Sunday, August 29, 2010

the Unnamed Blue-n-Apricot quilt

Funny ... there's always a backlog of "something", isn't there?  First I had a backlog of tops to piece .. tons of ideas floating around in my head and racing to get them made, one right after another.  Then I had a backlog of quilting to do .. I'm still working on that one.  Once the quilts get quilted, I need to make a web page for it .. another backlog!  And there's always the everyday life stuff to be done.

I suppose I could back off on what I want to create, leaving me more time for the ordinary things .. but where's the fun in that?  :-)

So, here's the next charity quilt I've completed (I'm so proud of me!) ... with the incredibly LAME title of "Unnamed Blue and Apricot" quilt. 

This is another quilt that started with a limited number of 'focus' blocks .. in this case, some 9-patches.  It was a very "interesting" journey to go from those 9-patch blocks to a finished quilt of the necessary size.  :-)

Since I was using stash *remnants*, I kept running out of fabric, which lead to some ... ummm.. creative opportunities. :-)

Get yourself a BIG beverage, possibly a snack, cuz the webpage for this quilt is longer than usual due to the sheer amount of incredibly inspirational verbage words that spew forth from my keyboard. :-)

And a ton of pictures, too.

For all the gory details, links and more pictures, please visit my web page for the Unnamed Blue and Apricot quilt.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sawtooth Star #2 gets finished

When last we viewed this project in April 2010, it was just a pieced top.  I was on a roll ... piecing my little heart out and didn't want to stop to do the quilting.

Well, I think I am all pieced out for now and I have now returned to that ... OMG .. ginormous stack of tops to be quilted!

First to be quilted was the Sawtooth Star #2.  It used up more of the equilateral triangles that I had made (when I re-discovered a nifty specialty ruler for making such blocks).

It also used up the remaining Sawtooth Star blocks from  a long-ago swap (circa 2000).

I got to practice more quilting.  It's *so* much better to be practicing on a real quilt rather than on muslin.  EVEN if you've drawn quilt blocks on the muslin, there's nothing quite like using the real thing instead of a substitute!

As usual, I ran into a number of obstacles in the piecing but came up with an equal number of solutions. :-)

As is my practice, this *blog* is used for what I've been working on at the current time.  As each project gets completed, I create a web page just for it, which talks about that project in much more depth.

For all the gory details, links and more pictures, please visit my web page for the Sawtooth Star #2 quilt.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

the Chemisette Purse

Have I mentioned that  in addition to quilting, I also sew?  :-)

The latest project, which does include some nominal quilting, is two Chemisette purses.  The pattern comes from Craftapple and is an easily constructed purse.  One version features a gathered top, inspired by Victorian era chemisettes ( a garment worn under corsets) and the other style is a flat top, perfect for embellishing or featuring a wonderful fabric.

The interior has two pockets ... I sub-divided one for a cell phone.  The closure is a magnetic clasp; this is the first time I've frolicked with this particular item.  They are *awesome*. :-)

My intent for this blog is to talk about works in progress and stuff that I'm thinking of working on.  The FINISHED project gets its own page on my website, Dread Pirate Rodgers.

So while I'm giving you teaser pictures here to whet your appetite, do surf on over to the REAL Chemisette page where there are LOTS more pictures and (so typically!) LOTS more verbage. :-)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

YACQ: Pinwheel Frame

A refresher: YACQ = Yet Another Charity Quilt.  :-)

Pinwheel Frame top
The Pinwheel Frame top is now completed.  Not my best effort, but the best I could do with the fabric that I had.

I discovered that I didn't have enough of the light background fabric to size up the smaller pinwheels to the bigger size, so I opted to put what I did have on the sides so at least one dimension was good.  On the other side, I put a strip of red fabric ... allegedly to coordinate with the red background of the sports car print. 

It would have looked better if I had just sewn a single red strip to the top & bottom ... but I didn't have enough of *that* either.  ::sigh::

That didn't turn out as well as I had hoped.  Ah well.

Furthermore, after straightening the center focus fabric, *that* turned out to be too short for the space.  aaarrghhh!  I "lengthened" it by sewing on two strips to the top & bottom.  And truthfully ... I was mentally tired to try and figure out a way to make it look as though the lengthening process was all part of the Grand Plan. 

BUT ... the top is now done.

leftover background fabric
And more importantly  .... oh ring the bells and light the fireworks  .... there are NO MORE 4-patches and no more pinwheels!!  Wooooooooooooooo hoooooooooooooooo!   :-)  :-)

I can *now* honestly say to myself that I do NOT have any tops or pieces of tops that I need to work on at this point.  I am NOT going to organize or straighten anything in the sewing room for abject fear of FINDING something.  :-)

Tomorrow ... Lizzie gets a workout.   Oh hallelujah!  :-)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Current project: Pinwheel Frame

version 1: staggered small blocks
I'm now working on using the pinwheel blocks I've made from the bonus half-square triangle blocks created from the 4-patch Sawtooth Star quilt top.  I ended up with 2 different sized pinwheel blocks: 6" and 7" (finished).

I've looked at LOTS of layouts that could use pinwheels.  I've doodled several layouts.  I think I've settled on using the pinwheels as a frame around a center medallion.  I'll alternate the two different size pinwheel blocks. 

EQ helped me visualize two layouts: one with the smaller blocks staggered and the other layout with the smaller blocks centered between the larger blocks.

version 2: centered small blocks
The center medallion is 21"x35" and "something" will go in there.  At this point, I haven't a clue what.  The gray that I've put in these drawings is just a placeholder ... I haven't decided what color the background should be because I haven't drawn (or stolen) a design yet. :-)

The overall size is 37"x51".

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"4-Patch and Furrows" top completed!

As mentioned in a previous entry, the free pattern is available at Bonnie Hunter's website page:  "4-Patch and Furrows".  This version is a variation to use up the hand-pieced 4-patches leftover from a previous project. 

Deciding against the standard "slab-o-border" treatment for this quilt as called for in the pattern, I extended the diagonal color bands to create the border.  While the fabrics used in the half-square triangle blocks of the center 4-patch section that form the diagonal bands are the same (i.e. all the half-square triangle blocks are identical), I chose to use a variety of burgundy and ecru fabrics for a scrappy look in the outer border.

Why?  Oh heck, I simply didn't have enough of any two fabrics in those colors in my stash!  But I sure did have a lot of smaller hunks that worked out rather nicely. :-)

When I had initially finished the center 4-patch section, I had entertained thoughts of splitting into to 2 smaller pieces, so I could make 2 additional charity quilts (with appropriate borders to bring those smaller sections up to their minimum size).    Even though the brown/ecru/red color scheme matches NOTHING in my house, I became increasingly enamored of this layout.  I eventually decided that I liked it enough to keep it for myself.  :-)  I can always make other charity quilts.  :-)

The dimensions of the top are 64"x78" but that will shrink slightly when it's quilted.  Like all the other tops I've recently completed, this one will go on the pile of Tops to be Quilted. :-)

Now ..... on to that pile of pinwheel blocks!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

it never ends

The saga of the leftover hand-pieced 4-patches continues.  Geez, Louise ... are you as tired of them as I am?  :-)

When last I left you, Dear Reader, I had finished the 4-patch Star charity top and I had, to my utter dismay, discovered that I had 25 MORE of the hand-pieced 4-patches.  Are they rabbits???  Do they consort with my scrap basket, which never seems to diminish, even though I *do* make scrap quilts!

Looking around the internet for interesting 4-patch layouts .... do you do that?  Have an idea for part of a quilt or pieces for part of a quilt but haven't a clue what to do for a final layout ?  Have you tried the 'Image' link on a Google search?  Lots of interesting stuff out there.  :-)

Anyway, there I was ... page after page of alternating 4-patch layouts.  Yes, they are simple.   Yes, they are easy ... but, just shoot me now ... they are boring.  I wanted something something INTERESTING to do.

Then, I came across Bonnie Hunter's "4-Patch and Furrows" layout ... a hybrid of an alternating 4-patch with the Straight Furrows layout for a log cabin.  I was immediately hooked .... I'm a sucker for diagonal layouts.

I needed a whole bunch of ginormous, identical, half-square triangles.  One method of doing this is using the grid method  (that link is to Marcia Hohn's Quilter's Cache) and is excellent for easily making lots of half square triangles out of the same two fabrics. 

From my stash, I found a lovely old gold subdued print and a wonderful coordinating burgundy red with old gold lattice work.  I couldn't have found better companion prints for the 4-patches if I had deliberately printed and hand dyed them!   I merrily drew my grid on the wrong side of the old gold print, sewed along the sewing lines and cut on the cutting lines.  I was enormously pleased with myself.

And then I discovered that I had put the right side of the old gold fabric to the WRONG side of the burgundy. AAAAIIIIEEEEEE! [insert a great wailing sound]   I absolutely did NOT have enough of either fabric to re-do them.  Fortunately, the wrong side of the burgundy print was only slightly less compatible than the right side.  I did pay for both sides of the fabric, ya know.  :-)  So, with much personal, internal regret, I left the wrong side of the burgundy intact and used the half square triangle blocks as they were.

Geez, that was dumb.

I then squared up the half square triangle blocks and had a heart attack.  I *know* that in the grid method you need to make the grid larger (by a certain amount) than the finished size you want.  Unfortunately, I didn't remember that little tidbit when I was drawing the grid so that my *DRAWN* grid was an 8" square.  This makes a SMALLER half square triangle.  I needed to have drawn the grid larger.

Have I mentioned that the hand-pieced 4-patches are 8" unfinished?   AAAAIIIIEEEE!   Of course, this means that the half-square triangle blocks are *smaller* than the 4-patch blocks.  To alternate, they need to be the SAME SIZE.  [thunk head on wall.  repeatedly.]

Geez, that was dumb.

What THIS meant was that I needed to cut down the hand-pieced blocks to match the half square triangle blocks.  [bonk head on wall again]  You can't just cut through a hand-pieced seam like you can on a machine pieced seam ... the stitching won't hold.   aaarrrgghhhh!    I was very, very, very careful when handling the re-cut 4-patch blocks but even then I needed to re-sew about an inch of the seam at the raw edge.

I put vintage looking brown calico print around the edge for an inner border.  Bonnie's layout calls for a slab-o-border for the final border, but I'd like to avoid this look.  So, at this point, I am looking for an interesting "something" as an outer border.

End the current drama with the 4-Patch and Furrows top.  On to other drama ....

Do you remember the pinwheel blocks I made from the bonus half-square triangles leftover from the 4-patch sawtooth star blocks? 

No?  eh .. no matter.  They exist. 

I still haven't done anything with them, as I was side-tracked by the leftover 4-patches.

What do they have to do with the 4-Patch and Furrow top?  Nothing.  :-)  Except those pinwheel blocks are still waiting for me.

AND ... in an Astounding Discovery ... I uncovered MORE (the horror of it never ends) hand-pieced pairs!  However, they just might work to my advantage, as they just happen to be made from the SAME fabric as the pinwheel blocks!

I haven't measure yet but .. fingers crossed ... perhaps I can repurpose these pairs into more pinwheels that will be the same size as the other ones.  That would be *awesome*, since I only have 12 pinwheels ...and that isn't a whole lot to do anything with.

So ... I guess quilting with Lizzie is going to be deferred yet again.  I have a bee in my bonnet about getting all these leftover blocks pieced into quilt tops and that's where my attention is these days. :-)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

YACQ: 4-patch stars

I have mentioned in a previous blog that I rediscovered a stash of hand-pieced 4 patches and wanted to use them so they wouldn't nag me. :-)   I used a BUNCH of them in my on-point 4-patch column top. But there were MORE.

4-patch star top
For this set of 4-patches, I made Flying Geese blocks to create a 4-patch star block.   I had just enough of the background fabric to make 6 Flying Geese/4-patch star blocks and enough leftover brown fabrics for the patchwork border.

Due to the size of the 4-patch sub-unit, the finished block is HUGE ... 15"!! 

It occurred to me that if I put the 6 of them together and added of a patchwork border, the resultant top would be larger than the minimum size necessary for toddler quilts for the charity that I help support.   

I'm rather pleased with the result.  I can envision some interesting quilting designs in the squares that resulted when the star blocks were put together.

Because the Flying Geese blocks were substantial (8" by 4-1/2"), I didn't want to "waste" the triangles that were cut off when the Flying Geese block was formed. 

I simply sewed another seam 1/2" away from the original Flying Geese seam to create a bonus half-square triangle.   



pinwheels from bonus HST block
I put 4 of the half-square triangles together to make a small pinwheel block.  I'll have 12 pinwheel blocks when I get them pressed and sewn together.  Which means that I will need to come up with a layout to use THEM!

Good grief ... it just never ends!

25 more hand-pieced 4-patch blocks
But wait!  there's STILL MORE!  Oh yes, I have *25* more hand-pieced 4-patch blocks to use up.  Time to go looking at my reference books to see what strikes my fancy. :-)

Friday, August 13, 2010

A top gets finished .. but what is it?

The top to help use up the hand-pieced 4 patches has been finished.  Yes, I really did finish it that quickly.  Remember though, this is only the *top*; it still needs to get quilted. :-)

Lest you become unduly impressed, this was an exceedingly easy top to do.  The construction just wasn't a problem. :-) 

AND ... all of my kids are adults.  I don't need to drive them to appointments, games, social events, shopping.  I don't need to attend parent/teacher conferences.  In short, I have a LOT of time *for myself* and I use that time for sewing.  :-)

Poor Mr. Pirate ... it's a very good thing that both he and I have a high degree of tolerance for household clutter.    He's a wonderful man and I'm exceedingly lucky to be married to him. :-)

Now ... I do want to ask all of you quilters Out There ... do any of you *recognize* this layout?  It's not my original design.  I don't have any information where I first saw it.  My notes say that it's an "underground railroad" quilt, but that information came from a fictional book ... so I have my sincere doubts.  Without any other information, I might be forced to call this an "on-point 4 patch column quilt" .... which is so very, very boring.

I know there's something weird going on with the leftmost column; that will need to be addressed before it gets quilted.

As for the REST of the hand-pieced 4 patches ... I swear they've been taking notes from my scrap basket in terms of proliferation, since the 4 patch pile doesn't seem to have been substantially diminished from when I started.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Best Laid Plans .... or I lied.

I mentioned that when I finished the "Take 5" Teacups and Fancy Desserts top, I would take a break from piecing and work instead on the backlog of top/batting/backing bundles waiting to be quilted on Lizzie.  I had every intention of doing so.

Then I got waylaid.  :-)

I was putting away my recently completed tops when I came across a neatly packaged bundle of pieced blocks, components for pieced blocks and fabrics to make the pieced blocks.  I recognized the bundle as leftovers from a hand-pieced top I made during 2005 through 2009.

Digression: I don't particularly care for hand-piecing.  It takes too long and I have a LOT of quilts I want to make.  But, during DD#3's middle and high school years, she was involved in a historic re-enactment of an 1852 gold mining town.  Since she was a minor, she required on-prem chaperoning ... and that was Mr. Pirate and myself.  Everyone needed to be in appropriate costumes, so I made an outfit for everyone.  Whilst DD#3 was doing her re-enactment activities, I needed to find something era-appropriate for me to do.  What more appropriate than hand piecing?  So, for the several years (one weekend a year, no less!) that DD#3 was involved, I worked on this hand piecing project.  When she no longer participated, I put it away.  Fast forward to 2009, when I rediscovered the project and decided to finish it up as a twin sized top.  You can read all the gory details of this project on my web page, From the Diggin's, Columbia, CA

It was from that project that the leftover pieces belonged.  The bundle of leftover pieces was just taking up shelf space and now that I had rediscovered it, it was going to nag me. I decided that I would do SOMETHING with the blocks and fabric.

I had LOTS of hand pieced 4 patch blocks.  

I had 3 hand pieced columns of the 4 patches set on-point.

I did not want to replicate my Diggin's quilt and needed something else to use those on-point columns.  I remembered (vaguely) seeing a column quilt with 4 patch blocks on point and, to my delight, I was able to find it on my computer.  This quilt served as my inspiration.  My notes say that this quilt was an "Underground Railroad" quilt, a strippy scrap quilt that Sylvia discovers in her attic in "The Runaway Quilt".  This is a series of books authored by Jennifer Chiaverini.

However, I have not read the books nor could I find any reference to it when I Googled for it.  My notes don't say WHERE I found this picture, so I am at a loss for its origin.  (Note to self: take better notes.)

BUT .. it's simple enough to replicate, ESPECIALLY since I already had the light background columns!  So, my current pieced project is to make enough dark background columns to work with the 3 light background columns I already have. 

This layout is comprised of 2 columns: a light background and a dark background. 
* The light background column has scrappy 4-patch blocks set on-point with light setting triangles.  
* The dark background columns also have scrappy 4 patch blocks on point, but 2 of the patches are the background fabric from the light columns.  The 4 patch blocks are set so that the light patches are vertical.  The setting triangles are a dark fabric. 

So, here is my Work In Progress.  I have 2 columns of dark background fabric done, with 2 more to go.  (These will be put between the 2 light background columns on the right and another on the far right.)  I think that when I have all the columns sewn together, this top will be about 72"x89". 

In this particular top, the light background columns are hand pieced (because they are leftover from my previous project) but the dark background columns are machine pieced.  It doesn't bother me to mix the two construction methods in this top because I just want to get the top done!  I have no need to specifically make another all-hand-pieced top.

What is astonishing and demoralizing all at the same time, is that when I get done with this top, I will STILL HAVE lots of the 4 patch blocks leftover!  Fear not, I already haven another layout planned for them. :-)

Once I finish these 2 tops, I will ... I *will* ... honest, I will!!  ... work on get some tops quilted. :-)

Current Forever Project: Dress Me Up, dress 3

I've finished another hand embroidered dress block for the "Dress Me Up" quilt.  The pattern is from the Bobby Socks Quilt Company.

I ended up fusing a piece of lightweight interfacing to the skirt so as to help cover up the connecting threads between the leaves and flower clusters.  The skirt looks a little whiter than the rest of the block for that reason. 

I've been thinking about how to quilt these blocks.  I do *not* like the idea of quilting through the embroidery; that just upsets my sensibilities. :-)  Then, it occurred to me that I might possibly do a trapunto effect .... I would stitch a small, separate piece of batting behind the dress only, trim closely to the stitching.  Then, when the entire top is put on top of the batting for the entire quilt, only the dresses would have the extra batting and would puff up slightly (or so I hope) when I do the outline stitching.

The leaves are single straight stitches and the flower clusters are French Knots in light & dark purple plus dark gold.

"Take 5": teacups and fancy desserts finished

Here is the latest *top* that I've finished.  The pattern is "Take 5" (TP500) from The Teacher's Pet.  You won't see this fussy cut version on the cover nor in the instructions, but I saw it as a store sample. 

The top is 49" x 72-1/2" but will shrink slightly once it's quilted.

The quilt consists of exactly ONE block, so it's incredibly easy to construct.  The pattern calls for 5 different fabrics and once the blocks are constructed, you twist and turn the blocks to produce a very lively layout.  My fussy cut layout is much more structured. :-)

I fussy cut teacup fabric ("Delectable Collectables" by Holly Holderman for Lake House Dry and a fancy dessert fabric (no identification information on the selvage).

Originally, I had purchased online a vastly different border stripe fabric in pink & gray to use.  But when it arrived, I saw that the pink was actually more peach in tone and it unfavorably contrasted with the bubble gum pin of the quilt.  I was disappointed because this border stripe looked SO wonderful online ... but that's the problem with buying online .. you don't get the true colors.

Fortunately, I had another floral border stripe in my stash, one that DD #3 (who now prefers to be known as "pirate cupcake"!)  liked much better.   How fortunate, as this quilt is going to her. :-)

I must admit to a love affair with border stripes.  I LOVE using them, especially when I can do mitered corners.  I LOVE mitered corners!  I feel so smug when they come out practically perfectly matched and flat at the corner.

Yes, yes ... clever eyes will ascertain that I did not match the florals in the miter.  It's good enough for me that the STRIPES match ... I don't care to be crazy OCD about everything.  :-)

Truth be told, I actually did prefer the other border stripe fabric ... it was a simpler design.  I think I suited the busy piecework better.  This floral border stripe is a tad too busy for my taste, but since DD#3 likes it better,that's all that matters.

but wait! there's more!  :-)    Just as when you make a block like Flying Geese or a Snowball, if the block is big enough, you get a 'bonus' half-square triangle from the corners that are cut off ... so to with mitered border stripes!  This border was large enough (7-1/2" wide) so that I got 4 bonus mitered half-square triangle blocks, which I will use to make a throw pillow for DD#3 .. er, sorry ... pirate cupcake. :-)

Alas, DD#3 will need to wait for this to be quilted, as there is a messload of other quilts ahead of it.  :-)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

French Braid top completed

Whilst on an Adventure in June, I bought a roll of 18 FQs of  Northcott's "Stonehenge" line (cool palette) from Log Cabin quilt store in Oakdale, CA (no website available) without knowing what I was going to do with them.  After looking at a number of possibilities, I finalized on a French Braid layout, "Center-Out French Braids" from the book 'French Braid Quilts' by Jane Hardy Miller with Arlene Netten.

I wanted to use just the 18 FQs that I had and not buy any more .. or at least a minimally more.  Eventually, I bought some yardage online to do the sashing and borders.  Most of the photos in the book show a lovely color gradient from light to/from dark, usually monochromatic.  Or a fantastic rainbow scheme.  But I needed to work with the colors that I had.  Fortunately, the internet is full of *other* French Braid photos and I was able to see other color schemes that inspired me to create the one that I eventually used.

The layout that I liked ... and wanted to do .. wasn't the easiest one.  Of course not. :-)  *and* I didn't have enough of any one fabric for the small squares used as the accent squares, so I mixed the accent squares between 2 different colors.

The construction technique isn't particularly difficult but you DO need to be very aware of what color goes where.  Get one color out of sequence and you have some ripping to do. [cue Voice of Experience]. 

The top finished at 72"x94" ... which is an over-wide twin or an under-wide double/full.  I really, REALLY like this layout and might even consider making another one (or two) from the same book ... after I've done all the OTHER projects I'd like to do. :-)

This top joins the others in the stack of Tops To Be Quilted.

Take 5 teacups: work in progress

Now that I've finished Moondance, Stonehenge French Braid (pictures later) and the decision for which background to use on my hand-embroidery Forever Project (Dress Me Up), my mind (what there is of it) feels so much more settled.  :-)

While I like to have multiple concurrent projects, too many of them makes me feel frazzled.  Just one project of a kind, please!  So, I will have *one* Forever Project, *one* pieced project OR *one* longarm project ... I can't yet figure out how to simultaneously do piece work for a top AND longarm quilting of a previously pieced top. :-)

I don't like to have a piece work and a longarm project going at the same time because they are in different rooms of the house.  If I'm doing a piece work, the family can join me in my sewing room.  Hear that family?  My SEWING ROOM.  Not the room-usurped-as-the-de-facto-family-room. :-)  But, I will admit that it's nice to have company. 

But, since Lizzie lives in the REAL family room, which is a completely DIFFERENT room and area of the house, if I'm doing a longarm project, I'm by myself.  Which is OK too ... I just can't work on my Janome sewing machine and Lizzie at the same time. :-)

So, for right now, I'm doing piece work for Dear Daughter #3's quilt, "Take 5" (TP200) from The Teacher's Pet.  I've mention before ... and will repeat here ... while the cover photo shows a random block layout, it does NOT do justice to this pattern's versatility.  I had completely passed this pattern by until I saw it used with fussy cut focus fabric squares in a quilting store's classroom.  I was sold, sold, sold!

Last night, I fussy cut 2 focus fabrics ... teacups and fancy desserts.  Both of these fabrics were purchased on a recent vacation trip.  The blender fabrics came from my stash.  I'm using a cracked ice, bubble gum pink, a dark chocolate brown and 3 different tan/gold fabrics (as I didn't have enough of any one of them for the entire quilt).

It's coming along nicely and I'm pleased with how it looks so far.

Once this top is pieced, I think I'm going to switch to Lizzie mode.  I have a whole MESSLOAD of top/batting/backing bundles to be quilted and that stack is beginning to prey on (what's left of) my mind.

Dres Me Up: detail

I was asked about the detail stitching for the "Dress Me Up" hand embroidery.  I realized that I had rather glossed over the first dress in the previous post, so I am rectifying that situation now. :-)

The pattern provides full-sized drawings that must be transferred to the background fabric.  I used a regular pencil and a light box.  Since I'm only doing each dress once, this isn't too bad.  I'd hate to need to do multiples of the dress this way though!

For the outline stitching, one such stitch is a stem/outline stitch.  I've never been able to satisfactorily do this stitch ... the curves just do not come out nicely.  However, a while ago, I discovered the most WONDERFUL cheat!  (pirates loves cheats!): the whipped back-stitch!  Yes, you end up going over the same real estate twice, but for me, the awesome results are well worth it!  I'm doing both the back-stitch and whip stitch in 2 plies of black floss.

Do a standard back-stitch on the design line.  When you reach the end, bring your needle & thread back up to the face of the fabric.  Now, whip *each* back-stitch with the same thread, ending up back at the beginning.  You can re-thread with a tapestry needle (blunt tip) so that the whipping process is easier, but I'm too lazy to do that, so I'm just careful that I don't catch any of the back-stitch threads with my embroidery needle.  (As a variant, you can whip the back-stitch with a contrasting thread for a candy cane effect.)

The result looks like a beautiful and narrow cord.  Absolutely AWESOME.

Then, comes the dress details ... in the first dress, it's polka dots.  I did these with a variation of the padded satin stitch: outline each dot with a back-stitch and loosely fill the interior space with running stitches.  The running stitch provides the padding so when you do the final satin stitch over the back-stitches, the interior of the satin stitches don't collapse into the interior of the design.  I did the polka dots in 2 plies of purple floss.

Another detail is the French Knots at the base of the mannequin. They were done with 1 ply of purple floss.

I'm now working on dress 3.  (I had done dress 2 on a white tone-on-tone background fabric for comparison purposes.  Dress 2 has the most lovely detailed flowers, stitched in 2 colors of floss.  It took FOREVER to stitch them  and I just did NOT want to attack that dress again so soon .. so I'm doing dress 3 now.)  You can see that I'm working on the back-stitch of the dress/mannequin outline.  When I finish the back-stitching, I'll do the whip stitch.

The skirt for dress 3 poses a decision problem for me.  It may be a little difficult to see in the picture, but there are a lot of small lines on the skirt.  These are the leaves.  The flowers are a bunch of French knots (I didn't draw them on the fabric; I just know they are there) "inside" the leaves. 

My problem?  I can certainly do all the French knots for a flower cluster together.  But .. when it comes time to stitch the next flower cluster ... do  I tie off each cluster separately ... and have the tails possibly as a show through?  OR do I "drag" the thread from one cluster to the next ... and have that connecting thread possibly show through?

One solution I thought of was to not do French Knots at all, but use teeny-tiny seed beads, stitched on with polyester monofilament thread.  It would certainly be strong enough and not show through at all!

Do any of my Dear Readers have a suggestion for the French Knot conundrum?  :-)

Friday, August 06, 2010

Current Forever Project: Dress Me Up

I like to have a Forever Project going.

What *is* a "Forever Project"?  Originally, it was a project that took me, literally, YEARS and YEARS to complete, simply because it kept getting packed away. 

A Forever Project is a hand-work project that can be packed into a grab-n-go container.  I can work on it when I'm away from home ... at Little League games, at doctor's offices, on the road (when I'm not driving! :-)  ).  At times like those, I would go stark raving MAD if I had nothing to occupy my hands.

Once I actually completed my original Forever Project project, there was a let-down, as there wasn't anything to keep me busy when I was away from my sewing room.  So, I invented an on-going Forever Project ... anything that could be portable.  I've had several Forever Projects over the years ... it appears they just don't make Forever Projects like they used to. :-)

Now that the "Moondance" top is completed, I am moving on to my current Forever Project.

"Dress Me Up!" is a quilt from the Bobby Socks Quilt Company consisting of 12 redwork circa-1950 dresses on mannequins.  As this quilt will be for my middle Dear Daughter, who has claimed all shades of purple to be hers :-), the dresses for this quilt will be done in all different shades of purple.

The pattern calls for a white background, but I had a lavendar-on-white toile print that I thought would be perfect ... except .. really ... would the background fight with the embroidery? 

I did test blocks on both white tone-on-tone and the toile and asked for opinions.  There were two distinct camps, as you might imagine.  Those who definitely preferred the white tone-on-tone (the "traditionalists") .. and I tended to agree with them .. and those who said the tolile was fine ... and I agreed with them also!

Actually, truth be told, I was biased in favor of the toile, simply because this was for my purple-loving daughter and I *knew* she liked the fabric.  But, I was concerned over the effect of the embroidery on the toile.

Initially, I wasn't going to involve my daughter in the project, since I wanted it to be a surprise for her when she returned from her jaunt as an exchange student in Australia.  BUT .. gosh .. what if I chose the WRONG background???  Oh, the potential horror of it all.

So, I caved and asked her opinion ... letting HER decide if she even WANTED to see the blocks.  :-)   She couldn't stand knowing those blocks were out there and she wasn't seeing them .. so *she* caved and decided to be involved instead of being surprised. :-)

As I surmised, she chose the toile background. :-)

I visit my Dad every Wednesday and take along my Forever Project to work on, if I have free time (I do his bill-paying when I see him but only have a limited window of opportunity for the visit, otherwise I get stuck in horrible commute traffic getting back home.)  Some visits I have time to work on my Forever Project and sometimes I don't ... hence, it *could* be "forever" by the time it gets done!  It all depends on how much time away from my sewing room I get.

As I finish each block, I'll post the picture, but it's sure not going to be on any regular basis. :-)  This is dress #1.

I'll also be posting about whatever else I'm working on .. since hand-work is just my away-from-home project.  I always have something ELSE going on in the sewing room. :-)

Moondance top finished - woo hoo!

I started Beth Ferrier's BOM "Moondance" in August 2009.  One year later, the top is done!  Oh, hooray (she says tiredly).

There are 9 big pieced blocks; they were easy to piece and were quickly done.  There were pieced connector blocks that were also easy to construct.  Ergo, the pieced part of the top was done in short order ... like in 4 days.  The top could be left just like that, as it's just so pretty.


Then came the frosting on the cake; Beth added some wonderful appliqued flowers and dragonlies.  There were a zillion flowers and slightly less than a zillion dragonflies.

Well, it SEEMED like a zillion of them.  :-)

There are a lot of different techniques for applique and Beth touches on her favorite machine method.  I chose to hand-applique (most) of them.  Why?  Well, at the time, this was my Forever Project.  As such, it needed to be portable and you can't just lug your machine around and use it in the front seat of your car on road trips. :-)

I made each flower free-standing by stitching them first on a base of water-soluble stabilizer.  This allowed me to make the flowers where ever I was and I could see all the different color combinations prior to attaching them to the top.

Ditto with the dragonflies.  Beth provided a pattern for fabric applique dragonflies but the body of the dragonfly was so doggone SKINNY that  after the bazillion flowers, I was tuckered out.  Instead, I found a machine embroidery dragonfly that was nearly the size of Beth's pattern and I chose to make free-standing machine embroidered dragonflies.

My first atttempt was to simply embroider the design onto water-soluble stabilizer.  This didn't produce a great result, as the stitches weren't dense or connected enough to hold together once the stabilizer was rinsed away.  All subsequent dragonflies were stitched onto a tulle base ... this gave the thread something to hold onto and worked out perfectly. 

This picture shows the dragonfly after the stabilizer has been rinsed away.  You can see the sheen of the water still on tulle.  Putting the dragonflies on a baking cooling rack allowed full air circulation to aid in the drying.

Once the stabilizer was rinsed out, the tulle was cut away ... VERY carefully!   Some of the dragonflies were hand-appliqued to the top (when I needed something to work on whilst away from home) and some were machine-appliqued using polyester monofilament thread.

Because I chose to hand-applique the flowers & dragonflies, the completion of this top took MUCH longer than it would have, had I done everything by machine.  This poor top has been dragged over Hell's Half-Acre in the past year and is now being gently washed to remove about 15 pounds of cat hair and miscellaneous dirt.  :-) 

It'll join the other tops in the pile of Tops To Be Quilted. :-)  Once it gets quilted, I'll make a webpage for it.  Don't hold your breath on that though ... there are a LOT of other tops already in the stack.  :-)

I've already started my (current) Forever Project ... hand-embroidered blocks which will then be set into a quilt top.  More on that in a future post.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

And the beat goes on

So, what's on the design wall now?

Moondance: whilst (I *love* using that word!) on vacation last week, I was able to do all the hand applique of the flowers and free-standing machine embroidered dragonflies that I had prepped.    When I returned from vacation, I made the remaining 4 required dragonflies.  I'm working on getting them appliqued to the top.  Then, stick a fork in it, cuz the top will be DONE!  It'll go on the stack of Tops To Be Quilted.  :-)

Stonehenge French Braid:  moderate cheering .... the day we left for vacation, the online order of the Stonehenge fabric arrived.  I knew I wouldn't be able to STAND not opening, so I did .. good thing too.  The store shorted me one fabric (they gave me all they had) and completely omitted the other fabric (they were out of stock).  I was truly bummed out. 

BUT, whilst (oh, there's that word again!) on an adventure to the ONLY fabric store in the vicinity of our vacation, I saw that they carried some of the Stonehenge line.  AND .. wonder of wonders .... there was one of the fabrics I needed!  Not remembering if this was the shorted or omitted fabric from my previous order, I bought the entire 1-3/8 yard that was left on the bolt.  Upon my return home, I discovered that the Quilting Gods favored me that day ... the 1-3/8 yards was exactly how much was shorted.  :-)    Another foray into the Wide Wide World of Online Retail Therapy provided me with a different store for the remaining fabric. 

Here's a (distorted) picture of the sashing between the French Braid columns.  My goal is now finish the French Braid top.  And like Moondance, this top will go on the stack of Tops To Be Quilted.

new project! (have I gone mad?)  Whilst (third time's a charm!)  at the vacation fabric store, I saw a class sample quilt that quite captivated me.  Made from the "Take 5" pattern from The Teacher's Pet , it used fussy cut focus fabric in the pattern's largest squares.  It was wonderful.  The very helpful staff showed me where the pattern was in the store ... and I was utterly astonished.  No wonder I passed up the pattern when I first saw it .. the cover photo was completely underwhelming.  You only get one chance to make a first impression and the cover photo failed to make the sale.  BUT .. the class sample *did*! 

I bought some teacup fabric and ...

some fancy dessert fabric that I am hoping to use, along with complementary blender fabrics to round out the block. 

I'm departing from the pattern requirements so I can use an incredible lengthwise border stripe fabric that I found online.  I'm a sucker for border stripes.  :-)

Scanning the fabrics into Electric Quilt (and taking FOREVER to figure out how to get the scans to scale properly ... all comes from not using EQ as often as I need to), I made a mock-up of how I hope it will end up.  :-)

Conclusion:  Moondance will go fast-fast-fast! because it's only 4 dragonflies to applique. 
Stonehenge French Braid will take a bit longer because I need to figure out exactly WHERE I am in the construction process.  There's no more blocks to make, just sashing & borders, so this shouldn't take TOO long. (famous last words). 
Take 5 Teacups is just in the beginning stages and I still need to find/obtain the blender fabrics.

And all of the ABOVE are in addition to the tops/batting/backing projects that are ready to be loaded onto Lizzie for quilting.    aaaaiiiieeeee!  

Too.  Many.  Concurrent. Projects.