Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pins and Needles

After taming pinning the beast on Monday,
Half at a time, two tables wide

and basting the backing over the edges on Tuesday evening, I couldn't resist tossing it onto the guest room bed where it will rest after quilting.  Sneak peek ...

And last evening I finally got it into the Grace 2 hoop and took the first stitches!

The first circle quilted had to be our Olie block, which is in the very center of the quilt top. I'm going to quilt this with big stitch quilting, and am using Aurifil 12 weight thread. I've tried big stitch quilting a couple times, and have had trouble finding the size/type needle that quilts easily yet has an eye large enough to get the 12 weight thread through without shredding.  Earlier yesterday I rummaged through several older sewing boxes, and look what I found.
Oh-my-gosh, these are just about perfect!  Anyone want to venture a guess how old these babies are? My guess is that I bought them well over 30 years ago, but it may be longer, or perhaps they even were picked up in some yard sale long ago. Whatever the case, they are not rusted, and glide through the fabric beautifully, much better than the chenille needles recommended by the nearest quilt shop for big stitching projects! I think the chenille needles will be great for wool or flannel quilting, but they seem to drag through the quilting cotton and really tire my fingers. I'm so happy most of the needles are still in the JCP packet, all shiny, sharp and ready to go.

So now there are two projects in hoops, Quilty 365 is in my sewing room where it won't need to be moved constantly, and the basket quilt is in the hand-held hoop on my recliner in the living room where I can work on it while watching tv.
making progress slowly - fourth basket underway

I'm hoping to put some stitches into each quilt every day so they can eventually crossed off that 17 in 2017 list. Hopefully while it's still 2017! Meanwhile, languishing in a corner of the sewing room
the king-size vintage rose applique, just where it was plopped sometime last year when I began quilting my husband's Astoria/Oregon Memories quilt.  Under the big rose quilt is a tote with yet another vintage quilt top remake awaiting its turn and surrounded by 4 more containers with quilts-in-the making, including the remainder of the Quilty 365 circles. Still don't have any grand ideas for those leftovers yet, but they can cool their heels for a few years months while the beast is finished!

Do you have multiple quilts in hoops at the same time?  Or is this insanity?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Gathering up the Circles

The past couple weeks have been an adventure of the good, the sad, and sometimes downright scary times, with only a bit of sewing accomplished here and there.  The good times - a six day visit from our tiniest munchkin ...
Bathtime in one of grandma's larger fabric totes!

The sad - visiting a dear friend for the last time, at a hospice facility. And the scary - our son and his family had a tree fall on their house - twice in one week - during successive windstorms. Thankfully in both instances no one was injured as they were not in the rooms affected by the tree strikes which resulted in cracked and falling plaster - the two larger bedrooms of their two-story home. A total of four large trees blew over in their yard during the second storm, one of which also ripped the electrical wires off the house. As is usual with these types of storms many homes were without power, and no generators were to be had in his area, so we were lucky enough to find the only generator still available locally that morning and delivered it to them - some 100 miles away. Thankfully their power is now restored - in time for the nor'easter which hit yesterday, and it is still snowing and blowing in our end of the state. Our daughter who lives about 125 miles east of us has about 36 inches of the not-so-welcome white stuff. We fared better, with only 12-18 inches drifted in the driveway and the back deck so far.

Just before all these goings-on, I spent a morning at the church fellowship hall, arranging my Quilty 365 blocks into rows. This top is being built diagonally, so I started with the first row, which on the finished quilt will end up as bottom left to top right - 25 circle blocks. With the diagonal setting, it took four tables across to get all the squares in place

plus a chair for the last two rows!

After labeling each row I gathered everything up and returned home, and in spare moments began stitching the blocks together, adding setting triangles at the ends of each row. I recall saying in an earlier post that the odds were pretty good that a duplicate fabric would show up in an adjacent block, to be noticed only after sewing together ... and yes!
The only one I've caught, so far, and at this point I figure if these fabrics want to stay together this badly, who am I to argue?

I started with the shortest rows which will end up on the upper left side of the quilt, stitching rows together in groups of three.

At that point I decided it would be easier to add these shortest segments onto the main quilt body last, so I moved on to sewing together the longest diagonal rows, and here are the longest segments stretched out on the living room floor.
Point to point diagonally this monster measures a whopping 132 inches! Yowzers, these are long seams! When all the sections are sewn together the top should measure somewhere around 92 inches square. Before borders. In the meantime, strips and segments litter most every surface in my sewing area.

At this point all the segments are made for the left side of the quilt and I think there are nine or so rows of circles yet to be stitched together. Hopefully in the next week or so, barring any more major interruptions to the scattered and scarce sewing time around here.

I realize all this may make little or no sense to anyone else, but I'm so excited to finally see this quilt beginning to take shape, just as I envisioned it several months ago! And I'm so thankful that there was enough of that burnt orange sashing fabric to make the quilt the size I had hoped for. Luck of the Irish? This week, that may just be the case!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Beginnings and Endings

Beginnings ...
Another Opportunity Quilt!  The reverse side of my "17 in 2017" list is filling in faster than the front!
This little finish is a quick baby quilt for an upcoming shower in mid-March for a young couple who attended our church before moving to a neighboring city.  Since the other members of our ministry group were involved in other projects, I volunteered for this one, went home and sorted through the baby/child fabric bins and came up with this - finishing at 38-1/2 inches square.

Everything about this quilt is from stash remnants with the exception of the sweet tangerine Dear Stella print along the sides. I had purchased this fabric online a few months ago, to include in my grandson's baby quilt, but when it arrived found it was the wrong shade, and more suited to a little girl's quilt.

Just for fun, a little glimpse of my very cluttered sewing space!

The back - two very favorite fabrics I've been saving for just the right quilt. The blue remnant was probably picked up at a yard sale several years ago, every bit used in this quilt.  

A closer look at the back (colors are more true in this photo)

This little quilt was three afternoons in the making, one to piece the front and back, another to layer and quilt (love that serpentine stitch with the even-feed foot!), and a third afternoon to bind.  And I love the soft puffiness of the not-too-dense quilting with the Hobbs Polydown batting.  One last photo of this finish ...

Endings ...
This weekend we had to say goodbye to a faithful member of our little household for 13 years of his nearly 15 years on this earth.  He was the epitome of pure love, a quality we humans can only hope to achieve in our years on this earth.  So many memories, so many raw emotions right now

He was our constant companion and loved rides in the truck and walking along the Oregon beaches with us

He spent many hours alongside me as I worked in the sewing room, and occasionally bombed a photoshoot

He loved his home in the country

He loved life, and never complained, right up until the end when his heart gave out.  He gave us his all, and we tried our best to reciprocate.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Little of This, A Little of That, Some Big and Little Baskets

My week so far has been about as crazy and disjointed as that blog post title!   The week began innocently enough with plans to finish sashing the upper halves of each little Quilty 365 block, and here they are ...
well, 313 of them anyway, as that is what I've calculated are needed to bring the quilt to the ginormous size I want it, setting the blocks on-point with at least one narrow and one wide border added beyond the setting triangles.   After considering whether to sort the blocks into piles of light, medium and dark background squares, I finally decided that a random setting might work best. But, there is no surface large enough in this house to lay out the entire top.  So, with 313 squares, what are the chances that a completely random setting will result in two or more identical background blocks showing up right next to each other?  Hmm, knowing me the odds are pretty good actually!  So, hopefully on Friday there will be time to head down to the church and push several large tables together so I can lay this out and then tag each row.   Sooo looking forward to seeing this beast finally stitched together into a finished top!

Yesterday the first hand quilted stitches were added to the big basket top pieced last year, or was it two years ago now? It has waited a long time to begin looking like a finish might happen this year. Time will tell ...

And the little baskets are progressing ever so slowly, only seven done at this point.  Though I'm loving the Old Plum Calicoes for this quilt I'm thinking a few more lighter purple shades will need to mix in to keep the quilt from turning out darker than I'd like.  Though in truth I've only cut into two of the actual plum fabrics so far, and the two lighter baskets came from scrap bin pieces. Definitely going to be a lifetime project this one ...

Oh yes, another 'squirrel' opportunity arrived on my doorstep this week, but I'll save that for the next post.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"Bee Charmer's Flower Garden" is a Finish!

Today I sewed the label onto The Bee Charmer's Flower Garden and can happily call this one a finish!

When I last posted, this donation quilt was just a completed top with a couple major seams ditch-quilted. You can see the back story of this quilt here.

A combination of free-motion and walking foot quilting was used to complete the quilting. First, I had hoped to find a tutorial for quilting some little bees in the central daisy panels, and was delighted to find this tutorial on Lori Kennedy's Inbox Jaunt blog!  After some practice I managed to create a critter that vaguely resembles a bee ...

The sashings are quilted with a few variations of easy flowers and leaves. These photos mostly depict the sashings as a pinky-beige on my monitor, when in reality they and the outer border are both a lovely golden color. I admit to being a challenged photographer!

For the outer borders I returned to the walking foot and stitched two lines of my machine's serpentine stitch, stretched to the maximum (which wasn't all that large) and am very happy with the puffy effect, not to mention the speed at which the borders were stitched!  I think it took longer to pin them closely to keep the fabrics from shifting than it did to stitch all the lines!

The back has this cute rolling hills and farm fabric bordered with strips of the same fabric as the border on the front.

I have to say I'm so happy with the way this quilt turned out, it's bright and cheerful, colorful and happy in every way!  I hope the recipient will smile every time she looks at it and wraps herself or her little ones in it.

Monday, February 6, 2017

January Review and The Bee Charmer's Flower Garden

Though I never officially signed on to Meredith's 17 in 2017 Challenge, I've dutifully filled out a list that now contains eleven UFO's that would love to see the light of day, if only for a brief moment this year.  On the back of this list is another called "Opportunity Quilts."  The ones that beckon us away from what we thought we were about for the day/week/month and say 'Start Me, Keep your Nose to the Needle and Finish Me NOW!'

So, January went pretty well, three of the eleven on the 17 in 2017 list are now marked off as Done, as in Finished and now have a place of honor on the page above titled 2015 and Later. Another project on the list, my Westering Women BOM, now has all 12 blocks completed and is simmering for a bit while I decide where to take it from there.  And the first squirrel Opportunity Quilt is also now officially finished, and was posted here.

So, February started off with our quilt ministry needing three additional quilts (that we know of at the moment).  Two are for members of our congregation who were just commissioned as associate pastors.  I think ministry quilts should bless those in need as well as celebrate special events in the life of the church, don't you?  Anyhow, I began this celebratory quilt for our youngest associate pastor.  Her grandfather passed away recently and at his memorial service we learned that she inherited the grandfather's beloved beehives!  So, what better name for this quilt than "The Bee Charmer's Flower Garden"? Here is the quilt, layered and pinned, with a bit of the ditch quilting started. An aside - the quilt top measures 64x64 inches; I started with a new box of 300 quilters safety pins, and ran out before finishing pinning the outer borders - sigh!

I'm happy for the time spent ditch-quilting the blocks since I've not determined exactly what designs to use for FMQ'ing the block centers or the sashings and borders. I'd love to find a honeybee motif that could be used in the daisy blocks along with some meandering bee-flight lines. Early tomorrow when our internet speed increases I'll be looking online for a suitable and hopefully easy motif.

A closer view

The back is mostly this sweet vintage farm fabric, a yard-sale find donated by one of our quilters.  I love it, and it's perfect for this quilt. There was no identifying information on the selvedge of this fabric, so I have no idea of its age or manufacturer.

As far as February progress on my personal UFO's, I've finally gotten back to working on the Quilty 365 top, and now have nearly half the circle blocks sashed, more about that in a future post.

The sun shines today, and the temperatures are above freezing.  A great February day, and thoughts of folks in these parts turn to fresh maple syrup and buckwheat pancakes on such days.  I hope your Monday is bringing you similar sweet thoughts.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Last January Finish

January has been a very good month!  The finishes have been small but mighty in lifting the spirits. Today I completed all the remaining quilting on my version of last summer's Rainbow Rose Quiltalong - likely the last of the participants to do so, but hey, a finish is a finish however long it takes, right?

This little project finished at about 46 inches square and ended up being both a learning project for me as well as a teaching quilt of sorts for the newbie quilters in our little quilt ministry, although it didn't start out that way.  First, I had planned to finish it last summer - ha!  A few bumps along the road, and some very dear grandbaby quilts took my attention for most of the fall, so here we are in the bleak midwinter with this cheerful interlude.

I had no idea at the beginning how this was going to be quilted - a rather traditional Carpenters Wheel block variation done up in decidedly modern rainbow-y fabrics.  So I ditch quilted all the block seams and the peach stop border.  Since I hadn't practiced any free-motion feathers in a long time, this seemed like a good place to practice those, and so I did, in all the setting triangles and corners, after first drawing a guide line for a spineless version of endless feathers.

This was where I first ran into issues with the quilting.  A quick look at the back tells the story:
All those sweet innocent looking blocks I incorporated into the back gave me real fits as I began quilting the feathers, since my free-motion foot refused to ride over the bulky seam intersections. Someone please remind me if I ever say I'm including small blocks on the back of a quilt again!

That said, I began looking for other options for quilting the outer borders.  Since I've been experiencing a lot more shoulder and neck pain while free-motion quilting but considerably less when quilting with the even-feed foot, I decided to attempt a gentle curved continuous line stencil for the outer border using that foot.  Also, most of the ladies in our quilt ministry group have machines that are reluctant to do any type of free-motion quilting, so if this experiment was a success I could also use it as a teaching quilt to show them some additional options for using their walking foot feature.  So, here are the results of this experiment, which turned out surprisingly well I think.
Beginning the outer border

A closer look at the even-feed foot stitched borders.

All the photos in this post were taken with the stencil markings remaining, so our quilting group can better see the process and especially the difficulties encountered while attempting the sharper curves in the swag inner border design. Lots of little divits here where the machine wanted to lurch inward as I shifted the sandwich around the tighter curves. And I definitely need to learn more about stencil marking and fitting the stencil to the space available. This was definitely a good learning experience, and I'm pleased to find another way to machine quilt that isn't quite as hurtful to aching joints and shoulders.

Though the Carpenters Wheel block pieces should have additional quilting beyond the ditch quilting already done, I'm reluctant to do anything more because of the issues with the excess bulk of the block seams on the back.  This little quilt was originally destined to become a summer table topper, though the youngest granddaughter has already attempted to claim it - twice!  Eventually dear girl, eventually!  That child has never seen a quilt she didn't want, and I love it!

Sunshine and shadow on an otherwise snowy day

And that wraps up January.  Looking ahead I'm not seeing any finishes in the near future since nearly all my remaining projects will be bed-size and mostly hand quilted.  Though I'm equally sure that some other little opportunities will beckon before long.  A quilter's life is never dull, is it?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Small Finishes

With our youngest granddaughter's birthday coming up in less than a week, it was time to finish up her special gifts. She received an 18 inch doll for Christmas and we figured that dolly needed her own bedroom ensemble.  And so, here is what we have as of today:

The quilt was the first item started and finished - of course! Featuring a vintage bear fabric in the Bear Paw block.

A closer look

The back is a piece of vintage 1980s Strawberry Shortcake fabric that has been in the stash for a long, long time, barely large enough to fit the size of the quilt.

My husband spent a few  days in the shop constructing a Mission style bed which we then finished with a natural stain and several coats of polyurethane. As always, he built it sturdy enough to withstand its probable occasional use as a step-stool by either birthday girl or her little brother. While he was reorganizing the shop he also found a prototype stand built probably 10 or 15 years ago, voila a night stand!

Next, we needed some accessories! Can you tell I'm having fun with this?! Since our Abby is a dog lover, of course dolly needs a little dog with his own basket bed complete with cushion. And, the bed needed a mattress, sheets, a pillow and pillowcase.

I've spent the last day rummaging around the house for other miniature accessories and some vintage linens are being pressed into action as well.
Love that tiny picture frame!

How about a bedside throw rug?

Lastly, the result of my sad attempt at making pajamas. The fabric is soft and pretty, but extremely slippery. Pinning the seams was an absolute nightmare since the pins kept falling out and the fabric slid around as it was being stitched. After seeing that the pattern I had for the bottoms was not going to fit the doll well, I ended up throwing away the last of that fabric, and adding a wide eyelet flounce to the top and we're calling it a nightgown.

The ensemble as of today
Since taking these photos I finally found a tiny Golden Book from the 1980s in an unpacked box from our move two years ago, perfect for the nightstand for dolly's bedtime story. Still working on how to construct a bedside lamp. I have some large wooden spools that can be used for the base but have yet to figure out what to use for the lampshade foundation that I could then cover with ruffled fabric. There's still time ...

One more small finish - an anticlimax really - the two Dresden plate Christmas placemats are done and now put away along with the runner, awaiting their turn to shine next next holiday season. Hurray for small finishes!