Thursday, March 31, 2011

Utter Frustration .. aaarrrgghhhh!

I've been working on a sneaky quilt.  I haven't talked about it because I'm not sure if the recipient reads my blog .. and I can't exactly ask, can I?  :-)

I found the perfect, I mean .. PERFECT fabric for the borders.  I figured out how to use the border fabric effectively with the rest of the top that has already been made.

Serendipitously, I had a day where I could work on the borders without interruption.

and ?

I can NOT find the border fabric.  Absolutely astounding.  How could I *possibly* lose fabric?  I know I had it fairly recently because I had to measure it in order to figure out how to use the limited amount I had with the top that I had.  I even drew out the schematic .. so I *know* I had the fabric recently.

And now I can't find it.  Oh. My. Gosh.  I can't believe this.

It's not with the top.  It's not with the batting because I haven't pulled that yet. I have looked everywhere it should be.   I have looked everywhere it shouldn't be.  I have looked again.  As I have always advised my daughters, I even looked UNDER things and PICKED THINGS UP and rifled through piles.  It's not there.

Well, it's obviously SOMEWHERE.   I have outdone myself in stashing this fabric in a Safe Place.

Gosh, I hate Safe Places.  ::sigh::

(aside: Nell .. this is not your quilt!   You may rest assured all of your pieces are safe.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Current Forever Project: Dress Me Up, dress 10

Work progresses nicely with the Dress Me Up embroidery project, I'm pleased to say!  Dress #10 is now officially finished and has joined its sister blocks, awaiting assembly.

Dress #10 is much plainer than the other dresses; I guess you need a simple style to offset some of the more flamboyant ones.  :-)

To compensate for the plainness of the dress and shawl collar, I gave the dress a "gold" belt and buckle.  ooooooo ... shiney!  :-)

The base of the pedestal has a lovely spiral turning to it and "gold" spirals on the ball.

Dress #11 is in the on-deck circle!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Current Forever Project: Dress Me Up, dress 9

While I am working on quilting projects with the sewing machine a/o quilting machine, I am also (slowly) progressing on my current Forever Project ™, "Dress Me Up".

Dress #9 is now completed.

Lots and lots of big, showy flowers over the entire dress.

I used DMC's metallic floss for the squiggly lines in the belt

Work now progresses to Dress #10.  The light at the end of this tunnel is definitely getting brighter. :-)

One thing that has been reinforced for me: doing precision hand work is a challenge when you are riding in a car.  Those roads are NOT as smooth as they look!

Also!! News flash!  I have discovered a wonderful and new (to me) product! 

I never have been able to use a metal thimble.  It never feels "right" to me.  When I found soft, leather thimbles, I was happy .. and they even have a small, metal disk at the tip to help push the needle through thicker fabric.  But, eventually, even these leather thimbles wear out.  I have several of them and have stitched the leather at the top back together many times so I could keep using them, but the leather is just plain wearing away.  Additionally, over time, even the small size thimble stretches out and is then too big for my finger .... it will then slip off.  Most annoying.

I was cautiously hopeful when I found Colonial's "Thimble Pad".  It's a circle of leather with sticky stuff on the underside that adheres to your finger tip .. just exactly where you need to have some protection.  Allegedly, the adhesive is reusable but since I've only used one Thimble Pad once, I don't have first hand experience with the reuseability factor.

So far, it works very nicely!  It does feel weird to have this "thing" stuck to your finger .. but it does NOT move and it doesn't catch the thread.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jane Austen quilt, part 2

Scroll down to the bottom of the page on this post to see the beginning of my journey to make a Jane Austen quilt.  No, not the Dear Jane quilt but Jane Austen's quilt. :-)

For a refresher, here is the original Jane Austen quilt:

 I'm not making a replica, but "an inspired by" version.  That way, I'm not going to get all hung up on the precise details nor will I become unglued if the Vintage Quilt Police harass me.  :-) 

As this quilt is intended for Dear Daughter #2, whose color is purple, my intent is to make the quilt entirely of purples.  While I do have a nice stash of fabric, my selections of purples is not extensive.  Solution: my good quilting buddies of's Quilting forum to the rescue!  I put out a request for any and all purples, fat eighths or scraps about 4"x4".  In exchange, should they want, I would send back to them an equivalent amount of fabric of their choice, provided I had such fabric in my stash.

They responded with such enthusiasm!  Some had fabrics they would like in return but many essentially said, "don't you dare send me anything back ... I'm glad to reduce my own stash!"  :-)  The sheer number of fabric that came in was absolutely overwhelming.  Quilters are simply extraordinary generous people!

sashing for Jane Austen quilt
Although I received all the purples throughout February, I couldn't start cutting until the sashing fabric had been approved.  I had a length of suggested fabric .. a mottled white/purple/blue ... that awaited a Verdict.

It wasn't until mid-March that DD#2 made a Personal Appearance at the homestead.  To my relief and delight, she liked the fabric I had pulled for the sashing.  :-)

As I was going through all the purples, sorting them into light/medium/dark piles, I realized that some definitely felt as though they had not been washed already.  Some pieces *did* have notes to that effect.  The fabrics from my own stash *had* been washed.   At that point, I realized that I would really need to wash all the forum fabric; you simply do not want to mix washed and unwashed fabric in the same top.  So, load by load, into the washer, then into the dryer they went. 

I learned something valuable ... I do not need to wash the fabric on the regular setting!  That setting tends to unravel the cut ends, as well as twisting and knotting the fabric lengths together.  It's annoying to need to straighten everything out before they are put in the dryer.  It occurred to me that ... I don't need to wash them as though they are *dirty* .. I just need to get the manufacturing chemicals, sizing & surface dirt/dust off the fabric, as well as shrink them as much as they are going to.  I tried a 'delicate' setting .. and by golly! no hanging threads, no twisted lengths of fabric!  It was wonderful!  :-)

purples from Quilting members
But, with the washing/drying comes the ironing.  Some larger lengths of fabric (real yardage) might not need to be ironed .. a simple smoothing with your hands will suffice.  But I didn't have yardage; I had short lengths and scraps.  They wrinkled.  I spent the better part of a day ironing all the purples. 
They look so purty.  :-)

Finally, at long last, I can start the cutting process!  I have been so antsy to start!

from H.D. Designs
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I think the center medallion part won't take terribly long.  It's just long seams of diamonds with sashing, set on-point.  

Oh .. hmm .. I gotta remember to put in that center space at the appropriate time.  Instead of Broderie Perse, DD#2 wants her initial in applique.  I just happen to have a pattern that she likes.  :-)   This applique is from H.D. Designs, their "Quilted Letters Applique" pattern.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lumiere de Noel

Lumiere de Noel

size: 80" x 88"

Pieced: November 2010. Quilted: December 2010

When I start a quilt, I create a sub-directory in my main Quilting directory on my computer. In each quilt's sub-directory, I put all the pictures pertinent to the quilt and, most importantly, I create a note file to capture stuff I want to remember later on, when the webpage is made. It's very difficult to remember details months afterwards.

Currently, it is March 2011. Do note that this quilt was made in late 2010 .. not terribly far in the past, but distant enough so that those all-important details are but a fuzzy memory. I opened up the sub-directory and ... OH NO!! ... there isn't a note file! Geez, I hate being a lamer.

Thank GOODNESS that I was chatty enough during the construction to post about what I was doing's Quilting forum (the main quilty place I hang out). Thank goodness the search function works, as I was able to find all the posts I had made about this quilt!

Since I have the dates of the posts, I'm going to do this webpage in a sort of diary construct .. kinda/sorta, almost, maybe ... augmented with additional verbage. :-)

11/11/10: I have started "Lumiere de Noel". I first saw it in a quilting catalog and just loved the two fabric coloring featuring a specific Moda fabric line. But it was such a SIMPLE layout (variant Sawtooth Star blocks in columns with a ribbon border stripe between the columns as sashing and finished with a slab-o-border), I didn't want to spring for the kit. Besides, I knew I had enough stash fabric to make it. So, I just clipped the catalog picture as a memory jogger.

I went surfing around the internet and found a better picture of Lumiere de Noel for reference. And I found lots of sites offering the kit, the fabric and/or just the pattern. Then I found yardage requirements for it!

AND THEN ... further poking around the internet, I discovered that Moda had the "Lumiere de Noel" pattern available on their website FOR FREE. woo hoo!

My version of Lumiere de Noel is still red/white, but it's more scrappy because I am using all (well, mostly all) stash fabric to make it. :-)

Augment: The minute I saw the pattern, I remembered the red/white positive/negative fabrics I had stashed away. If there was enough of them, they would do nicely for the background of the stars.

As it turned out, I almost made it .. but not quite. I didn't have enough of the white stripe fabric to make all of the Sawtooth Star blocks. Once again, digging through my stash, I found and decided to use a white tone-on-tone fabric for the triangles at the 12-o'clock and 6-o'clock positions. Serendipitously, when the blocks were sewn together, the tone-on-tone fabrics created a lovely white square, suitable for a nifty quilting design. Bonus! :-)

I wasn't sure about that linear stripe ... I knew I didn't own anything like that; I'd need to go looking for it. Linear stripes are tricky ... they are either in fashion and available or they are nowhere to be seen.

Sure enough, I couldn't find anything suitable in my stash and linear stripes are obviously Out Of Fashion at this time (or at least, my local quilt stores aren't carrying them). Since I would need to purchase a linear stripe, I figured I might as well get the 'official' stripe per the Lumiere de Noel pattern. A little bit of internet search turned up an online quilt store that stocked it. I definitely needed a very specific length, as the stripes were cut lengthwise. I noted this on my order and hoped that the store had enough yardage on hand.

11/19/10: I was waiting on a linear stripe to arrive via the mail. Hooray, hooray, the shop had the length I needed and it arrived.

I washed the fabric, fussy cut the linear stripes and now am using those stripes as sashing between the Sawtooth Star columns.

Oh. My. Gosh. Is this B-O-R-I-N-G. ::snore::

I am (trying to) be careful about maintaining the same motif placements across the width of the top. (see the yellow line running through the same motifs .. hooray!)

But sewing L-O-N-G stretches of straight seamlines is just plain tedious. If the sashing wasn't enough punishment, once they are sewn, I get to do more long seamlines with the slab-o-borders.

Anyone have any No-Doze? :-)

OH NO! (again) I should have used that No-Doze. Or I shouldn't have worked on the quilt when I wasn't alert. Or maybe I shouldn't have been watching the TV at the same time as sewing. After I sewed all the sashings in between all the rows and stepped back to view my work-in-progress, I spotted it. A GLARING ERROR. Oh. My. Gosh. A Cesspool of Puss. Grade: D-.

Do you see it? Look again. Look more closely. Surely you see it?

In each of the linear stripes, there is a circular, flower design. Below that flower is a stylized leafy-thing. On one side of the leafy-thing there is a part that curls. In the photo above, look at the linear stripe on the left; that curl is on the top/right of the leafy-thing. Now look at the other stripe. That curl is on the bottom/left of the leafy-thing. I had sewed one of the linear stripes UPSIDE DOWN. Who knew they were *directional*!??!? aarrrggghhhhh!

Well, drats. Double drats. ¡Qué lástima! ¡Qué mala suerte! And there is nothing to be done but rip-rip-rip the offending sashing out, turn it right side up and re-sew it. ::sigh::

11/20/10: I had planned on using the red stripe fabric as the binding, but I didn't have enough. So, I made a two-fabric strip set of the red/white positive/negative fabrics and created the binding from the strip set. It looks rather like peppermint candy canes! :-)

12/5/10:Worked out a quilting design for Lumiere de Noel on paper.

Loaded a doodle cloth (destined eventually to become cage liners for our cats' vet) and practiced the quilting. I'm very glad that I did because some of the designs just didn't work out nicely. Eventually, after playing around a bit, I think I've settled on what the final quilting design will be.

I railroaded the quilt onto Lizzie (i.e. lengthwise is parallel to the rails) so that I could quilt each column in one pass. I'm using Quilter's Dream Puff for the batting .. a first time for me. I'm hoping that the final quilt is nicely poofy.

First to be quilted: the borders. The border fabric is a fabulously lovely, airy red design on white. I love this fabric! I know, from past experience, that any detailed quilting on prints tends to disappear. The print fabric just absorbs the quilting details. But ... this is *my* quilt. I'm not paying someone to do it for me, so I can do what I want. (neener, neener, neener!)

And I like swags and beadboard. In fact, I *LOVE* swags and beadboard. Doing swags is so easy when you have a template and I use the No-Frills swag template from Constantine Quilts. (She has a fantastic set of videos on her site, at the above link, to show you how to figure out the number of swags to put on a side and what to do about the corners.) For this quilt, I used the 5" swag template.

Here's a photo of the border with the swag and beadboard quilted .. and a drawn outline of the stitching so you can see it better. Inside the innermost swag, I quilted a free-motion, free-form flower.

The corner got a similar quilting motif.

Notice how you can hardly see the quilting in the border? But, *I* know it's there.

In any case, *YOU* beware not to ask for detailed quilting where it won't be seen!

Once the border was taken care of, I progressed to quilting the columns of stars, which due to loading the quilt crosswise, the columns were now rows .. making it much, much easier to quilt in one pass.

I wanted the quilting to be continuous. I really dislike stopping and starting designs; you have to bury the tails (I don't like to take tiny stitches or use Fray Check/Fray Block). Burying a lot of tails takes time and it's boring.

So, I devised a quilting path from one end to the other ... each star was stitched in the ditch for definition and stability; in the squares that were created between the stars, there is a heart. In the stars themselves, I did a spiral with leafy embellishments. In the other areas of the stars, I quilted a double arc with leafy embellishments and repeated the heart.

Then there was quilting the linear stripe fabric. Geez ... I didn't have a CLUE how to do that. I ended up just quilted an outline around the motifs. Lame.

You can see this better on the back, since I used plain muslin as the backing.

I have taken to liking the use of muslin as the backing. Not only does it soften with laundering, but it shows up the quilting rather nicely. Hmmm ... which could be a detriment, yes? :-) But, being the cheap frugal person that I am, I buy an entire bolt of 108" wide muslin with a discount coupon and that brings the cost of the backing down very low. The extra wide fabric means that I don't have any seams (unless I want to insert something).

I definitely do not use quilting cotton for backings any longer ... I just can't justify the cost.

The very last thing is the label. For quilts that I keep or give as gifts, I always sew my "pirate" label into a corner. Since I found a teeny-tiny pirate machine embroidery design, I have made a bunch of small pirate tags, which I also include when I put on the binding. You can see the pink pirate tag to the left of the pirate label.

I don't use my embroidery machine as much as I should. Nowadays, I'm trying to remember to make an additional embroidered label. This one was done with a gorgeous *free!* Sue Box design. Her designs are always superbly digitized. They are simply exquisite.

Didja notice the special ribbon around each label??? When I was persuing the internet for the linear stripe fabric, I happened to come across an online shop, Quilter's Quarters, that carried this Moda ribbon ... it's designed to coordinate with the Lumiere de Noel fabric line. Although I only used the linear stripe from this line, I just fell in love with this ribbon. It was so special and so unique AND it came wrapped around a cute wooden spool!

I emailed the owners, Shawn & Jerry, to ask how much yardage was on each spool. A prompt reply gave me the amount, which would be more than enough to border the labels. Even though the price was steep (for a ribbon!), I figured it would be a beautiful, final touch for this quilt and I ordered it. A small amount of time later, a second email came in with a corrected yardage; originally, the yardage hadn't been actually measured. Sadly, it was less than what was originally quoted. With the smaller amount of yardage, I couldn't justify the purchase and regretfully instructed Shawn & Jerry to cancel the order. Well, it turned out that they had already run the charge and boxed up the purchase. To make things right, they made an offer to me that was quite acceptable. I can say, without equivocation, that Quilter's Quarters is a stand-up operation. An inadvertent mistake was made and was very graciously corrected. I wouldn't hesitate to do business with them again.

12/20/10: Completely finished Lumiere de Noel last night ... bound, washed & pictures taken! I did need to send it through the wash twice ... I had used yellow chalk to mark guidelines and they didn't come out in the first wash. Application of "Shout" gel took care of them during the second wash.

I really, really love this quilt. Love the colors; love the pattern. I'm 99.9% happy with the quilting. The part that I'm not entirely happy about is the quilting I did in the dark ribbon stripe print. It's OK .. but that's about all. Everything else I love. :-)

What quilt is complete without an inspection by the Quality Control Officer? This particular inspection was obviously a stealthy one ... the Officer can't see you, ergo, you can't see her. :-)

Oh .. the quilt passed muster. :-)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

9-Patch Pizzazz: Lily Pond pattern

size: 45"x51"

Pieced: April 2010. Quilted: May 2010

This is another toddler quilt for the Bay Area Crisis Nursery.

With apologies to those of you who have read the "9-Patch Pizzazz: Flower Power" quilt, I'm lifting some of the verbage because this is the OTHER 9-Patch Pizzazz quilt I made with the same focus fabric. And if you haven't seen or read the Flower Power quilt, then when you DO read it, you'll experience déjà vu all over again. :-)

It was sometime in 2006 that I bought Judy Sisneros' book, "9-Patch Pizzazz" . I just loved the graphic nature of the designs and how you could use a great focus fabric and companions to create the quilts. The full title of the book is "9 Patch Patch Pizzazz..... Fast, Fun & Finished in a Day" and it's no lie! Because the quilts are small in size and the blocks are relatively large, it goes together *FAST*.

I had a piece of focus fabric, obtained from *somewhere*, which had some very bizarre color combinations that just seemed to go together nicely. Weird how that happens. The floral has a really weirdly shifted color palette .... it's a green background with purple and yellow flower heads. The purple has a lot of red in it ... kinda like magenta but not nearly as red as that. The yellow is subdued, like a butter yellow but not as pastel. And the background green is soft .. but I can't even come up with the Crayola color name for it! (ETA: *celadon*! according to Wikipedia!) :-)

The purple is *so* weird that I figured I was never, ever, ever going to find a compatible companion for the 9-patch pizzazz ... but to my everlasting shock, I had several selections in my stash. How the heck did those get in there??? After all, it was just *weird*; why would I have those sorts of colors? This is definitely NOT my usual color selection!

Turns out ... oh, surprise, surprise ... I'm weird. :-)

I had a green linen-type fabric that EXACTLY matched the weird-o green background. I remember using the main part of this linen-type as pants for my oldest daughter when she was a squirt. I saved the remnant all these years (like about 20!) because the piece was big enough to use "someplace".

And, who would have thought it .. I had some purples that coordinated *perfectly*. I have NO idea where I might have previously used the purples; they have a lot of red in them and aren't the usual shade I am drawn to. Nevertheless, there they were. A match made in heaven. :-)

Even MORE serendipitously, from another rabbit's hat, I had on hand, a piece of fleece large enough to be used for the backing and the colors in it were a PERFECT MATCH. Everything was coming together so wonderfully for this quilt, my karma must have been at an all-time high. I should have played the lottery. :-)

The quilting for Lily Pond was fun. The big focus fabric blocks were quilted with Sally Terry's "Hooked on Feathers". I am continually amazed at how EASY that technique is for doing feathers.

I did a curved feather on the solid fabric.
I did curved feathers on the print fabric.
I even did a feathered wreath! woo hoo!

For other focus fabric blocks, I used a new specialty flower template I had recently purchased from The Quilters Rule. This daisy template is one of those nifty nested ones that allow you to stitch the shape INSIDE the template ... if the shape is circular, as this daisy is, your arm doesn't get in the way! Additionally, you can use both the inside and outside of each nested template to stitch the size shape you need.

The checkerboard patchwork areas were done with my favorite continuous curves. One of my best tutorials is from Carla Barret; she shows how the sequence should be for continous curves. About midway down the page, you'll see that sequence. Very easy .. very clever. I love it. (oh and the rest of the tutorials on the page for feathers is awesome also.)

The sashing was done with another of Carla's tutorials ... her Swirly Design for sashing. One of these days, I'm going to need to venture from just the basic swirl! Honestly, though, this is the all-time BEST design for narrow strips. I just love it.

The final, outer border was done in a design that has several names ...Slim Darts, Simple Welsh Trail, Curve and Point, Diamond Cable and Eggs & Darts (the traditional name). My thanks to my quilting buddies, Ompuff, Kelly Misty,
Anita Grossman Solomon and Colene, on's Quilting forum for their research efforts!

I'm pleased with the pattern and the quilting I did. It was an excellent vehicle to practice all the feathers ... it'll go to the local charity that I support by giving quilts, the Bay Area Crisis Nursery.

9-Patch Pizzazz: Flower Power pattern

Preface: I'm going to be posting a bunch of entries about quilts that I made last year (2010). Although the quilts were completed then, I never quite got around to making their webpages and bragging on them. Webpages and blogs about quilts are a completely separate project unto themselves! It takes time to take the pictures, edit them, find reference links and write the verbage. And the time I'm taking to do the webpages and blogs is time that I'm not sewing or quilting. It's a real conundrum. :-)

40" x 56"

Ever be so entranced by a large scale print that you just HAVE TO HAVE it? But simultaneously be completely petrified of how to use it? The entire concept of using a large scale so it is nicely showcased in a layout that is very familiar, yet new is the hallmark of 9-Patch Pizzazz.

I had a large scale floral from "someplace". I'm quite sure I didn't buy it; it's not anywhere NEAR the colors that I prefer ... certainly these colors are nowhere in my house or wardrobe. So, I think I acquired it from my Mom's stash? Or maybe it was a donation from Freecycle? ... I'm not quite sure .. but there was a whole bunch of it.

I pulled out my "9-Patch Pizzazz: fast, fun & finished in a day" by Judy Sisneros. The "Flower Power" layout caught my eye and I was off to the races. This layout uses only 2 coordinating fabrics to create a 2-color sashing between the blocks, as well as all the checkerboard areas (i.e. the 9 patches).

The purples in this floral are a very bizarre, weird shade. I have no Crayola 64 color name to describe it! It's not magenta, it's not red-violet nor even violet-red, but does reside somewhere in that color family. A very, very strange shade, indeed. But as I was pawing through my purple stash bin, what did I find???? The EXACT shade of purple that I needed for one of the companion fabrics! I have no idea why I would have ever bought that piece of fabric but there it was.

The other fabric I chose was a white tone on tone.

I made endless strip sets of the purple and white fabrics, sub-cutting them into 2 patch units and then re-sewing them into the checkerboard pieces. The 2-color sashings were sewn between the vertical column units and also between the columns themselves. If you were careful about cutting the focus fabric pieces, then the whole top is assembled very easily.

I backed this top with a fleece that, miraculously had the same purple color family in it. Since fleece is warm enough all by itself, I didn't use any batting.

It has occurred to me that, even though I have maintained that this particular shade of purple is weird and there is no way I would have voluntarily chosen it to be in my stash .... isn't it just a bit strange that I was able to FIND coordinating fabric AND fleece to go with the focus fabric? Doesn't that say that perhaps, this weird shade of purple actually DOES call out to me?

Nah. It's still weird and I have no idea how it got into my house.

As for the quilting, I'm still having problems with thinking outside the box. I see the block boundaries and I think that I must stay within them for the design. Theoretically, I know this isn't true, but practically speaking, I feel I must "stay within the lines". :-)

So, for the checkerboard areas, I chose a tried-and-true .. and attractive! ... continuous curve quilting design. I actually really like the way these curves give the impression of interlocking circles and soften the lines of the hard angular checkerboard.

I know, for myself, that I tend not to be terribly consistent with curves. Smooth, nice looking curves are difficult to achieve, especially if they are on a large scale. Even though the checkerboard areas of this quilt are small, I still felt that they needed to be EVEN and CONSISTENT and SMOOTH .. something my free-handing lacks at this time.

It just so happened that I possess a nifty tool designed to help with close-in quilting around appliques, the Appliquide by Deloa Jones.

I like it when a tool can serve multiple purposes and although I'm sure Deloa had not intended the Appliguide to be a curve template, that is EXACTLY what I used it for on this quilt! The curve of this tool gave me a beautifully smooth curve in the checkerboard areas! It turned out so very nicely!

That left all the big fabric areas .. both the focus fabric and the coordinating fabric. These are lovely areas where some nice quilting could be done. I had recently bought a book, "Hooked on Feathers" by Sally Terry. I must say without hesitation that this is an AWESOME book. It makes creating lush feathers *effortless*. And *easy*. And there are variations on a theme for even more incredible feathers. This book and technique banished every fear and frustration I ever had about stitching feathers. You essentially can not make a bad looking feathers. I love this book! :-)

With that faint praise in mind (smile), I did Hooked on Feathers in all the focus print and coordinating print areas. I'm very pleased with the technical aspect of the hooked feathers ... but ... and here is something for all quilters to consider and be aware of .... prints hide quilting. If you use a highly contrasting thread, it may stand out more, but it's not going to look the same as when you quilt on a fabric that reads as a solid.

Take a look at the picture above. You can see the feathers in the "solid" purple fabric .. but you'll have a more difficult time seeing those feathers in the focus fabric areas. Because I am quilting for myself, I can choose to do fancier designs in areas that might not show off the quilting. I'm not paying hard money for it. If you ARE paying a longarm quilting to do your quilting, be sure to discuss with her how the quilting will show up in the different areas of your quilt. I wouldn't think you would want to pay for intricate quilting that can't be seen readily.

Here's another picture of all the quilting ... including the swirly curly done in the sashing. The swirly curly is a design that I learned from Carla Barrett's tutorial pages for sashing designs. This has got to be my all-time favorite design for sashings! It is so easy to do the basic version and the variations are wonderful also.

This quilt was given to my cousin, Jan, who was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy for tumors in her brain and lungs. I have heard from others that it can be chilly during those treatments and I wanted her to be surrounded by familial love and hugs. :-)

Praise the Lord, several months down the line, she called me to say that the tumors had shrunk to *nothing*. While she still has to continue to take medicines and occasional monitoring, miracles DO happen. For this I am very grateful.

I had a bit of the focus fabric leftover from this quilt and made another 9-Patch Pizzazz quilt using it. This other quilt is the "Lilly Pond" layout and is a charity quilt for the Bay Area Crisis Nursery in Concord, CA. You can read about the "Lily Pond" quilt on its own webpage: 9-Patch Pizzazz Lily Pond.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Royal Mendhi Crystals

I'm going to try something different here .... along with this blog, I have vanity website, "The Dread Pirate Rodgers".  This blog is relatively new; the website has been around for a while.  I use it as a virtual scrapbook for the quilts that I make.  (And as a way to keep the details of those quilts until such a time as I get around to making a physical scrapbook.  Maybe.  Sometime.)

In the past, when I have created a new webpage for a quilt, I briefly talk about it here, on the blog, and then beseechingly entreat you, Dear Readers, to click on the provided link and read about the quilt on the webpage.  Why?  Well, I can make the webpage as long as I want to, include all the pictures I want and generally just ramble on and on and on ... moreso than I do on the blog.  :-)

But it's annoying to me to write up a teaser *here* and hope that people actually *do* click to the webpage.  Therefore, I am going to just copy the webpage here on the blog and hope that the pictures fit nicely! Warning! Get yourself a beverage, isolate yourself from interruptions ... this is going to be a LONG blog entry! 

Without further ado ... I present "Royal Mendhi Crystals", a quilt I pieced in April 2010 and finally quilted in December 2010.  The quilt is 53" x 73".

Let me start by saying that I hardly, ever, *ever* buy pre-cuts. The are a relatively new phenomenon and I don't have any patterns that specifically use them. When a pattern calls for X yardage, it's difficult to translate that into pre-cut units, so although I may admire them, I pass them by.

Until the Auburn quilt show of 2010. It was a dismal, misty day as we traveled from our house to the show, about a 2 hour drive. The trip was pleasant and due to the inclement weather, there weren't a whole lot of people .. bad for the show, but wonderful for us viewers. :-)

The Vendor building was small; there weren't too many businesses represented. I sure didn't need any more fabric, supplies, magazines, toys, threads, needles, templates ... or really anything at all ... but I made the rounds of the vendors anyway. I was actually rather pleased when I wasn't severely tempted by anything. It made resisting so much easier. :-)

After the vendor building, I viewed the quilts. Such awesome work! Dang, but we quilters are talented! After looking at all the quilts, I gave Mr. Pirate a call on his cellphone that I was ready to be picked up. Mr. Pirate doesn't do quilt shows and finds other ways to occupy his time. This time, he had found an ol' timey watering-hole where all the geezers congregate. He was having a wonderful time. :-)

While I waited for him to pick me up, I wandered into the vendor building, one more time. I was just going to do a quick circuit to pass the time. Since it was so close to closing time, the vendors were just marking time before closing up shop. So, instead of a fly-by, I was able to spend quite a bit of that time chatting with one of the vendors. She seemed happy to spend the time talking about "anything". Another late quilter wandered in and looked at the pre-cuts, selected one and bought it. It was a drop-dead, *gorgeous* selection of turquoises and I said as much. The vendor commented that there was only one more of that pre-cut left.

Well, that was all I needed .. I grabbed up that lonely, solitary pre-cut package for my very own. Good salesmanship, huh? :-)

Back at the homefront, I began to do some research on how best to use this pre-cut. One such website was Hoffman Fabrics and there was a perfect pattern on their free download page. Mendhi Crystals is offered in two colorways: a multi-color and a neutral. (Both of those links will give you a PDF to download and save.) I thought the pattern would be suitable for my pre-cut, although I did end up altering the layout to accommodate the fabrics that I had. I augmented the pre-cut with some of my own turquoise fabrics and a highlight of sparkling yellow.

The pattern went together without a hitch, even with my alteration and the top was quickly completed. And sat in my pile of Tops to Quilt. For a long time.

Why? Well ... True Confessions time: piecing is easy for me. I love to piece. I get on a roll and just churn out the tops. Pretty soon, I have a stack of tops that need quilting and I know I need to work on them soon otherwise, I'm going to forget details of how I made the quilt. Usually, I create a notefile for the quilt as I'm working on it so I don't have to keep all the pertinent details stuffed in my head, but sometimes I forget about the notefile. So, anyway, I wasn't in a mood to quilt .. I wanted to work on tops .. so I did.

There was a small mishap on backing: I had *yards* of vintage flannel from Mom's stash, it was a soft, butter yellow. There was more than enough for the backing and I was pleased to be able to use it. I needed to cut it 100" long, 2 sections at WOF. I measured. I measured twice. I cut once. I fluffed it out and thought ... 'that looks kinda short'. Then realized that I *forgot to double the fabric over* at the 100" mark. I had used the 50" mark instead. duh. (Obviously, I had intended on unfolding it at the 50" mark to have one piece at 100" .. then double it at *that* mark to get two 100" sections.) So instead of having two 100" long pieces, I had two 50" long pieces. aaarrrggghhh.

I still had enough for the backing (since I cut it overly long) but now I would have nasty, nasty horizontal seamline in the middle. Yuck, yuck, yuck! To help disguise it, I inserted a coordinating piece of woven cotton (since I had no flannel that would be suitable). ::sigh:: What a doofus. But, such is life and I'll call myself lucky if that is kind of bad luck I have.

It was much later that year (fortunately, it *was* the still same year!) that The Guilts finally got to me. That and I had attended Pacific International Quilt Festival and purchased some nifty new quilting templates. :-)

From Quilter's Rule booth, I found a template for Nested Mini-circles (1" - 4"). You know how, when you are following a circular template on a longarm, you can stitch about 3/4's the way around before your arm physically gets in the way? Then you need to stop your machine, make sure it *stays put*, reposition your hand/arm and restart the stitching ... and try not to have a bobble at the re-start. Sometimes you don't always succeed.

Well, the strategy of these templates is that you can stitch the circle on the INSIDE the template so that your hand never gets in the way and you never need to reposition it on the template to complete the circle! Awesome! Sold!

As part of the sales technique, we were shown how to do a String of Pearls quilting design easily ... oh. my. gosh. Awesome! Sold! (In this picture, you can see the chalk guideline I put down to help me center all the circles).

Then ... Oh. My. Gosh. There was a cable template. I love, love, love the look of cables. But how on earth do you do them as continuous stitching? That mystery was way beyond what my poor one brain cell could contemplate. But Nancy Johnson, who obviously has more than one brain cell, HAS figured it out with this exceedingly clever 5 line cable template. The template has a bunch of removeable pieces which allow you to stitch the cable, for as long as you need it to be, in *one continuous line*. Yes, there is a small amount of back-tracking, but the template helps you stay on track with that part.

Being the idiot that I am, I didn't practice beforehand. Oh noooo ... that would be too simple!

I just jumped right in and use the template for the first time on this quilt. I found out that I had misjudged my guideline and the resultant cable (which looked FANTASTIC!) wasn't centered properly on the border. Eh ... ::shrug:: .... minor problem.

Subsequent stitchings were exceedingly well done and I pat myself on the back. :-)

I can't wax enthusiastic enough about both of these templates! I'm sure that these quilting motifs could certainly be done without a template but for it to *look* good, I need the help of templates. I'm sure glad that I have them!

The quilting in the center part of the quilt was a pantograph by Lorien Quilting, "Halcyon". It's a very nice curvilinear design that I thought would soften the very angular look of the piecing.

By using blue painters' tape to mark where the edges of the center medallion was, I was able to do this pantograph *just in the center* of the quilt.

Mostly, I was pretty doggone good about being able to keep the pantograph stitching within the center but there were a couple of places where the stitching snuck into the border. Heh .. it's not easy to stitch a pantograph and not be able to go off the edges! :-)

The Flying Geese got a Carla Barrett quilting treatment. I just love, *love*, LOVE Carla's quilting and she is most generous with tutorials. Carla has this wonderful design that allows you to quilt a perfectly suited motif for a string of Geese. I love how the design flows so wonderfully from block to block ... it's an extremely easy design to free motion.

As far a labels go, I have a 'standard' pirate label I put on my quilts. She's my alter-ego and how I really view myself .. no matter WHAT the mirror might actually reflect. [grin] I like to hand write the verbage on the label, along with my signature; I think it lends a personal touch.

But, I also own an embroidery machine. I have lots and lots and lots (and lots and lots and lots) of designs that are quite suitable for quilt labels. I decided, as an on-going effort, I would put a *second*, machine embroidered, decorative label on my quilts ... just because I can. I found a wonderful Embroider This! snowflake design, (appropriate because,of course, a snowflake is a crystal) and used that in the corner of the decorative label. It'll be interesting to see how long I keep up this embroidered label effort. :-)

Here's how the quilt looks after it was laundered.

I have to admit, once again, that although I always prewash my fabrics, I don't always shrink the batting before using it. It only stands to reason that the batting is going to shrink to some degree. When the quilt is on the frame and the quilting is *so* crisp, defined and clean, it looks simply fantastic.

A lot of people like the old, timey wrinkled look, but I'm not a overwhelming fan about it. I'd love it if my quilting could stay as crisp as it looks on the frame, but that's not gonna happen.

And what quilt would be complete with a *thorough* inspection for Quality Control?

What a bum! ;-)