Saturday, August 01, 2015

Lone Star UFO from 2011

This is a LONG post!  Get yourself a beverage and sit down to enjoy! :-)
hand-dyes from Tammy Salzman
Way back in 2011,  I attended some quilt show and purchased a hand-dyed fat quarter bundle of 10 fabrics, ranging from a very deep yellow to a deep turquoise.  The colors were absolutely stunning and expertly dyed by Tammy Salzman of Always Unique Hand Dyed Fabric.

my variation of Laura Nownes' Lone Star
Upon my return home, I started on a Lone Star (Star of Bethlehem) using the hand-dyed fabric.  In November 2000, I had taken a class from Laura Nownes at a local quilt store, where we made her Lone Star quilt.  Laura's version has country vines in the border, but I changed mine to be Celtic knotwork.  Laura is the most AMAZING instructor ... endlessly patient and attentive to each and every student.  She actively encouraged me to put the Celtic knotwork in my border and helped me with the math to size the float border correctly.  If you ever get a chance to take a class with her, do so without any hesitation.

It was in Laura's class that I learned how to stitch Lone Star quilts flawlessly.  Yes, you do have to pay attention to what you are doing but it's not difficult.  This is not a quick, slap-dash pattern and if you approach it with the attitude that "it will get done when it gets done", then you won't get frustrated when it's not done in a day.  :-)

So, I had no qualms about making a Lone Star from my hand-dyes .... and off I went.  The colors are simply superb ... I can't describe how brilliant they are or how they seem to glow.   The Lone Star was completed and I'm very pleased to say that it was completely FLAT and all of the intersections matched perfectly.  I *do* pat myself on the back for that accomplishment!  {Sadly, I do not have a photo of *just* the Lone Star.}

For the setting squares and triangles, I decided that I would do New York Beauty blocks with a black background.  NYB blocks are best constructed using paper piecing but I absolutely HATE sewing through the paper and removing the paper afterwards.  It's always a mess and a thoroughly despised step.  Fortunately, I learned the Freezer Paper Piecing method from none other than Judy Mathieson (she of the incredible Mariner's Compass fame).  In a nutshell, you create your paper piecing template from freezer paper, which are then used rather like Post-It Notes.  You do NOT sew through the freezer paper.  There are NO small pieces to remove afterwards.  In fact, you peel off the entire paper pieced template in one REUSEABLE piece.  That's right .. you can REUSE the template.  It is an incredible technique.

New York Beauty block

This NYB has 3 sections: the inner quarter circle with spikes, the middle Flying Geese and the outer spikes.  The Flying Geese and the spiks were sewn using the Freezer Paper Piecing method; each and every segment came out absolutely *perfect*.  Being in Judy's class was one of the more useful and enjoyable classes I've ever taken.  {I have a tutorial on this technique here.)

 However, I *was* incredibly stupid.  Really, really stupid.  Back in 2011, I was all hot to trot to make my Lone Star quilt.  Once the Lone Star portion was completed, I started on the NYB blocks.  BUT ... I was also trying very hard to use fabrics I already had on hand so that I didn't spend any more money than I needed to and I would use up my stash.  Well, I didn't have the right kind of black fabric.  I had a rather heavy (but not home dec) black and a lighter weight black.  I knew the heavier black would make the quilt incredibly heavy and wouldn't play nicely with the paper piecing, so I opted to use the lighter weight black.

I made two NYB blocks and realized that this black fabric was a HUGE mistake.  It was MUCH too lightweight and would NEVER stand up to any kind of use.  I stewed and stewed over what do to.  I still wanted to use stash fabric but realized this black was horribly inappropriate.  To fix it, I would need to either do something to the existing blocks .. like back it with interfacing to stiffen it up ... or rip the blocks apart and re-sew them with better fabric.

I just did NOT want to buy more fabric so I opted for the interfacing route.  I fused a lightweight, black, mesh interfacing to the back of the NYB blocks and took a look at it.   Although the block was stiffer than it was previously, the lightweight black fabric was STILL inappropriate .... it would wear through more quickly and it just wasn't dark enough.  I realized this was a bad solution, so I didn't continue with it.

I was so very, very discouraged.  I bundled up the entire project and put it away.  But I knew it existed and needed to be resurrected.

 Let's fast forward to 2015 ... once again, I am trying very hard to work on clearing up my UFO list and remembered my Lone Star.  I dug it up from the "archives", spent some time familiarizing myself with where I had left off.  Oh yeah .. that black fabric. Well, this time, I pulled up my big girl panties and simply BOUGHT some Kona black cotton.  *YES!*  *This* was the black fabric that I should have used back in 2011!   The perfect, appropriate weight and black-as-black could be!

When I remade the two bad NYB blocks (I was able to reuse the hand-dyed fabric from the bad blocks ... I had to, in fact, as I didn't have a whole lot of that original fat quarter bundle left!), I was just astonished .... and satisfied .. with the result.  That Kona black background was absolutely the PERFECT foil for the hand-dyes!  I made short work of sewing up the remainder of the NYB blocks and set them into the Lone Star.  MY WORD .. did they look fantastic!  :-)

see the weird places to be filled in?
Now, under "normal" circumstances, the corners of the Lone Star get setting squares and the other spaces get setting triangles.  But the layout that I was working from had "arcs" spanning the space between the Lone Star points. You couldn't use triangles ... ALL the spaces between the Lone Star points needed to be squares (which is why the NYB blocks worked so perfectly).  This resulted in a very weird shape that required custom pieces to be individually fitted to the space.

Once again, when I realized that if I just worked patiently and methodically, those weird pieces weren't too difficult at all.  It wasn't too long before I had a (more or less) 65" square Lone Star.  Oh. My. Gosh.   It looked amazing.

arcs/tiaras appliqued.  Wow!
But, I wasn't finished!  The spaces above the NYB blocks were to have "arcs" appliqued.  Using a French Curve ruler, I made those pieces ... which rather look to me like Sleeping Beauty's tiara!   However, I wanted a VERY deep turquoise for those arcs/tiaras.  Fortunately, I had kept Tammy's business card and dropped her an email explaining the fat quarter bundle I had purchased from her, lo those 4 years earlier.

Tammy was *so* gracious!  Although she wasn't currently dyeing that exact color combination any longer, she said that she could re-create it so that I could have a VERY deep tuquoise ... and a deeper green for the vines that I was going to applique in the corners.  I also asked if I could purchase a bag of colorful scraps in order to make the flowers that were going to be appliqued around the vine.  She came through magnificently!  The deep turquoise was perfect; the green was perfect and the "scraps"??  HOLY MOLEY .... I struck the Mother Lode!  She send some utterly fantastic colors for me to work with!  I was delirious with happiness!

The arcs/tiaras were cut out, appliqued in place and admired.  Wow.  Just WOW.   Over the years, I've taken a number of classes and worked through self-guided tutorials on hand applique.  I've despised all of them for various reasons: too fiddly, too many steps, too many supplies .. just too many "toos".   THEN .. I discovered the Pacific Rim Quilting Company's line of Two Color Applique quilts and took a class from Nancy Lee Chong (of Pacific Rim) herself.  *HER* technique for needleturn applique made absolute sense to me and I took to it like a duck to water.  I've never looked back and now I *adore* needleturn applique.  In fact, I've made *several* needleturn quilts using this front-basted method: PeaceAh!  Real Monsters!, Sedona's String of PotsGrapes, another Peace, Podcats.

one more corner to go for the vines!
 The final phase was the vines and flowers in the corners.  Did I want an undulating vine?  Or a curvy vine?  After looking at, I swear, hundreds of vine borders, I was torn between two choices ... a lovely undulating vine and a wonderful curvy vine.  They were both excellent choices and either would be perfect.  It all depended on the effect I wanted.

The more I looked, the more I realized that *most* quilt have the undulating vine.  There is nothing wrong with that look but I do try to make my quilts unique to me in some manner, so I ultimately decided that I would go with the curvy vine.  From the deeper green hand-dyed fabric, I made yards and yards of 1" bias, which finished up between 1/4" and 3/8" wide.  Yeah, it wasn't consistent and I'm not concerned about it at all.

I just finished watching a video about the Tentmakers of Cairo and how they created their masterpieces.  They use an ancient technique to transfer their pattern and I realized this technique would work for me, too.   I made a pattern of the curvy vine I wanted, pricked it so that the paper pattern was perforated, then used a Quilter's Pounce pad rubbed over the perforated paper pattern to transfer the pattern to the black fabric.   And boy, did that technique work!   The little holes allowed the powdered chalk to be deposited on the fabric underneath. 

Once the pattern was transferred to the fabric, it was merely a matter of pinning the green bias strips over the chalked lines.  Since I intensely dislike being poked with pins when I'm appliquing, I opted to thread baste the bias strips in place so the pins could be removed.  Yes, this took another step and more time, but it saved me from being continually stuck by sharp pins!

So, at this point in time (beginning of August 2015), I have appliqued vines to three of the four corners.  Perhaps the vines are a *tad* on the wide side; maybe they would look better if they had been narrower (narrower vines would have made the curves easier to lay flat) ... but I'm sure not going to re-do them.  They are fine with me .. and that's what matters. :-)

Next up is to applique the vine to the final corner and then work on making the applique flowers.

If I had only pulled up my big girl panties in 2011 and bought the black Kona THEN ... this project wouldn't have remained a UFO for 4 years!