a small seam allowance.  I then swipe the perimeter with a washable glue stick and wrap the seam allowance over the stabilizer where the glue will keep it there. 

When I'm done wrapping the fabric, the final shape will conform beautifully to the stabilizer shape and all I have to do is to stitch the shape in place.  When I launder the quilt, the stabilizer will dissolve, leaving the applique nicely soft.

Bottom line ... I have 112 small accent circles to make and stitch for the border blocks; 24 small accent circles to make and stitch for the corner blocks; prep (4) 12" floral blocks; and stitch the (4) corner blocks.   This is certainly a whole lot less to do than when I first started but seeing it written out like that makes me think that the Light at the End of the Tunnel is a bit further down the line than I thought.

Such a shame because I already have the next Forever Project ™ picked out and ready to be worked on!!  LOL!

Friday, August 02, 2019

Deco Garden block: bonus block 41 - Blue Bubble Flower

bonus block 41: Blue Bubble Flower
I've not been quilting so much these days. 

Another passion of mine is genealogy, both my family and my husband's.  Over the past years, decades for some family lines, I've been doing research into the ancestors.  Some have been easy to find and others still remain elusive.

Much of my time lately has been diligently working on my husband's maternal grandmother's line.  I had hit a major mental road block for a while.  I knew that the longer I stayed away from the album, the longer it was going to take me to finish it.  So, I finally pull up my big girl panties, put my nose to the grindstone and just plugged away.

And hooray!  That family album is done!  woo hoo!

Which meant that I could now, with a clear conscious, return to my other passion: sewing.  Specifically working on my Deco Garden blocks.

After weeks of just sitting there, being all lonely, I was able to get back and finish the block.

I might take another break from the flower blocks because I'm waaaaay behind in the border blocks.  I had originally thought I would do maybe 5 border blocks to every flower block I needed to do so that I would come out even in the end ... with neither a whole lot of border blocks or a whole lot of flower blocks to do.

But, that didn't work as planned.  Such is life, ya know?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Deco Garden: the latest blocks

Bonus Block 44 - red rose (although I chose coral): 
Every year, my (extended) family takes a tent camping vacation at Calaveras Big Trees State Park in California's Sierra Nevada mountains.   Calaveras is smack-dab in the middle of the Gold Rush country but the main attraction for us is that there are (literally) mountain sides chock full of trees.  BIG trees.  And with all the activities to do and places to go with kids, it's simply a wonderful place to camp.   We've been going there for over 40 years ... that's how much we love it.

We are "unplugged" when we go camping.  There is absolutely no internet access in the campsites. It used to be that we would need to go to the nearest town (about 10 miles) for just Wifi ... and further down the mountain to get actual non-Wifi access.

Bonus Block 52 - May Flag Iris
This has its advantages ... when I am in camping, I don't feel any urge to be on my cellphone, checking on all the frivolous things I do.  Instead, I work on hand needlework projects that I had previously "kitted up" at home before we left.

This year, I brought along 4 prepped Deco Garden blocks and about a bazillion prepped border blocks.  With all the comings and goings .. and books on my Kindle that I wanted to read ... I didn't get as much appliqued as I anticipated.

BUT .. I did finish two more 12" Deco Garden blocks and started a third (which I am continuing to work on).

Upon my return home, I took some time to tally how many and which blocks I had finished so that I could know how much further the end of the tunnel was.  I was gratified to see that I have only FIVE more Deco Garden blocks to finish!    WOOO HOOO!!. 

Oh yeah, and all those border blocks.  Fortunately, those guys are much smaller.  Unfortunately, I need to make a gazillion little circles for those blocks, which is tedious.  They make the block look very festive, though, so I won't be leaving them off.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Starburst Blossom and Deco Garden needleturn projects

Deco Gardens needleturn applique project

Reeze Hanson's "Deco Garden"
Back in 2015, Reeze Hanson of Morning Glory Designs  released an applique BOM, which she titled "Deco Gardens".  This was a collection of (12) 12" blocks of Art Deco inspired flowers and plants plus border blocks.   Art Deco has always appealed to me so I began collecting the designs. 

Mind you, I said COLLECTING the designs, not making them.  The thing about designs and patterns is that, many times, if you don't grab them when they first show up, you may lose out entirely.  I knew that if I had the designs, I could make them at my leisure.

first block, "Columbine"
It wasn't until February 2018 that I made my first Deco Garden block, a Columbine. 

By that time (three years later), Reeze had explanded the Deco Garden blocks to many, many more than the original 12.  I decided that I would make a LARGE quilt and started to plop pictures of the Deco Garden blocks that I liked into EQ to give me a layout. 

my king-sized layout
We have a king-sized bed.  I don't have a properly sized quilt for it (even after all these years) and decided that THIS was going to be the quilt for our bed.  My layout ended up with  (49) 12" blocks plus border blocks.  It's going to be HUGE.  But .. hey ... I'll call it my current Forever Project and just plug away.

I had decided that I wanted the same mottled black fabric as the background for the entire quilt.  To that end, I bought an entire bolt of Moda "Marbles" and prayed it would be enough.  A very rough estimate assured me that a bolt would be enough.   Surely a whole bolt would suffice  (cross fingers).

Needleturn applique technique
I used to not like applique.  I don't like the look and feel of satin-stitched edges.  I *REALLY* don't like the look of a looser zig-zag.  Most of the time, a blanket stitch isn't appropriate for the design.  And I HATE fused applique.  Now there are times and circumstances when any of those techniques are applicable but I just don't like them.

"Magnolia" - a finished block
I also had not (yet) discovered a hand stitched method that I liked .... so ... I just didn't DO applique.  Which was perfectly fine with me, as I had a tremendous backlog of pieced layouts to create!   BUT, in 2007, I found a technique that finally resonated with me.  It's a front-basted method which I learned from a Pacific Rim Quilting Company pattern, Peace, which you can read about on my web site here.

Much later, I was fortunate enough to actually take a hands-on class from Nancy Lee Chong, of Pacific Rim Quilting Company, who promotes this technique.   I was IN LOVE with this method!  From then on, I was a needleturn applique fiend!

It is this front-basted method that I use for my needleturn applique projects.  I'd say that 99% of the pieces were able to accommodate this technique but if the piece was really teeny-tiny or had impossible edges, I then used a fusible, water-soluble stabilizer as the base for just that small piece, which was then appliqued down.

current Deco Garden block in progress
Today's date is July 2, 2019; I am still working on the applique blocks for Deco Garden.   This is the current block I'm working on.  It's called "Blue Rose", so as to distingish itself from all the other rose blocks.  :-) 

You can easily see the finished, turned edges. The red dotted lines show the basted, raw edge, where I am currently turning the edge under.

If you look at the green stem in the lower right corner, you'll see the purple basting thread holding that piece down and showing me where the finished seam line is.

Starburst Blossom, a pieced & applique project
Reeze Hanson's "Starburst Blossom"
In March 2018, Reeze started her 2018 BOM, Starburst Blossom.  It is a 12 block pattern with a delightful, easily pieced background (which remains the same for all the blocks) with a varied applique floral design in the middle of the pieced block. Although the pieced block is the same, the colors of the block are all different.

The basic BOM was one block a month but if you subscribed to her newsletter, you had access to another block.  I did subscribe to the newsletter and I ended up with a quilt top of 20 blocks plus the borders. At 16" square, the blocks are HUGE but that makes the quilt assembly go quickly.

my finished Starbust Blossom top (Jan 2019)
What possessed me to work on TWO concurrent applique BOM collections is beyond me, but I did.  Starburst Blossoms, having fewer blocks, would finish sooner than Deco Gardens ... mainly because there was a Facebook group specifically for Reeze's BOM blocks, which gave me the push to stay on top of the block construction. 

In January 2019, I completed my Starburst Blossom top, which finished at 82"x100"  As of June 2019,  it is still unquilted (that's a different project!).

Back to Deco Garden
All during 2018, as the Starburst Blossom blocks were released, I'd drop whatever I was doing and make up not only the basic BOM but the extra, newsletter BOM.  In between the Starburst Blossom blocks, I'd be working on the Deco Garden blocks.

For my Forever Project, my typical "rule" is that it was for me to work on when I was away from home .. on road trips, on vacation, at doctor's offices, or Little League games.  I wouldn't work on it at home because, at home, I'd be using my sewing machine to work on yet a DIFFERENT project.  A Forever Project is simply there allow me to creatively and productively occupy my hands  when I can't be machine sewing.  It usually doesn't have a deadline and I can take however long I need.

However, I have given myself permission to break this "rule" with Deco Garden.  I am now steadily working on it at home (taking a hiatus from machine sewing) so that I can reasonably expect this project to reach completion.  I do have an incentive to do so ... I have another needleturn applique project waiting for me!  :-)

As of today (July 2, 2019), I have 39 completed Deco Garden blocks and 12 completed border blocks.  That leaves 10 Deco Garden blocks, 16 border blocks, and the 4 corner blocks to finish before assembly.  The Light at the End of Tunnel is in sight!  :-)

a border block
EXCEPT ... (can you hear the shoe dropping?) ... I was looking at my EQ printed layout of the final version of Deco Garden.  Then I looked at my pile of border blocks .. which have ALL BEEN PREPPED for needleturn.  OH. MY. GOODNESS.  A *major* problem. 

In my enthusiasm to get the border blocks prepped for needleturn, I was on auto-pilot.  I never stopped to check what I was doing against the final picture.  I didn't realize until recently that the border blocks ON THE SIDES are DIFFERENT from the border blocks on the top & bottom.   AAARRRGGGHHHH.  Take a look at the king-size layout above ... you'll see the side borders are different.

Well, tough luck.  I am NOT going to undo all my prepped needleturn.  I'm not even sure I have enough of the green left to DO the side border blocks now.   AAAARRGGGHHH. 

However, in the Grand Scheme of Things, if you didn't have the original layout out look at, you'd never realize that the side borders were supposed to be different.   After all, most quilts have symmetry and consistency on all sides for the borders.  And that's how my quilt is going to stay.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Reverse applique project

the finished applique (not yet quilted)
This hasn't been a Forever Project™ for very long.  Mr. Pirate and I recently went on a short road trip to a nearby quilt show in Shingle Springs, CA.   This show was delightful, although it didn't have a lot of quilts displayed.

One of the vendors was Jill Rixman of Placerville, CA (a nearby town to Shingle Springs).  Jill designs utterly fantastic applique patterns.  Because it had been raining, there weren't too many customers in the vendor hall.  I took advantage of that situation to strike up a rather lengthy conversation with Jill about this, that, and the other but not necessarily sticking to applique or quilting.

the pattern I used
I bought one of her patterns, "Beauty" from her In a Word For the Love of Applique series.  Although she has intended this design to be done using reverse applique, don't let that stop you .. you can certainly do the design with standard applique, using whatever method is your favorite.  You can find her Reverse Appliques here.

I've never done reverse applique and this seems like a simple enough project to wet my toes.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with reverse applique, this technique is exactly what you'd think the name implied.

Here's the basic technique: in standard applique, the design is placed on top of the base fabric and stitched to the base fabric.  In reverse applique, the applique fabric is roughly cut bigger than the finished design and that piece of fabric is placed right side up UNDER the base fabric in the desired position.  On the right side of the base fabric, you draw the finished seam lines of the applique .. I used an air erasable (purple) marker.    Then you take a BIG breath because you are going to be cutting the base fabric inside the drawn lines, leaving a small seam allowance to turn under.  (ummm ... I do it that way because I like to do needleturn applique.  If you were doing say, a zig zag stitch, then you wouldn't leave a seam allowance at all.)   Then, it's just regular, old needleturn applique to finish off the edge.

The finished motif appears to be sunk beneath the base fabric .. because it is!  :-)
one of the fabrics I used

For all the butterflies I stitched, I used vibrant multi-colored fabric as the applique fabric.  This gives

Since Jill's design is three closely spaced butterflies, I treated them as one unit.  The applique fabric I cut, encompassed all three butterflies.  BUT because the fabric is so multi-colored, it doesn't appear that I'm using the same fabric for all of them.  You get fantastic results without needing to actually HAVE  to work with lots of small pieces of fabric.

This is just ONE of the multi-colored fabrics that I used.  A chunk of the fabric, big enough to cover all three butterflies, was placed under the desired area of the base fabric.

the stencil I created from the pattern

Jill gives you a full sized pattern to use.  In this case, it is three closely spaced butterflies.

You need to trace the pattern onto the right side of the base fabric.  The very low-key way of doing this would be to tape the pattern to a window (or light box), put your base fabric on top, then trace the pattern.

But that's obnoxious.  I've done that enough times in the past to want to avoid doing it again.

Enter one of my crafting tools: a Brother Scan-n-Cut electronic cutting machine!  I'll think about doing another post about this AMAZING machine later but for now, all you need to know is that I cut a stencil out of sturdy cardstock.

motif with traced lines
I placed the stencil on top of my base fabric and used the air erasable marker to trace the motifs onto the right side of the base fabric.   Gosh, I love this machine!  :-)

In this photograph, you can see the basting thread that I used to secure the applique fabric to the base fabric.  I basted the applique fabric from the wrong side .. I just needed to run a line of thread around the perimeter, which, of course, is much easier from the back where you can see the applique fabric.

On the front of the base fabric, I traced the butterflies.  In this picture, I'm beginning the reverse applique process: I've already cut a hole in the base fabric and started the needleturn stitching.  To the left of the needle, you can see a small portion of the raw edge of the base fabric that hasn't been turned under yet.

finished reverse applique desgin
This next photo shows the completed reverse applique design.  Because of the applique fabric that I used, doesn't it look like I really used a whole bunch of different fabrics?

Nope, I totally cheated. :-)

I used the stencil to trace several clusters, and even single butterflies, onto the green base fabric.

I used about 4-5 different multi-colored fabrics for the applique.  Finally, after long last, the final stitch was done!  Hooray!

applique is below the base fabric
Here is a close-up of one of the motifs ... I'm trying to show how the appliqued piece is BELOW the level of the green background fabric.

Initially, I wasn't terribly overwhelmed by this technique.  From afar, you could easily replicate the same look-and-feel by using standard applique.  So, why even bother with reverse applique?

Well, it was an itch that needed scratching.  A box that needed checking off.  I've now done that.

While I'm not sure I will use this technique again, it has grown on me.  I might have second thoughts as to a repeat performance. :-)

The only real annoyance I had was with my choice of base fabric.  This was regular, ol' quilting cotton *but* it wasn't woven quite as tightly as others.  This caused the fabric to fray annoyingly, especially around the tight inner curves.  I think that if I had chosen something like a batik, or similar that has a tight weave, my experience might have been more positive from the beginning.

But let me reiterate .. this was not a fault of the pattern or of the design .. it was totally my error in choosing a base fabric that had a somewhat looser weave.

Now that the reverse applique is done, I really should finish it off.  I have ambitions of doing some embroidery work around the butterflies ... some vines?  some flowers and leaves?  That really shouldn't take too much more time (she says optimistically ::cough:  ::cough::). 

The final product is going to be a long, skinny pillow for a couch.. something to put behind your back to support it whilst you are slouching (which you should never do but we all do anyway).  :-)