Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Woman Who Knew Too Much

Here's an another example of how misguided I can be. Years ago someone wanted to trade these blocks in a fabric combination I knew would look terrible. But she was a good friend so I made a few, planning to piece the top and quietly give it to charity. Well, it looked much better than I thought. Changing my mind, I kept the top and donated something else. Oh, darn; there were only enough blocks for the center... because I knew so much.

Scrap quilt using black background florals and solid pastels.

It took a while to collect a variety of solids and even longer to find black background florals but I persevered. Colors kept getting brighter so the border fabrics are stronger than those in the center. Then there was a problem with the inner border. Nothing seemed to work until... We moved across country; my new friends wanted to dye fabric. Everyone else's looked fabulous; mine looked like five dirty dishrags. I knew it! I saved them even when we moved back to Texas where I finally hauled this top out determined to finally finish it.

When I can't figure a quilt out, I get all my fabric and successively pin it near the problem. I knew commercial solids and hand dyes didn't work well together. Good thing I followed my habit because the dishrags looked great. But none had sufficient yardage to make a border. So I pieced them. Where one fabric got mushy and dirty-colored I picked another hand dye and made little four patches to transition them better.
Using four-patches to soften change from one fabric to the next.
Dishrag lavender to dishrag peach
Adding the inner border meant the outer border needed to be a bit larger. Squares of the black florals in the corner solved that issue. Serendipitously the corner of each square blends with the other points! Lucky me; the top was finally completed.

The blocks are from Princess Feather and Mountain Reel Quilts by Nancy Daniel. It was one of the first designs for rotary cutters and it's an easy pattern. (This is not the quick cut Delectable Mountain. The light side is larger than the print side of this block.)

Fret not; enjoy the day.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Part Piece/Part Applique T-shirt Block

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, some t-shirts are too large, some are too small and some are just right. The "just right" ones are easy; you know what to do. But what about the others?

If they're too small, use several to make one block. I sandwiched three narrow logos below. After each is stabilized with fusible interfacing, cut them generously. Because they are so thick I use a half inch seam allowance when sewing two knits together. Trim the new block to the correct size afterwards.

It's really fun when they are too big! Piece and applique the shirt. Draw the normal finished size on the back with washable marker. Then sketch where you want the seam around the extended part. Carefully cut the normal (pieced) section with its seam allowance and hand cut around the extension (applique.) Pin to the sashing and sew as much of the block as possible.

Piece the rest of the quilt as usual including the other blocks, sashing & posts. It will look like a regular top except for some unsewn places. Press the top.

Carefully cut the shirt to the end of the sewing line.

Cut carefully to the point where the sewing line ended
Turn the quilt so the top faces up. Gently pull the unsewn portion to the front and pin in place.

Check that the quilt is flat. Check again! Machine applique the t-shirt flap to the sashing using zig-zag or blanket stitch.

A little of both? The photo at the top contains my two favorite shirts. This grumpy, little, cigar-chomping angel always makes me laugh. Since both designs were narrow I sewed them together. But look carefully. The heart point is appliquéd into the top of the Mother's Day shirt. Then the angel is appliquéd to the sashing. Double the fun.

I'd love to see what you create! Let me know if you use this idea.

Fret not; enjoy the day.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Baby Bibs

While recuperating from a cold earlier this year I meandered through blogs, clicking links with abandon. Such lovely new colors! Such clever ideas! Such detailing!

Although some of my stash will never make it into a quilt, many are remnants from finished projects. What a joy to glimpse a snippet from a previous quilt; like visiting an older relative. How could it ever be out of style when it evokes such happy memories?

Amy at NanaCompany posted a baby bib pattern and tutorial here. Her work is so delicately refined; quite unlike my boisterous fabrics. But the pattern was perfectly sized for my remnants although I didn't add her ruffle. Maybe next time. I backed mine with terrycloth as she suggested. Now I have a stack of baby presents ready to go!

Fret not; enjoy the day.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Watermelon String

I wanted a red and green quilt that looked like watermelon. Having learned string piecing from Diane Rode Schneck, I pieced these on a muslin foundation. What a juicy summer quilt! Except the weight of muslin and all the strings makes this one of my heaviest quilts. Fortunately the back is a red Rose and Hubble print whose fine threads and tight weave feel cool on the hottest days.

String quilt of green and red fabric strings.

It's strictly a complementary color scheme; there is no value difference between the reds and greens as you can see.  Although it started with scraps I combed my stash and finally some quilt shops for enough reds and greens. By the time the center was completed I knew it needed some grounding. White rind or black seeds?  I chose the seeds.

The strings of the inner blocks run parallel and the blocks are ten inches finished. The seeds are 1.5 inches. In order to fit the border properly, the outer blocks finish eleven inches. Just to change things up their strings run perpendicular.

Point to point quilting with walking foot
Border quilting detail

The straight line V's in the border were fun to quilt. I marked the center turning point with pins and 
used a walking foot. In the center of the quilt are vines, spirals and some straight lines. I hope you can see them in the photo below.

Free motion quilting fills space between point to point lines.
Center quilting detail
Fret not; enjoy the day.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Log Cabin Has Left the Building

Thanks for the input on the binding. Red is my favorite but I finally decided to use something different (for me, at least.) The green shows up, sets off the blocks and was fun to use. I particularly like this shade of green; it seems friendly. The sawtooth border really finishes the quilt... and it used up a bunch of extra triangles from Ocean Waves. How wonderful is that!

Log Cabin quilt with half-inch logs and a sawtooth border.

With such narrow logs, the seam allowances are half the width of the logs. Consequently the quilt is fairly thick. I used a light batt (Mountain Mist Blue Ribbon Cotton again) and quilted each log. It should take a lot of (ab)use and frequent washing - and it will need to. It's a Grandmother Quilt, a special quilt for a friend to use when her new grand-baby visits.
Signed & dated in half-inch high zig-zag
Fret not; enjoy the day.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Road to My Sister's House

So you weren't scared off by the wild braid in my last post? Here's what I made from those ugly fabrics. It's a personal story about my youngest sister.
Simple cross blocks combine with printed braid sashing and pieced border.
The Road to my Sister's House quilt
The class designed with the smallest squares in the morning. After lunch we cut rectangular crosses, sashing and posts to build on our stories and layer texture into our quilts. How amazingly everyone's quilt improved, especially mine! Cutting the braid the length of the fabric kept consistency along each sashing. Limiting the width highlighted its inherent motion. To me it represents the tire tracks of all those long drives. Those incredibly loud oranges became the flower centers surrounded by orange and yellow petals. (Printed circles are very useful that way.)

I added borders the following week. The inner border used all my African fabric. (It spoke to me at first sight it but had never found a home.) Again, I just played around putting fabric near the quilt to see what looked right. The outer border x's and o's represent the letters we send and the love we share. Complete o's were too static; partial o's look better. However, I quilted the phantom parts in.

The back enlarged the pattern on the front to keep it interesting.

Quilt back of enlarged blocks repeats the design from front of quilt

Fret not; enjoy the day.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Is Ugly Fabric Contagious?

Sue handed me some fabric one day stating, "We don't use this stuff in New England, but you're from Texas..." Backhanded compliment? Downright slam? I didn't care. The colorful pattern sang to me; I knew just what to do.

Three years later I returned to Texas with unused fabric in tow. Why hadn't I made the quilt dancing in my head? Then the Quilters Guild of Dallas offered a workshop with Sue Benner - the perfect time to get it done! In Sue's class we all used the same quilt layout but brought photos and fabrics to translate our personal vision. In the morning we took turns showing them. Everyone else previewed gorgeous batiks in sumptuous colors to a chorus of oohs and aahs. Silence fell when I showed the braid and these orange slices I picked up in a Ben Franklin sale bin.

Sue encouraged us to design a story with the small squares. At the time my youngest sister lived in a ski chalet on a dude ranch just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. (What a tough life!) Her balconies overflowed with flowers and vines. My small squares made a picture of the final mile of the road trips to her house.

New to the guild and engrossed in the process of transferring my feelings to a quilt it was lunchtime before I realized I was the only person with a table to myself. This is one way to get lots of room in a workshop.

Come see what I made with this next time.

Fret not; enjoy the day.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Progress on Scrap Log Cabin

The border is finished - little triangles left from Ocean Waves and this project. I love to run out of fabric and keep the scrap bag small!

With so many logs (and seams) straight line quilting seemed the best choice. Originally I'd planned to stitch diagonally but then remembered an antique log cabin with spiral quilting. Each block is quilted in a squared off spiral to the center. I started with the outer (longest) log and worked in until each log was quilted once. If I'd started on the inside of the outer log I would have caught the seam allowances better. This way may be more dimensional.

Next is binding. Here are my choices.
Binding choices: Green1, yellow, green2
Binding choices: Red, green3, brown
Red is a perennial favorite but I'm leaning towards green3. The bits of red, yellow and white in the print look good with this quilt; it's dark enough to wear better with a toddler too. What do you think?

Fret not; enjoy the day.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Scrap Log Cabin

Scraps are such a mystery. How do so many accumulate? Why do we save them? What can we do with them? Occasionally I think it would be fun to have one way to handle scraps. Always cut squares... or rectangles... or triangles. Truthfully though, I'm too fickle.

My newest crush is cutting one inch strips for log cabins. The finished logs are one half inch wide. Wanting a scrappier look, I have them in various stages so identical fabric is placed in different rows from block to block.  I also try to avoid the same fabric progression from one block to the next.
Log Cabin block, Sunshine and Shadow set
The Value Finder helped sort fabrics. Lights are very light (8-10) but the darks range well into medium (1-5). Working with some of my strongly patterned fabrics was challenging. Sometimes I had to wait until a quiet scrap appeared before adding the next row. Some busy fabric never worked well. Some worked in shorter logs where I could fussy-cut around a big value change. Some fit in surprisingly well just as they were.

For example, in the lights at the top is a beige print with a cowboy on horseback. If I'd placed it closer to the darks, i.e., on a smaller inside log, the darks would have "crept" into the lights and the block would have lost its diagonal. On this long strip near the outer edge of a block, it adds some color (that is technically too dark) but the overall area still reads as light.

The lights also contain a variety of pastels - blue, purple, green and bright yellow. I worried they might overpower the lights in some way Finally I made most of the outer light logs from prints with beige or white backgrounds. Halting the pastels logs before they touch the next block seems to make them twinkle.

I'm still pondering the quilting design but leaning towards diagonal lines. And I need a small border.

Fret not; enjoy the day.