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!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Squirrel or Opportunity?

Just two weeks ago I set out my meager list of goals for the year, suspecting knowing full well that major disruptions to that little list would upend those goals, at least temporarily.  But really, just two weeks from that time?  And two projects, both with short deadlines?   Some would called these squirrels.  Not flattering, but that's the way we think of them, right?  Well, on my 17 in 2017 worksheet the first project was added to the original goals list since it involves a quilt-loving granddaughter.  I'll blog about that in a few days. But, rather than add the second to a list of personal goals, I flipped the sheet over and labeled it Opportunity Quilts.  Truly, this one had to be considered an opportunity.

The Sunday following Christmas we learned of a young family who had barely escaped from the second floor of their burning home in the middle of the night.  This occurred a couple days after Christmas.  Their pets and all their possessions were lost in the blaze.  The family includes a preschool boy and a toddler girl.  Our quilt ministry jumped into action, and donated blankets, fleece afghans, and are making quilts for each of the children.   Here is the one I just completed for the toddler girl.

Machine pieced using one of my favorite patterns for kids quilts, the blocks are 4-1/2 inch squares with 1-1/2 inch sashings.  I love the slightly wonky effect of alternating the direction and color of the sashing strips.
A closer look
The block fabrics came from my scrap totes, and the the sweet circus parade borders and most of the backing fabrics are part of an extremely generous fabric donation recently received by our group from an anonymous angel.  A pieced back, simple ditch quilting around the blocks, with free motion meandering loops and circles in the outer border completed the quilt.  Finished size is approximately 58x64 inches.

Closeup of the back

It's good to know this little quilt will soon be in its new home and hopefully will provide lots of warmth and cuddles for a sweet little girl.  An opportunity I'm glad came my way.

Now I'm hoping to make some progress on cutting a few of those tiny baskets for my 'lifetime' quilt tomorrow. And, if all goes well, get a backing pieced for the large basket quilt that has been hanging patiently in the closet awaiting its turn for quilting.   That would be this one:

The hoop has been empty far too long!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Westering Women - Block Roundup

I haven't posted any blocks for Westering Women since early September when the August block was completed.  Many reasons for this, not the least being September's block, which though very pretty had 12 fiddly little Y-seams - yep, I counted them and said to myself 'no-way'.  There were a couple previous blocks earlier in the year with Y-seams and they got done, but I guess by September my priorities had changed.  Boredom had set in, and there were grandbaby quilts and receiving blankets to finish, quilt ministry chemo patient quilts to work on, Quilty 365 blocks to keep up with, and the list goes on.

But.  I didn't want to scrap this project entirely.  So, though it completely skipped my radar while making up an initial list of goals for the new year, a couple days ago I dug out the eight completed blocks and set about making the final four.  Starting with December, and please excuse the poor quality photos, all taken at night in less than stellar lighting -
Road to California
November -
Bear Paw

Then I worked on October's block, Rocky Mountain Chain.  Somebody remind me that I should never piece triangles after 10 p.m.!  I had the block finished and popped it on the design wall only to discover half of it was totally backwards.  Aargh!   The partial rip-it in progress -

Well now, that's better -
Rocky Mountain Chain

And, now we were down to September's block - still not going to mess with Y-seams again, but what to substitute?  Browsing through an older Quilters Newsletter magazine I found a quilt called Columbia Pinwheel in a 2005 issue.  Nice block but the directions called for 8 inch blocks.  A few pages further on was an article on the math for resizing blocks - OK - this sounded doable.  Many of those Westering Women didn't take the Road to California but headed toward the Willamette Valley in Oregon by way of the Columbia River Gorge, so this block seemed like a good substitute.  Did the quilty math, two or three times, with a calculator, following the directions in QN.  Lots of triangles to upsize (should have been my first clue). Made the block, turned out nice -
Columbia Pinwheel
and, you guessed it - the block came out too big by about 1-1/2 inches.  OK, one for the orphan pile.

Then yesterday while looking through the January 2012 issue of Quiltmania I came across this quilt.
Be still my heart!!  Definitely adding this quilt to my "have to make" list!  And, why not add a snowball block to finish off Westering Women as well?  Those weary travelers would almost surely have run into late autumn snow as they inched their way across the last of the mountain ranges, and that snow would likely have been muddy as well along those worn and rutted trails. Don't you just love all this justification just to get out of doing a few more Y-seams?  Well, if you're still reading along, here is my muddy snowball block to round out the dozen Westering Women blocks!
And, last but not least, in no particular order on the design wall, ta-da -
the finished sampler blocks of my version of Westering Women.

Originally I had planned to set these blocks 4 across and 4 down with a large appliqued medallion in the center.  Still might do that, though at this point the blocks will be set aside to simmer for awhile. I'm just happy to have the delinquent blocks off my list, even if they weren't actually on it in the first place!

Happy Monday, and may no Y-seams cross your path today.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Something New

While I finished the Dresden Christmas runner in time for the holidays, the two matching placemats still need the quilting completed and binding attached.  Hopefully there will be a window of time later this week to complete them and put them away for next year.
As hoped, the chunky candlesticks and little angel did a great job of hiding the less-than-stellar machine quilting around the center of the dresden plates, and I've pretty much decided that a redo of those portions can wait - maybe forever!

Meanwhile our almost-6-year-old granddaughter received one of the 18" dolls for Christmas, and since her birthday is coming up in a little over three weeks, we decided she needed a doll bed, bedding and a quilt for her new friend.  So, while my husband works on constructing the bed, I've begun stitching the quilt.  Here is the top which was my New Years Eve project -
I just love this sweet older bear fabric
and the Bear Paw blocks seemed perfect

All the fabrics came from stash and scraps.  That narrow inner border was a short piece of leftover binding - just enough to slice into narrow strips and go around the blocks - I just love when that happens!  There's a piece of 1980s(?) Springs Mills Strawberry Shortcake fabric that will become the back, with hopefully enough of both the bear and Strawberry fabrics left for a couple of matching pillowcases.  I'll be making a mattress, pillow, the pillowcase(s) a sheet, and hopefully a pair of pajamas to complete her little ensemble.  All in pinks - her favorite color.

A good beginning for the year, I think.   We'll have our last family Christmas get together later today, then it will really feel like the new year has begun!

The Old and the New

So many goals, so little time.  We all know it.  But still, bloggers, and I suppose all of us have at least some desire to begin the new year with a new slate and a resolve that this year we will "get 'er done." After more than three-score-and-ten years, I've finally begun to look at my quilting life more realistically and therefore my list is short.  Even wimpy compared with most, but then anything that is finished beyond the list is a bonus, and I love bonuses!  You know, those rare days in November or January that dawn bright and clear and the temperature soars to a lovely 65 degrees - now that's a bonus! So...here goes my little list:

Finish piecing the top, layer and hand quilt my Quilty 365 project -

Prepare the back, layer and hand quilt this basket quilt that has been patiently waiting for many months -

Complete this queen size quilt top, and possibly begin quilting -
So far I have the five applique blocks finished and have cut all the components for the pieced blocks and borders -

Finish several small projects from last year - which I'd like to have accomplished in the next week or so -
Rainbow QAL from summer 2016

Matching placemats to go with Christmas Dresden runner

Saving the best for last, begin hand appliqueing a few hundred of these little beauties for a queen size quilt just for me!  I've loved this pattern ever since seeing Audrey's (Quilty Folk) and Ruth's (Country Log Cabin) versions. So far I've appliqued one block and have my fabrics all prewashed and pressed to begin cutting, maybe later today.  I think this one may become my lifetime project -

I'm sure there will be other little projects that interject themselves along the way, and truth be told, one already has, but isn't that what always happens?