Saturday, March 21, 2015

at the end of a triangle: a trimming technique

 i've been cutting lots of triangles for my "indian blanket" quilt. the fons & porter 60` ruler works really well for this. i especially like two things about it: the top tip is blunted and it has maths on the ruler for you. the ruler is marked with the strip size you need for the finished height you want to achieve.

all that said, i was having one trimming issue - whenever i reached the end of the strip, it was hard to figure out where to cut the last piece straight so i ended up with a half piece, which i need for the quilt. after all the triangles are cut, you are left with a bit that is angled on one side but too wide to be a half triangle.

what i wanted was a piece that is cut down that middle dotted line there, bisecting the triangle in half.

here's a closer look at the line i wanted to trim on. trouble is, of course, that you can't cut through the ruler. so i usually either flip the piece over, shift the ruler to the side, and trim off on the angle (which leaves you with a skinny, angled piece with two bias cut sides), or i use the straight ruler to make a cut, but this is hard to figure out accurately.

well, the other day, my long-buried geometry knowledge kicked in and somehow i got the idea to simply shift the ruler around to get my straight cut. please don't ask me which theorem i used or the measurements of the angles that make this work. i don't know. but i do know this works!

as you can see, i lined up the center line with my outside angled edge and my blunt top tip with the top of the fabric. then i cut down the angled edge of the ruler.

this gave me the perfect half triangle i was looking for and the leftover piece is straight cut, not biased, on both sides.

now i take my bow and leave you for today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

triangle auditions

 my "indian blanket" quilt is still looking cheery on my design wall, but i'd like to get it off there eventually. however, i've had lots of other projects prioritized above it lately, including a few finishes. my other hangup has been i couldn't decide what to do with my next row. this particular row has a mix of 4" and 8" triangles in three colors. the fabrics above are the ones i had originally slated for the row. but when i was cutting, the two low volume prints (smaller triangles) just didn't seem to have enough contrast between them. i decided this after i'd cut all the darn triangles.

 so i dug around and looked everywhere for a solution. a box containing some "folksong" had just arrived on my doorstep and this coloring garden print seemed to have all the right colors in it. except that pinky-purple background color wasn't right. also, it was too similar to my larger "focus" print, the peachy background floral print. again, after cutting everything, i made the choice to try again.

 this soft pink from "color me happy" had all the other right colors and was a good choice for contrast in scale, but the pink was too clashy. again, decided after cutting. boy do i have a lot of cut triangles now. fortunately, i think i can use them for different rows in the quilt. just not this one.

at this point, i had tried everything i had at home that might remotely work.

so that meant a trip to the store.

i found four different prints from joel dewberry's "bungalow" line, which all had the right colors. i got a 1/4 yard of each, knowing this would be a decision to be made at home. one got nixed for being too dark and the other two were nixed for scale. in the end, the wavy, funky dot print gave me what i was looking for.

here's an in-progress shot of how it's looking so far. (i wish you could have seen me standing on top of the dining table to take this photo from above so as to make it flat.)

this might seem like a tedious post, but i thought it might be helpful for someone else to see the selection process i went through. having learned about contrast in scale and color value helped me the most when making this choice. even a small vocabulary of words to guide an otherwise somewhat intuitive thought process really does help me make choices.

linking up with lee's wip wednesday at freshly pieced.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

how to get time to quilt

 i had a quilting deadline this weekend. my dear friend, jill, who used to come sew with me on friday mornings before she moved away 9 months ago, was coming into town and i needed to finish up that "bloom where you are planted" quilt so i could give it to her when we would be seeing her on sunday. i had a top and two days to do the rest.

on friday, the marathon finish started. i had to stop to tend to the children so many times, which can be frustrating. but it's just the way it goes around here. i got rather desperate to entertain them, so i pulled out all the stops, using my best tricks and most desperate measures. namely, i let them make a complete mess just so they could be with me but entertained as well.

 d5 loves anything to do with scissors. i gave her a pair of snips and a bag of stuffing strings. this worked on and off, but not as well as i had hoped at keeping her busy. she'd rather "help" me sew or jump on my back while i'm at the machine, yelling, "climbing monkey!" when she does. i just have to go with the flow and periodically stop to read books to her.

 d4 spent a lot of time playing with the eeboo patchwork tiles. and then she got out her sewing box and made some pjs for a toy bird.

d3 stayed the most involved, picking out scraps for her gee's bend inspired concept quilt. but she did have a meltdown moment when i had to pull all the pretty little strings she'd taken from her little sister's stuffing strings pile. she just couldn't understand about 1/2" disappearing into the seam allowance and why she couldn't use pieces smaller than 1". "But its going to ruin my whole quilt if you take those out!" there were tears, but i think we've moved on. i gave her a small 1"x6" ruler and told her the pieces for her quilt had to be at least that big.

i think there were other desperate things i tried, but in the end it paid off because i got this done:

i'll get a proper post of this finish up as soon as i can.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

auntie charming

so i made a quilt for my husband's aunt. in two weeks! like my 16 year old said, "that's the fastest you've ever made one, mom!" i made it so fast i didn't really get pictures of it. there were a few peeks of it on instagram last week, but that's it. 

another part of the reason i didn't photograph it much is that i'm personally not in love with the fabrics. i'm not even sure how they ended up in my stash. i think it was a case of an on-line clearance sale, fabrics that looked different than when they arrived, or i don't even know what. that was four years ago. i am not and have never, ever been a purple person so a fat quarter bundle that was half purples boggles my mind. what was i thinking? surely not that some day down the road these would be the perfect fabrics for aunt sue. but that's what i ended up with.

the sunday after valentine's, aunt sue was in town to visit with her mother, my husband's grandmother. we had them both over for dinner. aunt sue says, "so i hear you quilt. may i see some of your quilts?" i brought out a few to show. and then each child subjected her to their own personal quilts and any others i hadn't shown yet. aunt sue was so sweet, looking at and admiring each and every one of them. it was probably a good 30 minute quilt show.

after she left, i saw the purple and pink fat quarter set sitting on my sewing table. it had come out of hiding because it was packaged with another bundle i was using, and i hadn't returned it to stash oblivion yet. well, aunt sue has always been a lavender/pastel/floral sort of lady, and she liked my quilts so much, that i decided on the spot to make one for her. it seemed the ideal use of those fabrics.

she was only visiting for two weeks, so i wanted to make something as quick as possible. i'd just seen fat quarter shop's new "layers of charm" pattern. even though the pattern was made for a layer cake and charm pack, i decided i could quickly cut the pieces from the fat quarters. i did have to size it down a little to 9" and 4.5" squares, but it totally worked.

i altered the pattern (there's a big surprise!) just a little more by using different charms in each corner rather than one universal color. i took the five lightest fabrics from the collection, three polka dots and two swirly prints, and cut my charms from those. it seemed a bit small, even for a throw, after i'd reduced the block size a little, so i added a border. i got yardage of some coordinating pink polka dot fabric from "whitewashed cottage" by 3 sisters for moda to make a border and backing. i had the top pieced and sandwich basted by saturday.

then i outline quilted all the seams on each side and did a dogwood blossom in each hourglass block formed by the charms. i bound it up with all the leftover pieces from the blocks. i was literally finishing it off at the last minute because we were going over to see aunt sue and grandma for dinner the night before she left. it had been rainy all day and i was in such a hurry i didn't bring my big flash, so i couldn't get any decent pictures of the quilt. we squished into grandma's kitchen to take a photo of it together.

i have to admit that i have struggled to claim this quilt because it is so not me. it's not my style or colors. but once i saw how much aunt sue appreciated it, i felt a lot better about being affiliated with it. i made a quilt that made her very, very happy and that is what counts in the end. not how stylish it looked, how pintrest-worthy it turned out, how many likes it might garner from the blogland quilting community i usually run with. i made a quilt someone will cherish. that was the whole point, not how many comments it's going to get me. aunt sue is happy and i'm happy, too.

the next morning i happened to be across town, close to grandma's house again, so i ran in and asked if i could get a better photo of the quilt. aunt sue was happy to oblige. i got three separate big hugs from her the night before during the course of the evening and now i got more. when she pulled it out, she started talking about how pretty it was again. "oh, there's my lavender! and all those pretty flowers. i still just can't believe you made this for me. no one has made me a quilt since my wedding." she really does seem to like it. for real.

 yesterday there was no lighting and today there was too much. we had to scrunch in on the side yard in the shade to get a photo. grandma decided she should be in it, too. sure, why not?! i only wish my 14 year old son had left that ladder out of the photo.

 here's the back, pieced a bit with some of the last fat quarter and the polka dot fabric. i do rather like the back.

 it has a nice grid pattern and those boxed dogwood blossoms, which all show up really well (in real life) on the soft rosie polka dot fabric.

 aunt sue was so excited about the quilt i had to warn her a bit. i'm no expert and there was plenty wrong with this lady. for instance, in the square above i totally forgot to line the inside of the square. i did all of the quilting on this quilt with my fmq foot, even the straight lines. in fact, it was mostly straight lines. there was plenty of wobble going on everywhere. i'm hoping the wash will help hide that.

well, there you have it. my husband's unique and talented aunt with her "layers of charm" quilt. put the two together and you get "auntie charming," the fastest quilt i ever made and a lesson in being happy when you make someone else happy.

now i need to take all those leftover hsts and bits to make a quilt for grandma, who wanted to know, "how does sue rank?!"

i guess if you flatter me enough and i have appropriate fabrics, you get a quilt.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

what the barn was missing

 this pile of fabric has been sitting on the end of my bawthroom sewing table since december 2013. that's over a year now. it was a pull for sarah schraw's barn door quilt along. it's a different color palette than i normally work in: brown, apple green, buttery yellow. the green and yellow aren't so different for me, so i guess it's mainly the brown that's a branch out. there are some dark espresso browns and some softer chocolate ones, too. i liked the idea, but the pull kept feeling a little muted somehow and i was worried it was going to be rather boring. if and when i ever worked it up.

 i did not start the quilt along when sarah got it going and it just fell to the bottom of the "wannabe wip" pile. but it was sitting there in my bawthroom, in plain view all this time.

a few months ago, at the end of last year, i was sitting at the bathtub, bathing a baby, but also thinking about the fabric pile when what was missing finally hit me. it needed just one little punch of something to liven it up and save it from boredom. the color intensive class and my personal experience with the penny patch quilt along i did with rachel hauser last year both really helped me develop my color sense a bit more. so as i was studying the pile of fabric, i saw the missing pop - teal!

three of the fabrics already had just the tiniest bit of a teal blue in them: the deep brown floral that is outlined in teal, the ditsy art gallery print, and the green and teal piece on top. i scoured my stash and found one teal polka dot fabric that is perfect. i like how it brightens up the mix without overpowering anything. it's still a calm palette, but now it's a little more awake.

now that i unlocked the secret to this pull, i'm fully motivated to get cutting on this quilt. but first there are a few things i need to move forward.  i haven't done a wip wednesday report for a long time, so here goes.

my current state of the union for the past week:


bandwidth - complete but not photographed
auntie charming - see friday's post

in progress

indian summer blanket - four rows down, more to go
s1's wonky stacked coins quilt - 9 blocks complete; completely redesigned this week
valentine's pinwheel quilt - 4 blocks complete
easy dreaming - 40+ blocks complete, needs less than 20 more
penny patch 2.0 - still in corner of shame needing to be enlarged
bloom where you are planted - needs basting
sugar block club - still lost in feb 2014
hst diamond quilt - untouched
gypsy wife - um, in progress
epp - 21 wheels complete

trips to the store


internet activity

purchased half yards of "folk song" and several moda bella solids charm packs

linking up with lee's wip wednesday at freshly pieced

Saturday, February 28, 2015

eeboo patchwork

 i was looking for some eeboo games for my toddler on amazon and stumbled across this patchwork design tiles game. well, it's more like a creativity activity than a game because you just design with it rather than compete to complete anything. i ordered it and have to say i think this is the coolest game for any quilter's child, or quilter of any age, for that matter.

ever since it came out of the shipping package, my littlest girls have been dying to get their hands on it, but i told them mom needed to photograph it first. oh, the agony of suspense! (yes, i did enjoy that a little bit. there is way too much instant gratification in the world today.)

 there are 64 hst tiles, doublesided, with patchwork designs on each. the box bottom makes a tray that's designed to hold 32 tiles in a 4x4 block pattern. each tile has up to three different fabric in various shapes on it. this is what it looked like when i pulled the lid off. there are florals and plaids, as well as some solids. i think the manufacturer must have photographed actual fabrics, even the solids, because you can see the threads on each tile. however, unlike fabric, these are nice and thick particle board triangles that are quite sturdy and can withstand lots of handling without any stretching or distortion.

 when i removed the top layer of tiles, i found this configuration awaiting. all of these were solids (obviously) and contained a quarter circle design.

 i flipped each of those tiles over and got this configuration. so much fun already and i haven't even designed my own pattern yet.

 as best i can tell on initial inspection, there are four types of block styles: 1) large quarter cirlce design in two colors, 2) solid colored/single print hst, 3) two orange peel segments plus a background fabric, either both orange peels the same or different, 4) just one orange peel segment along an edge and a background fabric. i'm sure there are traditional names for each of these, i just don't know them.

with 64 tiles, each doublesided, that means there are quite a lot, almost endless, possiblities for design here. it's rather dizzying to consider.

 the inside of the box lid had some starter samples to get the creative juices flowing. i'm thinking this is not only a wonderful exercise in creativity for the kids, but for an adult as well. messing around with these tiles will likely inspire all sorts of ideas for quilting. wouldn't it be refreshing to pick this up when you're in a creativity slump and just play, no commitments?

the girls finally got to break into the tiles. not only were they so excited (yay! we get to make quilts!), they played nice and divided them up so they could both play at the same time. no one said you had to use the box tray. i suppose you could say they were thinking outside the box already.

to keep it interesting, i'm only letting them use these tiles when i'm actually quilting. that should help the value of the game stay high and give me some uninterrupted time to quilt as well. win-win!

and then it'll be my turn to play.

for the record, we own several eeboo games and highly recommend them all.

 my favorites might be "i never forget a face," an international memory game, the good manners flashcards, and united states bingo. but then again, they're all good!

i have several versions of matching games, both regular and toddle-sized. all products are high quality, very durable, and beautifully illustrated, often by well-known children's illustrators such as melissa sweet and dan yaccarino. they are wonderful for encouraging critical thinking and/or creativity.

and for the further record, this is not a sponsored post or affiliate link. although it probably should be because i'm pretty sure every quilter i know is going to want those patchwork design tiles!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

sweet stuff

 as the month of love draws to a close, i'm sharing a few sweet things that happened around here. first, someone left me a little love where they knew i was bound to see it. haha! if you want mom's attention, go to the sewing machine.

 on valentine's day, i saw this sweet and simple pinwheel quilt on instagram, posted by @riseandshinequilts. i thought it would be a perfect valentine's project (for use next year, obviously) for some sticky-sweet lecien "sugar flower" fat quarters i purchased about 4 years ago. i do like her fabrics a lot better than mine, but it feels good to get some stash sewn. thank goodness for those moda bella solids charm squares! this is project #3 i'm using them in right now. if only they'd take my idea about preprinting a diagonal line on them for fast and easy hst making, i'd be set!

this last bit of overt sweetness just gives me a sugar rush headache every time i look at it. this is another #sewyourstash2015 project that popped up. i'll explain more when i finish it, but i'll say now that it's for my husband's aunt, who will love these fabrics way more than i ever could. i can't wait to get it finished and out of my sight! i'm using a fat quarter set to make fat quarter shop's new "layers of charm" pattern. even though i'm cutting rather than using precuts, it's gone super fast; faster than anything i've ever done. hallelujah!

that's it for the sweetness report.
i think i need to go check my blood sugar levels!

linking up with lee's wip wednesday at freshly pieced.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

helping low-volumes stand out in a pattern

 i've had a few chances to get around to my arrow check blocks. i love how quickly they come together! that pile just grows in minutes. i have made all the blocks from the charm squares of "dream on" and have completed about half of my supplementary fabrics now. it might seem this is taking me a while to finish for such an easy block but the fact is i have only spent a few minutes here and there spread out over the few weeks i've been making this. anyone else with a good chunk of hours could have knocked this top out by now. for myself, i'm just pleased it's so quick relative to how slow i usually move.

 after i made my initial fabric pull, i noticed several of the fabrics were low volumes on white backgrounds and i was afraid they weren't going to be distinguishable from the background arrows once worked up. my first idea was to use other light-colored background squares in addition to the moda bella solid charms i was using. i even picked up yardage of two colors. but on reflection, i realized this was going to complicate my process a whole lot; that it would require me laying out all the squares before sewing anything so i could make the solid-colored arrows one color each and not just have a mottled background. that was more than i was willing to do so i just started working up the low-volume fabrics to see how they looked. i was pleasantly surprised to see that they were holding their own!

a few of the charms i cut still seemed like there was too much white in them after i cut them. this heather bailey "church flowers" print from "nicey jane" collection, for example. but i really wanted to use this print because it has the feel i'm going for and i just love it, too. on examination, i noticed there were large areas of color the right size, so i decided to fussy cut my charm squares out of those places. hey, presto! it worked.

 yeah, there was some definite bias cutting going on, but that didn't give me any problems when sewing. i explained to d1 my brilliant solution to the problem and she responded, "well, that looks really wasteful!" then i showed her how i was cutting the leftovers into triangle and rectangle scraps to be used in future scrap projects. she decided maybe i knew what i was doing a little more than she thought.

now i wouldn't normally be so free with a treasured fabric, but i have more yardage of this and i was only working with a 1/2 yard cut here so there was plenty of that left over once i cut enough charms. and now i have all these cute scraps to work with, too. all this fussy stuff has taken a little more time than just straight cutting-and-sewing did, but it's worth it every now and then to get it right. i'm all about moving fast when i'm able, but the end product has to be considered, too. i feel like i've found the right balance with this project so far. a few more short sewing sessions and i should have a top to show! if i'd stop starting new projects, that is.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

fancy stitching

 d1 has taken interest in her puppy park bricks quilt again. after she completed the required hours for her english paper, she moved on to other projects for a while. but recently she decided to get back at it. with the new year, our sunday church services have moved to earlier in the day so that we meet from 8 to 11am. this gives us basically the whole day at home after church as opposed to when we met in the middle of the day (and slept in until it was time to get ready). suddenly we find ourselves with a stretch of time wide open for things like creativity and cooking. sunday is a family day for us, where we don't go anywhere else or participate in outside activities, unless they are extended family gatherings. so we are using some of the time to make stuff together.

 d1 happened to be wearing her fancy "sweet 16" birthday ensemble when she sat down to piece her quilt. i thought it made for an interesting photo op. "why, yes, we sew in our nicest clothes. don't you?" i'm happy her interest in sewing has been renewed. she's even expressed the desire to make dresses. i hope we can find the time to dive into that together. how exciting!

while she was piecing, i was nearby to give advice when needed. i kept my hands busy with block trimming for my arrow check quilt. almost all done with these. and, yes, we do tend to stay in our church clothes all day long. but, no, they are not always as dressy as this particular sunday was. however, we had to take pictures of us sewing while we looked spiffy to balance out the plethora of sewing-in-our-pajamas-and-not-showered photos that grace this space.

whatever you're wearing, happy sewing!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

paris daydreams: a finish

this quilt is far more traditional than what i normally make. however, i have somewhat eclectic taste and this satisfies the shabby chic francophile in me. like most of my finishes, this one is long overdue. but it's done and the timing is actually pretty good. d5 is just the right size for it now, so all's well that ends well. the photo shoot, however, did not go so well. i tried photographing it indoors in the lovely light of my bedroom, but that only worked so far as i could crop out all the unwanted bedroom clutter. in addition, i had a lot of interested "help." so enjoy the story of this quilt and some crazy outtake photos, too, if you feel so inclined.

this quilt was born in my brain whilst i was pregnant with baby #7, over three years ago. i admired elizabeth hartman's "modern charm squares baby quilt" and was looking for something to make for baby. also, i have a weakness for dreamy french fabrics, like toile and the vintage stuff produced by french general. when the pom pom de paris line came out, with its pretty, soft spring palette, i wanted it for baby. although it's not a modern line, i thought it would go well with ms. hartman's pattern.

(oh, goodness. looking at this photo above, i can see that despite my best efforts to get a bit of randomness to the layout of this quilt, or at least some asymmetry, i pieced it in a pattern after all! how funny and rather pathetic.)

i just love the bird toiles from this line

somehow i got sidetracked and ended up making "expecting blossoms" for baby and not the pom pom de paris charm quilt. about the time baby was a year and a half old, in the early summer of 2013, i decided i still wanted to make the french quilt for her. so i got started. it should have been an easy project, but i started thinking too much and turned it into a french nightmare that got put on the back burner until i tried completing a quilt for each kid for christmas 2013. eventually i got the top done and began the straightline quilting. but it wasn't completed by christmas.

two of my favorite prints are these ditsy florals
 the straightline quilting went ok, but not perfectly. my juki is a fmq champ, but straightline is not so much her thing. i've found out the biggest help with the straightlining is to spray baste. the closed eyelet i chose for sashing wasn't a problem at all, either with piecing or quilting. i love the textured effect it gives.

once i removed all the red prints from this line, i was left with totally dreamy baby girl colors in oyster, pink, butter yellow, and bisque
after i had finished quilting by echo-quilting the long horizontal seams 1/4" on each side, i began thinking how very pretty it would look if i also did vertical straight lines, too. but i'd already taken it off the machine, changed feet, and moved on before that occurred to me. so it didn't happen. when i pulled the quilt out for binding, i thought i'd just knock out that cool quilting. on consideration, however, i realized there were lots of vertical lines in all the piecing that wouldn't be matching up with the quilting and it wouldn't look very good on the front of the quilt after all if i called notice to that. so i just stayed with the horizontal straight lines.

 one of my favorite parts of this quilt is the back. normally, i piece a backing with a variety of prints. on this one, i used only one print but threw in a special feature: the selvage.

 i'm a selvage lover and this one was mighty pretty. by piecing the backing with the selvages meeting up, i was able to include them as a feature strip across the quilt. fortunately for me, this worked out beautifully. the printing was perfectly placed on this fabric so that the 1/4" seam allowance left it showing nicely. i tried this on my penny patch backing and the freespirit selvages did not have the same spacing. pity, because i really adore this effect.

 i also love, love, love this ditsy pink floral print i used for the back. so overall, i adore the back of this quilt. the very last thing to do was bind this baby.

and that's where i got held up again.

there was no perfect print in this line for binding. all the prints, except the reds, were too light for a binding that was going to be drug around by a little girl. i had pulled all the overtly red charm squares to preserve the soft, pastel look in the quilt so adding a red binding on wasn't in keeping with my vision. i was wishing hard the mushroom brown color had been included as a print somewhere. but it wasn't.

by the time i was ready to bind, i had talked myself into just using the red ditsy floral print that was the same as the backing print. although i had purposefully removed the reds from the quilt top, i was pretty desperate to be done and thought it would be fine. not ideal, but fine. i justified to myself, "a binding is so thin and maybe it will be a nice pop of color on the edges."

fortunately i have a quilting buddy who is wiser than i am. when i showed becky the red binding and the quilt, without trashing my idea, she nonchalantly told me, "my thinking is if you've already waited a year to finish this quilt, you might as well wait a little longer and get a binding you like rather than settling for something you don't like so much just to get it done." smart, smart girl.

i was loathe to try finding a binding but i gave it a shot at my local store later in the day.

and came home with something i absolutely love!

this white dot on a mushroom brown crossweave goes so well with the colors and prints in the line. i do think it's probably not very french, but it definitely suits the overall feel of the quilt and it's color palette. i machine bound this one for durability. fortunately, i bound it right after two other machine bound quilts so it turned out pretty well because i was fully practiced by the time i did this one.

 and now little miss has a quilt that fits her bed nicely and is bigger than her baby quilt. she's been dragging her bunny and new quilt around the house everywhere.

when i gave it to her, she said in awe, "it finish?! oh, thank you, Mama!!! it's so bigger!" it's one of the best reactions i've gotten from a kid yet.

that's a wrap.
it's complete and in her hands, all hers to use and love now.
enjoy the last few outtake photos below.

too short to help hold

hey, no peeking! and the bookshelf looks ugly

i'm glad they like being involved with me and the quilt making process. who knows how long it will last?