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!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

thread minding

keeping thread spools and the matching bobbins together is a concern for me. a few years ago i was excited to find out you could buy a type of pin to lock the two together while not in use.

unfortunately for me, the type i got (clover, i think) didn't fit my aurifil threads, which are the type i use most. i could get the bobbin to stay on the pin, but the pin didn't fit into the aurifil spool. i went ahead and used the ones i had by just placing them in the spools. they could get knocked off easily, but it sort of worked.

this weekend i was putting away fabric and noticed this funny little plastic contraption taped to on online order i received a while back. i wasn't sure what it was at first, then a lightbulb went off in my head and i tried it with my threads.

and hey presto, we have a fit. they hold together so well you can lift both by the end of the pin.

i found more on amazon (here) in a 40 pack. you can get more, but i found that amount to be sufficient. i don't know exactly what brand they are or what they're called as it was hard to identify that on amazon, there seemed to be several that looked the same but had different names, but the link will get you there. or search "bobbin thread holder clip". apparently you an also get them with some little clips that go around the bobbin to stop it from unwinding, but i didn't get those. i'm just really happy to have clips that work with my aurifils!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

some groovy quilting

this old friend (also here) finally got quilted last night, and it only took a few hours. why didn't i do this before now? life, i guess.

since i've been working my way through finishing wips this year, i knew i would be getting around to this sooner or later. i just hadn't gotten there quite yet.

yesterday afternoon i sat down to have some "quilt time" with my younger girls. (this is when they all get out a quilt to lay on and i read aloud to them.) i decided to match my quilt i was snuggling under to the book cover i was reading from. our current read is the borrowers by mary norton, an old childhood favorite. i'm not sure how many times i read through the adventures of arrietty, pod, and homily as a child, but it was many, many times.

the cover reminded me of the colors in "groovy summer love letters", which has been waiting, basted, in the "to be quilted" pile for over a year. after reading under it, i decided i might as well put it under the fmq foot and get it done.

i chose the pretty peachy-pink aurifil #2415 to quilt it with in modern loops.

modern loops and i are still getting acquainted. it's a very easy, repetetive pattern to do. i just don't do it consistently the same.

i'm still deciding if i like the loops skinny or rounded, and how far apart to put them. and how high or low to do the crossover part. there are a surprising number of ways to vary this pattern.

i was extra careful on the quilting done on the light, bone-colored solid portions of the quilt. they show up a lot and are quite noticeable. 

the last time i did this pattern, i didn't have the rows intermingle with each other like i did this time, so that took a bit of getting used to. i wasn't prepared for how much the spacing of the very first set of loops i did would affect all the rows that came after.

i didn't even realize as i made that first row that i was varying my spacing that much. but i did. some are really widely spread and others were squished together so close it was hard to get the next set of loops inbetween them. after a few rows i began to adjust that by either making just a tiny loop when the spacing was too narrow or doing two loops in a row to fill in a too-large space.

this is definitely a very organically quilted quilt! it has lots of personality in the quilting.

my biggest goof came when i didn't start a row off in the right direction and the two rows didn't overlap the way they were supposed too.  oops.

i accommodated this by making a unique set of swirls between the two rows. i'm calling it a special design feature and leaving it at that.

i had a few chocolate truffles along the way to help out, as well as first the soundtrack to "into the woods" playing, and then some jane austen on audible. lately, i really enjoy listening to stories as i work. and listening to a musical soundtrack is rather like listening to a story with the added benefit of being able to sing along. by the end of the evening i was done with the whole quilt, which isn't small.

i'm looking forward to revisiting this quilting pattern again very soon as i think i will use it on "maude's chevron peaks" next. as soon as i have it's backing made and get it basted, of course.

even though it's taken me a few years to get this plus quilt done, it was actually a very quick and easy make. i'll try to get the method/pattern for it posted sometime soon-ish. i actually have another one planned for a special fabric pull, so that shouldn't be too hard to get done.


and maybe this time i'll get it done quick as a wink like it can be done.

Monday, February 18, 2019

chevron blocks

chevrons are so, i don't know, five years ago, right? but they are kind of classic, too. especially in a formation where they aren't creating a solid zig-zag pattern across the quilt.

they are also an incredibly easy block make. this quilt top (that i finally got around to completing after making the first 2 blocks about 4 years ago) went really, really fast.

if you are an experienced quilter, here's the quick explanation of how to make a 16" chevron block:

1. cut 2 - 9" squares of each of 2 fabrics in your block (4 total)
2. make 4 hsts from the blocks and trim to 8.5"
3. arrange the hsts in a chevron formation and join together

it's so easy.

the above quilt top, which measures 64" x 80", is composed of 20 chevron blocks in a 4 column by 5 row grid.

fabric requirements:

20 fat or skinny quarters (makes two of each block, 10 different styles total)
40 fat or skinny quarters (makes one of each block, 20 unique blocks)
2 - 9" sqs each of 40 fabrics (makes one of each block, 20 unique blocks)
2 layer cakes (makes one of each block, 20 unique blocks. layer cakes are 10" squares, so you will either make larger blocks or trim each piece down to 9" to start.)

as i was making a set of blocks, i decided to photograph the process with my phone. the pictures are not pretty or of high, professional quality but if you need more detailed instructions and photos to guide you along the way, here you are:

cut 2 - 9" squares of both fabrics for the block: your chevron and your background
(i had already sewn the squares together when i decided to photograph the process, so ignore the seams for a bit.)

my two fabrics, each cut into 2 - 9" squares and made into pairs of 1 sq each fabric.

place the fabrics in pairs, one of each per pair. put them right sides together.

on the backside of one square, draw a diagonal line from one corner to the opposite corner with a pencil (or your choice of marking tool). i generally do this on the lighter fabric so it's easier to see.

using the pencil mark as your guide, sew a 1/4" seam on each side of the pencil mark, diagonally from corner to corner.

after i sew the seams, i like to give a quick press to the fabrics to smooth them out before cutting. there is usually a tiny bit of rippling no matter what foot or what speed i use, so i like to do the quick press. above, the top block has been pressed and the bottom one has not.

with a ruler lined up along the diagonal marking line, cut the squares in half diagonally between the set of seams.

you can see the seam is a scant 1/4" off the cut.

press the seam open to both sides.

with the hst blocks you get a lot of bulk where all the intersecting seams meet, which can make the quilting difficult, as well as produce the annoying little bulges felt in the quilt when it's finished. for this reason, i choose to press these seams open rather than to the side.

also, i like to use the "floppy book method" to help my seams lie flat.

as soon as i've opened the seams, i will lay an old phone book or a couple paperback quilting books on top of the block and let it stay for at least 30 seconds or so. i let it sit while i'm working on the next block or until i'm ready to trim them all.

when all four blocks are pressed, trim them to 8.5".

this is a step that helps with accuracy, particularity because we have slightly overcut the size of squares needed to produce the hst.

i use my 9.5" square ruler for trimming these blocks. any sq ruler 8.5" or larger would work. if you don't have any large sq rulers, you could also just measure using whichever ruler you use to make your large cuts (presumably 6" x 24" or some such), you'll just not be able to do it in the manner shown here.

place the sq ruler on top of the quilt block so that the diagonal line on the ruler is lined up with the diagonal seam of the block, and the corner opposite where you want to cut is near the 8.5" mark lines.

also check all the perimeter lines of the block to assure that you have fabric up to or past each of these lines. you might have to slide the block along the diagonal line a bit or make some other adjustments.

from where i'm standing, i'm going to make a cut along the top of the ruler, and also along the left side, past my hand. my cutting table is small enough that i can maneuver around it in this manner without being at an awkward angle for cuts. you can see that i have the bottom and right sides of the block aligned with the 8.5" lines and there is a little fabric poking out on the opposite two sides for me to trim off.

when you have made those two trims, either move the block around or flip the ruler around to the opposite corner. once again, line everything up and trim. my cutting space allows me to just move to the oppsosite side of the table to cut the right and bottom sides, but you may need to move the block under the ruler instead so that you can comfortably make the cuts.

or, you may need to adjust and turn the block each time you make the 4 different cuts. whatever your space requires.

when all 4 blocks are trimmed up, place them in a chevron configuration. if you look at it, this is actually two flying geese blocks with the fabrics opposite of each other.

the fabric you want to be your chevron should be on the inside forming the triangle (geese) on the top block and your background fabrics form the triangle (geese) on the lower block.

put your blocks right sides together and lined up on all edges, then sew a 1/4" seam on the right side.

for the first set of blocks, you will be sewing along the seam where the chevron fabrics are touching each other and the diagonal line moves away to the left. the next pairing will look exactly the opposite of this with the background fabrics touching instead.

i chain piece the blocks, meaning i just put the next block in and sew it without cutting the threads in between. if you have all your blocks precut and trimmed because you are working in batches, you could easily chain piece the whole top this way at once.

once the two component parts are sewn, press the seams open to both sides.

lay the block out again so you can see your chevron in the configuration you desire, then flip either the top down or the bottom up so that you have right sides of fabric facing each other.

line the two pieces up at the center seams and pin through the seam.

i'm not much of a pinner, as you can tell since i haven't pinned yet. but i do pin at this juncture to try to get my points just right.

sew the center seam together.

press open the center seam as well.

i didn't photograph it, but i do use the "floppy book method" after each pressing. also, after i have pressed open on the back, i flip the block over and press from the front, then lay the books on the block.

now you have a completed 16" chevron block.

(of course, when you have sewn it together but not with the other blocks, it measures 16.5". )

for the quilt i am making, i made 20 blocks, laid out in a 4 x 5 block grid.

there is a trick to getting your directional prints to match in a chevron block. you can see how to do that here. and when the quilt is complete, i'll talk more about my fabric choices and pairings.