Thursday, June 23, 2016

Changing Gears

I'm taking a bit of a break from baby string quilts. Our guild's 2017 show will be upon us before you know it and the quilt show chairman has set a challenge to make a hexie quilt. This is rosette #1 from Katja Marek's New Hexagong Quilt-Along. Only two of the "rows" have been made and already the piece is reaching the size limitation of 25" x 25". The center two "rows", minus the three trial pieces sticking out, measure 16" at the widest point. I think I will stop here and add triangles to fill in between the six points to bring it into a hexie shape.Those three other pieces are not adding anything to the overall design anyway. I will reuse the papers and start over with other fabrics for Katja's project. By the way, I saw the pack of paper pieces for rosette #1 on the MSQC web site for half the price. Click here.

You can order the paper pieces for the entire project from Paper Pieces. The first rosette is the largest and therefore is the most expensive at $21.00. When English paper piecing I normally print and cut out my own papers but I decided to splurge this time. The packet of papers was totally accurate and if there were two of the same shapes (such as the diamonds) but of a slightly different size, two different colors of paper were used to make them very easy to differentiate.

This is the mural on the side of the retreat center at Missouri Star Quilt Co. (MSQC) in Hamilton, MO. I was lucky enough to get into Carmon and April Henry's Featherweight maintenance class at MSQC this week. You can read more about them and their workshops here. I highly recommend this class to anyone who wants to learn how to service their own Featherweight machines. The Henrys were accompanied and assisted by their two teen aged children, Christian and Ruthie. Christian is a memory bank of Featherweight history and as good a technician as his father. Ruthie demonstrated how she restores Featherweight cases to pristine condition. It's very refreshing to see such two well-adjusted youngsters that seem genuinely happy to be spending the summer traveling around the United States working with their parents.

The first evening we were treated to a trunk show by Jenny Doan. The woman is a veritable powerhouse of energy and a very good speaker. I am not a big user of precuts, which she loves and which is the focus of her company. There are bolts of fabric, to be sure, but there are TONS of precuts. After her presentation I have been won over a tiny bit to her way of thinking. Since there are boxes of charm square packets on my shelves (can't resist at Connecting Threads when they are $2.00 or less!), I will be combing through back issues of Block magazine to find patterns for the baby quilts I have been making.

Unfortunately, while I have a few photos, I don't have much to report about MSQC because the shops close at 5:00 p.m. during the week. On Monday I got checked into the workshop after 3:00 p.m. By the time setup was finished, there was less than an hour to shop. The mercury was close to 100, so frankly there was not a lot of incentive to go outside and walk around in the heat. The second day class let out at 5:00 p.m., so again there was no time to shop. I left to drive home immediately after class. What I did see of the main shop and the reproductions shop was very nice and inviting. The staff are super friendly and helpful. MSQC has certainly revitalized this tiny Midwestern town. They employ 300 with many coming from the surrounding farm communities. Amish country is close by, and Kansas City just an hour away, so you could easily make a trip to Hamilton something for the entire family to enjoy.

This is the newly remodeled and just this week re-opened main store. As you can see from the photo it is very large, open, and airy. There are big screen TVs in the store which air Jenny Doan's tutorials; there are nice, big cushy arm chairs for resting and watching the videos.

This is a new spool doily I scored at the class. I love the watermelon theme and the little black seeds are tiny black seed beads crocheted into the doily. The Henrys have a woman who crochets these doilies for them in all sorts of patterns and colors. There was a red, white, and blue star for the Fourth and many other designs. They had an entire case of these things, so the little crochet lady must just be hooking her little heart out.

Friday, June 17, 2016

In the Pink

Small string quilt #6 completed! Easy as these are, I want to try something different. If I can find the roll of adding machine tape that a friend gave me some time back, I will cut 36"strips and make long string pieces. They will be sewn with strips of whole fabric in between to make small coin quilts. Crazy Mom has a tutorial on her blog if you are not familiar with the pattern. If I can't find the roll of paper tape, I will use more of the telephone book pages and sew the sections together.

I have started a new baby quilt for a friend's grandson; no pattern but the one I have made up. There are a number of these X and O quilts on the web. The blocks finish at 8" and are made with a stitch and flip process that yields a lot of "bonus triangles."

These small pinwheel blocks finish at 2.5" although from the comparable size of the photos it's hard to tell the actual size until they are placed side by side.

The little pinwheels will go into a doll-sized quilt for another little girl.

Next week I will be in Hamilton, MO at Missouri Star Quilt Company for a Featherweight maintenance class. Inasmuch as I have two Featherweights and a Singer 301, I am eager to learn more about these machines. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Seeing Red

Almost there. This little string quilt lacks just one lonely block. I made the right number, but in trimming them up, I grabbed two blocks instead of one and whacked away with the rotary cutter. I did this once before and thought that I had learned my lesson. Obviously not. When i get a moment I will make the last one.

Tomorrow I will be working on our guild's 2017 raffle quilt. Four of us worked on it today and got the first skinny 1/2" border sewn on. The next border is 3" wide and has a row of hexies appliqued down the middle of it. It will require some finagling to get it to fit the existing top. Perhaps I am a bit cocky after my success with "My Blue Heaven" putting on a pieced border, but I volunteered to do this. Nothing will be cut and nothing will be machine sewn; I will be marking with chalk and only hand basting the borders until certain that everything fits. Guild meeting is Friday evening and we want to have the top out for display to show our progress. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Stringin' Along

The blue and green string quilt for Nurses for Newborns has been sewn together. These small 6" blocks sew up quickly, even though I am using my treadle and taking my time. I hope to get this one sandwiched and quilted in the next day or so. Soon I will prepare the papers and select strips for this evening's sewing. Red and neutrals come to mind.

This behemoth of a quilt top is very nearly finished. The last border needs to be sewn on, but the pieces are all sewn together. This quilt was started in a workshop with Bonnie Hunter last fall and is my rendition of her free pattern, "My Blue Heaven." The original is done in blues and neutrals. As there were not enough blue strips in my scrap drawers, I branched out and chose the additional analogous colors of green, purple, and aqua. All well and good if I had paid closer attention to value. As it turned out, with the additional colors and a good many of the star points disappearing into the background because they were too light, the effect of setting the blocks immediately next to one another was a big visual mess. Hence, the sashing was introduced. That, of course, changed the dimensions of the quilt and required some figuring with paper, pencil, and calculator to figure out how to compensate for the extra inches created with the sashing.

I was pleasantly surprised (actually startled is more like it) when everything fit together so well. It was almost scary how well the border fit. I used the broken dishes blocks from the original pattern which mirror the centers of the interior blocks, each of which features a broken dish block. However, I decided to make them in the same gray and white tones of the sashing and cornerstones to bring some cohesion to the quilt top. The idea came to me from reading Mickey Depre's latest book, "Half Scrap Quilts". She has a couple of quilts in this book (which I highly recommend) that use this coloration. This quilt is huge. It easily covers my queen sized bed with enough to actually completely cover the mattress and with enough to tuck under the pillows. Needless to say, I will not be quilting this one.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Dipping Into the String Pile (Again)!

Dipping into the blue and green drawers of my scrappy strings, I have begun a fourth string quilt for the babies' "tummy time" small quilts. Out guild is making as many of these 24" x 36" quilts as possible. They are kind of addictive. Being so small they almost sew themselves and are super easy to run through a domestic home sewing machine when it's time to quilt them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Back in the Saddle!

The blogging saddle, that is. I never left the quilting one. What happened? Nothing monumental, I just got busy, and first a week passed, then another, and another, and pretty soon I was out of the habit of posting. So this post will be a bit long as I try to catch you up on my doings.

I took a bookbinding class at the local community college. Over four evenings in April I made these four books.

It was fun to learn something new and different from quilting. The teacher was excellent, very patient and knowledgeable.The books were each bound using a different method: western pamphlet, coptic, chain stitch, and one other whose name escapes me.

I have acquired several new books on the topic of quilting. The three most recent ones have captured my attention and I have my eye on projects in each. First up is "Mixing Quilt Elements" by Kathy Doughty; she never fails to inspire and astonish. Kathy is not afraid of mixing it up with many fabrics in one quilt - often to the point of nearly visual confusion. I like that, though, because she gives you permission to use the unusual and unexpected. It gives her quilts great energy. Sh e has now gone just a step further and mixed applique, traditional piecing, English paper piecing, and foundation paper piecing in her work. She explains that she has learned so many wonderful ways of doing things and wants to use all the tools in her tool belt when constructing her quilts. I agree wholeheartedly. I feel as though I am finally able to make just about anything I care to tackle after numerous workshops and classes over the years. Wild Child and Colorworks are particularly appealing, although Wild Child relies on a very specific and graphic fabric that will take some thinking to replicate the bold appeal of Kathy's quilt without using the same fabric.

The other two books are Millefiore Quilts and Millefiori Quilts 2, both by Willyne Hammerstein. She is a Dutch quiltmaker and her books are full of patterns made entirely by English paper piecing.

The photo on the cover is "Passacaglia with Mr. Penrose." Quite the title, isn't it? A passacaglia is of Spanish origin and can refer to either a dance or musical work that consists of many repeats and variations on a theme. The projects in this book are stunning and promise me many happy hours of hand stitching. Many of the pieces are fussy cut, although this is not necessary. If you google Millefiori or passacaglia quilts, you will see many examples from the very traditional to the modern.They are popping up all over the internet and Instagram. The kaleidoscopic designs are mind boggling. It took me awhile to track down the books. I finally located them through Quiltmania; they are pricey and not available through Amazon unless someone is selling a used copy. The books are written in both French and English which adds to their size, and thus, I assume, to their cost. "Love in my Guiding Star" is a pattern that I am pretty sure I could tackle without a lot of difficulty. The blocks are LeMoyne stars set in a hexagon and separated by triangles. I have hand pieced (without paper piecing them!) an entire quilt of LeMoyne stars, so this looks easier somehow with the accuracy of the paper pieces.

For some reason I don't have a photo of the finished quilt, just this one of the completed top.

I have been on somewhat of a string piecing tear of late. I love treadling on my vintage New Cottage treadle, but frankly, string piecing is about all I am skillful enough to accomplish on this treadle. Taking Bonnie Hunter's advice, I learned to treadle making string-pieced blocks. Since I also have followed Bonnie's advice and cut scraps down into usable sizes, I have drawers full of ready made strips. I just go through the drawers and pull out strips by color.

This purple quilt with pops of green is for my neighbors' three year old girl. She asked for a purple quilt with some green. This pattern is from the free patterns on Bonnie Hunter's website and is called "String-X". The strips are pieced using old telephone book pages as the foundation. The paper is quite thin, tears off very easily, and the ink does not transfer to either the fabric or your fingers.

This blue and yellow version, not yet quilted, is for my nieces' new baby. I usually wait until the babies are toddlers before giving them a quilt, but her baby was born with some health challenges and I thought he could use the quilt sooner rather than later.By the way, while I piece the blocks and sew them together using the treadle machine. I use my modern Bernina to quilt them.

 The following trio of quilts are small - only 24" x 36". They will be donated through my guild to a local non-profit that provides home health and nursing services to young mothers and their babies. The nurses often have to teach the mothers basic things about raising babies, such as providing sufficient "tummy time" to allow babies who sleep on their backs to develop strength in their necks and upper bodies. Often there is nothing appropriate in the homes to lay on the floor for the babies. These small quilts will fill that bill. Their small size also makes them ideal for slipping into a diaper bag or using in the car. I have many, many strips, so this will be an ongoing project for me for the coming year or so. The secret to making an attractive scrap quilt such as these, in my opinion, is limiting the color palette so that the quilts appear to be purposeful rather than just a haphazard collection of cast off fabrics.

Last September Bonnie Hunter was here in St. Louis and I was able to take a class with her. The projects was "My Blue Heaven", another of her free patterns from her website. Here is her original  pattern which is limited to various shades of blue and neutral. Bonnie considers any beige, white, cream or tan fabric that is no darker than a paper lunch bag, to be a neutral. The pattern consists of alternating Puss in the Corner and star blocks. The outer border is made from the same 4" Broken Dishes block that is in the center of the both the Puss in the Corner and the star blocks/ Since I did not have enough blue strips in my scrap drawers, I chose to include the analagous colors of green, purple, and turquoise as well as blue. I also made the fateful error of not paying any attention whatsoever to value and included some light blue and green strips that made for disappearing star points. Setting the blocks directly next to each other resulted in a god-awful visual mess.  I decided to sash them, figuring it couldn't be worse than what I was looking at. Here is the top so far and the sashing did tame all the disparate patches and colors.

It is certainly not perfect, but I can live with it. The two little lonely Broken Dish blocks off to the left will be the final border. I chose to make them in neutral tones, ala Mickey Depre (she does this to great effect in her most recent book "Half Scrap Quilts"). It required some simple math to figure out how many 4" blocks will be needed for the border since in adding the sashing, I messed up the original dimensions of the quilt. The secret to making everything fit is the turquoise border, which is currently outermost in the photo. It can be adjusted to allow the border to fit and while it turns out that it will be 1" in finished width for both the length and width of this particular quilt, small differences in the width of the border can be made if necessary. I am assured by quilting gurus that in the end the differences would not be noticeable.

I also have made good progress on "Octo" by Brigitte Heitland of Zen Chic.This is an easy project to make. The blocks and pieces are large and paper pieced. That said, it became mind numbingly boring and I have put it away for awhile. It will come out again when I want something easy to do and it will seem like a snap as 12 of the 16 blocks are finished. It won't take much to push through and finish it. Just not now.

I have bought "Twirly Balls and Pinwheels", a pattern by Sue Garman. I really just thought I would read through the pattern and decide it was too difficult. But Sue is a talented designer and teacher. Her directions are second to none. The twirly balls are hand appliqued and she gives excellent directions and tips with plenty of photos that promise to give top notch results. The little pinwheel sashings are paper pieced and again, Sue has made it appear fairly easy. Not fast, I give you that, but after reading through the pattern, I feel confident that I can tackle this

Oh, and what else? Oh, Yeah, I finally found a Singer 301! They are rare as hen's teeth in this part of the world for some reason. It is a two-tone mocha model and she sews beautifully. I have signed up for two three-day workshops in the fall at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. It is an easy three to four drive from here and I will be taking a Double Wedding Ring class with Victoria Findlay Wolfe and a log cabin workshop with Katie Pasquini-Masopust.I have already take a workshop with Victoria when she was at our guild two years ago and can vouch for the fact that she is a fantastic teacher. The friend I am going with has taken classes with Katie PM and she says the same thing about Katie. The 301 will be the machine I take with me. Can't wait.

I also took two workshops with Paula Nadelstern in late winter. She is so talented and creative, I have wanted to do this for a long time but honestly, I don't think I will be making even a wall hanging at this point. Paula is a great teacher but her technique is really labor intensive. Really, really.

I will close for now. I have probably left out some stuff, but my brain is fried right now. We are getting up super early tomorrow to get to the hospital by 6:00 a.m. for my husband's second knee replacement surgery. He had his first one in January and the results have been very good. He is looking forward to being pain free. And I need to rustle up some type of hand piecing project to take along to pass the time.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Allietare Ready for the Quilter!

This is not the best photo, but my quilt holder is incapacitated at present with recovery from total knee replacement #1. There have been some setbacks involving that surgery, which accounts for my not posting for quite a while. The top is draped over the baby grand piano in the living room. It's the largest piece of furniture and it nearly touches the floor on both sides. When things settle down here enough that I can get two uninterrupted minutes at a time to sew, the back will be pieced and Allietare will go to the longarm quilter for completion. At present I am planning on taking a stab at the scalloped border. To see the final reveal of others who made Bonnie Hunter's 2015 Winter Mystery Quilt, Allietare, click here.

I have been working sporadically on Octo, a paper-pieced quilt by the modern quilter, Brigitte Heitland. I am a fairly proficient paper piecer, but right off the bat I ran into problems. Finally I figured it out. The template pieces have not been reversed, causing all kinds of  %#*&! words to be uttered in my sewing room. Since the two patterns are mirror images of each other, once I realized what the issue was, things went smoothly. In the photo the pieces are in no particular order. I just am putting them up on the design wall as I go to have a place where the cats won't sleep on them. The pieces with gray patches in them will be distributed far more sparsely throughout the quilt, which consists of 16 of the squares pictured on the left side of the photo.