Monday, October 14, 2019

some spray basting thoughts

i've got a backing made, and this pink and navy improv quilt is now basted.

have i ever mentioned that i like to keep the paper label scraps from the batting roll and use them to cover the floor and baseboards around the quilt sandwich while i'm spray basting? the warm and white batting roll (i get mine at joann crafts with a 40% off coupon) comes with a thin paper label wound with all the layers of batting, so whenever i unroll some batting for a new quilt, i also get a long strip of paper to rip off.

by putting it down on the perimeter of my quilt when i'm basting, it protects the floor and keeps any sticky mist from settling on what's nearby. currently i have enough paper to go 3 deep around the quilt. i also have two old towels i keep tucked away in my sewing room for this purpose. i usually lay the towels over the carpeted staircase base or at my sewing room doors, depending on where i've positioned the quilt.

when i'm done with all the basting, i put all the paper strips in a stack and roll them up to stow away with the towels. they don't take up much room at all and really help keep things neat and tidy when i'm spraying that adhesive everywhere. i do try to stay very close to where i'm spraying on the quilt layers, just a few inches away, but the mist still floats a bit sometimes, especially on the perimeter of the quilt. i've got plenty of photos of gummy feet or socks to prove it. (if you followed the "socks" link, obviously i got on the spray basting train! thank you, odif 505.)

some people use old sheets for this, which would also work well. i like the convenience and compactness of the batting roll label. plus, i'm upcycling the papers.

when i was pulling the tape off the basted quilt once it was together today, i had another idea to try.

i'm rather notorious for sewing the extra ends of the backing to the quilt body while i'm quilting. that's one of the reasons i don't give myself as much wiggle room as i should when making the batting and backing larger than the quilt top. standard is 3-4" on all sides. my margins are often closer to 1-2". i also hate the waste, so i make my overage a lot smaller than i "should," in most cases.

today i noticed that the excess batting around the quilt top was sticky and i decided to fold the excess backing over to the top of the batting. i think this might help keep it out of the way when i'm quilting! there's certainly less flopping around now. i'll let you know how it works.

a just for fun photo because i noticed my dress was coordinating with the quilt backing.

here's one more color coordinated photo: my backing fabric and new pink steam iron. i'm giving this oliso iron a try. i don't really know much about it, but someone (can't remember who?) recommended it. i saw a discount code at, and ordered it direct from the company for 20% off and free shipping (suzyquilts20).

today is my first time using it. the whole smart handle/retractable platform/horizontal resting is quite new to me. i've only used it on the backing today, so i can't really say what i think. but it did do a really nice, tight job on getting my backing seams wide open and flat.

again, i'll report back when i've had more experience with it.

Friday, October 11, 2019

fall-ing for log cabins

fall's here! in theory, at least. most days we still hover in the 90's for now. i feel like it doesn't actually reach us until december. that's desert living. however, now that it's october, i feel safe making seasonal changes inside the house no matter what's going on outdoors. after practically two months of no sewing, on a complete whim i've started a fall log cabin quilt inspired by one i pinned ages ago:

something about this color combination and the log cabin layout really appeals to me, which is kind of funny because i'm not a purple lover. somehow the purple-loving chromosome got left off my X gene. (or is that the gene got left off the chromosome?) i consider myself a girly-girly, but that has never included liking purple. but here i like it!

yesterday i was picking up a sewing machine from servicing and decided to get some purples for my stash so i could make a fall log cabin quilt. then i stopped at my other local store on the way home and got even more bits and pieces.

$$$xxx later, i'm ready to make a fall log cabin quilt! so bad.
interestingly enough, i must have mashed up all the low-volume log cabins i've been admiring lately with the memory of the fall log cabin, because when i looked up the original quilt i had in mind, once i was home and had bought all that fabric, i was really surprised with what i saw. i didn't remember the dark colors at all. but i like both ideas!

i got mostly 1/4 and 1/3 yard cuts of fabric. i really wanted the quilt to be scrappy, so i got a lot of different little bits. obviously, even with small pieces of fabric, there was going to be a lot of leftovers, which was totally fine by me. there are some other layouts i want to make with the same color scheme anyway. so i plan on having a couple of fall quilts when i'm done making with all this fabric.

i decided to work with 2.5" cut strips to get the size of blocks i want quickly. at first i was just cutting one or two strips, but then i realized it would be much easier to just cut each piece into as many strips as i could get from it at once. that way i would have lots of strips for any other quilts i want to make with this fabric pull. almost all were 2.5'" friendly, anyway, so why not?

i've never bought 1/3 yard cuts before, but i was feeling like i might want just a bit more than 1/4 yard and not as much as 1/2 yard with some printss. i like the extra few inches i am getting out of them.

cutting into this heather ross unicorn fabric from stash was nerve-wracking. the unicorn was bigger than the strip i needed and i didn't want to make it look funny or have a lot of waste after i cut. i know it's "only fabric," buuuutttt . . . heather ross out-of-print unicorns!

after making the first few blocks, i realized it is much faster to work on two blocks in tandem. that allows me to let a pressed block sit under some floppy books and get flat without wasting time waiting on it. also, moving from machine to cutting table to pressing board with each addition takes a lot more time than other types of piecing do. the log cabin block is pretty straight forward and simple, it's just time consuming. maybe there's a better way to go about making log cabins, like precutting everything. but i'm just deciding what to add on in what order as i go, only working with strips and trimming once they are on the block.

the process goes something like this:

1. sew the new piece on the block. 
2. trim the strip.
3. press open the strip and leave sitting under some floppy books to aid flattening of the block.
(sometimes i press and then trim.)
4. move back to machine and work on the other block, repeating steps 1-3, while first piece is flattening and cooling.

i keep building both blocks at the same time in this way. without having everything precut (which would also take a lot of time and thinking and prep), it's as close to chainpiecing as i can get. having to press each strip once attached before adding the next one is what takes so long.

i'm pretty sure i would like the look of the blocks even better with thinner strips, but that would take ssoooo much longer! and i'm really hoping that this will be a quick-ish finish. for this fall, not next year.

how many mistakes can you spot with this attachment? at least two. i got everything wrong at once! which also meant i could fix it all at the same time. hand me the seam ripper, please.

both of my unicorn blocks turned out well. i will lose a little of the horn in the seam allowance, but not too much.

six of the 12 needed blocks are complete.
it's time to get back to the other machine.

Friday, September 27, 2019

mary, mary, star contrary, a finish

this quilt was a finish well over a year ago, but i wasn't blogging much at that time. "mary, mary, star contrary" is the first of my children's stella grande christmas quilts to be completed. it belongs to my oldest daughter, d1

i finished it barely in time for her to fully enjoy it for just a few days before she left on an 18-month volunteer trip to eastern europe. time must have flown, or at least it's passed,  because she is now only about 6 weeks away from returning home. i'll have to pull the quilt out and get it freshened up for her very soon. 

i completed the last binding stitches just before we entered a canyon at the golden hour on a weekend roadtrip. the full beauty of the canyon didn't come through in the photos very well as it's just in the background. but the bridge we shot the quilt on worked out really well. like every other quilt photo shoot i've ever done or seen, the wind made things more difficult, interesting, and playful. all part of the fun.

this post will be a mix of the finish photos and detail shots of the quilt's various parts. i do love details!

the color palette for the quilt came from two  cotton + steel prints i wanted to use for the back: tomato reds, cinnamon, peach, sand, petunia, coral, grey, and a touch of navy/midnight blue. it was an unusual palette for me, but i reeeaaallly liked working with it. delicious.

originally, i had this particular quilt earmarked for my other redheaded daughter, d2, but in the last few days before gifting the quilts, i began to doubt myself. at the last minute, i consulted with d1 and she said she'd take this quilt over "etoile de patisserie," which was meant as a nod to our trip to paris and love affairs with its pastries. she really liked the colors and prints in this one, so i think we got it right in the end.

the name of this quilt came about in reference to d2's periodic contrariness, the floral prints (mary's garden growing) on the backing, and the way i put bits of the dark blues randomly in the star. all of those elements collided in my brain to be "mary, mary, star contrary." however, once i switched up recipients, it didn't seem to fit so well. this daughter is the least contrary person on the planet! but the name had stuck for me. 

and so, there you go . . . 

i really adore the effect of the blue bits i worked into the hsts, but they were, admittedly, rather fiddly to work with. it all came right in the end. i wanted a touch of the color, like in the florals, without the blues overwhelming the rest of the warm and softer tones. i had absolutely no idea what i was doing as i added the skinny strips to some of the hsts, but it came out alright. i think the narrow, 1" strips nailed the effect i was going for.

her hair has always been wild and free, practically an entity of its own. once, when she was about 4 years old, i interrupted her play attempting to smooth it back and out of her face. she said, "mom! don't mess with the wild thing's hair!" she does have a wild heart, but in a very good, virtuous kind of way. it's a beautiful combination.

each of my stellas have a variation somewhere, usually a unique border. for this border, i used the 8 colors of the star, 6 of which were paired tones of the same basic color (2 reds, 2 purples, 2 browns). one of each pair color was used in the two different borders as a 2" strip, and a flying geese block of the 2 unpaired colors (pink and grey) was centered in the strips. i'm very pleased with the outcome of this configuration. for some reason, the border stripes make me think of chocolate bar wrappers. 

that wind!

the difference is subtle, but i used 2 different dark blues for the slim accent strips in the star, to reflect the 2 different blues in the main backing fabrics. i chose the midnight blue as the binding. i love how it outlines and sets off the other colors of the quilt. sometimes you want a border to be bold and make a definite statement, and sometimes you just want it to mingle with the rest. this one is definitely the bold, strong kind.

binding is always one of my favorite parts of the quilt making process.

quilting was done with the lovely, chunky aurifil 12wt in brass. i use a large stitch length (4 on my juki), which i think has a similar effect to handstitching. there isns't a ton of quilting in these quilts - just a quarter inch echo of most of the seams. i like to use a high contrast color so it really stands out.

always smiling, that girl of mine.

i snagged a few shots in a parking lot at a different stop about an hour before the canyon, but the dog and the wind were a bit too much at once.

Friday, September 20, 2019

radiant suzy, a finish and a birthday trip

here's another finish i never posted photos of: radiant suzy, my 2nd completed stella grande quilt for my children. if you were waiting for this one, it will be all you ever wanted to know or see, and then some.

in june 2018, i took my mother (marmee) and 3rd daughter (d3) on a short 3 day girls' trip to visit the biltmore estate in north carolina. all 3 of us read or were reading the serafina trilogy by robert beatty, which is set at the estate, and thought it would be fun to visit the book's location together with the story in mind.

our trip coincided with d3's 12th birthday, which we spent together at the biltmore.

i was really close to completing the binding on "radiant suzy" for d3, and decided it would be memorable to complete it on this special trip with her grandmother on her birthday. of course the biltmore would make a fantastic quilt finish photo shoot location. i love adding memories and meaning to my quilts' stories like this.

i rolled the quilt up and tucked it into my nyc public library tote bag (my favorite quilt-carrying bag when i'm on the go), and took it with me all over the estate. fortunately, it wasn't too heavy to carry around all day, because i carried it for two days before it was done.

while touring the house, i stopped to work on it whenever the opportunity arose, like when we were on the grand and glorious loggia (back porch) that looks out over the estate and blue ridge mountains in the distance.

i did get a funny look from an estate employee patrolling this part of the house, but no one bothered me while i stitched here. i wasn't the only guest lounging there and making use of the chairs, but i was the only one stitching. i suppose i looked harmless enough with my quilt and tiny needle.

i would stitch every bit of handwork i've ever done on this loggia if i could. it was the ideal place for such pastimes. the chair was comfy, the weather and lighting perfect, the view unsurpassed. 

later on, i did some more binding while sitting creekside on the property as the other two worked on their novel reading.

i was really close to being done here, but someone had to go to the bathroom, so we moved closer in to the facilities.

i knew which part of the lower gardens i wanted to complete the binding in, but someone was using my bench. i had to wait for the interlopers to leave, then i plopped myself down in some shade to finish my binding while the other two visited the necessary. this is a shot of the last stitch going in with the location in focus rather than the stitch. because of the lighting exposure, you can't see all the pretty pink and purple flowers around me. but they are there.

done at last!

the girls caught up with me once marmee had taken some flower photos. she always loved to do that. the week after we returned from this trip mom found out her cancer was back. this was the last trip i got to take with her. i'm really grateful to have all the fun shots of her which show her quirks and personality that i got while we were there.

before i let loose the deluge of finish and detail shots, i want to record the inspiration for the palette and name of this quilt. i was already working on a series of giant sawtooth star quilts in various color palettes when i decided to make one for each of my children. this one was inspired by this delightful liberty and flowers quilt (free pattern at the end of this post) by suzy quilts:

suzy kindly enabled me by identifying the delicious benartex floral on the back, which i knew would be perfect for my own little suzy, d3's nickname when she was a baby (it's a derivative of her middle name). because of the inspiration source and the recipient's nickname, as well as the star pattern, the quilt became "radiant suzy"

this here is one of the main reasons i quilt - quilts are love made tangible, they are permanent hugs i can give my children to wrap around themselves whenever needed.

the backing - a combination of carlonia gingham in grey, a benartex floral, the luna moth print from heather ross's sleeping porch line, and a memoire a paris 2017 lawn from lecien fabrics.

the quilting was done in an aurifil 12wt thread in a soft, silvery grey.

during our visit, the biltmore had a chihuli glass exhibition going on, with installments all over the gardens. i happen to be a big chihuli fan, so this was an added bonus to our trip. once i had the quilt completed, i photographed it with some of the art. the rest of this post is those photos interspersed with detail shots of the quilt.

i'll admit, it was a warmish afternoon and i was not at the top of my game with styling the quilt and setting up the shots. i was hauling my 5 lb. dslr camera around for two day specifically so i could take good photos of the quilt, but d3 confiscated it and filled the card up with a bajillion photos of the tours we took, so all i had to work with was my iphone. as it was, at this point, i just wanted to throw the quilt around and shoot quickly anyway. the perfectionist side of me was in hibernation. and that's perfectly fine with me. good enough is/was good enough.

some of my stella grande quilts have used up to 8 colors randomly mixed throughout the star shape. this one uses four: three solids and a very subtle print, two kona cotton solid light purples, a solid grey, and the grey gingham. (i want to say at least one purple is called "petunia," but i'm not certain.) the four colors are arranged to make radiating rhomboid shapes that form the star.

someone else was a little tired of quilt photos and posing.

thanks to the wide printed selvage on the lecien floral print, i was able to do one of my favorite backing treatments and include the selvage in the backing.

the binding was the lighter of the two kona cotton solid purples.

here's a good look at the border treatment variation i chose: i made two-toned triangles by alternating the purples and grey gingham, with one of the backing florals randomly thrown in instead of a greyy once on each end.

i used two shades of yellow for the background: kona cotton solids in butterscotch and ocher, i think.

this one's for you, suzy q!
i hope you enjoyed your literary birthday quilt marmee trip.
mama loves you.