Thursday, December 30, 2010

Done: Winter Doldrums Undone

So, finally! the current quilt is done.  Finished it this morning.  Although there are quite a few errors on the quilt, I like it.  I probably won't raw-edge applique again since my hand is not steady enough to stitch down the qpplique on the long-arm.  But, it was a fun quilt to make and I learned quite a few things that I can apply to future quilts.  Enjoy the photos.

Most of the quilt laid out on the floor of my living room.

Left side to show applique

Right side showing most of qpplique

Upper right--just a few flowers floating to top

Upper left--note there's more applique on this side.

Close up to show applique, esp. the feathers

Quilted flowers with tendrils or vines

Stippling on borders

Appliques in Place

And so, once I found several flower appliques that I liked, I began adding them to the border that I had prepped the day before by sewing down a couple of stems.  I like the look of an asymmetrical border that has a sense of balance.  To achieve this balanced asymmetry, I first sew in somewhat balanced flower stems.  For this quilt I started by finding the center of the bottom border and the center of the longest stem--I had decided to use three, one long one on the bottom and one on each side.  I loosely placed the long stem curving up and down along the middle of the border and then curving around the corner and up the sides.  I then added the two shorter stems intertwining them with the first one.

I began adding the flowers on the bottom border and worked my way around the bottom and up the sides.  To insure that I had flowers on both sides of the center, I separated flowers into two groups.  I also tried to include flowers of different sizes near each other so that they would look more realistic.  The result is a vine that is not the exact same on each side but is clearly connected.  I prefer the look of flowers in nature rather than in formal flower beds--although those are beautiful.  The large single flower in the center that falls more on the blocks rather than on the border is a reminded me of a corn plant and although it intrudes somewhat, I like that it breaks up the monotony of the blocks and in one or two instances allowed flowers to "fall" out of the border and onto the blocks. As you can see from the photos, the quilt is loaded onto the long arm machine and ready for quilting.

Once the flowers were all placed and ironed downed, I was ready to begin quilting.  I loaded the quilt onto the long-arm and played with several ideas for quilting.

Monday, December 27, 2010

After-Christmas Energy

Here's hoping that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and that you got the things you were hoping for.  I really enjoyed our time with the boys and their families.  All three of our sons, their wives, and their children joined us and my dad for lunch at our house.  Then we loaded up the kids and lots of food and went over to my in-laws to have a meal with them and their whole family.  It was a bit too busy and crowded but it was wonderful to have the whole family together under one roof for a few hours of laughing, eating, and gift-giving.

I spent much of Christmas Eve in the studio since there were few preparations to worry about for Christmas.  All the gifts were wrapped, the food prepped and ready to go, and the house decorated just enough to give a true sense of Christmas without having to work for days and weeks.  I don't mind decorating, it's the clean-up that gets me, so we decorate without going overboard so that putting away decorations is doable.  Now, to find someone to do it!

I love to build quilts that have piecing in the center and a wide border with applique on the edges.  This gives me the best of both worlds: the speed and ease of piecing and the beauty and creativity of applique.  I decided to do the same on the Disappearing Four Patch quilt that I've been working on.  This combination of piecing and applique is becoming my signature for large quilts.  I tried playing with my Accuquilt Studio Cutter and realized that there are numerous possibilities when I begin with a circle shape then cut it down into various parts for different flowers.  To show you what I mean, I've taken a few photos of my process.

The beginnings of a flower--can you see it?
 For this first photo, I started with a circle, then cut it down twice by moving the pieces around on the cutter and running it through the machine again.  For this shape, I began with six layers of fabric and kept them together through every step of the process.  That way the changes happened to all six pieces at the same time, and I came out with the same exact shape on every one.  I simply spread them out in a circle so that the points were touching at approximately the same place.  The shapes become the petals of one flower.  By removing one petal, I ended up with a starfish shape, but I like the flower shape.  Add leaves, a vine and a yellow pistil and we'd have a pretty good applique.  

Now, if you try this, don't throw away the pieces that are taken off when you run them through a second or third time.  Those pieces are perfect for forming other flowers.  I played with the castoffs from several attempts and discovered that thinking outside the box works.  These hollyhocks were made strictly from castoffs.  I added the stem so that you can envision the flowers a little easier.

Cute hollyhocks, gonna have to play with this.

Before I got the hollyhocks, I tried to form flowers for some time.  Some attempts worked, others didn't.  It's a matter of playing and seeing a design as you work through the process.

I started out playing with a cheap purple fabric that I happened to have on hand.  I figured that if I tossed everything, it wouldn't be a huge loss.  But the more I played and liked what I came up with, the more I wanted to try other things.  I decided to add some yellow to see if that one color could make some of the not-so-great flowers work.

Just getting shapes on fabric.  Not a lot here, but still at the beginning of the process.

 Yellow makes a big difference.  Some things that I would not have tried on the quilt, like the small circle shape on the bottom of this photo, found its way once I added the yellow.  Why, or how, do I make the decisions, I honestly can't say.  I tried different things and liked some.  Others I wasn't crazy about but tried not to let that get me down.  Instead, I snapped a photo and moved on.
Using two or more shapes to form one flower.

The same shape repeated.
 After a while of playing, I began auditioning the shapes I liked using different colors and adding leaves, stems, and stamens.  When I liked the outcome, I found a place on the quilt for it.  At first I simply pinned the flowers down, but that became time consuming and it was difficult to move the quilt and keep the flower shapes stable unless I added lots of pins.  After a while, I got brave and pressed the flowers in place.  The iron-on adhesive is fairly permanent, removing the shapes leaves a residue on the quilt and destroys the flower shapes, so I had to be sure that I wanted the flower in a chosen spot before pressing.  Eventually, I got very brave and pressed as I added flowers to the border.  Patience is not my strong suit!

Some of the "I'm not crazy about these" shapes appear below.  Don't spend much time looking at them, they are pretty horrible, but part of the process means editing out what doesn't work.

Reminded me too much of a swastika.

I tried but the shape isn't any better with some added way!
This could work for a tulip, but it didn't make the cut anyway.

Yucky, is this a person?

And we'll leave it at this for now.  Every creative idea takes time and energy.  As creative people, we have to play and try different things to figure out what works and what doesn't.  The key is to keep trying and to take notes in some form (photos, writing, journals, sketches, etc.) so that when we come back to the process, we can replicate the good work we've done and avoid the work we aren't so crazy about.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Disappearing Four-Patch Tutorial

When I purchased a charm pack of 10 inch squares of batiks, I put it aside in the hopes that I'd find something to do with it.  That was at the beginning of the summer, which I spent mostly helping my dad to care for my mom since she had cancer.  I didn't have much time to think about quilting, although I did manage to get into the studio on occasion.  It made for a great stress reliever.  

Then suddenly I had plenty of time for quilting.  Although we knew she was terminal and her time was short, I really believed that mom would last through the holidays.  She passed away on November 2, and I didn't know what to do with myself since I had a difficult time focusing on any one project.  I finally decided over the Thanksgiving holidays that I would have to get a handle on my depression.  So I finished a quilt I had loaded on the longarm and began looking for a new project.  I found the tutorial for a disappearing four-patch on the Quilting Board and decided it would be perfect for the pack of batiks.  Rich and I went to Borne Quilter and I picked up a few yards of a neutral batik that would calm the colors and patterns down.  I've working on it fairly regularly since.  Yesterday I decided to take a few pictures and post them in a tutorial-style essay.  And here goes....

Start with any size squares--mine are 10 inch squares--just make sure that all the squares are exactly the same size.  It also helps if they are rather large, I think at least 6 or 8 inches because they will be cut down.  They should, of course, be cut on grain since they will be more stable.  

If using a neutral, which I recommend, stitch a neutral to a color using a 1/4 inch seam allowance and press.  I did all these in one run of chain piecing (do not cut the threads, instead add the next block and keep going).  Then stitch each two-patch to another two-patch to form a 4-patch.  

 Again I chain-pieced the two patches together in one run.  Just make sure that when putting the patches together you

  • put them right sides together
  • have the neutral touching the color
  • lock the seams (the seam allowances are going in different directions)
  • use a 1/4 inch seam allowance

Once you've stitched all of your four-patches (4p), you're ready to begin cutting.  You will make four cuts--two in each direction.  Since I was using 10 inch squares, I had a large 4p.  I decided to cut my 4p 3 1/2 inches from the center seam.  The 1/2 inch would leave me enough for 1/4 seams, the three inches would divide the 4p so that I'd get different sized squares.  This adds interest and adds to the look of a complicated block.

Now decide how you want to arrange your new block.  Watch as the 4p disappears into what looks like a very complicated block.  Here are two arrangements:
With all the colors still close together and a diagonal feel to the new block.
 This is the one I decided to go with.

With the colors all across the new block.  This one has a sort of X going for it.  

Treat your new block like a nine patch.  Sew the blocks into rows then sew the rows together.

 Keep going, make more blocks and before you know it you'll have enough for a quilt!
Now you get to make more design decisions--how will you arrange the finished blocks?  I'm putting mine into rows of four across and five down.  This will give me enough for a center.  I'll use more of the neutral for a wide border so that I can add some appliqued flowers--my signature quilts generally have a center of pieced blocks surrounded by flowers.

Here are a couple of arrangements I've played with on the design wall:
Trying to put colors together, but it won't work since I didn't pre-plan that.  Sure looks good, though.

With all the blocks facing the exact same way.  Adds a more scrappy feel to the quilt.

I will use the first one, but there's bound to be others available.  I've just already chosen a quilting motif that will look best if the colors are touching and the neutrals are also touching.  I also like the result of the small squares encircling the larger squares.  Gotta get more blocks sewn so I can get to that quilting motif!  Happy quilting!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Missing Momma

It's been just over a month since mom passed away.  I don't know if I'm ever going to feel normal.  It's just so strange to think about something that I want to tell her, then remember that I can't.  I've been torn between moving on because she would want me to do that and feeling guilty about moving forward even just a little.  I don't cry so much, in fact, I haven't felt a big need to cry much at all.  Sure, I've broken down a few times, and those times have been major, but they've also been rare.  I expected many more tears.

I think that she had Alzheimer's made a difference for me.  It's as if I started accepting the loss before her death.  Life had become learning how to adjust to her stages.   I kept a running list in my head of things that I believed she would want to talk about and questions to ask her in the hopes that I could help keep her engaged as much as possible.  Daddy and I had decided we'd do this long ago.  I told her about work and quilting projects, chatted about "the girls" (my sisters) and their families, prayed the rosary, discussed anything that I thought might hold her interest.  Eventually, we talked to her even when we knew she wasn't listening.  She'd fade out and stare into space, which made telling a story rather difficult, but it didn't matter.  We continued the story and when she came back and glassiness in her eyes had cleared, we'd retell the story, or answer her question, or just change the subject.  What mattered was keeping her in the here and now as much as possible for as long as possible.  

Maybe that's where I picked up this crazy habit I have of talking to myself--out loud.  I've found that even now students will look at me funny or ask me what I'm talking about.  I just tell them the truth--I talk to myself.  Strangely, they've come to accept it as one of my idiosyncrasies.  Oh well, I haven't had to explain my habit.  

Of course, saying I don't cry much and writing this without crying, are two different things.  I could not hope to get through a few minutes of thinking about her without some tears.  But surprisingly, someone who can't think in quiet, can cry in silence.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Autumn Splendor of the Natural Kind

For some reason people seem to think that Louisiana doesn't much in the way of fall color.  Maybe that's because we get it, like any other place, after the first hard frost or light freeze.  For us, that's often around the Thanksgiving holidays.  This year is no different.  In the last week or so, I've admired the beauty in my own yard and decided to share it with my friends.  These trees have already begun dropping their leaves, but enough are clinging to the limbs to give you an idea of what you'd see driving up to our home.

I really like the way this photo looks--the green is a limb from a live oak tree that gives a beautiful contrast against the yellows and golds of the ornamental pear.

Then next few photos are of berries that the birds haven't gotten.  The first two are of the pyracantha bushes along the drive.  The sad little purple berries are the last of the beauty berries.  Apparently the birds didn't think to look way in the back of the bush!

And these last photos are of the camellia (japonica) flowers against my studio.  The white camellia is just bursting in flowers, while the pink and red are taking their time opening up one or two at a time.  They are all beautiful and really brighten up the back of our house.

Hope you enjoyed our yard as much as we do!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Or Blue Monday

What a great week I'm expecting.  I got into the studio and finished up some mending I'd promised.  My goal is to finish all the little jobs I've promised so that when I get home on Friday to begin the Christmas holidays, I'll be able to work on some quilts!  So far, Catherine's little flower girl dress is resized and ready to return.  I made a throw pillow for my Secret Santa gift--a beauty in cream-colored silk dupioni with the family initial appliqued in a milk chocolatey brown.  And finally, I've started on Marley's little zebra print onesie that I promised before Christmas.  Otherwise, all is quiet except for the hum of my little Bernina 440.

And now, on Tuesday, I've finished Dusti's zebra print/hot pink scarf (with pockets).  Marley's onesie just needs a hem, but I need Marley in it first.  I have no idea what length she needs, so I cut it long knowing that I'll likely have to cut it down some.  It shouldn't take long tomorrow to finish that up, then I'll have to spend some big time on cleaning and putting things away.  What a mess I have!  I can't handle the clutter, so that's on the top of the To Do List!

Richard ordered a new belt for the Innova long arm, and I was hoping that it would be in so that I could sew during the holidays, but that was wishful thinking.  It's backordered and will take weeks to come in.  So, I'll have to be content with sewing tops and working on the stained glass quilt that I promised to QuiltCampus for a class.  I can quilt that on the Bernina, thank goodness.

Happy Holidays to everyone.  May you have a blessed and cheerful Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Just any Thursday night

I got the last two of the jumpers finished.  They didn't need much: ribbon and buttons.  Now that they are all finished, I plan to work on two projects: a onesie dress for Marley and a scarf with pockets for Dusti.  Jenny and Stacey both came by with fabric and ideas.  The strange thing though is that they had the exact same zebra print with hot pink trim.  It's not a huge surprise since zebra and hot pink are the big thing now, but it was a bit of a surprise that they shopped at different times and in different stores but still bought fabric from the Timeless Treasures line.  I may have to make something for  the other three girls and take a photo of everyone dressed in black/white/hot pink.  It would make a really cute picture.

One last thing to report is that I got my fabric from Connecting Threads.  I'm so excited to think about working with it.  I have tons of strips and hope to make a bargello quilt.  It will be my first bargello but I'm not very worried.  It should be fun to play and experiment.  I've looked for a few easy patterns and found tons of stuff on the internet.  There are so many sites with patterns and tutorials that it would be impossible to list them all.  Instead, here are a few that I found and plan to revisit later when I am ready to choose a pattern:

There are also two sites I often visit for info: and both have great  tutorials.  Googling "bargello quilt patterns" will net you hundreds of images of beautiful bargello quilts.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Immaculate Conception Eve

Raced home from work, finished up the "carpe diem" pillow that I started yesterday for a customer, then shot off to mass for tomorrow's Holy Day of Obligation and for the soul of my poor momma.  We have three masses this week for her, but I am able to make just the one here.  

The pillow came out very nice.  While stitching it up, I had the idea to make one with a single letter for my Secret Santa gift.  When we fill out the little form, we're supposed to give the person who pulls the name some ideas for Christmas gifts.  I didn't get so lucky: the slip I got had two hints: chocolate and diet coke.  Not a lot of info there!  I sure hope she likes pillows.  I've decided to make a fancy letter in a pretty, curvy calligraphic way.  I sneaked into her office and looked around.  The office is filled with classical, formal decor, so I'll assume that's her style.  I teach her son, so I can probe for colors.  Since this pillow didn't take very long, I can get one made this weekend......just in time for our Christmas party this week.  This photo is of the pillow I whipped up last night and today.  I'll ship it in the morning.

Not that it's so easy to see, but the blue fabric is covered in small yellow, gold, and brown clocks, globes, and  timepieces.  I love it.....seize the day while resting on time.  Yeah, it's either nerdy or corny, I just can't decide which one!

Monday, December 6, 2010

December beginnings

Now that Thanksgiving festivies and fooding are over, I'm starting to recover from my sewing spree of making jumpers for the two little ones.  Marley got her jumpers yesterday and Caki will get hers this weekend.  The mommas and I went shopping on Black Friday and picked up enough fabric to make each of the girls four jumpers.  They'll match since I purchased a yard of each fabric but that wasn't the reason for the large pieces, it was just easier to choose the same fabrics for both girls and cheaper to purchase enough for two dresses since it takes less yardage that way.  The three dresses above are Caki's.  There's one more but it's not quite finished.  The photo below is of my practice jumper on its little darling.  I had no idea where to start, so I started in the middle--size 4 was way too big for these little sweeties.  I ended up using sizes 1/2 and 1. I hope to make a few more to add to my Etsy shop. 

Today I raced home to work on another Carpe Diem pillow since I sold a second one on the Etsy site.  Obviously the lady I traded with during the holidays did not "purchase" her pillow although I shipped it based on her promise to make the purchase and give me a good review.  Anyway, since she didn't make the purchase, the pillow remained on the site, for sale.  And I made a sale!  So, instead of disappointing a customer, I decided to make another one.  I've cut out the pillow form and the letters and adhered them to the fabric.  Tomorrow I'll finish up the pillow and box it up.  It will get shipped on Wednesday, if all goes well.

This weekend I'd love to work on the newest quilt project.....a disappearing four patch that I'm making with batiks.  It looks so difficult but it's absolutely simple.  Stitch up a four patch and then cut it twice in a straight line in both directions and move the new pieces around.  I'll post a few pics so that you can see how simple and fast this block is.  I'm loving the look and texture that the batiks give.  I've had these five inch squares for a while.  I bought them at Aunt Nell's in Tioga but didn't have enough for a large quilt, so I just left them alone.  The last trip to Borne Quilter in Lafayette gained me a few yards of neutral cream-colored batik--perfect to calm down the squares and tie everything together.  If I have to purchase more fabric (let's hope not!) I'm going to buy more of a beautiful purpley-blue that is just stunning and use it for borders or to make a couple of blocks that I'll scatter around the quilt.  I think I have enough but if not, I've got a plan.  It's a good thing the LQS keeps batiks in stock.  Most of my four patches are already sewn.  It won't take terribly long to cut and sew them up.  I can't wait to see the whole top, but I've got to finish some of these smaller projects first.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Photos of Autumn Splendor

Thanksgiving Eve

What a good day for sewing!  I finished the "Autumn Splendor" quilt that I'd started quilting just before mom passed away.  It turned out much prettier than I expected.  The colors are gorgeous and the leaf fabric in the center of the blocks really pulls everything together.  I sewed the top a couple of years ago and put it aside for when I'd finally get a long-arm.  I had sort of forgotten what it looks like, just remembered that it wasn't one of my favorites.  I guess that's because I got tired of it long before it was finished.  In the end, it's not a bad quilt at all!

This afternoon I stitched up another jumper for Marley.  She's definitely a size 1 and very cute in her little jumper.  Jenny picked up some flannel this afternoon, so tomorrow I will make a jumper for Catherine and, if there's time before we start dinner for everyone, I will stitch up the two dresses with the fabric Jenn bought.  Then this weekend I'll make a couple more dresses for Cakibug.

Finally, I spent a little time on the computer and found a couple of interesting quilting blogs that I now follow.  These are hosted by quilters from the Quilting Board, which I've been reading for some time now.  In fact, today I earned the title "a regular here" on the board.  That means my LAQ information will appear on the QB for others to contact me for long arm quilting services.  Hopefully I pick up a little extra work through the QB.

Nope, not a bad day at all!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Measure twice.....

Yeah, so I decided to make a cute dress for my granddaughter.  Only I had no idea what size she wears, how much she weighs, or how tall she has gotten.  I just know what she looks like.  Apparently that is not enough.  Maybe I'm just a bad judge of how big a pattern will be after it's sewn.  Any-hoo, the dress is too big.  Way too big.  Huge too big.  It will fit a kid three years older than she is.  Oh well, maybe it will fit someone else's granddaughter.

She liked it though.  The corduroy fabric has little teddy bears all over.  It's got a bit of a Christmas feel to it since the bears are wearing green or red striped shirts.  The jumper has a pocket on the front, and I added a little stuffed bear from fabric scraps to a length of ribbon and attached it so it can sleep in the pocket when she's not playing with it, and it won't get lost or dropped when she does play with it.  Lot of good that did.  She didn't even discover the teddy.

It's fine in the end.  I'll make another dress tomorrow three sizes smaller and we'll see how that goes.  If I can figure out what size to use, I may be able to figure out what size to use for the next granddaughter.  My hope is to make each one a matching jumper so they can take pictures together and be even cuter than usual.

Also today I worked on the "Autumn Splendor" quilt that I'd quilted last week.  I've finished the quilting and begun the binding.  Tomorrow I should be able to finish the binding since I've decided to machine it completely.  I read a post on the Quilt Board about machine stitching the binding.  Since I've used this method before, I decided to use it again to save time.  I enjoy hand stitching but there's not likely to be much time for that with the Thanksgiving holidays happening.  And on that happy note: Happy Thanksgiving to my dear readers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Penny for the Sweeper

Okay, so I started out the day very late.  Then decided that before I started another project, I had to clean house.  There were pieces of threads, bits of fabric, chunks of dirt, interfacing, and torn paper all over the place.  I swept, picked up, put away, and cleaned for about two hours.  The studio looks much better, but it wouldn't hurt to put away a few more items.  How does the place get this way?  Then my ADD/OCD kicked in, and I tweezered thread from the wheels of my chair.  I do that about once or twice a year, or the thread gets so thick that the chair won't roll.  I like being able to scoot from the machine to the ironing board to the work table and back.  It wasn't enough to just get the big stuff out....I had to pick every piece of thread and the strands of hair that wind themselves around the inside of the wheels.  I can swish past the ironing board in one little push now!  Of course, it means I didn't get much sewing done.  So tomorrow I'm going in and something's gonna give.  I'm not coming out till something is complete!  Done!

I'll let you know how that resolve goes :-)