Friday, August 23, 2019

pink and navy and an improv question


Do you remember this Stella Grande quilt I pieced and sandwiched two years ago? Unfortunately, it’s still in the “to be quilted” queue. But even though it’s not complete, it already has a baby! Projects beget projects in my world. Originally, I tried working this gold pinstriped fabric into the hsts of the border, but I didn’t like the way it looked.


So I had a whole bunch of hsts leftover after I made the quilt. And several 6.5” solid colored squares, too. I was going to simply alternate the solid squares with the hsts and make a nice, structured baby quilt out of the culled pieces and leftovers.


But . . . 
On a whim I decided to make a larger quilt by incorporating other pieces of scraps from the original Guys and Dolls quilt, placing them in rows, piecing in an improv fashion.

At t first I wasn’t sure if the hsts would work in an improv setting. I don’t know why, maybe because I feel like improv is wonky or not structured? That can certainly be an element of it, but it isn’t the only way to improv. 

Which led me to ponder the question:

How do I define improv?

Does it mean no straight cuts with a ruler? Or does it just mean random placement? Does it have to be wonky?

In the end I think I decided that improv meant making things up as I go. I consider the Cheery quilt to be improv because it follows a basic design idea, but each individual block is made up as I’m creating it. You can plan for improv, but I feel like improv has more to do with making design decisions in the process rather than following a pattern. 

I’d love to hear what any readers think about improv, so please let me know in the comments. 


And the answer to my concern:

Yes, hsts can absolutely be part of an improv quilt.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

gypsy child blocks


I’ve been tackling the trimming of 500+ 3” hsts for this beloved project a couple at a time. The project is beloved - the trimming is not. But I do it because it helps me with accuracy when I put the blocks together and I want that for this project.

I had enough of the blocks trimmed that I decided to begin assembling some. My current plan of attack is to make 16 patch blocks rather than assembling in rows. With all the tiny pieces and seams, I feel like rows would leave a lot more room for distortion as I work with the pieces over and over, which is why I’m doing it in blocks.  So far, so good!

I try to at least trim a few hsts every day. If I have a fair amount of time, I can get one patch worth of hsts trimmed and put into a block. I have been using Suzy Quilts tutorial for chain piecing a quilt to assemble the blocks. Same general concept, just a lot smaller than a whole quilt. It’s working great.


I’m trying not to put too much time and thought into the placement of the hsts, but I am trying to keep them mostly spread out and mixed, so it’s been helpful to put the blocks on a design wall. Even though I have one full wall in my sewing space devoted to a huge design wall, it’s completely covered with several projects already (I’m looking at you, Gypsy Wife). Fortunately, I found a different space for this project that’s working. I can’t get the full width of the project visible on it at once, but it’s helping anyway as I lay out a few blocks. You can see I’ve got 6 blocks done already, and I need 22 more.

I have this one funky piece of design wall that is thinner than the other two from my main wall. At one point when I first got it, I just threw a really large batting scrap up on it, which only ended up covering about 2/3 of the foam core piece. It never stood well on its own because it was thin and wobbly, so it didn’t make a good portable design wall. I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I reorganized my room several months ago. I ended up putting it on a small, unused bit of wall between the doors and my fabric shelves. There is actually a small gap of an inch or two between the shelves and the door wall, so I was able to slide the design board into that gap. The uncovered part is back behind the shelves and the covered part fits perfectly next to the door. It was a great use of the space. My daughter’s sewing machine and table is right in front of it, so I was going to let her use it, but I’ve kind of annexed it already.

I’m really happy to see this project come together and turning into a quilt a block at a time!

Little quilting chores make for big quilting finishes.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

cheery


in february, as i was falling asleep one night, i dreamed up a new quilt concept. i don't think i've ever posted about my "cheery" quilt here. the idea was sort of a mash-up of two projects i'd seen on IG that inspired me:


the colors of this log cabin block by jenna valoe


and the skinny frames and layout of this quilt by ashley at film in the fridge.

the idea was to make the centers yellow and work in an improv manner to make frames of various sizes and with a few blocks that broke all the rules, in a color palette similar to the one jenna used, but with some electric blue and bright magenta pink, and maybe darker ochre tones, too.

it was a very unusual palette choice for me and i couldn't figure out why i was interested in it, but it got a hold of me and i went with it. the vibe feels like the 80's and my childhood; very Rainbow Brite like.

however, once i started working on it, i nixed the electric blues (good-bye Rainbow Brite), preferring a softer feel.


when d3 saw it, she said, "are you making an easter quilt?" that's when i realized it does have an easter feel to it. the trimmings looks a lot like some easter basket grass. the colors remind me of a kevin henke's book we have about a little boy mouse who is completely enomoured with the yellow marshmallo chick he gets in his easter basket, which makes it another easter connection.

while i did start this well before easter, it did not get completed for easter or any spring at all. i had to set it aside for my many handwork projects and summer travels.


sidenote - i found this photo of me working on the quilt (in my pilates clothes) that shows me driving the machine goofy-footed. i sometimes have problems with my right knee and was experimenting with using my left foot on the foot pedal. it worked out just fine. i was surprised how ambidextrous my feet were for sewing. however, i noticed i was also standing my right foot on point whenever i used my left foot to sew, which doesn't make any difference for my knee. so i'm back to sewing with my right most of the time since i can't seem to remember to keep my foot down if it's not driving.

a home-ec moment: was making a trim on one side of a frame and knicked the neighboring piece, which didn't need any trimming. ugh. i had to do some extensive make-up work to fix both pieces after that. it provided a chance to work on my partial-seam skills. yay.


i'm making 11" blocks (except when i forget and trim them down smaller and then have to enlarge them). the plan is to size the quilt in a 5x6 block grid, which will be 55"x65".

i was going to make all the center squares really large and the colored frames skinny, like ashley's quilt, but i didn't want it to be overwhelmingly yellow, so i began playing with more width in the colored frames. it's completely random. i start with a square, add on one frame of whatever width i cut, and then add one or two more until the block is the size i need.


i've snuck a few monochromatic prints into the mix, just for fun. they also add to the easter feel of the quilt.


i call this an improv quilt because i don't have a set plan for it, rather a general formula.

basically, these are what i call "frames blocks," when you have a large center square and make a few frames around it. i think technically they could be considered "courthouse steps blocks," maybe? i don't know if courthouse steps blocks traditionally have certain dimensions to their steps or not. that would, i suppose, be the difference from my "frames." but in construction method, they are the same as courthouse steps.

another improv element - i've been throwing a few extra bits in at different places; like when i need to make a strip for a frame longer add another color in there, or when i vary the color of width of one strip in the frame. stuff like that.

so that's my "cheery (easter) quilt."
i've got 14 of the 30 needed blocks done.
since we got home from summer travels last week, i have been making one or two blocks a day in the afternoon before i get dinner going. they are adding up nicely.

Friday, July 12, 2019

groovy summer love letters goes to the beach


this quilt was destined for the beach and for the land of golden summers - california.

i completed the binding while on a trip to california earlier this summer and was afforded the rare opportunity of photographing it in the appropriate environment for a quilt called "groovy summer love letters."


the name came from the fabric line most of the quilt is composed of, "summer love" by bari j for art gallery fabrics, and the inclusion of a few squares of this script text print that reminded me of love letters. i thought the fabrics had a groovy, funky vibe to them, so when all those elements rolled around in my head together, it became "groovy summer love letters."


i included coordinating pieces of other fabric lines from my stash along with the "summer love" prints to round them out and make the quilt larger. i even worked a few precious scraps of my beloved "antique flower" print from julia rothman's "miscellany" line for cloud9 fabrics. and "hop dot" by heather bailey is here, too. that makes this portion of the quilt a favorite spot.


the fort ord dunes state park where i photographed this quilt was an absolute treasure trove of scenes and spots for taking the photos. i felt like my quilt was in its native element. and fortunately for me, the beach sand is grainy rather than the super-fine variety that gets into everything and never leaves, so i had one less worry about the quilt staying out of the sand.


another special corner of the quilt. the pink floral (carina gardner for riley blake fabrics, i think) is almost identical to a sun dress my three younger girls wore. the yellow and pink floral is another print i adore and have used quite a lot. it's from bonnie christine's "sweet as honey" line for art gallery fabrics.



these are two prints from "summer love" that i especially liked. the bead string print would have made a good binding if i had had more of it.




my 15 year old son took a break from dune jumping and sand play to bring me this flower he found. he said all the rest where yellow and this one bud was pink, so he brought it especially for me. so sweet, particularity at his age.


i had quite a hard time selecting a binding for this quilt. i auditioned several from stash, but all the blues were off or there were other issues with the prints that were the right colors. finally, about a month ago i looked on etsy to see if any fabrics from the "love letters" line were still available. there were three and this is the one i selected as the best option. i like how it coordinates with the quilt and blends in without making itself too prominent. i do wish it had less white in it as i feel whites in a binding get dingy. overall, i'm just fine with it.



i never did get the perfect shot in my head with the coastline in the background, partly because of the wind, partly because of the people on the beach. the lighting was also a challenge for this angle at this time of day. we were there about 90 minutes before sunset, which made for some beautiful golden light, but it was definitely at an angle that didn't always light the quilt.


the wind was helpful in getting some flowy, moving shots of the back of the quilt rather than a static, head-on pose. i really love the back of this quilt. when i love a back as much or maybe more than the front, i know i've nailed it.


some more special bits: the "madrona road" apricot floral and an old art gallery ditsy print favorite that i parted with.



that early evening sun accentuated the quilting design and quilt texture very nicely.


if you are ever in the monterey bay, ca, area, whether you have a quilt to photograph or not, do make a stop at the ford ord dunes state park. it's not a swimming beach because of the treacherous riptides there, but it is an absolutely lovely location for wave watching and sand play or just strolling. the vegetation and little canyon that line the walk to the beach are wondrous in their own right.

this quilt has now been placed in its new home with my husband's paternal grandmother, who lives nearby. i look forward to visiting the dunes and the quilt again when we make our annual trek to grandma's house, where it's invariably a beautiful summer no matter what time of year.

Friday, July 5, 2019

california quilting mood


part of my summer travels have taken me along the california coast from santa barbara to monterey, to deliver a daughter and friends to a church youth conference (efy) and to spend time with my husband's grandmother. the scenes were pretty, the weather was a divine break from our desert summer temperatures. i took two quilts along with me for handwork opportunities.

while in santa barbara, i laid "groovy summer love letters" out on the hotel bed for some added hominess to the room. i've never done that before because i don't usually travel with large quilts. but this one only needed the binding finished and i was hoping to get a beach shot of it when it was done, so it went along for the trip.

the quilt looked nice with the colors of the hotel room and in the sunlight pouring in, so i took a shot of it to post on instagram, but didn't do that til a day or two later. that's when i learned fellow quilter gina (party of eight) and i had been in the same hotel at the same time! if you read the comments in the IG post, you'll see us discover this. it's still blowing my mind whenever i think about it.

the rest of this post is mostly scenes from california interspersed with me working on the quilt. and then a bit on when the quilt's destiny made a large departure from my original intent.

goleta county peach park pier



santa barbara mission





stitching on the road

monterey bay aquarium

fort ord dunes beach park
sitting in grandpa's recliner and working on the quilt
at some point during our visit at grandma's house, a place i've been going to for nearly a quarter of a century, i realized that the colors of the quilt fit in pretty well with grandma's decor of pinks, blues, and tans. and i just decided it actually belonged with her and that house.

i've been working on this quilt for at least 3 years. i fell in love/became obsessed with the inspiration quilt made by jolene of blue elephant stitches long before that and ordered a fat quarter set of the "summer love" fabrics, by bari j for art gallery fabrics, online so i could make my own version of the quilt, which i enlarged and supplemented with coordinating bits from my stash. so many leftover pieces of fabrics i loved went into this quilt because i fully intended to keep it for myself. my oldest daughter was also very partial to it.

however . . .

as usually happens with on-line orders, when the fabrics were actually in my hands, i found some of them didn't appeal to me as much as others. it's pretty rare i am in love with every single print in a fabric line, so this wasn't much of a surprise. i ditched a few of the prints entirely and included some i was feeling "meh" about at the time but thought i could live with.

interestingly enough, those handful of "meh" prints have been grating on my sensibilities as of late and i was less in love with the quilt over the last several months than i had originally been. ever since i completed the quilting on it earlier this year, it's been folded and draped on a couch in my piano room. as long as i folded it so i saw the fabrics i loved most, i was okay with it. i figured i would eventually give it to my oldest daughter if she still liked it when she got home from her volunteer work in europe this fall.

but when inspiration hit me at grandma's house, i knew my daughter wouldn't mind her great-gran having this quilt and because of the way i'd been feeling if-y about it myself, i was able to let it go. the truth is i don't part with my quilts easily. quilts for my kids stay in my home and i have no problem with that. but i have given away very few other quilts, except for baby quilts. the reasons for that are complicated and will make another post sometime.

suffice it to say, i wanted to give this one to grandma and i was emotionally in a place i could and would do that despite my former attachment to it. in fact, i marvel at how the timing of everything along this quilt's journey into being led to it being finished here at this time so that i would know it was meant for her. i hope she gets to enjoy it for a while yet to come. at 86 she's still quite active and in good health. she intends to live up to her older sister's 96 years, and i think she has a very good chance of doing so!

i have to say i like this way of gifting quilts much better than having a deadline and feeling guilty about not completing something for several years! perhaps i would have chosen fabrics for it a bit differently if i'd known i wasn't keeping it, but that's alright. it's a special experience to realize a quilt was meant for someone else all along.


grandma has always been a devout presbyterian, so i like that the plus pattern of the quilt could be viewed as crosses. that's just one more element that makes it fit her. she seemed pleased with the quilt. she didn't say a whole lot, but she did appear to be touched with the gift. it was the right thing to do and i'm glad i did it. no regrets.

in case you were wondering if i ever got those beach shots with the quilt - i did.
that'll be another post soon.

Monday, July 1, 2019

book vs quilt


summer is in full swing. in fact, by some accounts, it's half over. not me; i've still got 2 months left before settling down to normal again. i didn't expect to have a chance to blog at all with everything we've got planned, but i find myself in a bit of a lull for the week, so here i am to report on "how i spent my summer (so far)."

in early june we had a nice beach vacation with extended family in the punta de mita/puerto vallarta area of mexico. i brought along two leisure options: a book and a quilt. seeing as the light beach reading i chose was war and peace, and the quilt needs a lot of handquilting, i have two very extensive projects to get me through the summer. my plans for the quilt are to handquilt along the inside of all the triangles, so it's going to be a lot more involved than my previous handquilting endeavors. i'm curious to see which takes longer: epic classic russian novel or miles of handquilting.


the book was mostly winning while in mexico. i got about 400 pgs in during the first few days.

our room had a nice sunny corner with a comfy seat that i did occasionally quilt in when the light was good in the afternoons.and when i didn't feel like reading. but the book was definitely winning in mexico.


when i knew we'd be staying at a location that would be conducive to photographing quilts, i looked over my projects to see if i could complete one there and shoot in on the trip. but nothing seemed a good fit. so i just brought along "mildred and ethel" because it required no marking. i didn't want to lug along my quilting ruler and hera marker.

however, once we were in mexico and i was eating fresh guacamole and chips on the daily (almost every meal, actually), i realized "mildred and ethel" has a certain mexican vibe after all! i hadn't thought of the green crossweave fabric in terms of avocado yet, but it certainly is a wonderful 70's avocado green. yum. i might just get a craving every time i see the quilt from now on.


when mexico was over and done with, i got a few days at home before i was off further up the pacific coast to the santa barbara, ca area with a daughter and group of high school girls. once again i was on a beach with book and quilt to occupy me while i chaperoned the girls everywhere.

by this time i was 700 pgs in and only a few lines of quilting done. book still winning.


however, my mood shifted and i started getting a lot more quilting done in my spare moments. probably because i was having to stop and start a lot. it's easier to do with stitching than reading.

then i made a big mistake: i took the book with me to the pool one afternoon instead of the quilt. i say mistake because i found out a few days later that i had been in the same hotel as an online quilting friend, possibly at the pool at the same time, and we didn't discover it until a few days later. gina (party of eight) and i have been casual internet quilt friends for more than 5 years and randomly being in the same california town, much less the same hotel, never crossed my mind. but when i posted a photo from the hotel, she commented that she had been staying there the same day! it was like something from the twilight zone or something - too weird and crazy. what are the odds, right? we could have met up in person! and it also made me further wonder who i've crossed paths with elsewhere through out my life and never known it. life is weird.

anyway, i figured if i'd been walking around with a quilt instead of a book, a quilter might have approached me and then the story would be even better.


after santa barbara we went even further north to the monterey/salinas area to visit my husband's 86 yr old grandmother. grandma is as spry and active as ever. while we were with her, i actually worked on a different quilt (next post), but found some time for "mildred and ethel" when "groovy summer love letters" was completed. you can quilt while talking to your grandmother, but reading in that instance would be rude.


the quilt and my quilting callouses began making progress.

despite the fact that i have this callous, i find after a few hours of handwork, the end of the needle begins to push into my finger anyway. it just slides right in under the thick skin and pokes me! ouch. too bad i haven't found a thimble i like, but they're just not me.


after visiting grandma, we made one more stop in santa barbara at a different hotel before flying home. i made sure that even when i was reading, the quilt was out and visible just in case some other quilter was around.

i do hope i finish the book by the end of summer.
i don't think the quilt will win.
not that i'm betting on either.

which would you pick?