Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Quilt Along Block # 10 "Window View"

More silhouettes? I thought I was finished with those, but it seems I was mistaken.

Okay, these aren't solid black like all of my silhouette children and their pets, but still. A silhouette, even with color and a collar, is basically a silhouette, isn't it? 

These little guys weren't ever a part of the plan for the Quilt Along, but I simply couldn't resist. 

Our quilt has things to represent children, items that reflect traditional women's interests, but there were no pets. We needed some furry friends. There was one vertical 6" x 10" block needed, and these two fit the bill. So I placed a dachshund and a cat in the window. 

Wonder what they're watching so intently. 

I also turned these little guys into a mug rug. The size is right, the theme is fun, so why not?

With winter not far off on the horizon, I gave the mug rug pair some snowflakes to watch, but a person could choose anything. Falling leaves in the autumn - just a few embroidered stitches. A flock of birds for any season - black "v"s stringing across the window. Rain - slanted lines of quilting. Whatever one might imagine catching the interest of housebound pets.

It's time to go back to work on this quilt. It's almost done! 

I keep moving things around. Every time a new block is added, a change seems to be needed.
There are two blocks to go, one 10" x 10" in the space between the pets and the watering can, and a horizontal 6" x 10" above the current position of the cookie jar. 

Several ideas are in the works, too.

My friend, Midge has an opinion. "Things to show women, things to show kids," she remarked over our weekly coffee. "There's nothing masculine in this quilt."


Wise woman, Midge. 

I think there may just be another surprise coming along. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Snowballs in August" plus two quick tutorials

It's the middle of August, hot and humid, but I've been getting prepared for the cold and snow that are sure to come. I just finished stitching up a "Snowball Fight" in the form of soft, flannel lap quilt. Seasons don't match, but as a pattern maker, I really do have to plan ahead, and winter is really not that very far off.

"Snowball Fight"
It all started with the mittens. I really wanted to do something with mittens, but until I visited my local quilt shop I didn't know that I'd be making a snowball fight. You see, they had brought in these richly colored Woolies Flannels by Maywood.

Of course I couldn't resist touching the fabric. And that was all it took.


Soft, warm, oh so lovely. These were my mittens!

Luckily for me they had 10" layer cakes all ready to go. The idea for snowballs was born just like that!

And the best thing is that the fabrics and the whole idea of the quilt are great for boys as well as girls! How often does that happen?

Mittens + snowballs = ? 
A snowball fight! 
Love at first touch!
In addition to the layer cake I purchased some light flannel for the background, a bit of a deep red yardage for border accent, and a half yard of creamy white to make snowballs that could represent white snow.

How to make snowball blocks in any size you like: 

Start with a squares the finished size of the block. It's best to use a number divisible by three. Three inches, six inches, nine inches, twelve inches, etc. These make the math easiest.

Cut the squares the size of the finished block measurement plus 1/2". My blocks are 6" so I cut them at 6 1/2". 

Then cut four background squares for each block. They need to be exactly one third of the size of the finished block plus 1/2".

Six divided by three equals two. Add 1/2". So I cut my background squares at 2 1/2". Sewing is quick.

Photos tell the story.

Snowballs in the center, a couple of narrow borders, a wide border filled with mittens, and hand stitched scallops stringing the mitten together. 

That's it! Easy peasy! 

Well, except for having to rip out some seams and redo them plus other expected minor catastrophes along the way. You know how it goes. Just normal "stuff".

I really debated about the quilting. I considered spirals, and that idea was well liked by my facebook friends and by my friend, Midge. 

But I was worried. Flannel is thick and this little quilt has batting and a flannel back, too! Making smooth, large spirals on my little sewing machine would be hard enough on a quilt made of lightweight quilting cottons. I didn't even want to attempt stuffing this one into my machine and making large swirls. 

I considered this and that, and then I settled for stitch-in-the-ditch and straight line quilting on the snowball panel. My walking foot came in so very handy for that!

Since the inside was so plain, I decided to quilt the dickens out of the border. And, I was off on the cathedral windows free motion stitching adventure. It's a bit tedious, but I love this pattern!

If well done, the quilting looks like intersecting circles. 

Just one teensy little problem. My circles weren't really circles at all. In fact they were downright wobbly and irregular.  I needed A LOT more practice! 

This is a good sized border, so I practiced away. In fact, I got a ton of practice while quilting this border! It got a little bit better as I moved around the quilt. You can tell exactly which side of the border I started on, but who's going to look that closely?

The first side of my cathedral windows border

Stitching the cathedral window free motion quilting pattern:

Mark a grid on the area to be quilted. I chose a 1 1/4" grid. Smaller is actually easier than larger.

This is how the quilting goes. A diagram shows it best. 

Just follow the arrows. 
Down one square, over to the right, under to the left and repeat till you reach the end of the row. 

Then across to the right, scoop in on left in each square going up the grid till you get to the top. 

Scoop to the right and start over again. 

Draw your own grid or download one from the internet and practice with a pencil for a bit. Then try it on a piece of fabric. 

Here you can see my progress. I'm making my scoops too deep, but I didn't figure that out for a very long time. 

Filling in all around the mittens was a bit tricky, but I have to say, I enjoyed the work. 

I stitched up a cathedral window it each of the white snowball blocks, too. Just to decorate them up a bit. 

I'm really liking this little quilt and I've learned a lot from it as this was my very first actual quilt made of flannel. The soft warmth is perfect for cold winter evenings. 

I had lots of leftover fabric from the layer cake so I put it to use on the back of the quilt. A section of 9" strips inserted in the back cut down on the fabric I needed to buy and added a bit of color as well.

I've been thinking of other ways to work with flannel, too.

If I someday want to make one that's lighter weight, I might consider using a single layer of fleece on the back instead of batting and flannel backing. A cotton backing with the batting would also be lighter weight. For a summer quilt, two layers of flannel with no batting in between might be nice.

Happy stitching, everyone!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Snowballs and a Summer Shop Hop

Part 1: Snowballs in July

A while back I went into my local quilt shop looking for a fat quarter of teal to use in my "Autumn Flight" quilt.

You know how that goes. The shop is filled with brand new fabrics and a person just can't help looking. I was trapped, but it wasn't my fault at all! If the store didn't bring in so many tempting woven morsels I wouldn't have had a problem. So I blame it all on the management.

I discovered a wonderful display of Moda's new "Woolies" flannels. I should know better than to pet the fabrics. Oh, my. Sooo soft! What to do? Not my colors, but richly autumn. Not my style, but so very, very soft!

I argued with myself, but the "I want" argument shouted down the "don't need", and I walked out with a two half yard pieces of cream and a thick 10" layer cake of mixed colors. 

It all screamed, "Winter!" And I thought, "snowball fight!"  So that's what I'm working on now. One lap sized snowball fight quilt.

I'm becoming reacquainted with flannel. I really should have starched it before cutting! The looser weave that helps to make it so soft also creates flexibility that promotes stretching, and I'd forgotten how easily it frays I'll need to figure out how to reinforce the seams so nothing will come apart with repeated washing.

Part 2: Summer shop hop

Once a season four of us quilting buddies get together and head off along the highways of Nebraska on a shopping expedition. We became fast friends while teaching in the same school for many years. We take the day to enjoy the company and laughter of our crazy little group, and we are addicted to fabric and fun.

Last Monday morning we piled into Midge's van fortified with coffee and muffins and set out on our summer day trip. We had a specific goal this day. We hadn't been to Fremont and the fabulous Country  Traditions for quite a while. Fremont is about an hour north of Lincoln on Highway 77. If you are a quilter traveling through Nebraska on I-80, this store is definitely worth the side trip. 

Country Traditions in Fremont, NE
I took this photo from the top of a staircase, but less than a fourth of the shop is actually shown in the picture. The fabric selection is simply lovely. Lots of traditional fabrics, a huge selection of reproduction fabrics, batiks to make one swoon, and enough moderns to keep your eyes happy for hours.

That's how long we stayed, too - over two hours in one store!

Anne and Midge in the Civil War reproduction section.
We loved the people working there, too. Scott was a lot of fun. He works in the shop and he designs some very impressive patterns, too.

Shelley at the cash register with Scott. 
By the time we had our purchases bagged and were ready to go it was after 12:30. Thank goodness we'd had those muffins!

We decided to come straight back to Lincoln to get lunch, and we wound up in the Havelock neighborhood. After a leisurely lunch we moved on down the street and dropped in at the Cosmic Cow.

The Cosmic Cow
I don't know who came up with such a crazy name, but both the name and the store are delightful. The shop isn't very large, but it is jam-packed with fabric goodies. And cows!

Shelley really didn't buy all of those fabrics stacked on the counter. Did she?

I tried to get a photo of the window display because it had so many different cows, but the light was reflecting off the glass and all I captured was an unexpected selfie.

Even though we'd only visited two stores, it was a fabulous day! The afternoon was wearing on and it had been a long day of shopping, so we went back Midge's house and visited for awhile before heading on home. 

Can't wait till the next trip. We've already set a date in early October! I think we'll be traveling west this time. I do have the greatest friends!

And now I need to get back to my snowball fight!

Happy stitching!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quilt Along Block #9, Clothesline

Finally finished! The clothesline block has always been part of the plan, and I do think it turned out awfully cute, but oh my goodness! What a headache in the making! More about that later.

If I had to choose what I like best about this block it would be the pink and green mini-quilt. It's a real quilt! Pieced and everything! I only cheated on the border. It's satin stitched. The little blocks are just 1/2" square, and I loved making it!

But on to the problems. Sigh...

It isn't that the block is hard to sew. Even though it has so many little bits and pieces of laundry, it goes together just like the others. Or, at least it should go together just like the others. Not for me, though. Not this time.

It all began when I ran out of stabilizer for my applique. I was in a bit of a hurry, so I grabbed something inexpensive from a nearby craft store. I thought it was similar to a more expensive stabilizer I'd used before, but when I opened the container, it was altogether different. Not in a good way, either! Word of warning - do not get the water soluble stabilizer that feels like a plastic bag! It sticks to the bed of the sewing machine and totally messes up the length of zigzag stitches!

I stopped everything and went out to the quilt shop to buy some good stuff. More expensive, but so worth it. This one is a tear-away and works beautifully.

Stabilizer, though, was only the first of my problems. Next came the thread issue. I have thread in every color imaginable.

Only one portion of my thread collection. 
I matched something up with the jeans fabric and appliqued away. This was the first mistake. the thread was very, very old, and rather poor quality to start with. I should have thrown it out long ago!  It broke after sewing just a couple of inches and the tension was all off. So, I finally tossed it and decided to use something different - maybe not quite so close a match. Of course I had to do a bit of stitch ripping, but I hadn't got very far, so it wasn't a horribly big deal. That might have been okay, but the new thread didn't show up at all for showing the pockets and seams on the pants. The next best thread I had was navy blue.

It wasn't till I had done all of this sewing with a very short triple stitch, that I realized how awful it looked!

What a mess!

An hour and a half later I had it all unstitched, but the jeans are looking a bit the worse for wear. I might have been better off drawing those lines with a permanent marker in the first place. I definitely would have been better off simply starting over!

Well, it's too late to do any of that now. The block is finished and it stays as it is! A small imperfect piece won't ever be noticed in such a busy quilt. Will it? Nope. Not going there at all. It's fine. So there!

Truth be told, my sigh of relief at having it finished was huge. The block is done, the pattern made, and aside from the mishaps and mixups it really was loads of fun.

This quilt is really coming along!! I may move blocks around, but it's not looking half bad! What shall we add? We only need one large block and one or two small ones, depending on the size of the larger one.

There is only one little niggling worry about the clothesline block.
That other yellow sock ...
         the one not on the clothesline ...

It had better be in here somewhere!

Unless the washing machine ate it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tutorial: Create Flying Geese Paper Pieced Patterns

I love using paper foundation piecing for flying geese blocks. The blocks make up so quickly, and they always finish with perfect points.

When a pattern shows other techniques that don't work quite as well for me, I always sketch out my own paper foundation pieced block patterns, and photocopy them.

You can draw your own paper pieced flying geese blocks,  too - in any size you need. It's easy, and there's very, very little math involved. Most flying geese blocks are twice as tall as they are wide, so you basically need to multiply the width of your block by 2 to get the height.

Start with a rectangle. Make it twice as tall as it is wide.

The most commonly used flying geese block sizes for quilts are:
1" x 2"
1 1/2" x 3"
2" x 4"
2 1/2" x 5"
3" x 6"

Size doesn't make any difference in the process for making the blocks. My examples are for making 2" x 4" blocks. This is a great size for practice, but you can adjust when you are making other sizes you might need for your quilts.

Now, get a ruler, a sharp pencil, and some graph paper. 
And, away we go! 

Make a single block
Step 1:  

  • Draw a rectangle twice as tall as it is wide on your graph paper. Mine is 2" x 4", but the same formula works for all sizes.
  • Measure halfway down the right hand side of the rectangle and make a mark. This is the same measurement as is the width of your rectangle.
  • Draw lines from the mark you just made to either corner on the left hand side of the paper. The lines you have drawn are the lines that you will sew on when sewing the block and assembling the quilt.
Step 2:

  • Add 1/4" seam allowance all around.  This outer line will be the line you cut on when you trim the block down for sewing into your quilt.
  • Write in numbers to show the order of adding fabrics. The large triangle, usually made with a darker color of fabric, is number 1. The smaller triangles made with background fabrics will be numbers 2 and 3. It makes no difference which of the smaller pieces is attached first.

But what if you want to put two blocks into a set so you can sew two at the same time? 

Make a set of two blocks

Step 1: 
  • Draw a single block just like you did before. 
  • Now attach another block right next to it. Each block will be twice as tall as it is wide.
Step 2: 

  • Add 1/4" seam allowance all around.  Once again, the outer line will be the line you cut on when you trim the set of blocks down for sewing into your quilt, and the inner lines are the lines you stitch on.
  • Write in numbers. The larger triangles for each block are always added first, the smaller triangles next. Number the first block with numbers 1, 2, and 3, and the second block with numbers 4, 5, and 6.

Longer Sets 

Sets of three or more blocks

Follow the same procedure that you used to draw two blocks to make sets of three blocks, 6 blocks, or as many as you can fit on your graph paper.

  • Start with side by side blocks, then add 1/4" seam allowance around the entire set.
  • Write numbers in sequential order, block by block. Make sure that the large triangle is always given the first number in its block.

That's it!  Photocopy as many copies as you need and begin sewing! 

How to measure the fabric pieces for your block sections.

There is always some unavoidable waste with paper foundation piecing, but if the fabric pieces are cut relatively close to the finished size and shape, the waste can be minimal. 

Whether sides are cut on the bias or not is relatively unimportant with paper foundation piecing. I've tried to make the measuring for fabric pieces as easy as possible by cutting the large triangles as quarter square triangles and the background triangles as half square triangles. 

Photo A: half square triangles for small background segments

Photo B: Quarter square triangles for larger segments of the block

The Formula

Yes, there is a formula, but it's pretty easy to follow. 

For the smaller triangles (photo A above) :
  • Begin with a square 1 1/4" longer than the width of the block.
  • For a 2" x 4" block, you would add 1 1/4" to 2", the shorter measurement of the block. 
1 1/4" + 2" = 3 1/4"
  • The square should be cut 3 1/4" on either side. 
  • Cut in half once diagonally. You will have two triangles, enough for one block.

For the larger triangles (photo B above) :
  • Begin with a square 1 5/8" larger than the height of the block. 
  • For a 2" x 4" flying geese block, add 1 5/8" to 4", the longer measurement of the block. 
1 5/8" + 4" = 5 5/8"
  • The square should be cut 5 5/8" on either side. 
  • Cut in half diagonally, and then cut in half diagonally again. You will have four triangles, enough for four blocks.

I've made a chart to simplify it even more.

Chart for cutting common size triangles for paper foundation pieced flying geese blocks.

Size of Block     Cut square for               Cut square for
                           two, small, half             four, large, quarter
                           square triangles:           square triangles:

1 ½” x 3”            2 ¾” x 2 ¾”                 4 5/8” x 4 5/8” 
2” x 4”                3 ¼” x 3 ¼”                  5 5/8” x 5 5/8” 
2 ½” x 5”            3 ¾” x 3 ¾”                 6 5/8” x 6 5/8”
3” x 6”                4 ¼” x 4 ¼”                  7 5/8” x 7 5/8” 
4” x 8”                5 ¼ x 5 ¼”                    9 5/8” x 9 5/8”

And that's everything you need to know! Make all the paper foundation pieced flying geese blocks you like, in any size you like.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The autumn table runner is finished!

I'm so excited about my just completed autumn table runner!  The appliqued swirly leaves and paper pieced flying geese blocks came out so very well and it came together very quickly.  My daughter likes it, too, and she seems to have already figured out where she wants it displayed it. In her house, of course!

I was having problems getting the layout to come alive. As you can see in these early attempts, something wasn't working. I didn't like all of the leaves, and the arrangements just didn't come together right.

During our weekly coffee get-together, I consulted my good friend, Midge. She's excellent at bringing a fresh perspective to all kinds of topics. She studied my layouts for a bit, pointed out what she did like about them, and then said, "Acorns. It needs acorns." And she was so right!

A few swapped leaves, a few acorns, and I had a layout that was coming together nicely.

Next came the quilting choices. My goal was to make everything pop and give the whole piece a sense of motion. The leaves really had to swirl in the wind. First I added depth by quilting around every piece of applique and in the ditch on every seam with invisible thread. Whew! Free motion quilting in the ditch made it all go a bit faster than it might have with standard stitching, but I don't know that I'd choose to do every stinking seam on a large quilt with hundreds of flying geese! 

Finally I added veins to the leaves with matching thread. Just a few little lines of sewing and the leaves suddenly looked almost real!

For background quilting I used cream colored thread in a very amateur variation of McTavishing. I have so far to go with getting the free motion quilting the way I'd like, but a few months ago this would not have been an option for me. Baby steps. Need to keep reminding myself. 

I'm going to take a couple of days, now, to address some neglected housekeeping and laundry. 

Then it will be on to the next project. It will definitely be the next block in the "Home" quilt along! It's slow, but I'm gradually catching up with the lost month of June.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

A tour of the 2014 Lincoln Quilter's Guild "Quilt Fest"

How could I possibly resist a chance to spend a morning looking at beautiful quilts? Never mind that for the first time in years none of my quilting friends could go. It seems to be vacation weekend. Some folks are gone, others have a house full of guests.

But, wild horses couldn't keep me away from this event. The local quilter's guild only hosts this show every other year and I wasn't about to miss it. So off I went on my own, and I enjoyed every minute.

As always, with local shows, there is a huge range of skills and talent on display. Very ordinary quilts were mixed in with very extraordinary quilts, modern and traditions quilts shared display space, and the quilts came in every size and shape imaginable. I took tons of photos, but I've chosen those I consider most unique or interesting to share with you.

Applique in log cabin blocks. Yum!
From a distance this looks like a traditional pattern made with batiks. But look how that curved piece is made. Clever! Think I might want to give this technique a try one of these days.

The quilting on this just blew my mind! This isn't a little bitty whole cloth quilt. It's bed size!  I can't help but wonder how many spools of thread were used.

I'm such a sucker for trees! These skinny wall hangings are at least 6 feet tall.

I love the way this bark was made! Batiks are so versatile for depicting nature.

Winter fun. More very tall quilts. Is this a new trend in wall hangings? The snow man applique is at least 4 1/2 fee tall, so the entire quilt must be 7 feet or more in height.

This tree reminds me of the one I placed in the paper pieced Christmas quilt I designed and made years ago. My tree is a good deal smaller, though, and definitely not so very tall.

A paper doll quilt! I've been wanting to design one for a very long time. The woman who made it said that she grew up playing with paper dolls. This was a gift for her granddaughter. The child liked it, but didn't know what paper dolls were. The grandmother thought that the quilt might mean more to her than it does to the grandchild

Lots of modern quilts were on display. These are a few of my favorites for today.

I'm feeling inspired!

Now I need to get busy on my own quilts.