Saturday, January 21, 2017

Improvisational Sawtooth Border

While I like the vine border, the quilt doesn't seem finished. There is no more of the star background, the light blue gingham, or the bird toile. What to do? Try a contrasting color.

About a month ago, Nana suggested adding yellow, {a color she seems to love as much as Monica.} Yellow perks up against the aqua so I cut a bunch of improv triangles about 4.5" by  2-4", When sewed they trimmed to rectangles 4" long by a variety of widths.

Spiderwebs with second border layout

I'm not feeling the love. There are too many things going on here. The angles of the triangles are incoherent. Might work in a quilt with more improv but just looks odd on this quilt. This border is too narrow to be the outer border.

Thinking yellow might be the problem I cut some in pale green but don't like those any better. So it's not the color. It's really a size and angle issue for me.

Nothing is sewed except the individual rectangles. Timeout for thinking.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vine Border Complete

It feels like the applique took an inordinately long time but that's not true. Improv machine piecing takes just as much time.

The border came out well. The cardinals look like birds... well, like folk art birds. The leaf fabrics worked well. I like the unrealistic, but mostly quiet colors. It's darker than the toile and quieter than the spiderwebs - exactly to plan.

Cardinals sit on a leafy vine border around two sides of this scrap spiderweb quilt.
Spiderweb quilt top with vine border
I'm considering another border. Partly because I prefer bed size quilts but also because it looks unfinished. Hmm.

Next week begins the AHIQ Improvisational Challenge. Each quarter we will introduce a quilt or technique that can be adapted as improvisationally as you choose. We hope you'll join us in our exploration of utility and improv quilting.

Linking with Lorna at Let's Bee Social.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Leafing Out

The vine is sewn; the cardinals will fit. I only want a few of them but perhaps a bit more upright.

Pinning cardinals and leaves on vine border
I pinned some leaves to check the angles and the spacing. Would some look good directly under the cardinals?

The vine was easy to sew but I'm having more trouble with the leaves. My stitches wobble very far from the edge at times. I try slower speeds {and even the half-speed button} but before too long I'm back in the Grand Prix. Changing to the overlock foot helps a bit {except for my speeding tendencies.} When the wire on the right is positioned along the raw edge, it creates an eighth-inch seam... until I sew too rapidly. "Slow down on curves" is not sinking in.

Attaching leaves by machine applique

Mary at Mary and Patch
 is machine stitching raw edge applique by sewing around each piece twice. Also, Cathi at Gertrude Made used this same technique to applique her lovely bird. The casual feel of the stitching is very appealing. Too bad some of my leaves are sewn and tied off. I hate thinking about redoing them but dislike even more my current poor technique. At least I found a possible solution before it's quilted.  Gotta love that.

Making haste slowly but I'm still sticking to one project at a time. For now. I will need another Grandmother quilt next month and plan to quilt the red and yellow string top soon.

Red and yellow string quilt top

The green string was quilted with channels, the blue with double row checkerboard. I'm trying to figure out another simple no-marking quilting design to try.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Making Leaves

My first thought was to use lots of colors for the leaves but I decided the cardinals would be bright enough. The vine fabric is a blue-green but most of my greens are on the yellow side. I pulled all the blue-greens I could find in my stash and scrap bag. A few are crazy prints that may or may not work out. We'll see.

Green and blue fabrics for leaves

Preparing fabric using Lara's book, Crafted Applique, took most of the day but this method is easier on my hands. {I needed physical therapy after my last attempts to hand quilt. I now limit handwork to prevent recurrence.} My previous work with her directions worked quite well but I'm curious how this will hold up to daily use. Frankly, I wonder how long any raw edge applique will last. {QS says it will last as long as I live. What a comedian. Also a good point. This is a quilt for me and that's how long it needs to last.}

Stephie and I traded fabric scraps last week.  I thought mine looked like some of her flags for Fete, the quilt she's making for her sister's birthday. {Aren't sisters a wonderful gift in themselves?} She thought hers would make a good binding for my neutral string quilt. Plus she send some extra Quilty365 circles with hand stitching. Lucky me.

Fabric scraps, Quilty365 circles and a card from Stephie!

We took the train to San Francisco and saw this magnificent dome in Westfield Centre.

Emporium Dome, Westfield Centre, San Francisco

Originally built as the Emporium Building in 1896, the first dome survived the 1906 earthquake but fell during the subsequent firestorm. The current dome was built in 1908 and restored about thirty years ago when the shopping center was built.

It reminded me of another San Francisco landmark. Almost forty years ago Neiman Marcus purchased the old City of Paris building with its glorious white and yellow stained glass rotunda. The dome was added in 1908 when department store was rebuilt following fire damage after the 1906 quake. Despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building was torn down in 1981. The new structure incorporated the original rotunda and is again a favorite city landmark.

City of Paris dome, Neiman Marcus, San Francisco
This dome reminds me of Sunshine by Monica at Lakeview Stitching. She handles yellow so masterfully.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Dieting Cardinals

Putting those chubby cardinals on a quick diet was easier than expected. I traced part of my first design but slimmed their heads and tummies. The outline is also an easier curve. If I keep this up I'll be ready for art school soon. 😉 The Slender Cardinal Template PDF is now on my tutorial page.

Slender Cardinal templates

DH and I had a very quiet holiday but managed to travel several times. We finally visited Hearst Castle. My last visit was many years ago. How many? Well, there was only one tour at the time so my mother and I walked all over the place.

This visit turned out like a scene from L.A. Story. Steve Martin's character wanted to go take a trip with his girlfriend but he was the weekend weatherman. He prerecorded his spots because "it's always sunny and seventy in LA." Of course, it stormed all weekend and he was out of a job. We chose the worst day to visit: stormy, blowing, cold {for California.} The hills run straight down to the Pacific from the house but we couldn't see it. We couldn't even see ten feet in front of us so touring the gardens and grounds was out of the question. Nevertheless, the rooms are stunning and we enjoyed our visit.

Hearst hired architect and civil engineer, Julia Morgan, to build La Cuesta Encantada with reinforced concrete to withstand an 8.2 earthquake.  I was particularly taken with the ceilings. Some were from Spanish monasteries and European castles. Shipping them amazed me and then Julia installed the ceilings in new rooms designed to their dimensions. Other ceilings were contemporary plasterwork.

Antique painted wood and contemporary plaster ceilings at Hearst Castle.
Ceilings at Hearst Castle
Hearst and Morgan also installed contemporary and antique tiles throughout the house and grounds. I loved the rooster and donkey window screens in a tower bedroom.

The lower right tile is in the kitchen and contains a Latin motto... with a typo. It either reads "Sine ipso factiv est nihil" meaning "without him nothing was productive" or "sine ipso facto est nihil" meaning "without him nothing was done." Which do you prefer?

Hearst Castle tiles and window screen, 
The lamp with statuette was in one of the guest houses while the lampshades were in Hearst's personal suite. They were made of old vellum in such poor condition they weren't able to be rebound into a book. The top one is a record of indentured servitude while the bottom is a musical score. Can you say cutter quilt?

Desk lamp with statuette and two lampshades of antique vellum

Enjoy the day, Ann

Sunday, January 1, 2017

It's All About the Cardinals and KofB #12

Happy New Year! Wishing everyone good health, good friends, and safety in 2017.

QS informed me this quilt needs cardinals - the favorite birds of our sister and grandmother. I'm not sure how they will fit in but know I need them on hand before sewing the vine. Since my drawing skills are lacking {or at least my confidence in those skills is lacking} I combed the web for easy bird outlines. The final two choices were:
  1. Beth Donaldson posted a number of free quilt blocks from old newspapers, including the Cedar Waxwing and Hermit Thrush.
  2. There are too many "bird on a wire" silhouettes to list. Best thing? Very few have legs... and they look good. That should make it easier.
  3. EDIT: How could I forget Barb's bird when it's part of her blog header? Love the way she added part of the wing in silhouette.
It took the whole evening to draft simple cardinals. I planned to cut the crest off some for other birds or perhaps draft hummingbirds.

Cardinal Silhouette templates ready to use

My t-shirt quilt friend sent the beautiful flowers for Christmas. The bouquet contains lilies, carnations, and roses with special additions of pine and bright red berries. The berries are "the berries." Perfect. What a kind gesture.

Looking at the quilt top again, my cardinals are too fat. Those toile birds are sleek and streamlined. Back to the drawing board.

In case I change my mind, I placed a pdf of the cardinal template  on the Tutorial page downloading. Let me know if there are problems. This is my first attempt at pdfs in Blogger.

Streamlined toile bird silhouettes

At 6.75" this border is more narrow than I hoped. I'm not sure how to curve the vine and also avoid tiny leaves on the outer curve. {Like most beginners} my eye is caught by the most elaborate applique. Quite beyond my expertise.

Possible vine ideas were distilled to simpler, diffuse ones that might better fit the style of my quilt.
  1. The border on Stamp of Approval by Tonya Alexander. Easy curved vine, nice big leaves, yoyo berries. Now I wonder if the leaves are too fat. They match my chubby cardinals but everything may need to go on a diet.
  2.  Is there a way I can incorporate Susan McCord's string pieced leaves? Their longer, skinnier style matches trim birds.
  3. Quilted with Grace posted her first hand applique. I love the multicolored leaves and the groups of berries on this vine.
  4. Of course, Aunt Millie's Garden by Piece o'Cake has two beautiful vine borders. The first is too wide for my border but the narrower is a charming way to make leaf-like flowers.
  5. Jan Hutchison made a quilt from Applique Affair by Edyta Sitar. Jan's second photo shows a section with only a few leaves, a bud, some berries and a bird. Hmm. All the elements I want.
After rereading parts of Collaborative Quilting by Freddy Moran and Gwen Marston, I cut my vine fabric 1.5" before folding. The final width ranges from one-half to five-eighths inches.

I pinned it in a very curvy fashion. Too curvy for the relatively narrow border so it will be changed next week. I think diffuse leaves all the same size will be a good first vine.

This vine is too curvy for the border width.

How do spiderwebs fit with butterflies? I designed the triangles of the webs with my kaleidoscope ruler. Weak, but there it is.

Want something a bit more butterfly-y? Janie at Crazy Victoriana pointed me to Missouri Star Quilt Company's latest YouTube video, Easy Strip Butterflies. It looks like a great way to use some remnants. I see a baby quilt in the near future.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bordering Plan and AHIQ December 2016

As several people noted there's not enough fabric to extend onto all sides. The solution is to use different borders. Thanks for all the great comments on my previous post; they gave me several ideas for incorporating different borders and adding applique.

Julie reminded me of Susan McCord string pieced leaves border on Barbara Brackman's blog. Love the graceful way she incorporated the leaves and vine.  Sue Nickel's New York State of Mind has three different borders. There's another I've been considering that combines zig zag and applique borders. I thought it was Freddy Moran's quilt but can't find it online or in my books.

I measured then measured again but no more fabric appeared. With the narrow chartreuse inner border the quilt now measures 63" by 75". Because there are two different birds, the toile cut into two 6.5" borders: the first is 84" {two strips} while the other is 124" {three strips.} They will fill one short and one long side.

The blue gingham could be cut into three 10" strips but only 129" or four 7" strips that are 172". The final choice was four strips because it's the only way to fit the final two sides.

Here's what it looks like laid on the kitchen floor. Quieter than I realized.

Spiderweb quilt with blue borders
Next is to decide which border extends to the edges - the applique or the toile.

As usual lately, this is not the most improvisational quilt. However, I had visions for the border but didn't have enough fabric to carry it through. On to Plan B which is turning out better than the original idea. That's my bit of improv.

With the bird toile attached, I'm considering appliqued birds on the blue gingham. Another adjustment since my first idea was vine with leaves. Second was adding flowers. I'm working much more slowly than normal because of the holidays, diffidence about my applique abilities, or actually thinking about the results. Not sure what proportion each is playing.

Kaja and I have plans to start quarterly improvisational challenges next year. We hope quarterly will allow more time for all of us to complete other, personal work but frequent enough to see progress on improvisational topics. Check us out next month for all the details!

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Posting year end reviews of my quilts and making public lists for the future has never been an activity I use. However...

The titles of my former pages haven't fit my work for the last few years {and the pictures became increasingly misaligned} so I created annual pages. That's where I really looked at this year's finishes. Comparing my output with my plans highlights some serious discrepancies. They don't match what I thought I'd done this year. Although starting with improvisational quilts, it segued to scrap quilts. Nothing wrong with that; I love scrap quilting. But not what I intended. Also, individual pieces are much more rectangular while my intention was to make curved designs.

In 2014 I worked to finish or donate old quilt tops and blocks. That effort was mostly successful but there's a whole new stack of tops and UFOs this year. Here's where improv and curved piecing stopped. Many of the curved/improv pieces are unfinished. My life turned upside down early this year and when I returned to quilting all I could do was the comforting scrap style most familiar to me.
Quilt tops and blocks in progress 
What are my plan for 2017?
1. Finish what I've started.
  • I didn't clear out the old projects just to store a new set.
2. Work more slowly.
  • I'll only start another quilt as each is finished so I may as well have all possible fun.
  • Edit: This does not mean one quilt at a time. I mean I don't want to rush each quilt to completion and I want to be more purposeful about making sure each quilt has a complete story rather than a quick finish. 
3. Consider ways to combine scrap with improvisation. 
  • Improvisation means developing my own ideas and/or building off thoughts or things I see. My quilts are designed to be useful and useable. Combining multiple fabrics from multiple sources is the way I work. I've tried other methods but they don't interest me for long.
4. Continue curved piecing and working with triangles. 
  • Incorporating free-hand cutting will be one way to keep this going.
While I contemplate how to actualize the plan, I also want to incorporate more thoughtfulness into AHIQ. Kaja and I want it to be a locus for improvisational and utility quilts. A good idea, but it seems to need more than just a linky party. I want to include ideas for quarterly study. This will take more thought.


Our final 2016 AHIQ link up is this coming Tuesday. Hope to see you and your work there.

Happy Holidays!

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bordering Issues

Time to work on my Spiderweb quilt again. It's been sitting for a year already. My plan was to create an applique vine... using only yardage on hand. Although I rarely applique, it always attracts me. Some of my earliest quilts were appliqued. But that was years ago.

Lack of practice increased my hesitation; however, Audrey at Quilty Folk creates such attractive work I made a vow to try again. She suggested six to ten inches for appliqué borders. Any more narrow and it's hard to have curves in the vines. In my case, nine inches sounds best. After all, it can always be cut down but very difficult to weave more fabric together.

I pulled several fabrics in light blues. This micro gingham is my favorite. With less than two yards it won't extend to all sides. In fact, it will only finish two sides with six-inch borders.

This mottled sky fabric looked great in the stash but slightly off color when next to other fabric. That's exactly why it has been in storage. Perhaps it would improve if combined with some others.

Free Spirit made this newer toile with leaves and birds. There are two different rows of birds which might cover three sides but... no appliqué.

Testing bird print toile as a border.

I decided to cut the toile and pin it against the spiderwebs. Even if it's not used here, this would be the cutting width for anything else. Maybe.
An inner border improves things. This pink string from my scrap bag is too wide. {Good thing. That's all there is.}

Eventually I tried some lighter fabrics. These are two yardages from the stash {as opposed to scrap strings.} Using lighter colors for the inner border might emphasize an applique vine. {Even though the toile stands in for the outer border, I'm still trying to figure out how to applique a vine.

Making haste slowly.

Enjoy the day,

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Final Strings

Only twenty-six string blocks remain of those I sewed in January. Twenty-five will make a baby quilt although I'm not sure anyone will want this. One block is blue {which I won't use} but the others are black, white and brown.

Here's what evolved.
Black, brown, and white string quilt
Black, brown, and white baby quilt
On one hand, it's handsome {perhaps.} On the other, not the most cheerful baby colors. If it were larger I could easily give it as a man's lap quilt. But it's not. Nor am I planning to enlarge it.

Someone will want it some day.

Edit: Linking with Scraptastic Tuesday. Check out lots of scrappy goodness.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Finish with an Easy Quilting Design

I finished the blue string quilt. These certainly are quick, easy quilts for toddlers. Not much to them; perfect for playtime, games, and spills.

Paper pieced string quilt in all shades of blue
Blue string toddler quilt
The binding is the light green I planned {and then discarded} for the green string quilt. It complements the bits of green in the strings.

Simple back of blue string quilt
A simple back. Of course, there wasn't enough of the larger piece but I had this eighth-yard remnant to finish it off.

Quilting and binding details of Blue String toddler quilt
Finally, a close up of the quilting and binding. I eyeballed 1.5" spacing between narrow rows that mimic flat-fell seams on jeans. The idea came from the sashing of this old t-shirt quilt.

Quilt Details
Size: 40" x 48"
Design: String quilt on paper foundation
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose 100% cotton
Thread: DMC fine embroidery blue cotton
Quilting: Walking foot on a domestic machine

Enjoy the day,

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Vacation, Strings, and Kaleidoscope of Butterflies Dec 2016

I didn't expect to find any butterflies this month but QS (QuiltingSister) sent this adorable pin from her vacation through Utah. These represent some of the same butterflies that make it to the California coast in January.

In the meanwhile, our family celebrated four birthdays and one wedding anniversary with a long-planned trip. The perfect {temporary} escape from political turmoil.

Disney's Animal Kingdom has an African bird habitat chock full of colorful species like this purple starling. He has one bright yellow eye while the other is black.

Purple starlings have one yellow eye and one black eye.
Purple Starling, Disney Animal Kingdom
The Golden Weaver entertained us for a good half-hour building his coconut-shaped nest on one of these extremely large leaves. Don't you love these shades of green and yellow as the light hits shines through the leaves? I was also struck by the analogous color scheme of each of these birds.

Golden Weaver, Disney Animal Kingdom
Disney displayed several Imagineer sketchbooks from a trip to Africa at Tiffins Restaurant. I couldn't decide which was my favorite. While I loved the watercolors, I was equally drawn to the quicker pencil sketches with notes. Tiffins decorated the walls with enlargements of some of these pages. I wanted to wander through them like a gallery but restrained myself so others could enjoy their meal. {Darn my mother for insisting on polite table manners.}
Sketches of baobab tree and African wildlife
Imagineer Sketchbooks, Tiffins Restaurant, Disney Animal Kingdom
Jane LaFazio does similar work with her collages. Perhaps many painters combine words with their work.

On a regular {non-netted} trail this tiger swallowtail posed for several minutes with wings wide open. Show off! Guests took turns snapping photos as he obligingly remained in place, unlike the shyer fellow in California.

Tiger swallowtail butterfly, Disney Animal Kingdom
As a young girl I enjoyed reading Swiss Family Robinson so I climbed their treehouse at Magic Kingdom. This lovely Odd Fellow's quilt graced on one of the beds. {Sorry. It was after sunset when the photo was snapped.} Who'd have expected to find a quilt at an amusement park?

Odd Fellow's quilt, Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, Magic Kingdom
More string blocks awaited our return. These blues range from icy white to darkest navy but I wasn't sure how well it would look without a secondary color. Turns out the aqua and green strip used in so many blocks pumps up the quilt.

Blue String quilt
There was one leftover block from this set. And, the original light green binding from the green string might work here. Lucky me if that's the case.

Enjoy the day,

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Red String Blocks and AHIQ Linkup

What improvising or utility quilting have you done this month? I'm still working on the string blocks.

The red set was difficult for me to lay out. First, there weren't enough to complete a toddler quilt so I added the remaining yellow blocks. I'd previously used many of the yellows so these are gold to brown.

Quilt blocks composed of strips of red fabric or yellow fabric.
Red and yellow string quilt
Here are four possible layouts I considered. They all use the exact same blocks. No leftovers. I find it particularly interesting how block placement affects the vibrancy of the quilt.
Possible layouts for the red/yellow string quilt
  • Top left: The light peach blocks are dispersed and this quilt is too dark for me.
  • Top right: Putting the peach blocks in the lower right divides the top into dark on top, light on bottom. No spark or transition.
  • Lower left: I like the peach X and the way the yellows seem minimized. This arrangement was my second choice.
  • Lower right: The peach diamond is too light for the center of this top but gave me the idea for the final arrangement.
Fun and games!

Enjoy the day,