Wednesday, April 30, 2014

trying out dogwood fmq

 once s1 and i got the "marmalade" charm squares all laid out in a pleasing configuration, i was able to get them put together quite quickly. and i even chain pieced the rows without getting one single square out of the order of the original layout. that was a miracle! but then i went and sewed a sashing strip on the wrong side. so one unpick for me. still, that's progress.

when it came time to baste the quilt, i chose to pin tightly down the sashing rows and then just pin across the seams of the blocks because i was going to attempt the dogwood quilting pattern. i wanted a practice run at this before finally getting around to "penny patch".

 when i looked up elizabeth hartman's dogwood tutorial on her blog, oh, fransson!, i found she actually has two patterns: dogwood and orange peel. the difference is the dogwood has lines linking the blossoms. i preferred the look of the orange peel without the lines, but like the name dogwood better. so if i call it that, don't get confused.

anyway, i have been nervous to try this pattern having heard it took some mastering. (but, really, what fmq pattern doesn't?) however, i found it surprisingly easy. maybe it's because i am comfortable with curves because of stippling or maybe my standards of acceptable fmq have relaxed, but i really enjoyed this pattern.

i can't say my petals are perfect. there are definitely some wonky ones. overall, however, they were good enough. i haven't yet decided if i like them skinnier or fatter. to make fat ones, you really almost follow the box lines but just cut the corner closely. for skinnier blossoms, stay away from the box lines. pretty simple. once you try it the difference is obvious.

the one thing i would do differently is stop to take out the pins. the wiggly spots in the petals mostly occurred when i tried to skirt around a pin. there weren't that many but i didn't want to stop the rhythm of the back-and-forth curving every other block to remove the pins. should have.

in the white sashing strips, i did a freehand vine with swirls, inspired by my oldest daughter's suggestion. i was going to echo quilt the seams 1/4" away from the blocks, but couldn't face straightline quilting issues with my walking foot at the time. so i wiggled and looped instead.

with the dogwood down, i'm ready to take on the "penny patch" now! there's still a month til the finishes link party closes. looks like i might make it.

linking up with lee at freshly pieced!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

homeschool quilt math

friday, i gave d2 a quilting math problem. i had one charm pack of bonnie and camille's "marmalade" for moda, one yard of backing fabric, and some white jelly roll strips. she was supposed to figure out how to best configure the charm squares as a top that would fit on the backing with breathing room around the outside, and whether there were sufficient or insufficient squares for the job. i provided no measurements, just a tape measure, but did explain about seam allowances. (now that i think of it, i should have had her calculate the binding, too.)

d2, sadly, was not excited about this. i thought she'd whip out the answer in a number of minutes once she had measured everything, or even just do it the manual way of laying it out by trial and error. but this was not the case. d1 got involved, helping her measure and giving her lots of hints, but d2 told me this wasn't a good math problem and i should figure out my own quilt layout.

i disagreed. i thought it was perfect real life math and was mainly interested to observe her thinking process. either she wasn't interested enough to do it herself or she truly was stumped because i eventually had to walk her through a lot of it (without doing the actual calculations for her) just so i could get the quilt made. this will not be the last problem i give her. i want to see her develop this kind of problem solving ability.

in an effort to prod her thinking, i asked s1 how he would do this and he went way overboard, calculating the area of the squares and the backing fabric then doing a bunch of division and whatnot. he was a little too brainy, exerting more effort than was needed to figure it out. however, he did give me a layout and then helped me arrange the squares and jelly strips that were needed to add sufficient length to the quilt top.

this is a crummy photo that we call a "quilt map", taken purely for reference when sewing the top together and to get another view on how the fabrics are distributed. the answer to our math problem was to lay out the squares in a 6 x 7 grid, then insert jelly strips between the six columns of seven and on the outer edges. this brought the top closest to the available dimensions of a one yard cut of fabric.

as a sidenote, why is a charm pack just not big enough to make anything? not even a baby quilt. i suppose it would suffice for a cushion. it's so disappointing because they are completely enticing the way they include a bit of each fabric for a low cost and come precut. but to really make a quilt, you must buy a handful of them.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

gypsy heart

in the wake of all the hand binding and baby quilt finishes, the gypsy hasn't been touched in a bit. with the month coming to a rapid close (again?!) i am slightly behind schedule. however, i did manage this one unreported block during sarah's friday night sewalong on instagram a few weeks ago. which, by the way, was really so very fun.

 yes, this one itty bitty 6" block took me all evening and i'm not even that fond of her after all the fuss and important fabrics lavished on her. this block was not my favorite to begin with. i just don't generally prefer heart blocks and the way this one was made in the pattern with only one light and one dark fabric, it looked like it had holes in it to me.

so i decided to doctor that up and go all scrappy. this is the scrappiest quilt on the planet, after all. however, as usual, my scathingly brilliant fabric choices went slightly awry. i found a scrap pack of flea market fancy i'd forgotten about. this excited me because i realized i was wasting my very limited yardage cutting small bits of it out. however, you can barely even see what it is in these teeny tiny pieces. with only three blocks and two fabrics to place, it didn't turn out quite as i'd hoped. and then the piece in the very center that was supposed to read yellow ended up being part of the flower so now it's red and blends right in. um, way too much time and thought on one little block you say. correct.

but there's more: the two red art gallery ditsy florals. since i didn't want the center to read as a cut-out, i chose to use a coordinating print rather than the exact same print from the big pieces of the heart. but i don't think it's even really noticeable. i hope when it's sewn in with it's neighbors, all of this will sort of even out or disappear.

what i do like? the oh-so-quiet dot fabric for the background. that turned out lovely.

the only other work i've done on gypsy is some pattern sleuthing.
 this may qualify for more over thinking, but this large and expensive pattern book is quite scant on math details. i'm not the only user who is dissatisfied. i absolutely do love the pattern, but have to be honest about how i feel regarding the way the pattern's written. it's only fair to anyone out there considering this pattern.

 while sitting on a 4 hour flight recently, i attacked the pattern with my mechanical pencil. as i assembled blocks i started to wonder where they were going to end up in the overall quilt layout. i didn't want all my red blocks or blue ones lumped together in different sections of the quilt. so i gave each and every block in the whole quilt it's own label, which i marked next to it in the sewing instruction section and then again on the layout section.

since i'm doing this as part of a monthly schedule quilt along, i also marked the month for each block next to it in the instruction book, as well as the section where it belongs in the quilt. for example, in the photo above: the 7" courthouse step block is identified as block A16, made in nov, in section 10 of the quilt.

in the layout section, it's all graphics and no numbers at all except for lengths of the strips. with lots of smaller filler blocks being close in size, i was wondering which were 3" or 4" and what not. so i did all the math myself, using the strip widths and lengths to figure out which was what. and then i marked them all in the layout section. i put the name, identifying label, and the block size in each block.  also, i marked what sections were next to each other on each section, just for reference.

 i can now look at the layout guides to see what's in each section and how big it is or i can look at the sewing instructions and know when to make it and where the block goes. overkill - maybe. but i feel much more relaxed now and definitely informed about what's going on here.

now to find the time to sew some more blocks!

oh, and i solved the strips math mystery, too. despite what the back of the pattern says, the strips are to be cut in 1" or 1.5" widths across the wof. just in case anyone else was wondering. thanks to nicole of snips snippets for confirming that for me even after the math was done. have you seen her gypsy, by the way? eek! she's handquilting all of it. dreamy.

Monday, April 21, 2014

easter deliveries

 mid-week last week we made a trip to mesa for the world's largest outdoor easter pageant. it's free with open seating, so getting there hours in advance is a must. i was the official seat holder. my quilts and i, that is. while everyone else wandered around the beautiful grounds or went to the visitor's center, i sat with my quilts spread out along the chairs and worked on basting "twirly." i've got more than 1/3 of her done now.

 last year, i was able to complete "out on a limb" during this seat holding time and got to photograph it completed in the gardens of the temple. no such luck this time. but that's okay. i was not the only one using quilts to hold seats. if you look past me, the grandmother down the row from me had several folded quilts she'd brought along, too. it's a good choice because it usually gets chilly once the sun drops. this year, however, with easter being so late, it didn't get cold at all. but quilts also make good seat cushions to compensate for those hard metal folding chairs. so no loss there, either.

 on easter sunday, after wonderfully inspiring services at church, i ran my friend venessa's church auction replacement/commissioned baby quilt over to her and the new little darling that had arrived on wednesday. just like the quilt d2 made for the auction, this one was a simple 4sq quilt composed of 4 fat quarters of "nicey jane" prints from heather bailey.

 there were two small changes to this edition of the auction quilt: i used green polka dot flannel as the backing and the "slim dandy" stripe for binding. i love, love, love this stripe as a binding! that little pop of red gives it some nice sophistication.

 i still have plenty of each of these prints so i'm going to have to whip up something for myself out of them soon. well, after the dozen other things i've got going of course.

later in the afternoon, thanks to family get-togethers, i was able to deliver not one but two other baby quilts that have been needing to get to their new owners. i dropped off "rain or shine" at my aunt lynn's house for her grandbaby elizabeth (no photos) and i handed over "way out weston" to the newest carpenter family cousin.

 at nearly two months old, little weston is pretty strong for his age. it took him a moment, but he got his head right up for some shots on his new blankie. just look at him:

i think all those bright colors and busy patterns are going to keep him plenty interested! wow, that feels great to get those done and delivered. now on to the 43 other projects i have going. (maybe it's just around two dozen now, but who's counting?)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gee's Bend inspiration

if you've read anything about american quilting and it's recent history, especially the modern quilting movement, you've probably come across the term "gee's bend quilt." i enjoy reading about quilting history almost as much as i enjoy actually making my own quilts, so after coming across the term a few times, i looked into it. i found not only a book for myself, gee's bend: the architecture of the quilt, but a children's picture book, stitchin' and pullin': a gee's bend quilt by patricia mckissack, which follows along as a young "bender" girl describes her journey from baby playing under the quilt frame to making her first quilt. there's quite a bit of african-american history woven into the story. best of all, the young narrator describes how she makes fabric selections for her quilt from scrap clothing and fabrics; every piece has a meaning.

yesterday, the two littlest school girls and i enjoyed exploring the picture book and then looking at photos of some of the real quilts from my grown-up book. today we took that one step further when i had the girls pull scraps for their own mini quilts, built around a theme. getting them to stick to a theme and not just pull fabrics they liked took gentle reminding, but they managed pretty well. they also have a few other themes in mind to explore in the future.

 d4 picked "camping with dad" for her theme. she snuck a lot of "wildflower" prints in, but kept pretty close as i reminded what she was doing. her bits represent:
  • the paisley - lots of flowers
  • the brown spot - a hole i found that one time, probably a snake hole
  • pink oval elements - keeping dad's rules, because this one is in order like all his rules
  • burnt orange scroll - dad
  • purple flowers - flowers i find and trees; i find lots of flowers
  • blue - Jesus because i think of him sometimes when i'm lying in the tent or feel him when we are at the campfire
  • brown ditsy floral - dirt
  • navy blue solid - the river
  • green flannel - grass because it's green and fuzzy
  • white spots - marshmallows
  • orange - camp fire
  • green with circles - trees
she also picked some for pinecones, the tent, hot cocoa, and then started getting one for each person that goes camping with her.

 that prompted her to dig deep in the scraps saying, "where am i in this basket?! i need one for me."

 d3 settled on finding scraps to represent people in her life. if she tries to pick one for each and every relative, it's going to be quite a quilt since her extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins is near 100 people. then again, she's enamored of very tiny pieces, so we'll see.

 as they worked on their gee's bend memory quilts, i worked on my memory book - project life. i'm so far behind! probably even farther behind than i am on quilting. there are just never enough hours in a day or lifetime to do all the things i'd like to.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"in hand" epp link party #7

welcome to april's "in hand" epp link party. i'm looking forward to seeing what everyone has been up to the past month. i've done a bit of work on my wheels, but nothing to show really. the last time i pulled one out on a plane, i started talking to the gentleman who sat next to me and was also stitching (on canvas), so i didn't end up making much but had a great conversation. maybe my travels this month will yield better results.

there were so many great, unique projects last month that narrowing down three to highlight was a nailbiter! here's what i settled on:

karen at pieces of contentment has a new hexi project going in lovely, calm shades of blues and greens. she has created a wonderful, mini on-the-go kit to get her hexies basted. i always enjoy working tips like this. thank you, karen, for the idea.

paula at mud, pies, and pins has been going free-form and creating her own epp shapes to form a variety of stunning butterflies. if you didn't get to see her work, do check it out! you will be amazed.

and one of my very favorite epp projects out there, the rose star quilt by lucy of charm about you (one of my very favorite people). she was adding one more row of stars and then on to the border. i just can't wait to see this one finished up! golly, it's gorgeous.

Friday, April 4, 2014

listen while you work

 d4 had an epic finish week: she completed the kitty softie she has been working on (sporadically) for about a year now. and then she completed a quilt for her kitty all in one night. after we finished the quilt last night, she said, "wow! i can't believe i did it all in one night. the kitty took me 10 days and the quilt only took one night." well, not exactly, but we did knock out that little patchwork together in about an hour, give or take.

kitty in the beginning - april 2012

as she worked on the kitty, i remembered how she started it during general conference last april. it was all her own design, made from felt that she cut herself. many of us were doing handwork, as we usually do while listening during general conference, when she pulled out her box and started making something on her own. she's needed help with threading and when she gets tangled, as well as a bit of instruction, but this really was her project. last october, she again pulled it out on her own and made progress as we listened to the fall session of general conference. this last week, even though it wasn't conference yet, she pulled kitty out to work alongside me as i sewed.

go here to find out how

her internal kitty-sewing clock must have known conference was close because it's this coming weekend. we'll be listening to uplifting, inspirational addresses from religious leaders, men and women, and keeping our hands busy while we listen. if you'd like some peaceful background listening for your sewing this weekend, join us for any or all of the four two-hour sessions.

kitty couldn't wait for conference to get finished. d4 got her done right down to her bright blue tail and orange heart on the front. i suggested that maybe kitty needed a nose (so it would look more like a cat) but the creator responded, "the stitching already looks like a mouth so she doesn't need a nose." okee-doke.

after getting the mini quilt made for kitty, d4 said she needs some clothes now. so maybe that'll be her conference project this weekend.  what'll i be working on?

usually i'd say epp! well, last night d3 pulled her christmas gift quilt out of my "needs binding handstiched" wip pile and decided she was "going to snuggle it even though it's not finished." that made me realize we are 4 months into the new year and i should really get the binding done on those 3 quilts for my daughters. so it looks like binding for me while i listen. wouldn't that be a miracle if i could actually finish all 3?

something else that might be keeping the kids busily quiet while we enjoy conference? legoes, of course. here are some creative master builder makes from the girls this morning:

everything is awesome!

especially on general conference weekend. hope your's is a good one, too, with plenty of sewing, family time, and personal renewal.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

gypsy steps

 i had a mid-week sewing fest last night. the mr took some of the older children to a sporting event so i had the evening pretty much free at home. d2 made a simple dinner for all of us (once she realized mom was in the sewing zone and might not come out to make dinner for a while) and the 3 littles hung out with me in the sewing room. i did take an hour break to help d4 create something tiny and quilty, which i'll share later. otherwise, i plodded along with my gw blocks. i was supposed to be making march's blocks, but after the first courthouse step block, i just kept going with those.

 this is an 8" courthouse step block. it turned out a lot cooler-toned than the other blocks i've made so far. i purposefully chose the outer border to include the blue for a tie in with the cool colors as well as the warm colored flowers to help tie it to the rest of the quilt. i almost got the fussy cut center right, but somehow was about 1/8" off. it's not too bad, though, so it works for me.

 this fussy cut center is also a little bit lower than i would have liked, but i cut it from a scrap, so it is as it is. i still love it! the yellow modern solids ii does not have as much color play as the teal i used on the pinwheel, but i do like it with the other fabrics.

i am becoming a solids convert! well, sort of like i am a denyse schmidt convert: i am learning how to use bits and pieces to compliment and enhance my designs. in fact, while deciding on my color palette and pull for the triangle along quilt, i realized i absolutely love solid triangle quilts! so i've ordered more of these modern solids ii and a few other almost-solids for that quilt. i'm actually pretty excited to work with more solids! (as might be indicated by the unusally high number of exclamation points in this paragraph.)

 as i was working on the courthouse step blocks, i kept trying to find a use for my goat sample piece sent to me by cia. however, it was a little too big for any of those blocks. so i hunted through the pattern book for a block that could utilize this piece. i found a courthouse step sq-in-sq block that would work. i still had to cut off a bit of one of his feet, but it was the best i could do. my 13 yr old quilting critic son had to point out the missing foot to me. i explained to him that if i had moved it over to the left a little, the goat would not have enough "room to breathe" with his nose right up against the seam. the mr chimed in with, "yes, goats need to be able to breathe." s1 followed right up with, "well, he can get enough oxygen from all these flowers around him. he could still breathe."

fussy cutting that goat at an angle was no small task. a 4.5" square ruler would have made it a whole lot easier, but i dont' have one of those. i kept thinking i was going to mess it up and then i'd be out a goat. yeah, it's just fabric, as they say, but i only had one bit of this and there was no room for error. fortunately my late night brain functioned for me. however, i did cut the squares for the outer triangles wrong and had mull over what went wrong for a bit before realizing it was a 1/4" too large on one side. oh, so that's why my triangles weren't symmetrical! fortunately, i was able to salvage them. too big is a lot better than too small in most cases. the gypsy goat still needs an outer border - green, i think - but it's looking pretty. that heather bailey dandy stripe from "nicey jane" is awesome! as i cut it last night, i was sorely tempted to go order a few more yards of it. (didn't - for the record. yet.)

i hit on one more scathingly brilliant idea for working on gw last night: i'm now cutting strips as i go. the pattern calls for 60 wof strips, 20 at 2" wide and 40 at 4" wide. that's a lot of strip cutting and i wasn't looking forward to doing that all at once on 60 different fabrics.

so far, i've only been using small pieces of each fabric so when i go to cut, i've been lazy. i've just pressed a corner of the fabric and cut out what i need without squaring it off first. it seemed like too much trouble to square a whole piece when all i needed was a few inches.

however, last night as i thought about all those strips i'll eventually need, i decided to go ahead and press and square every time i need a piece of new fabric, and also cut a strip out while i'm at it. genius, i tell you! (maybe i read that somewhere else and it just surfaced as my own idea last night?) now i have a growing pile of strips to set aside for later. two birds with one stone, and all that. i was thinking i should use each fabric in a block and then somewhere else as a strip, too, so this is going to make keeping track of all that much easier. thank you, quilting muse, for the inspiration!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

triangle along pull - updated

***i'm updating my fabric pull for the triangle along. after looking at #trianglequilt on instagram, and marking all the ones i liked, i realized i really like mostly solid quilts best. and after playing around with the modern solids ii pieces that i got from cuts of cotton, i decided to get some more solids/near solid basics for the triangle quilt.

(bye-bye fabric fast and it's only the 2nd!) i love the way they look on the order screen. i've kept this screen open just so i can go back and look at them again. something about the way they look in all that white makes me happy. when i made the collage, they look a lot more color dense. that's something to keep in mind when making the quilt, i guess. now all I have to do is wait for them to arrive. these will form the base of my quilt and i'll use all the lovely prints mixed in here and there. maybe just one or two of each print. i'm gonna have a lot of leftovers!

perhaps i'll do a double-sided quilt with strips of all these luscious prints on the back.

i've wanted to do a triangle quilt, and paula's quilt along is the perfect opportunity. however, now that i have dug out my pull, made last month, it's looking something like a train wreck and i'm unsure of myself. there will need to be some culling done here. i really like all the triangle graphics out there in solids with pops of colors on more low-volume backgrounds. this looks nothing like that! maybe once i start cutting and placing, i'll get some inspiration?

linking up with paula's selection party for the triangle along.

The Sassy Quilter

pinwheel learning curve

 my march bom blocks for gypsy wife and sugar block club did not get made in march. i had a few hang ups about "perishing" for gw and also for fabric placement on march's "explore" block. i wanted them to be just right so they got pushed aside. it's not like i didn't have plenty else to work on around here. now that it's april and i got a few baby quilt finishes out of the way (yay!), i decided to work on my monthly projects. i started with the pinwheel sq-in-a-sq blocks for gw. and that was as far as i got after about 3 hours of cutting, sewing, pressing. sheesh! these are intricate, detailed blocks. i have a whole new respect for people who do such piecing all the time.

for the above block, i went out on a limb and used a solid for my outer square! it's a modern solids ii by alissa height carlton, in "sea" i think, purchased from cuts of cotton. if you are like me and just never use solids because, well, they aren't as interesting or you are unsure how to use them effectively, you might want to give some of these solids a try. they are crossweaves so they have more color depth and play. i really, really like it! me! a solid! yep, it was a big moment over here when i finally cut into and used this gorgeous piece of solid fabric.

 after making my first set of pinwheels last month and then seeing everyone else's in the flickr group, i learned that i needed more contrast in my fabric choices and that i like the pinwheels with two fabrics/less scrappy. i'm pretty darn happy with how this mix turned out. there is a touch of icy blue in the amh print, which helps tie it to the blue art gallery print. then the jd border print also has red for a further tie, but pink for another note of fun. the tiny red dots set if off perfectly for me. goodness, that's a lot of time and though going into one 5" block! but i'm learning a lot about color and fabric placement one block at a time right now, which is better than one whole quilt at a time, so i think it's a good investment.

 all the seams are another issue i need to master here. i pressed the blue bordered block to the sides, which made a lot of bulk in the middle intersection. i know there's supposed to be a way to nest them, but i couldn't remember how or where. can anyone point me to a post or tutorial on this? you'd think one of the bazillion quilting books i own would address this, but i couldn't remember one and didn't want to go looking.

i pressed the red dot bordered block open, which seemed to be better. but i'm open to suggestions and advice!

i got my sewing space all cleaned up over the weekend. but now look at it after just these two little blocks (and a few mini hsts)! messy, messy.

linking up with lee's wip wednesday at freshly pieced. WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced