Wednesday, June 12, 2019

procrastination quilting

this is probably my summer sign-off post.

i have several upcoming events and deadlines that have me wanting to hide in the covers all day just to avoid even thinking about them. it's all a little too much pressure and stress even though taken separately they aren't really a big deal at all. but overwhelm is kind of the modern way of living and most people can relate to the impulse toward ostrich behavior on occasion.

when times like this strike, it inevitably gets me wanting to do something productive, just not what i should be doing. that's self-defeating behavior, of course, but i know some of you can relate. "see, i'm busy! i'm doing stuff. i'm getting things done." if i haven't quilted in a while, i will get an overpowering urge to work on some quilt stuff.

quilting is probably my favorite form of productive procrastination when i should be doing something else.

in the middle of all this other chaos going on for the next few weeks, i finally got my carpets cleaned. since i couldn't walk on any of the carpets for a full day, it was the perfect time to work in my sewing room, which is in the tiled section of the house, for most of carpet cleaning holiday. my kids went to grandma's next door and i sewed.

first i made three frames/courthouse step blocks for "cheery easter quilt." once that was out of my system, i moved over to block trimming some of the 500+ 3"hst blocks i pieced and pressed for the "gypsy child hst quilt."

during all of this i was listening to middlemarch by george eliot on audible, read by juliette stevenson. (masterful reader, highly recommended, especially for classics.) this is a thick read/listen and such a great work on human relationships and foibles. it just makes me so sad every single time as i watch the characters enter doomed marriages with such high hopes and so little grasp on reality, but in the best way. there are happy parts, too, and so many juicy lines. it's my first time listening to the story and what i've been enjoying as i quilt lately.

i would love to have either of these projects fully pieced and ready for handwork over summer trips, but i don't think that's going to happen. those other nagging non-quilty deadlines and projects are looming too close.

see you at the end of summer!

Friday, June 7, 2019

mini museum finds

there is a small historical society housed in an old elementary school in a neighboring town that advertises a quilt show every spring. it runs from march - may, and my 4th daughter and i always express interest in it but never manage to go. the restaurant where our family has birthday breakfasts on each family member's birthday is just down the street from the little museum and since we have 3 birthdays during those months, we drive by it a few times during the quilt show each year. every time we do, d4 says, "mom! the quilt show is on again. we really need to go this year." and somehow we never do.

a few weeks ago on a saturday morning i randomly decided to make the drive over with d4. it's a good thing we did because when we got there we found out it was the very last day of the show for this year! apparently "march - may" doesn't "1st of march to may 31st."

we found all kinds of quilts and tops on display, some for sale and auction. anyone at all from the community is welcome to display in the show. we grabbed a glove for quilt handling and map of the rooms, then set off to look around.

in one room we found a group of quilters working on handquilting some vintage wips. apparently the historical society has a quilter's group who meets together several days a week to piece and handquilt for anyone who needs help. people bring in their heirloom pieces to have them finished off. i was so enchanted by the idea of these ladies sitting and working together, old school bee-style. they invited me to come whenever i can. maybe someday i will find the time?

on this particular day they were handquilting a vintage grandma's flower garden quilt made by this lady's mother in the 1980's from the family's old clothes. as we talked about the quilt, she began pointing out various fabrics and telling what items of clothing they came from that she could remember from her childhood in the 60's through college years.

the fact that this quilt was all handpieced rather blew my mind!

i was particularly drawn to this combination of citrusy colors.

after watching them at work and chatting with the ladies for a bit, we moved on to see what was on display. my daughter loved every single quilt she saw and wanted to buy anything that was for sale. she was so enthusiastic about the whole thing. i told her we had plenty enough quilts and fabric at home, so we were just going to look and enjoy.

most of the quilts were not made with fabrics i'd choose or did not fit my personal aesthetic, but i did thoroughly enjoy just wandering and looking at what other quilters had done. i find i can almost always see some aspect of the piece that i like or can admire, even if it's not something i'd make or want to own personally.

i thought this handprint quilt was about the coolest signature quilt i'd every seen. i wasn't crazy about the choices of fabric for the hands themselves, but i did like the low-volume background. having not only the signatures of the the participants but their handprints as well was an idea that really appealed to me. it would be great to make for a grandmother or as a family heirloom.

someone had made these wallhangings with some sweet quilters' quotes on them. very cute sentiments.

this dresen plate quilt top kind of rocked my world, not because i loved the fabric selections, which do have a certain vintage vibe to them, but because of it's imprecise piecing. as i looked at it, i was struck with how wonderful it was despite of, or even because of, the wonky shapes. it was so charming! and i could just imagine a family member receiving this quilt and not caring a hoot about the flat-sided circle or irregular blades as they were cuddled up in great-grandma's virtual hug. they would love it just because of who had made it.

something about this quilt emotionally overpowered me with the appreciation for it's imperfection. it made me realize that when we make out of love and gift out of love, we will always be given the grace of our loved one's appreciation for us rather than criticism over the imperfections. it was a lovely feeling. maybe this was one top i should have considered purchasing.

there were so many fun fabrics to peruse in the various vintage pieces on offer. i'm always amazed at what looks modern but is actually quite old in some of the quilts.

this strings quilt was so colorful and had a ton of interesting pieces in it. just look at those greyhounds- so unusual and unexpected. i liked how that ultra-bright yellow floral was used throughout the quilt to tie it all together. it was an unusual yet effective choice against the other colors in the quilt. the vibrant colors and scrappy vibe reminded me of something rachel at stitched in color would make.

this trip around the world was chock full of the tiniest little squares - all handpieced! amazing. if you look in the top right corner, you can see my daughter's gloved finger in the photo for scale. the squares were 1" or less.

this variation of a drunkard's path block really appealed to me, especially because of all the washed out reds in it. so cute!

take a look at these hexis - they are all vintage fabrics, but many of them look straight out of a denyse schmidt collection, don't you think? the plaids especially remind me of her work, which is of course always vintage inspired.

"i done my best."
enough said.

a zoomed out look at some of the pieces on display for sale, including that dresden plate i loved so much.

now that we've been once, we will definitely make the show again next year!
maybe we'll even contribute some pieces. who knows?
or maybe we'll decide to bring home a vintage top for ourselves next time.

show takeaway:

1. if you're a quilter, go to any and all shows. you'll find something to admire no matter what.

2. quit fussing about precision, particularity when you are making for loved ones. they'll love whatever you can manage.

and i must say, after looking at lots of different handpiecing and handquilting, i'm actually feeling pretty chuffed about my own handquilting. it may not be perfect, but it's pretty good after all.

Friday, May 17, 2019

needle notes

sunday afternoon i walked into my sewing room to locate a new needle for handquilting "beauty for ashes" quilt. as i looked around the room i recently (but not completely) rearranged, i realized i was looking in the proverbial haystack for a new needle! i have no idea where the particular orange box containing my tulip betweens was hiding in that vast and convoluted space. so i grabbed some sashiko needles from the same maker and quickly shut the doors behind me.

i've been using the same needle for several of my handwork projects for months now and figured it was a good idea to replace it, like you do with the machine periodically. it wasn't giving me any trouble, but it just seemed long overdue since i've handquilted a few quilts and bound several others all on the same little needle. it's slightly bent after all it's use.

i had the sashiko needles around because last time i was at the sewing store they didn't have the sharps i wanted in stock. sashiko is a handwork tradition so i thought it might be a good bet for my handquilting. i know absolutely nothing about sashiko other than what i just said, so i knew nothing about it's needle's dimensions or properties.

well, the needle is larger and longer. it's easier to get a grip on than my tiny little sharp was. and the eye is more compatible to 12wt thread. but it didn't allow me to make my stitches as small as i was used to doing. and it was difficult to push and pull through the fabrics. i felt like i was punching holes in the fabrics. perhaps this is all my inexperience or because i'm using it in a way not intended. who knows? obviously i need to research that more.

either way, after struggling through one row of stitches, i located my warped old friend and got back to work. despite it's age and extensive use, it still slides through the fabrics quite easily and oh so daintily. yes, the eye is still a challenge to thread, but it's manageable (with my readers on and a little patience) and i feel like it leaves less of a mark behind than the large needle did.

i don't have time to trek over to the fabric store across town, but i did locate more of the needles i want online. until then, this trusty little fella is working for me just fine! i'm curious to see if a new one feels any different at all.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Mildred and Ethel

The last time I was ordering crossweaves for some more Liberty + crossweave quilts, I saw an olive green crossweave that I thought might be nice to try for a change away from my neutral neutrals. (I think you can use certain colors as a “neutral” for a background, like in nature - blues, like sky, and greens, like foliage, in particular.) I was ordering from my phone and the thumbnail photo of the green crossweave had a sort of grunge/crosshatched look to it that all my other crossweaves and chambrays did not. I figured it must just be something about the way the colors photographed. Well, it came and it looked precisely like the photo did! 

I was really confused. The look and texture were completely different from all the other crossweaves I had ever seen, and not in a way that pleased me. I’ve lookked about a bit on the internet and apparently Moda makes two sorts of crossweaves. Now I know. This one is more like a barkcloth, similar to the Outback Wife fabrics I have. I really didn’t like it at first and didn’t know what I was going to do with it. 

But since it has such a retro look and feel to it, I decided maybe I could pair it with some other retro-ugly fabrics I have and it might actually make something I could love to hate. With more projects on my plate and in my head than I can ever complete, I don’t know why I even gave this a thought. But I scrounged through my Liberty stash for those prints I don’t like and also pulled some I do like that matched and came up with something kinda funky and vintage and likable. 

There are six Liberty prints here that speak a certain vibe to me which pairs with the grungy crossweave. Three of them are prints that I was never going to use anywhere else, so I figured it was worth a shot to use them now. The other three I do like but I’ve used them before so the leftovers were expendable. So despite the fact that I have oodles to work on already, I cut into this stack of funkiness and made some triangles. All my other Liberty + crossweave quilts are random bricks and strips patterns, but something about this pull was saying triangles and diamonds to me.

These are two of the prints I wanted to use up, so I cut as many of them as I could from my yardage. They will both feature twice as often in the quilt as the others will.

I'm using up the bulk of this Betsey in yellow for half the backing and on the front.

The backing is also a departure from my previous Liberty church quilt "score" I was working from. I didn't want any of those "ugly" prints left, so I worked what was left from cutting triangles into strips for the backing.

It's been a while since I sewed any triangles, so I looked up the method online, thinking there was some trick I was forgetting. Nope. Just line them up and fold them over to sew. They came together so fast!

I'm making green diamonds and the Liberty prints make patched together diamonds of two prints.
I could hardly have picked two sillier fabrics to cut into triangles and sew on the bias cuts, but they behaved nicely enough. my points aren't all perfect or completely lined up, but with the amount of distortion and stretching I could have had compared to what I got, I'm not complaining. Triangles want to be triangles even when your tana lawns and crossweaves also want to stretch bit.

This weekend my husband was so sweet and gave me the gift of time to do as I liked as a Mother's Day gift. So in only 4 days I had the quilt fully pieced, a backing done, and everything pinbasted, ready for some delicious handquilting. This is an unprecedented record for me. Have I actually gotten a bit faster at quilting? That seems to be a theme this year, so maybe I have. And along the way I've actually pretty much fallen in love with this crazy, funky quilt. 

It reminds me very much of something that would have been found in one of my great-grandmother's houses during my early childhood at the dawn of the 70's, perhaps something that had been there since before my birth. Maybe it was that combined with Mother's Day weekend that inspired me to name the quilt "Mildred and Ethel" after my two maternal great grans, both of whom I knew and visited a little in my toddler years. 

Four Generations: Grandma Dorothy holding my sister Loree, Ethel (Dorothy's m-i-l), me held by my mother Jan (Marmee)

Ethel, for certain I remember, and her lovely backyard garden in Logan, UT, with the Logan temple (where my parents were married) in the background. Her basement with the taxidermy always creeped me out, but I enjoyed the rest of the house. It's part of my earliest memories.

Mildred I remember less well, but I do have a few distinct memories of her home: the Christmas village with train under the tree in winter, a refrigerator on the back porch, and her cherry trees, which seemed a vast orchard to tiny me, but were apparently only a few in number. Apparently I don't have any photos of me with her, either. I'll have to go to my aunties and see what they have for me.

I'm not sure which lady is the green crossweave and which is the Liberty, but the two distinct fabrics make me think of there being two of them. I'm also going to handquilt this in two colors, white and olive green, one for each lady.

With summer coming on fast, I am trying to get as many projects as possible into handwork mode so i have something to take on our travels that doesn't require me to be a machine. I'm pretty chuffed to have this vintage-esque lady in the position to be handquilted to my heart's content.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

crossweave, pastels, pins

this past week i made time to complete the piecing for my newest liberty + crossweave quilt, "beauty for ashes." mostly i was itching to complete it so i could have a handwork project. now that it's ready for handquilting, i don't really care how long it takes. but since i like to work at it whenever i can, i don't anticipate it taking too long.

the black and white crossweave has the look of a nice deep grey linen. that's one of the characteristics i really appreciate about crossweave - it has a look and texture more reminiscent of a linen, but without the unraveling issues since it's actually cotton.

this liberty tana lawn "mitsi" print in yellow was an exclusive colorway made for alice caroline supply that i simply adore. this colorway is so buttery soft and cheery, not to mention "mitsi" was my very first favorite liberty print. i do have a few favorites now, but "mitsi" is still up there in the rankings.

i've put a lot of pastel goodies in this quilt; all my softest-toned tana lawns are here. as usual, there are a few i don't exactly like but i've used them anyway.

yes, there are liberty prints i don't like! and i own a few of them, too. online ordering does that to you sometimes. not everything is as it appears on the internet, in case you didn't know.

although there are some liberty prints that i don't seem to ever like, with others it's more a matter of the colorway. even my favorite prints come in colorways i'll pass on, while the right colorway will occasionally attract me to a print i don't normally like at all.

but i can tolerate the not-so-favorite liberty prints enough to include them in the quilt. i think they give that touch of subtle "ugly" that makes a quilt feel vintage and homey. some quilts need a touch of that. (if you know what i mean about the slight touch of ugly, you get it. if you don't - i don't know how to explain it!)

"eloise" (between my hands) is a print i've taken a liking to lately. there seems to be a handful of really cute colorways for "eloise" on the market at the moment.

"betsy" (the other yellow on the far left) is still a top contender. this yellow version is unusual and especially nice, too.

i was surprised once again as i basted this quilt that i do actually rather like pin basting. it can get hard on the knees since i do it on my tile floor, but the actual process is rather pleasurable. i enjoy it in a way i don't like the spreading and pushing involved in spray basting. maybe it's the slight similarity it bears to handwork?

with all the pins in place, it's on to handquilting next!

Friday, May 3, 2019

liberty makes do too, a finish

some late afternoon snaps of my latest quilt finish, "liberty makes do too."

this quilt came about because i overcut fabric for my first liberty + crossweave quilt, "liberty makes do." i had to "make do" with all those extra pieces, so i came up with a new variation on the pattern for the first quilt and called this one "liberty makes do too," a play on words and reference to the original quilt.

there are nice close-ups of this quilt in previous posts and on instagram, if you'd like to see more of the fabrics upclose.

my littlest happily snipped any loose threads and ends for me as i finished up the project.

for the backing, i again selected one yard cuts of two liberty tana lawn prints. it makes for such a snuggly, luxurious backing. it's definitely a splurge, but for a small quilt i will do it.

another justification is that this is a lap quilt and the back gets seen quite often. it's not as if i've hidden all that lovely tana lawn away somehwhere.

as with the first quilt, this one has become a "church quilt" - one we take with us on sundays to keep our laps warm in the frigid AC that's always just a bit too nippy for us.

this quilt has d'anjo in pinks and betsey in blues on the back, a pairing of two of my favorite liberty classic prints. i guess that's another excuse for the backing splurge - i want a place to preserve large cuts of my favorite prints so i can see them and revel in them on occasion.

another luxury i put into this is the handquilting (aurifil 12 wt in white).
giving myself the time and leisure to handquilt a project is a gift to myself. the more quilts i have done, the more willing i am to slow down and do this, particularly on smaller-sized projects like this one.

i've always loved the binding phase of a quilt for the handwork involved and i'm leaning more and more towards doing the quilting that way, too.

above photo is me putting the final stitch into the binding of the quilt. i happened to be wearing my liberty of london dressing gown, made in emilia's flowers print, which is also in the quilt in the same colorway.

which beings me to the binding. even though it began to pill, which is annoying, i decided i still liked the herringbone striped blue flannel i used for the binding on the first quilt. it's a nice contrast to the other fabrics and colors in the quilt and the pilling seems to have tapered off with initial use. 

this quilt is now fully in church rotation use. in fact, i've had to tell the girls they can only use these quilts on sundays because they tend to want to use them for everything. because of the delicate nature of tana lawn, i'm keeping these for sunday best.

we're going to need 6 church quilts total, and the next one, "beauty for ashes," is already in the works, as is the search for a proper name for the quilt series.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

wip wednesday 2019.18

at the moment, i have three main projects in the works (not counting all the other bits and pieces of projects having a lie about) but none have been touched in a few weeks.

"maude's chevron peaks" is about 1/4 - 1/3 quilted in some simple modern loops.

"groovy summer love letters" is hanging out in the piano room waiting for some binding, which i can't seem to find a good fit for just yet. all folded up like it is, it appears to be a finish. shh. don't tell.

newest project: my latest liberty church lap quilt, "beauty for ashes," is halfway pieced with 11/22 rows completed.

in the above photo i also spy "etoile de patisserie," which need the quilting fixed before i can get on with the binding, but since it's been so many months since i even thought about that, i hardly even consider it a wip at all. my daughter would disagree.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

moving up upgrades

i've been rearranging and organizing in my sewing room. it's still a complete hodge podge of a space, with a lot of mismatched furnishings, but it's getting cleaner and more functional.

by the look of the two shelves nearly full and the stack on the floor i still have to refold and shelve, i'd say heather bailey wins around here. soooo many good prints in these collections! it just makes me happy to sit with them, admire the colors and patterns, and dream.

in the in-process photo above you can see that i also made a place for a full design wall behind my machine. of course it's already full with wips, but i'm really happy it's there and not falling off of something else anymore.

what brought on the big rearrange and resulting cleanse (because i actually have been culling!), was a few more bookcases becoming available from other rooms in the house. there used to be 6 assorted white bookcases in my master bedroom, which we recently remodeled. we put a few in here a while ago, and after installing more built-ins in other parts of the house, there were 2 more available for the sewing room. only i didn't have the wall or floorspace for them.

i decided to look up instead! after measuring, i found out the shelves were exactly tall enough to stack to the ceiling as long as we gave them a few inches away from the wall to clear the moldings. i got my sons and an almost-son to help me out - they heaved and i directed.

it was a bit scary, but it worked! and i'm pretty chuffed about having fabric to the ceiling. i've been able to get almost everything out of boxes and on a shelf. yes, i have to climb a ladder to access what's at the top, but i don't mind that a bit. it's much better to have everything out and visible.

i've come across all sorts of things since i began shuffling the room around. for instance, this stack of fabric and some already cut pieces that i clearly had a plan for. but i can't remember what it was going to be! darn it.

i should always, always make notes for myself!

i was just going to throw everything up on a shelf, but that wasn't working too well, so i began folding things so they fit nicely. it's taking time, but i like this much better. i'm also sorting and culling as i go, and rediscovering lost items. i've come to the conclusion that a large fabric hoard is a lot of work and was a bad idea. but i'm doing my best to work with it and find a new home or a plan for everything. i've already given a suitcase full to a pair of little girls who were thrilled to get their own stash, and i have several more boxes of items i'm donating to the local guild.

i just remind myself that all this purchasing at least taught me some things. it was an expensive lesson but no use beating myself up about that now. i love mari kondo's thought that everything we've acquired has a purpose, and sometimes that purpose was to fulfill a need at the time or to teach us something. we don't necessarily have to use it as it was intended for it to have been useful to us, and now we can let it go.

moving forward from here.
and up.
up to the ceiling!

Thursday, April 4, 2019


Back in February, just before I went to Quiltcon (what?! Yes, I did!) I got the backing made for Maude’s Chevron Peaks quilt. I used some prints I really like as well as some blocks that didn’t make the cut for the front of the quilt. One of them I accidentally made when I miscounted the number I had finished, so it was extra. One I made and decided it wasn’t going to work on the front. And the pinwheel block is what I made after I unpicked a block that had its directional prints going in the wrong directions for a chevron (but they were the right directions for a pinwheel).

They make a nice focal point on the back and a center strip between two matching side panels of the same two prints in opposite colors.

I even managed to get some of the salvages to show on one of the Daisy Bouquet prints from Denyse Scmidt’s Katie Jumprope collection. I do love when I can get a selvage to show on a backing.

I also really enjoy making a backing that is almost a second quilt top of its own. It’s like making a simplified quilt that I normally wouldn’t make on its own but that I like as a second face just fine. And the challenge of working in leftover pieces from the front can be really fun. Honestly, by the time I am ready to sandwich the quilt I don’t usually feel like taking the time to piece a backing, but I am always glad I did. Sometimes they are even may favorite part of the quilt!