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.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Allietare Reveal

Bonnie Hunter posted the Big Reveal of her 2015 Winter Mystery Quilt late on New Years Eve. She said it was midnight already in Italy and since her quilt, Allietare, was inspired by her travels in that country, it seemed appropriate to push the reveal up a bit. I was able to keep up with all the clues, so was in good shape when the reveal was posted. All 30 of the stars blocks are sewn together as well as 10 of the alternate blocks. The photo above just shows a portion of what has been completed.  Yeah, it's messy as the blocks are just lightly pinned on the design wall.

My local quilt shop is having an anniversary sale this weekend, and I went on the hunt for a border fabric for Allietare. I was kind of despairing of finding anything until I spied this fabric in a bin on the floor. It is black with widely spaced dots of an irregular nature. If you look closely you will see that every so often the dot is a skull! The owner pointed that out to me, thinking I wouldn't like it but it had the opposite effect. Quirky is good in my book. The dots are mostly chalk white with an occasional silver metallic one thrown in . I like!

This mystery was much easier for me than past ones. I took my time since there was fewer pieces involved and I really tried to do a quality job. I succeeded in that goal for the most part. The effort sure paid off in the end as I pieced everything together. It's going really well with few places where any fudging is required. I have not made any of the setting triangle pieces yet, but I have read over the directions several times and don't see any big issues. To see what others have done with this pattern, click here.

There is another project niggling at me that I am eager to start. It is Octo by Brigitte Heitland. You can see the pattern here. I know if I start Octo that Allietare will get put aside and who knows when I will get back to it. So, pedal to the metal to quote Eleanor Burns. 

Our guild hosted Rebecca Bryan of Bryan House Quilts Friday evening. I had already met Becca at a book signing at my LQS, so her book, "Modern Rainbow", is already in my library of quilting books. She also has a quilt in "Modern Medallion", a book I didn't have, but which is now in my collection as of Friday. There are quilts in both of these books that tempt me. I need another lifetime or two!

Here is a taste of her quilts.



Saturday, January 2, 2016

First Finish of 2016

My first finish of 2016! The pattern is Peppermint Pinwheels from Sujata Shah's book, "Cultural Fusion." It's the third one I made from her book; the first two were Rail Fence quilts. A fourth has been barely started - Winter.

Today would have been my father's 99th birthday. He loved bowling, ice skating, and pie. Happy birthday, Dad! I miss you.

Bonnie Hunter posted the big reveal of her 2015 Winter Mystery quilt, Allietare, on New Years Eve. It's a stunner. I was able to keep up with all the clues, so next up will be assembling the pieces into a quilt top. I made myself finish the Pinwheels quilt before tackling Allietare, knowing that if I didn't the Pinwheels quilt could easily become a UFO!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Allietare, Step 5

I made hedgie pincushions for the ladies in my Tuesday morning breakfast and quilting group. I am pleased with how they turned out and everyone seemed to like theirs, too. It's a free pattern available at janome.com.

This Singer Featherweight was gifted to me on Christmas by my sister, Chris. She inherited it from her mother-in-law, Lillian. I have named it Lillian in her honor and memory. My brother-in-law has fond memories of his mother sewing costumes on this machine for a local fund-raising event. I oiled and cleaned her but she was in pretty good condition and sewed a beautiful stitch right out of the box. Her serial number is AH651382, which places her manufacture date in June 1948. Singer has taken down the page on their web site with this information. To date this or other machines, ISMACS is your best bet. The web site also features many manuals for vintage machines which they offer as free downloads.

Lastly I have been plugging away on step 5 of Bonnie Hunter's Allietare Winter Mystery Quilt. This week was supposed to be an easy one with no cutting required. We are sewing together pieces previously cut and sewn from earlier steps. I have not been able to get in a full day of sewing since Saturday, when the clue was posted. It seems that it is requiring two attempts to get anything close to correctly sewn once. This despite my efforts to very carefully cut and sew previous steps. There are 36 sewn units shown above. Ten more are laid out on my sewing table and were to be done this morning. It is now nearly 10:30 a.m. and not one stitch has been sewn. Our car has an appointment at the dealer for a recall. It's "supposed" to take only an hour. We will see. There may or may not be time for more sewing today.

To see how everyone else is flying along on this project, click on over to Mystery Monday Link-Up, Part 5.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Allietare Clue #4 in Process

So far, I have completed 20 of the 30 sets needed for this step. I am taking my time to get things really accurate. As per Bonnie Hunter's recommendation, I am using the Companion Angle and Easy Angle rulers and the sets are coming out spot on. If they aren't, it's because the fabric slipped while sewing. I take the time to resew any that aren't just right. It takes me about 15 minutes to sew one set of four if the fabric is already cut. No reason to rush as this week the next clue won't be posted until the day after Christmas.

The neutrals in this photo look pretty washed out. They are mostly white on white or cream with a very light pattern. Really low volume (sorry, Bonnie!). This is on purpose since the constant gray is not real dark and there needs to be good contrast between it and the neutrals.

The colors in this year's mystery are sophisticated and remind me of an elegant Renaissance painting. I am really liking the color palette this year and my choice of fabrics. Another reason for slow sewing - enjoying the process. To see others' choices, click on over to the Mystery Monday Link-Up, Part 4.

In between sewing, I have been baking off batches of cookies and wrapping a few presents. I made presents for the other five ladies in my sewing group. Tomorrow at breakfast, they will be gifted, so I may post a photo.

Last night my sister and I took our mother and my sister's mother-in-law for an evening out at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The Garden is all decked out for the holidays in beautiful lights for the seasonal Garden Glow. Here's a taste or two:

This tree has literally several miles (I have forgotten the exact number) of light strings on it. It is a massive heritage tree and you can judge its size when you look at the small lit trees at its base. They are as tall as I am - 5'4".

Trees in the reflecting pool in front of the Climatron - a geodesic dome filled with tropical and subtropical plants.

Henry Shaw's Victorian home all decked out for Christmas with trees in every window. Shaw was a business man who donated his house and land for the Missouri Botanical Garden. The house is open for viewing as well.

More prettiness in lights. There were many, many  more photo opportunities; this is but a small taste of the 1.5 mile walk through the Glow.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Cultural Fusion Quilt #3

I finished the third quilt top from Sujata Shah's "Cultural Fusion" book. The pattern is Peppermint Pinwheels. Sujata's quilt was done in red, white, and green, hence the name. I will quilt this one myself. On the prowl now for some suitable thread.