Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Puppies on a picnic

"Puppies on a Picnic"

This quilt has been in the works for a couple of years. I still have to finish the loose thread ends, but I couldn't resist taking a photo Right Now. When I made it, my goal was to make slightly wonky blocks, so though you can't tell it from this photo, all the rectangles are a little off square. That the wonkiness is not obvious is my only disappointment with this quilt. It's just off enough to look accidental, and not on purpose! And to think of all the time I spent cutting wedges of fabric off the sides of rectangles...

The puppy prints came from one fabric, and all the others were pieces I found coordinated either in color or theme. I had no idea how it was going to all fit together. I just framed each piece with as many rounds as I wanted, then set to work with the jigsaw puzzle. I am still amazed that I used all the puppies, not one left over, and the quilt came out as a nice, square rectangle when finished -- NOT wonky. And that was on purpose.

Someday soon I hope to christen this quilt by using it for a picnic.

If you are interested in seeing "Puppies on a Picnic" in progress, click on the Puppy quilt label at the bottom of this post.

A little reality check on how quilts are valued

This quilt is another UFO that I finished a couple months ago, and finally was able to photograph. The quilt top is from Jeannie Flory, made with her signature cheery bright colors. I don't know the name of the pattern. She donated it to be made into a quilt for the Bags of Love project, for kids who have to be removed from their homes for one reason or another.

One of the ladies who saw this quilt wanted to buy it and donate the proceeds to the Bags of Love project, but when I found out how much she wanted to pay--$35, less than the cost of fabric and batting--I told her that the quilt was really made for the kiddies and not for sale. Good quality quilt fabric (you don't want to waste your time on cheap stuff) has recently gone up to $12.99/yard (*shock*), and a quilt for a double bed takes at least 10 yards, depending on how much you want to hang down the sides of the bed, and how small you cut the the pieces before sewing them back together; a lot of that yardage can end up hidden in the seams. This is why I am not happy when charity quilts are sold for less than half the cost of the fabric. "But the fabric was donated!" is often the claim. That's true, much of the fabric for charity quilts are donated, but I ALWAYS end up buying extra, just because what is donated often doesn't have anything in the donation bin that will coordinate with it. That's why I insist that my charity quilts go to the kiddies who need them and not be sold.

This woman who wanted to buy the above quilt for $35 went on to ask me if I would quilt it instead of tie it, because she liked my free-motion quilting on other quilts she had seen. Her additional offered price wouldn't have paid for even one hour of quilting. I had to repeat to her that the quilt was for the kiddies. She wanted to see all the other quilts I had "available for sale." It was nice to have my work appreciated, but I could tell she didn't want to appreciate it as much as the fabric and work were worth.

It seems that people who like quilts want to pay the same price for them as a foreign-made quilt of poor quality or even a blanket from Walmart. We should send all these people up to Lancaster, Pennsyvania, one of these days, and see what the Amish and Mennonite quilts bring up there! Not that my quilts are anywhere close to those quilts in workmanship... I told the woman, as kindly as possible, that my quilts are for family, friends, and charity, or for the wall, and that I don't make them for sale.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lake Cabin Leftovers

Everyone has to make a log cabin quilt at some point, right? This one is a soft, comfy, tied quilt made of flannel - for a birthday gift a few years ago. I've had leftovers sitting in my leftover bins ever since.

Cabin on the Lake
September, 2007

There were enough leftovers to make a lap quilt without having to buy any extra fabric. A lot of it was already in strips, so I made brown strip blocks and blue strip blocks, alternated them, and sewed them together for the front.

I didn't have enough backing to do all in one piece, or even enough to make alternate blocks and still have enough left for binding, so the back is two-toned, blue on one side, brown on the other, separated by a strip of leftover blocks. I kind of like the resulting effect, partially showing below.

Lake Cabin Leftovers
May, 2012
I quilted it with LWLS (lazy wavy line stitching). As I say, I like piecing; the quilting is only a necessary evil. Now, if I had a long-arm machine, I might change my tune slightly. Notice how different the color looks in the outdoor shot than the earlier one indoors.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stitch and Slash

In a weak moment, in the midst of all these UFOs, I signed up for an online quilting technique class at, "Stitch and Slash," taught by Carol Ann Waugh. She is a fabulous teacher, and gives unbelievably fast feedback to anyone posting their projects and asking questions.

I watched all the video classes - and what is really great about Craftsy is that once you pay for the class, you have access to the videos forever. I paid for the class perhaps a month ago and finally got around to watching the videos last week. Last night I thought I'd try out the technique.

I'll say, right up front, that I am not at all pleased with my results -- but the fault is ALL MINE, my fabric choices, my cutting, my hurry to get it done. Other students in the class have posted stupendous projects. When I have time (famous last words), I will do more with this.

The problem started with my wanting to use ugly fabrics I had on hand. Must finish my UFOs, you know, before buying any new fabric. I didn't want to use any of the nice fondle-able fabrics in my stash that are reserved for future projects. 

I apologize that most of these photos are slightly out of focus. I was shooting them with my cell phone over my head so as to be high enough; couldn't see what I was doing.

My unwanted fabrics

Oops. Those items looking like a lower case b are supposed to be musical notes.
I meant for them to go the other way, but given my disppointing end results, I don't think it matters much.
Here the first leafy layer is partially cut away. After hacking away with my ancient seam ripper on the upper left motif, I CHEATED and used my scissors for the rest.
More of layer one cut away, and part of layer two in the upper left.

Layer two, the hearts, cut away, leaving a red outline around layer one fabrics. Layer three cut away inside the boxes, revealing the musical instruments in layer four. I top stitched over the original stitching with an orange/gold thread.

Oops. Too much of layer three cut away. Very busy.

I added layer five, scrounging through my fabrics for something that might coordinate color-wise.
I knew that there would be a lack-of-texture problem, given that I had used scissors instead of my dull seam ripper; I hadn't wanted to wait until the next day to buy a new one. So I ran my project through the washer and drier with my gardening jeans, got texture, and lots of shredded threads that I trimmed away. See below.

Washed and dried (for texture)
Not pretty, not cute, not artsy. But at least I got some practice with a new technique.

Notice the color change? The previous photos were taken at night under a florescent light, this one was taken this morning by natural light is a more accurate rendering of the true color of the fabrics. Truly an ugly result. 

Here is another person's project (I could not find her name or the URL for the original photo), much more inspiring:

Isn't this wonderful?

The UFO List

All of us quilters know what UFOs are -- that pile of Unfinished Quilts (UFQ has not caught on to replace the UFO designation) that are constantly nudging the back of our minds, bothering us considerably more than does any undusted windowsill.

My great-grandmother's 102-year-old block quilt was at the top of my list. Victory achieved last week.

Flannel quillows
My two quillows, barely started for my nephews more than two years ago--when they were small enough to fit the size I picked--were next. See above. The blue one is folded up into its quillow pocket, which I discovered is pretty tricky with flannel. Victory #2, achieved yesterday.

Next on the list is the mosaic quilt I pieced from the napping photo of Mom and Dad at least a year ago. All it needs is the block outlining free-motion stitching. I think it scares me, the possibility of ruining what I have done so far.

Fifth UFO: Use of leftover blocks from the flannel Log Cabin on the Lake gift quilt I made a few years ago. That one is now on the ping pong table, laid out for sandwiching in the batting. I pieced the backing in a way I've never done before. Will have to show it when I am finished.

Sixth UFO: Sandwich and quilt the February Fab Shop Hop Close to My Heart challenge quilt, my name for it: Friendship Grows.

Seventh UFO: The Puppy quilt, all pieced and ready for sandwiching, etc.

8th & 9th UFOs:  Beverly Fabric's Block of the Month quilts, neither of which I have posted about here. I see I have been remiss. 2010 is all ready for sandwiching, and the 2011 blocks are finished (I do them faithfully each month as they come in) and taking up space on my design wall.

10th UFO: One Block Wonder #2, all cut and in stacks of pinned triangles on my to-do shelf. The name One Block Wonder still bugs me. It should be called One Fabric Wonder; lots of quilts are made from one block and are wonderful!

Since UFOs #1 through #3 are now complete, they are no longer UFOs. That leaves seven for me to do. I really want to get them done before starting any new projects.

Friday, May 11, 2012

102-year-long project finished

Whew, I don't know what happened to Blogger since I last posted, but this will take a little getting used to.

I have been happily slaving away in the garden for the last month, whacking weeds, digging little irrigation ditches, planting seeds and plants. It looks pretty bare right now except for the onions, garlic, and other over-wintering plants. More on that later.

Great Grandma's Block
A quilt that took 102 years to complete
If you've been following this blog, you have seen this quilt in progress. It is now finally finished, including burying the odd threads that your sharp eye may spy in this photo.

Great Grandma Dobson made the 16" center block of this quilt in 1910. It has been packed away in a drawer ever since. When my mother gave it to me, I immediately wanted to have it be the centerpiece of one of my quilts. The problem was that when I went fabric shopping, nothing I could find coordinated, so I ended up learning how to dye from Dharma and dyeing my own fabrics. That was so much fun that I would happily spend most of my time dyeing if I could find a funding source.

I have never done any hand quilting. My motto is: If it can't be done by machine, it doesn't get done. However, I really wanted to hand quilt this one, since you have more control over where the quilting stitches go. I thought. Ha. I bought the little quilting needles, the leather thimble, borrowed a large hoop on a stand, and sat down to what I hoped would be a rewarding experience. Half an hour and four completed stitches later, I returned to my former motto: If it can't be done by machine, it doesn't get done.

I'd send the quilt out, I thought. A good professional quilter would make this look great. Then I looked at my currently unfilled need for a renter (i.e. diminishing funds) and decided I would just finish it myself.

A real quilter, so I hear, is just as enthusiastic about the quilting (stitching) as they are the piecing, but I guess I am just not a real quilter. I specialize in long wavy lines. I have done some free-motion quilting around motifs, some flowers and curlicues and words in cursive, but all on much smaller projects. I just couldn't imagine what "fun" it would be to try quilting this on my home machine, muscling it around while trying to be kind to my rotator cuff. Yeah, something happened to it, who knows what, but now visits to physical therapy are part of my weekly schedule.

I did the long wavy lines, buried the ends, and am happy with the finished project. I wish Great Grandma, who died before I was born, were around to see it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Friendship grows

Friendship Grows

I finished the top of my Close to My Heart sampler. They told us to be creative, so I didn't follow the pattern 100%.

I see I didn't stick this to my design wall perfectly for this shot, but I do know there are no curved seams. A few crooked ones, maybe, but none are curved, in spite of appearances. I used a lot of scraps, ended up having to do a lot of unstitching for the borders.

It will be awhile before I will be able to finish this scrappy quilt. I have taxes to do, places to go, people to meet.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Close to My Heart and right down on the floor

I have been struggling through the FabShopHop online Shop Hop for a few months, and in February decided to do the Close To My Heart quilt sampler, even though traditional blocks aren't my first love. Lately I've been receiving donations of quilt fabrics for charity quilts, so I used what I had on hand. Some of the pinks were orangey pink, some were bricky pink, some were burgundy pink, and some were pinky pink. They seem to go together okay. One of my color theories is, if you have a weird color, use it more than once, and it will look like it belongs. Within reason, of course.

Just as I was to the point of putting all the blocks together, another project loomed:

Before and After (almost)
Top photo: A little bit after the Before.
Bottom photo: A little bit before the After.
I tiled my hall bathroom floor last summer and was very pleased with the results, so I planned to follow up during the Christmas break with the laundry room floor. A serious of unfortunate circumstances prevented completing that goal, one of them being that when I moved the washer, I found that a water leak had caused a section of the floor to sag, and I had to hire a guy to come in and build a new section of floor, covered with mismatched vinyl in the top photo. I was fine with the mismatch, because I knew I would be covering it up.

This is how the project went, as I said on my Facebook:
  • Day 1: Draft muscley friend to move laundry equipment. Apply floor patch to holes in vinyl. 
  • Day 2: Cut & loose-lay ceramic tiles. 
  • Day 3: Begin to cement tiles to floor. Take a break, put tools in small bucket of water. 
  • Day 4: Kick over small bucket of water. Remove loose tiles, mop up floor, air-dry tiles. 
  • Day 5: (today) Finish the cementing job. 
  • Day 6: Saturday night date with grout. 

When I did the bathroom tiling, I did it all on my knees, and those joints were very unhappy with the whole experience. When I did the laundry tiling, I did it bending over. My knees are happy, my back has no problems, but my neck is in serious need of a good massage. After the grout is in and cured, I get to have my washer and dryer moved back in. Hurrah! I desperately need to run a few loads.

Monday, March 19, 2012

More fused fleece puppies

Another abandoned quilt top showed up in the quilts-for-kids donation bin. I could see right away why the project had been abandoned. When the borders had been sewn on, the bias sides had stretched immensely, and the borders were wavy. Next time I do this, I should take before-and-after photos.

One of my quilting friends suggested that all the quilt top needed to get those wavy edges straight was to remove the borders, throw the thing in the wash, and the stretched edges would no longer be out of shape. I washed and dried the top, and the raw edges were still wavy. Part of the problem, I discovered, was that all the plaids are of polyester, not cotton, and therefore not likely to do any shrinking.

Somewhere in the back of my mind a thought surfaced: Stay stitching. I used to make a lot of my clothing, and stay stitching is used around edges that might stretch while being machine stitched. Stay stitching did the trick on this quilt. Maybe real quilters do this on diagonal edges all the time, I don't know. I'm just learning as I go.

I had puppy cutouts left over from my last charity quilt project, and I thought they'd make this quilt look more kid-like. I fuse-basted the puppies and free-motion stitched around the outside edges with thread that matched the outline of the puppies, some black, some tan.

One thing to remember, which I didn't, is that the fleece has a right side and a wrong side, the colors on the right side being slightly crisper. However, if you look at these puppies, you probably can't tell which ones I accidentally fused wrong-side-up. I left them that way. There's only so much I'm willing to do when it comes to fixing mistakes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fixing a non-flat quilt

"Easing in" creates hilly quilts. Easing is necessary when stitching curves, but the phrase, "Just ease it in," strikes terror to my heart when it is recommended for rectangular pieces that should fit without easing. If I cut my pieces and stitch my seams accurately, I will not have to ease.

This log cabin quilt top (without the borders) was discovered in the church quilts-for-kids donation bin. Oh, good - easy project. I can finish this in a day, I thought. I took it home, added borders from my stash, laid it out on the table, and found a mountain range in front of me. It was so discouraging that I put it back on the shelf for six months. Last week I pulled it out and prepped it for becoming a quilt, laying out the backing, the batting, and the top. I tugged, pulled, and finally decided the quilt would have to have darts (!) in it to flatten it out. I would just cover the darts with applique, I thought. I went to Joann's and bought a half-yard of puppy-printed fleece. I'd cut out the puppies for the applique, and not only would the cute puppies cover the darts, they'd be nice and fuzzy.

The more I thought about it, the more the dart idea seemed like a bad one. I got out my seam ripper (sigh) and unstitched all (double sigh) the log cabin blocks down to their centers, while watching screechy singers on American Idol get standing ovations. I restitched the blocks, trimmed them so they were all the same size (no easing needed, see?), sewed them together, and voila! The quilt was perfectly flat, no easing, no hills, easy to quilt, no tucks or gathers. No puppies needed.

But when I stood back and looked at the finished quilt. It seemed a little somber for kids. The puppy appliques now seemed like a great idea. I fused on five fuzzy puppies (fusing is not easy with fleece, but I did it primarily for basting, so a good solid fuse was not needed), added free-motion reinforcement on the edges, and now I'm happy. On to the next non-flat fix-a-quilt project.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Five-sided quilt-as-you-go

As I mentioned in my last post, I had so many scraps of floral fabric left over, I used them to make another quilt. I started out with a five-sided figure (didn't try to draw it exactly even), and sewed strips of fabric around it, log-cabin style. By the time the blocks reached a certain size, not as big as I wanted, all the strips I had left were too short, so I stripped them together and trimmed them to make the final round. You can see the final part of the process in the steps below: 1) the final round 2) the final round trimmed. I stood back and wondered how to put five-sided blocks together, and finally decided to 3) trim them square. These are about 10 or 12 inches square. I can't measure, because I no longer have the quilt.

3 steps of finishing the scrappy blocks

All the blocks
Now I had to decide how to put them together. I was not ready to quilt yet another big quilt, wrestling with it under my home sewing machine, so I decided to put it together, quilt-as-you-go style. I sandwiched each block, and free-motion quilted a big daisy on it. I started with a spiral in the center and let the needle take me where it would. Most of the daisies have five petals, but some have six, and one even ended up with seven. The back of the reversible quilt is made up of two alternating prints on black background, making it possible to have two entirely different looks.

Finished quilt
Quilt-as-you-go is a great way to make a quilt. I got a lot of practice with free-motion quilting, and putting the blocks together with the strips was simple, once I'd wrapped by brain around the process. I donated this quilt to a charity (Carmichael Seventh-day Adventist Church) that makes quilts for children in the cancer ward.