Friday, August 31, 2012

4-patch and Straight Furrows

All righty then ...  this is the last after-the-fact quilt I'll be posting for today!

Once again, let us journey back to 2010.  No, wait .. let's go further back than that ... back to 2005.

I was hand-piecing 4-patches.  Lots of 4-patches. I needed to be doing something "historically accurate" for a re-enactment Gold Rush mining town in the 1850's.  I made so many 4-patches that they were practically coming out of my ears.  The quilt for which they were intended was finally pieced in 2009; quilted and bound in 2010.

And I had a lot of 4-patches leftover.  A lot of them.

So, I made another quilt from them.  This one, "4-patches and Straight Furrows".  It's a free design from Bonnie Hunter's website but I changed how the borders look.  This quilt was pieced in 2010 and quilted in 2011.

I was doing a LOT of piecing (of a lot of different tops) in 2010; it was as though I was on an assembly line of piecing.  As soon as I finished one top, I dove right into the next one.  Not all of them got webpages made on a timely basis.

I've been updating the gallery pages on my website (man, just a whole lot of BORING technical things to change!) and I figured I probably should make web pages of the quilts where I could.  Hence the 3 new pages today!

Anyway, back to those 4-patches.  I thought I was done with them.  But no.  Oh no.  Little did I know that they were lurking around like dust bunnies.  I made another bed-sized quilt and two toddler quilts with excess 4-patches.  And ya know what?  I recently found SOME MORE!  My goodness ... where is the contraceptives for 4-patches????

So, during the website update, I made a page for this quilt ... there's lots of verbage and LOTS and LOTS of pictures, particularly of how I did the quilting.    The page is 4-patches and Straight Furrows.  :-)

Friendship Braid quilt

Here's another quilt I made in 2010, for which I am just now creating its webpage.  This quilt was made for a cousin who was undergoing cancer treatments.  I backed it with fleece so that it would be very drapeable and snuggly.

I had a wonderful time quilting this quilt!  I used a flower meander from the Darlene Epp "Pocket Guide to Freehanding" and hooked feathers from Sally Terry's "Hooked on Feathers".  I heartily endorse both books (or set of books, in Darlene Epp's case); both of them absolutely, positively WILL help anyone and everyone improve their free-motion skills and creation of feathers.

The webpage for this quilt is "Friendship Braid for Terrye" and has a whole lotta pictures.

 Here's what the front looks like ....

and here a picture of one of the borders. 

Annika's cat panel quilt

Way back in September 2010 (yes, 2 years ago), I made a child's size quilt for Mr. Pirate's grand-niece (who would be the daughter of Mr. Pirate's niece).

For whatever reason, I never quite got around to sharing it but now that I'm in the process of updating my web pages, I've done so.

What is interesting .. in an unpleasant sort of way ... is that I *forgot* to take a picture of the final quilt.  Geez ..what a doofus.  Although I've asked Mr. Pirate's niece to take a picture for me, she has never quite gotten around to it and I'm reluctant to keep bugging her.

Fortunately, I had created a note file of the process in 2010, so that was the basis for the webpage.  Sadly, details on the actual quilting are kinda sparse, as I hadn't quite finished the note file, although I did have pictures.  Thank goodness for the pictures!  The finished quilt has a scalloped edge, faux trapunto'd cat appliques and some nicely free-motion quilted backgrounds.

So, the web page for Annika's Cat Panel Quilt  is now up and for more verbage (oh, LOTS of verbage!), photos and links, surf on over to it's webpage. :-)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jelly Parfait finished! whoop! whoop!

Oh hallelujah!  Let's stick a fork in it cuz it's done!

I pieced the top in April 2011 but just now got the quilting done.   I'm really quite pleased with my quilting efforts on this one.  Not particularly fancy, difficult or challenging but dang!  I like it!  :-)

I have String of Beads in the sashing, feathers in the big triangle areas, continuous curves in the pieced triangles and Carla Barrett's "Berry Swirl" in the outer border.   I figure it took me about 10 to 10-1/2 hours to quilt.

I have a webpage that talks in detail about the piecing journey and the quilting process, as well as lots of eye-candy pictures.

That picture is just a teaser! For all the gory details, links and more pictures, please visit my web page for the Jelly Parfait quilt.

Next up? Start working on my list of *17* tops to be quilted. Oy vey! ¡Ay Carumba! I have a LOT of quilting lined up for myself in the future.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jelly Parfait - feathers

When I'm trying to decide what to quilt on a top, I almost always print out a full page picture so I can see the entire top at one time.  I put a piece of clear vinyl on top of the picture and use dry erase markers to draw on the vinyl.  The dry erase markers are very easy to erase if a design doesn't work out.

Unfortunately, because the picture is only 8-1/2" x 11" and the dry erase markers don't have an especially fine point on them, I can't always get the scale of the drawing to fit the picture.

That was the case with parts of Jelly Parfait.  I knew the swirly design for the border would be fine.  I knew the String of Beads would be fine.  I knew that the continuous curves would be fine.  It was the feathers that I wanted to put in the large triangles that wasn't working out nicely.

If I had a large enough piece of clear vinyl, I could have put that directly on the top and drawn the feathers that way ... but I don't.  What I did have was lots of pieces of tissue gift wrap, which *was* large enough to trace the triangles onto.  Using a photo I had seen online as inspiration, I drew one large curling feather in each non-pieced triangle.  It looked good enough for me.  :-)   The tissue paper also served as a reference for me when I got to quilting.

From experience I knew that printed fabric will hide the quilting.  That has its good points: if you make an error in stitching, chances are even *you* will never be able to find it after a while!  The drawback is that it *does* hide quilting .. which is why I don't suggest "fancy" quilting in print fabrics for customer quilts.  Why pay for something that you're just not going to see?

Then again, for my OWN quilts, I can do what I want.  And I wanted to do feathers in those triangles.  It also gave me the opportunity to practice more feathers with the implied permission that mistakes could be made.  :-)

You can see from this picture of a triangle in the print fabric, that you virtually can't see any of the quilted feather at all.  Trust me, it's there.  I used a very light lilac thread which blended perfectly.

For comparison, here's a picture of the triangle in the solid fabric.  This feather is *also* in the print fabric. 

All the non-pieced triangles of Jelly Parfait will be quilted this way.  If this was a customer quilt, I might have suggested to do some other quilting design in the triangles with the print fabric.

Here's what the corner triangles look like.

I'm still very much trying to get my feathers to look wonderful.  These are a tad sketchy in some areas; it's those very long feathers that need to stretch out to the very corners of the space that still look awkward.    I do like my fat little feathers, though.  :-)

But overall, I'm pleased with them. 

At this point, I'm on the 3rd of 6 rows, so I'm halfway through the rows.  After all the rows have been quilted, I'll do the bottom border.  Then the quilt gets removed, turned and reloaded so the side borders can be quilting horizontally.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jelly Parfait - the journey continues

When last I left Jelly Parfait, it was in April 2011.  I was using it to distract me from a bigger quilt.  :-)   Jelly Parfait (the top) was completed and put on the Pile of Tops to be Quilted.

Well, guess what popped to the top of the stack??  :-)  I was fortunate enough to not only have the exact amount of 108" wide unbleached muslin available for the backing, but I also had a hunk of batting that was also *exactly* the right size.  In short order, it was loaded onto Lizzie.

I buy a bolt of 108" wide muslin (and try to use a discount coupon, too), wash the entire thing (ugh ... very tedious) so that I have a seamless backing available when I need it.   I'm not sure what content the batting is though .. it was on top of a Bamboo packaging bag, but that doesn't necessarily mean it *is* bamboo batting.  It really annoys me when I don't keep track of what batting is what.

I printed out a picture of the entire top and began to think about what kind of quilting I wanted to do.  This remains the most difficult part of quilting for me.  While I'm a good technician, I'm not artistic and generally don't have that special "spark" that generates a fantastic quilting design.  I have lots of books and reference pictures and diagrams to use as inspiration and instruction.  However, I find that have TOO many choices is just as bad as not having enough.

Eventually, I decided that I would use Carla Barrett's Berry Swirl for the outside border  (Berry Swirl is part of her Swirly Designs for Borders and Sashings diagrams).  I just love, love, love Carla Barrett's designs.  The inner border, made from the gingham "ribbon" stripe, gets a string of beads design.  (That design is actually called String of Pearls but mine aren't coming out nice enough to be called "pearls", so I'm going with just beads.  :-)  )

I'm now at the point where I have stitched in the ditch around all the large solid fabric and pieced triangles of the first row.  I'm doing the continuous curve around all the diamonds in the pieced triangle.  I really, really like the look of continuous curves in squares/diamonds and use Carla Barrett's directions for the stitching path so that it really IS one continuous line of curves.  (Don't be mislead by the title of the page ... the continuous curve diagram is about one-quarter down the page.)

While the Berry Swirl and String of Beads was done freehand (yeah, and it looks it), I am using a curved template for the continuous curve stitching.  And what curved template do I use??  Why it's Deloa Jone's Appliguide!  It wasn't designed to be used as a curved template but I have found that it has EXACTLY the size curve I need for small spaces.  I like it when tools are multi-functional, even when they weren't originally meant to be.  :-)   Oh .. and the Appliguide is a *wonderful* tool for its intended purpose too: helping you do outline stitching around appliqued designs.

I'll do all of the continuous curves in the pieced triangles before I move onto the solid triangles.  I've already drawn out a full-scale curvy feather on paper.  I'll be holding my breath and hope that I correctly translate the drawn design into a stitched design!  :-)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A long-time scrap top finally finished

Waaaaaaaaaaaay back in 2004, I taught classes at a local quilting store.  There was a lovely assisted living center nearby and the quilt store, local quilters and the center hosted a small quilt show.  I was asked to provide a demonstration of what quilting was all about by constructing quilt blocks.  Other people were demonstrating other aspects of quilting.

I thought about what kind of block would make a good sample.  I needed it to be simple.  It had to be *easy* to construct.  After all, the purpose was to intrigue people and have them think, "Gosh, I can do that!".  I also wanted to be able to use fabric that I already had on-hand.   I found a layout that (what my notes tell me) is called "Scrap Assassin".  It uses a fantastic amount of scraps to help get those proliferating scraps under control!

 To me, it's a variation of the God's Eye block. (I subsequently made a God's Eye quilt in 2008).  The God's Eye block uses the same fabric as a central diagonal and fills in the rest of the block with random strips. 

I have vague memories of a Scrap Assassin layout from Bonnie Hunter, but a look through her website doesn't show anything like it.  There is (currently) a book/pattern called Scrap Assassin Strikes Again and Scrap Assassin Returns, but this isn't any of them either.

I know *I* didn't come up with this layout on my own, but I have no idea where I originally found it.  

 The Scrap Assassin block uses a different color (but same width) strip for the center diagonal, also fills in the block with random color and width strips but adds a solid color triangle at each corner.  When sewn together these corner triangles form a diamond and gives the quilt a resting spot for your eyes.

And so I raided my scrap basket(s) and started cutting strips.  I wanted to be *just sewing* at the demo, not taking time to cut the strips. 

Left to my own devices, I tend to lay my quilts out in some sort of color organization.  Random doesn't come easily to me but for this block, random was what I wanted.  To easily enable me to JUST SEW and not be concerned about the color, I put the strips into a bag.  I would simply reach in the bag, pull out a strip and use that one.  Whatever it was.

It was almost a liberating feeling. :-)  Not quite because I did indulge in a small amount of micro-management ... if the strip I just pulled out of the bag was not enough contrast or was too similar to the strip it was to be sewn to, I'd pull another strip and use that one.  :-)

I also used a foundation to sew the strips to. Simply sewing the strips together makes for a very unstable block.  It's easy to distort while sewing; it's easy to distort whilst pressing.  A foundation prevents all of that potential distortion whilst providing a uniform size block.  Unfortunately, a foundation also adds bulk and weight to the quilt.

In the past, I've used VERY lightweight fabric for the foundation.  That worked nicely.  At some later point, I discovered that I could use tissue paper (as in the white gift wrap stuff) as a foundation.  Talk about being lightweight!  It was stable enough to sew through and prevent distortion.  It's also dead cheap to buy.  (Stock up at Christmas time ... it always goes on sale then.)  At first, I thought about tearing the tissue off (exactly what you do with paper piecing) but I hate that.  Really hate it. 

Then it occurred to me .. and I have no idea HOW I thought of it ... that when you get tissue paper wet, it absolutely disintegrates.  I wondered what would happen if I just *left* the tissue paper foundation in the block through the quilting process and then laundered the finished quilt.  To my utter amazement, when I removed the test quilt from the dryer, there was NO tissue paper anywhere in the quilt.  And believe me,  I looked and felt and thoroughly examined it!  The stuff was *gone*.   I was concerned about all that dissolved paper in our sewer system but further thinking led me to what happens to toilet paper .. that disintegrates in water also .. and *that* doesn't clog our sewer pipes, so tissue paper might very well behave in the same manner.

In any case, for the demo, I used both lightweight fabric and tissue paper.  After the quilt show was over and I brought my supplies back home, I packaged everything up and put them away.  After all, this wasn't a quilt that I had decided to make .. it was a 'quilt of opportunity' and I wasn't too concerned about ever finishing it.

So, now, let's fast forward to current times .. 2012.  My pile of projects (both ideas, pulled fabrics and self-kitted) and tops to be quilted is weighing heavily on my mind.  I decide that I simply MUST devote some time to getting those tops quilted and have a hiatus on MAKING tops.  And then the Olympics started. :-)

From experience, I know that I can't simultaneously watch TV and quilt on Lizzie at the same time; the quilting suffers horribly.  But I wanted to watch the Olympics!  That meant that I needed to work on something at my sewing machine instead of quilting .. just for the duration of the Olympics, mind you!   I also wanted something simple and easy to work on .. nothing that required decisions or thinking.  I remembered the Scrap Assassin project! 

Actually, it was difficult to ignore .. it was sitting right in the front of a cubby, staring at me.  :-)   So I pulled it out and worked on it.

And finished it.  :-)  The foundation sheets were cut at 8" square, resulting in a finished square of 7-1/2".  I have no idea why I originally made it that size, but for this layout, it doesn't matter at all.  Whatever size you like is fine.  Each corner has a black triangle in it, which produces that black diamond when the blocks are sewn together.

This one finished around a twin size, about 60" x 90".  I won't be putting any borders on it. 

It'll go to a local crisis nursery that I like to support by donating quilts for the kids.  Since the older kids (ages 7-11) also get a quilt when they leave, this one will be for them.

All that being said, I'm not entirely thrilled with it.  I think it's just too many jangly colors in no discernible pattern that adversely affects my eyes.  It's not just the lots of colors because I simply love scrappy Double Wedding Ring quilts .. but rather there's just no organization to this one.  But, that is totally irrelevant to the kids at the crisis nursery ... it will be very suitable to keeping them warm come winter time..

Friday, August 03, 2012

gosh, I love this template!

I have a Tin Lizzie longarm machine.  I just absolutely love my Lizzie and being able to quilt my projects myself.   There are certain tools that any longarm quilter needs to using the machine easier and to produce better results.

One such tool in my arsenal is Deloa Jones' "Rope A Dope" template for stitching a rope design.  It makes stitching a single rope design absolutely PAINLESS and ... OH MY GOSH ... the results are spectacular!   An instruction page comes with the template and I refresh my memory with those directions prior to using the tool.  There's also an instruction page on how to handle the corners so that the design looks continuous and effortless.

The template comes in different sizes, from 1.5" up to 3".  I have the 2", 2.5" and 3" ... so I wonder if the 1.5" came later?   I can't imagine that I wouldn't have purchased the entire set except for the smallest!  But now that I know there is a smaller size, I will have to acquire it to complete my collection.  :-)

On the website, I see that she has posted a sample idea of how to EMBELLISH the rope design.  Holy moley!  Is that a fantastic idea or what?  :-)

With her Rope A Dope, the resultant rope design looks so very complex but stitching it is just so *easy*!    Having that terrific design on the quilt makes you look so ... masterful and competent. :-)

I wish Deloa were compensating me for this post, but alas ... she is not.  This is just such a fantastic tool that has made my longarm experience so wonderful that I wanted to gush and let all the rest of you know about it also.  :-)