Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wrestling the Alligator

And let me tell you, this alligator had teeth!

Phase 2 of my Christmas star started out well enough - I made my quilt sandwich and trimmed everything to size, and while I was playing with which way I wanted to orient my star (on point or traditional lone star position, center or offset) inspiration struck: why not take a couple of my leftover diamonds, and make it a *shooting* star - that would eliminate the need for fussy placement tactics, right?

Right. So I played with the layout a bit, and then pinned my star in place. I set my pins perpendicular to the edges of the star rather than parallel (as the instructions had shown) mostly because it was hard to manipulate them into a parallel position while keeping the quilt flat. And... enter the problem(s).

First off, I (in my infinite wisdom), had selected Quilter's Dream Deluxe loft batting for the center of my quilt. It's a gorgeous batting, and great to cuddle under, but it's also *heavy.* Which was the intent - I want a nice winter quilt that goes to Colorado to have some heft to it - but I hadn't considered how that would interact with my walking foot. Also, it's pretty thick, so when I added it, plus a back and front, plus 2-4 layers of star fabric depending on how many folds were under the seam at the time, the long story short was, my walking foot did a lot of slipping and inopportune backwards-grabbing while trying to advance the quilt by itself. Sigh.

Also, I work off a little Janome DC2007LE which I love, but which only has maybe a 6" throat. And of course, when you're quilting with a walking foot direction matters. So trying to rotate the quilt around its tiny axis - and shove it through that throat as I worked - well, it wasn't working out for me. Especially when you consider I had all those pins in there, making it both bulky AND poke-y. I had to stop twice for fear of bleeding on my quilt. Oops.

Eventually I had to give up quilting with the walking foot (which wasn't really saving any time anyway) in favor of free-motion quilting with straight lines. Which... I don't think is anyone's idea of efficiency, or a good time; but it did work out better for me. The tradeoff in straight lines was well worth the increase in my sanity.

Quilting the straight lines for the "star echoes" and the shooting star effect was trivial by comparison; And I was very VERY glad to zoom through that after all the trouble the star had caused on my still-on-a-deadline project. So while I may have bled for my art - literally - now I have the quilt quilted and two weeks to bind it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sliding One In

I *should* know better than to give myself a deadline. And yet, Pretty Fabric + Online class in Angles + Christmas Quilt Hint from Sister In Law = more than my quilty brain can handle. I had to dive in. I'm not quite sure whether this started with my unhealthy infatuation with Robert Kaufman's Holiday Flourish Line at my LQS (see below)

Or with my love of the "Emerge" Quilt from the "Angled" Class I recently took at Stitched in Color:

and honestly, maybe it was a little of both. But they just fit so well together! And, since I'm itching to practice the skills taught in my online class, it seems there's no time like the present. I cut this out and put it on my design wall last week....

And this week the lone star is pieced. I got carried away during the piecing process, and made an entire star. Next up is making my "quilt sandwich" and attaching my star to it, per the class instructions.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Birthday Shirt

I've been pretty excited about this labor of love for a while. Little A turns 2 this month, and for her pumpkin-patch themed birthday, I sewed her a lovingly-made-by-mom shirt!

The pattern is ModKid Kyoko, and the Pumpkin "feature" fabric is Joyful Harvest by Sandy Lynam Clough for Red Rooster Fabrics, purchased at In Between Stitches. Later, I added the two coordinating fabrics from my favorite local quilt shop.

It took me 4 days worth of on-and-off sewing to complete this project (including homemade bias tape). Full credit goes to ModKid for putting together an instructive and easy-to-follow pattern.

A wore it for the first time to her 2-year photo shoot last Thursday, and then again to her birthday party on Sunday. She got lots of compliments!

As for me, I am - as always - one proud Momma. But now I'm a proud momma with a cute kid AND a cute shirt to my name.

Go me. And onward to the next project I go.

Linking up with Linky Tuesday and Sew Cute Tuesday.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dreaming of a Quilted Christmas

I'm not normally one for projects in grocery stacks, projects on hiatus, projects in "deep stash" or, as one of my sewist friends likes to call them, "projects in time out." Typically I like to work my projects systematically, three at a time with one in each of the following stages: quilting, piecing, and binding, because I am like that. But for three years now, Christmas Traditions has been the exception. 

When I first fell in love with this quilt in Best Quilts for Christmas 2011, I had never paper pieced, and I'd never tried any applique - but, that didn't stop me from buying the fabric. It just gave me a to-do list of things to learn. I completed the paper piecing for this project in 2011 - my first paper piecing project ever - and the applique blocks followed in 2013 as one of the first quilty projects I picked up after my daughter was born. 

It wasn't until this year that I got brave enough to tackle the assembly, but this summer I made it a goal; I'd spent too long on this project not to enjoy the end results. I was FINISHING this thing. So, it gives me great joy (and relief!) to announce that Christmas Traditions is pieced! 

My favorite aspect is, of course the feature fabric itself:  J. Wecker Frish put together a lovely panel that showcases different Christmas trees throughout the centuries, from 1500 until now. That art serves as the heart of the quilt, and was what drew me to this design in the first place.

I'm also pretty proud of the borders, which are pieced but look continuous due to some clever seam placement.  I had seen this technique before on the internet, but never actually tried it until now. It's actually pretty straightforward - find the same feature on two consecutive repeats of fabric,  draw a line through both, and then add a seam allowance to each half and combine - but having to combine from 2 different bolts where the pattern had been printed at different levels of skew added a bit of a challenge.

And of course, for the curious, here's a close-up of both my paper piecing and my applique, click to enlarge either photo. 

This quilt top measures in at around 62 x 78, and next up is piecing the back. Then it's on to quilting (which I expect to be a *long* stage with this one - no sense in pouring so much effort into the top only to ruin it with lousy quilting, right?), and binding. But I can't say I'm not pleased to have the top done. It's a beautiful top, and so many years in the making, I cannot help but be proud.

As for displaying it this Christmas, well.. probably not likely,  but a quilter can dream. Right?

Linking to FreeMotion by the River's Linky Tuesday and Freshly Pieced's WIP Wednesday

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Hand Stitched Hug

One of the challenges when making a quilt for someone who reads my quilt blog is keeping mum on the project until it is time to reveal the quilt. But this weekend, I got to give this one to its new owner in person. So without further ado, introducing... ConVivial Company.

This quilt is designated for my new niece, Vivian, who is just under 6 months old. I drew the colors from my Sister-in-law's description of her nursery - Browns, greens, blues and "just enough pink so people can tell she's a girl," 

For the fabrics, I went to my local quilt shop and picked out a fun bird-and-dragonfly print from Wren and Friends by Gina Martin. The other octagons (and the sashing) are all pulled from the colors of that feature fabric (ie, the ones my SIL indicated). The idea for the Octagons came from an issue of Fresh Quilts Magazine, but of course I had to move things around and change the dimensions to suit my tastes.

For the backing, I fell in love with a gorgeous wooded print from my LQS, and paired that with two more fabrics from the Wren and Friends collection.

I quilted the brown sashing with big FMQ loops. And for the first time ever, I've used big hand stitching in Perle Cotton to quilt the octagons. I'd really wanted them to stand out, so I followed a tutorial from my friend Amanda over at the Cozy Pumpkin. I actually really enjoyed the hand-stitiching process (which took many sessions to complete), leading me to think of Bert's line in "Mary Poppins" when he declares Veronica, Millicent, Agnes and Jane "convivial company, time and again"

That said, despite the timesink, I am pleased with the results. For the binding I chose a fun Chevron print, which I think adds just the right pop of color.

But after the hand-stitched Octagons, I think the thing I am most proud of on this quilt is the label. My Sister-in-law treasures things with a legacy (My niece will be christened in her father's Christening gown, she went home from the hospital in the same yellow footie her mother did, for example), so I want to make sure that this quilt's history is never lost, no matter how many times it is handed down.

Using a scrap from the sashing and the same Perle cotton I used for the quilting, I have dedicated the quilt to my niece, as well as "signed" and dated it. It's attached with both fusible and a hand blanket stitch, which I hope will give it staying power well into the future

But as for the now? Well... now it's time hand over the quilt! It's hard parting with something I've put so much love and effort into, but fortunately, it has been well received. Enjoy your quilt for years to come, sweet Vivian!

Think of it as a hand stitched hug from your Auntie.

Linking up with Linky Tuesday and Sew Cute Tuesday.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Star Wars Game Mat

My  husband is incredibly supportive of my quilting, whether it be letting me run to the fabric store on short notice, giving a quick (or no so quick) color consult, or rearranging his chores so I can spend an entire Saturday making buntings for a quilt show. So, when he asks for something, I listen. 


My husband is a big fan of the Star Wars X-wing Miniatures Game, and one of the things he has yet to collect is a playing mat. Typically, the game is played on a 36" x 36" area, which is set of dimensions I as a quilter am quite familiar with. So one day he asks me if *I* can make one, and obviously the answer is "of course." Enter... the Star Wars Game Mat.

I already had some Star Wars themed fabric left over from my Star Wars Quilt a few years ago, and my husband and after some looking online, we found this beautiful Smithsonian Logo Print at  Equilter and ordered it.

I used the space-themed fabric for the front, and the Star Wars fabric for the back. I did add just a *thin* layer of batting to the board, so my stitches would lay nice, but rather than bind it I sewed all three layers together at the outside and then turned it.

It's a little hard to see my quilting (black thread on a black background will do that to you), but I decided to go with concentric squares at ever increasing intervals. So the first square is 4", the second is 6.5", the third is 9.5" and so on. I added diagonal lines to help with centering the larger squares, liked the look so much I ended up adding vertical and horizontal centerlines for good measure. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the effect: it was simple and fast to do, and has the look of an X-wing Aiming sight.

He's going to try at it his game night next Tuesday, and perhaps I will get some pictures of it in action then.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Colorful Weekend

Nothing says "time to complete old projects" like a new project with a deadline, right? My local quilt guild is having their biannual show this year October, and I am a little bummed because I don't have any eligible quilts this time around.  But, they've asked each member to make two 6" by 8" bunting flags, and I figure that's my chance to be represented.

Of course, the guild is calling for flags in certain Kona colors, and I have been working on a manipulable color card since I took a Color Intensive class in February. So, Item #1 was, complete that. 

Which I did!

Luckily, my daughter picked that day to have a near insatiable appetite for "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic," So I had enough time to cut out and attach all the greens, browns, whites and blacks to my poster board in pretty much one sitting.  Which then meant I could use my own color card to see the required palette. 

It was actually quite fun to "audition" all my fabrics against the swatches. And I was surprised to see what things actually "read" as the recommended color when I put the swatch in the center. Here's the full assortment of viable candidates, all from my stash.

And my down-select color schemes for the buntings.

I wanted to reference some of my recent quilts with my buntings, so I chose design elements from "Winnie the Pooh" for one flag, and from my upcoming WIP for the other.

The "Blue Sun" bunting flag is made out of scraps from Winnie the Pooh, and used a modified version of that quilt's cornerstone block. Scraps from my upcoming WIP didn't match the color scheme of the assignment at all, so I had free rein to choose from everything else. I started out with the green and the orange (Kumquat and Pear) from scraps, but at the last second I added the grey from an upcoming project to help soften the look. Both are paper pieced in order to protect the designs.

All of this was done in one very hectic weekend while my husband was working. So, I owe my daughter big time. Fortunately, she was a really good sport about it (and about going to the babysitter for a few hours on Saturday). Then again, perhaps she too enjoyed our weekend of color.