Thursday, January 30, 2014

UFO from the Woodworker

   My woodworker, Sir Old Man, has been contemplating this UFO for at least 4 years.....and now it is almost completed!   The tool man's woodwork bench is over 8 feet long and gone through at least 3 re-designs.
   It began after he took a bench making class shortly after he retired.  He was quite inspired and spent days/weeks/months searching for just the right wood and timbers.
   Of course, the wood (like fabric)  had to be "seasoned".  A quilter might stash/hide fabric in the trunk of the car, back of the towel closet, or under the bed behind the Christmas decorations.....but it is hard to hide 8 foot boards of yellow pine, and 5" by 6" red oak timbers!  We spend the last 4 years stepping over, around, and by-passing the stack of them.

  The twin-screw tail vise----aren't you proud of me for knowing that?---was a birthday present to him  about 2 years ago.  Sir Old Man modified the see those things that turn the screws.  Anyway, he "improved" them, and please note the hard maple he used to make the jaws.  I only point it our because of the coins it cost.  At least 10 yards of fabric worth here.

  By the way, the legs and top have to be equal to about 10 quilts.....but who is keeping track.  Grin!

  Quilters make miters, and sandwiches, and a woodworker makes mortise and tendons.  The base was constructed separately in sections...each leg set on the end is a unit and the stretchers are mortise and tendoned in.   He is preparing/designing/figuring out how to create a storage cabinet/shelf that will fit between the stretchers.

   If you think  a  quilter has a lot of small tools....a woodworker beats us hands down.  For every ruler that I have, he needs 2 or 3 planes.  For every spool of thread, or different size needle I use, he needs a special router bit, or wood glue.  The list is endless, and I will stop while I can still think straight.

  And the top.  It had to be smooth, really, really smooth.....and level, don't forget that.  Luckily, for Christmas this year, he was allowed to take the top to a cabinet shop where they ran the entire thing through a huge planer/sander.  Otherwise, it would have been 4 more years for him to hand plane this baby!
  And now, I discover he is going to drill  HOLES into it!  Really, he needs holes for the, Deana and Dana, not the 4 legged kind.  A  bench dog in this case is a  devise that will hold the wood in place while Sir Old Man is working on it.  Kind of like a third hand, or a old -fashioned sewing bird of a by-gone era.

 It is such a beauty....but hopefully soon, it will have a few dings in it.  I have placed an order for a new bed to be built.
  One thing for sure, this puppy is not going anywhere.  And if a tornado is spotted, it will make a great storm shelter!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crossroads blocks

   Yes, that is a little bit of snow in the background.....a  not too common event here.  So I could not resist using it to take a couple of photos.
   This little top will be a quilt for one of the twins to come.  I said I was a minimalist piecer and this top  proves it.  It is very quick and easy to put together,  and  a great way to use those small bit of leftover strips.

   Connie at Freemotion on the River provided the pattern in three sizes.  This is the largest size block.  Twelve blocks and I have a nice size play quilt---36" by 48".  I have a second one to put together today.  But I couldn't help but think about variations-----maybe done in batiks, or showcase some floral prints in the large squares, or done in blue and yellow.
  Enough day dream planning.....I need to be stitching and think about the quilting.
Happy stitching.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Quilting as a design layer

It is beautiful and in the 50s here I am outside enjoying the sun before the next cold blast arrives tomorrow.
  Here is how I approach the quilting process to hopefully get that added design layer.

      My third design layer is the quilting.   This turns a flimsy into a quilt and can change the whole appearance of a top.  Like adding decorative icing on a plain cake, and suddenly it becomes a wedding cake.  A lot of quilting, a little quilting, or absolutely hyper-type quilting......I love it all and think there's a place for it to be used.
   For a wall quilt, or a show quilt, I love to see lots and lots of thread used----what I call hyper-type quilting.  But if I want to cuddle up under a quilt, I want it flexible, not flat and stiff as a board. If it is a special gift to someone, I want to "show off" a little and make sure there is some fancy quilting stitches that they can enjoy.
   I will ponder a while and ask myself a few questions before I put the quilt under the needle....usually.
  •   Who is the quilt for...and how will it be used?
  •   What part of the design do I want to stand out?
  •   Do I have large areas that are open/plain and need to be filled?
  •   Is it a busy pattern with lots of prints that will hide the stitching?
   Busy patterns and lots of prints are the easiest to decide on.....they will hide a lot of your stitching, so do the easy thing.  For me, that is large stippling.  I use the large stipple on watercolor quilts, and chose it for Walking in Sunshine, which was the Easy Street mystery from Bonnie Hunter.  There was just so much going on in this quilt, I wanted to blend it together and not try to accent anything.  A second choice could easily be a pantograph --repeated-- pattern that runs across the quilt from edge to edge.  Or straight lines on the diagonal would be a third option.    All three options serve to finish the top and not put the focus on any one part.

 Applique quilts usually provide a great opportunity to let the quilting stand out.  There are open areas/background space that are crying for some thread. 

  Red Hots is from last year and I was learning to do feathers as you can see here.  I wanted the hearts to really pop, and it was a wall quilt (not for cuddling), so the background was quilted heavily.  By heavily quilting the background, the appliques stand out. 

  The trees in this quilt are pieced with just a few birds appliqued on, but there is a lot of background space.  I filled it all in with swirls--large and small---in an attempt to push that background back.
And the benefit was a great texture for all that white area....the swirling lines look like blowing snow.

Deb's quilt at A Simple Life Quilts

   Straight lines.....often overlooked but so effective in the right place.  I thought Deb used the straight lines here to get very striking results.  The pattern is a simple sashed pinwheel block.  Yet with the quilting accentuating the diagonals, I see  a secondary pattern of the white sashing strips.

  I  did ask permission to show this one from Deb at A Simple Life Quilts.  Be sure to see the rest of her work.   Thanks, Deb, for sharing.

  I ran across a couple other quilts that really take that third layer of quilting over the top.  One is at Nifty Stitcher---click here to see.  Rhianon is a fabulous quilter....she knows how to push the limit and go beyond the boundaries.  Her latest quilt of floral hearts is a simple design of sashed blocks that is very heavily quilted.  She pushed the backgrounds down with quilting to bring the appliques forward, the sashing is full of feathers, and I even see some straight lines.  Don't miss this one!

  A second one I discovered at Tamarack Shack.  She long arm quilted a customer quilt with a mix of patterns to blend and bring out the texture.  
  I added all three of these quilts to Pinerest under Free Motion Quilting.

     I am a minimalist piecer.......I like the piecing to be quick and easy because I want to get to the quilting stage.  I love the texture the quilting gives my quilts.  I enjoy the added element of the quilting pattern.
    If you prefer more difficult/ prolonged piecing and less quilting.....applause from me.  Hopefully, you will still glean some information from all of this anyway.   There are no rules, but some principles still apply.   We are all quilters and I think there is room in the world for all of us, no matter where we fall.  And the best part.....a finished quilt!  Happy stitching. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Design layers

    I am cutting strips today for another set of baby quilts.....another set of twins are arriving soon for a friend's daughter.  (Must be something in the air around here!)   This is a new pattern for me that I snatched from Connie at Freemotion on the River.   I love that she made up a printable card for the Crossroads block.
  Anyway, I needed a break and I have been answering more emails and comments about figuring out what quilting pattern to quilt on projects.  I sure don't have  all of the answers....just a strong point of view and opinion usually.  So I thought I would share some of what I shared with others.

I called this bold and bright!

 Design layer number 1 is the pattern you select.  It  may be a traditional block, applique design, improv block...etc.  In layer number 1 is also color that you use for the block....2 color, 3 color, or scrappy and full of prints and colors.  The fabrics and colors you select will set a tone for the quilt.  It might be light and fun, or bold and strong, or soft and muted.

Soft and light

   Design layer number 2 is the layout including borders.....examples:  block to block, with sashing strips,  asymmetrical layout, or a central block with multiple borders.  In a block to block design, the eye moves all over.  The sashing strips frame each block and give a stopping point for the visual eye.  The asymmetrical layout  and the multiple border quilt create a tension or excitement for the looking around the corner to see what is next. 

   Two examples to show what I mean.     For this donation quilt I used multiple borders....and multiple types of borders.  They combine to create drama and excitement for the eye.

   This wall hanging has an asymmetrical layout.  There are borders on two sides rather than all around.
Update:   The pattern for the dogwood is by Mark Lipinski.  Click here for the free pattern.

   Think about the multiple types of layout for a log cabin block and the variety of looks you can achieve with the same block.   I would love to steal some photos to share, but I had better send you to Pinterest to look for log cabin quilts instead.:)

  Hopefully, I have not confused you, but rather have given you some things to think about as you look at the quilts you have made.
  I am out of time time will be quilting as a design layer.  and keep the questions coming!  Happy stitching.     

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Quilting the whopper....

   This one is a whopper......this photo shows about a third of the whole thing.  All the center light areas are quilted.  Next I will do some straight lines through the saw blades, before I move to the border.
  And before you ask, I bunched and puddled up the quilt under the long arm.  I had the extra fabric/weight distributed  on small tables on either side of the machine table.  I concentrated on the 12 inch area that I wanted to quilt.....that is the part I kept smooth and flat.  Everything else was just a scrunched up mess.  I began on one edge of the light area, swirling and twirling my way across the area until filled.
    I tried not to quilt too densely.  And by the time I finished, I knew it took 12 minutes to quilt each one!  I haven't checked the stitch counter yet.....I may not want to know that number.

    The most often asked question in my machine quilting class is not about thread or tension.  It is simply...."How do you know what design to quilt?".
Most patterns say to "quilt as desired".....yeah, right!

    I generally use the principle that what I quilt down will recede (move to the background) and what is outlined or very lightly quilted will be the focus.  For this one, I want the saw blades to be featured, so that is where I will straight line stitch just enough to keep it flat and in place......which means just a line through the center of the blades going vertical and horizontal.  Luckily the blades/blocks  touch, so it will just be long, long seams.
   Anyway, my quilt as desired will include my favorite stitches.....and I can't wait to do the border feathers.  There is lots of room to play there.  Happy stitching.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The first doll quilt of 2014

     A soft,squishy package arrived this week from  Mrs. Claus of PA.     Yep, the first doll quilt for the 2014 season!   And it is so cute.....and the first one ever with a bottom edge ruffle.  What a clever finishing idea instead of binding.
    This comes from Darlene, aka Amiko, of the HGTV Message Board.  Thank you, Amiko.....we love it!

  A little headway on the personal front....I am up to my arm pits in the Buzz Saw quilt.  This thing is huge and heavy, so I am working slowly with all the shifting and such.  Right now I am on white/light area 6  out of nine.  I am filling the light area with swirls and curls.  Then I will move on to the actual saw blade of batiks.
   I also have to prep for quilting class that begins this week.  I have several sessions scheduled for the next 4 weeks.....and look forward to spreading on the homework!!!  Happy stitching.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Rule of 3

  My rule of 3....or how I keep those dread UFOs under control.  Apparently I scared  some of us with my comment about breaking my rule.  It has been a while since I mentioned this.  So let me explain.
   The year was 2000, and my life had changed once again.  I had time to sew and the creative urge was upon me. I did not have a dedicated sewing space, but used part of the basement, a spare room, and the dining room!  That translates to started projects stored in shoe boxes, tote bags, plastic bags, and other various bins and baskets.  I never counted them, but let's just say I was totally out of control.  I needed to  make some sense out of the mess.
    First, I decided what I wanted to keep and finish.  The other UFOs were "gifted" to others, or trashed.  Yep, some things that were so bad / ugly / disastrous were tossed.  No guilt, no quilt police, just make space to move on.  Was it hard?  Yes, it was.  But all that "baggage" was not going to help me move ahead.  

  That first year I finished up about 15 projects.......and along the way began learning to machine quilt.   This was this first thing I tackled.  It was part of my "neutral period"......not wonderful, but I was so proud to have finished it.

   Then I found this in a tote bag......from an art and color workshop.  I spent a lot of money on the fabrics, so I had to finish it.   This was the workshop that began my philosophy of how to select  multi-colored fabrics  for a quilt.
    Basically, begin with one fabric you love.  Pick one color from the first fabric and find a second fabric of that color.  Repeat using another color from fabric number one. And keep going until you have your required number of fabrics.  Be sure to include light and dark values.  You will be surprised at how well all the fabrics work together!

  All the blocks in this quilt are variations of the log cabin.  And this really began my journey into machine quilting.  All straight lines here.....and there are a ton of them.  Sir Old Man's cousin bought this one just because of the colors.

  Back to the story of 3.....By the end of the year I had made a dent in the UFOs, and then I took a workshop in strip pieced watercolor quilts.  That did it for me.  
   Shadow Heart set me on the road to where I am now.  Note the quilting.....some straight lines, some large early curls, and lots of stippling.  I was learning as I went, finding my own way.  I enhanced my stash of floral fabrics, and moved on to using 2" squares and gridded interfacing for the watercolors.  I was forever hooked.
   By the end of that second year, all UFOs were done----a few more were given away.  And I decided it was time to figure out who I was as a quilter.    
  •  I loved the designing and unexpected surprises I found in watercolor quilts.  
  •  I got bored easily  when piecing the same block over and over.  
  •  I got bored with only one project to work on.
  •  I liked block to block arrangements and hated sashing between blocks. 
  •  I enjoyed the  machine quilting and wanted to get really good.   
  •  I would rather be inspired by a design or quilt in a book/magazine than to make a duplicate of it.  
Thus, the Rule of 3 for me was established.  One quilt to be quilted, one quilt being sewn or pieced, and one quilt in the design/planning/cutting stage.   Small projects, like tote bags, table runners, and such that can be finished in a day or two are allowed anytime.  Just no major quilt is added to the 3 in the sewing room.  

 End result----finished projects and no UFOs!  Twelve years later, and I have kept up  with this philosophy, and have a huge body of completed work that covers my family, friends and many unknowns.  Until now.....I have some major quilting to be done, so future projects are just dreams added to my wish list.   But to keep my interest and creative juices flowing, I will play around with a stack of mug rugs and  snack mats  between quilting times.   Now, this might not work for you,   but my Rule of 3 works for me.   Happy stitching.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Simple borders

   I was stash shopping for a fabric to border the floral strings.  And a pleasant surprise happened.  I  found a beautiful blue to compliment one of the faux braid tops I have waiting in the wings.  I think I purchased this originally for a backing, but never used it.
   So a very simple border to this braid.  I cut the full width cuts of the blue into half lengths and joined them with some leftover pieces that I used in the braid.  I don't really plan this type of border, but let it just happen.  I do not miter the corners either.  Keeping it simple.

The color in this photo is rather washed out.....the first photo is truer for color.  As I was adding the strips to the top, I realized I had a creation that resembled the view out my window.....Frosty Morn.  It has the blue of the sky, the darker bare branches with lots of shadows,  and the frost on the windows and roofs.


  The floral strings got a double border.  A  darker 2 inch inner border and a tonal neutral for the outer border.  I used the same joining technique for the outer border,  using  leftover fabric bands of floral fabrics between sections.  The tonal border will give me a good place for some quilting that will show.
   And this one got a name too....since it was about 12 degrees outside that morning, I was longing for warmer days and flowers.  I'll call this one, Mid-winter Dreams.

    I thought the comparison was a good lesson. Two very different style tops with the same simple border can work.  The joining strips just add a bit of interest I think.
  These two are now official UFOs.....I am not sure when they will get quilted.   That means I started the year breaking my "rules"......guess that means only small projects until I get caught up.  Or I throw those guidelines out the window.
Happy stitching.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Something old, something new for January

  A quiet new year, and now the big chill / freeze has come.  The very frigid air should arrive here tonight, and luckily without the snow or ice so many are enduring.  A perfect time to get some things going.  Actually, I have been up to my elbows with the old Buzz Saw is pinned and under the needle.  Since it is so big, I will be at it a while.  So don't hold your breath waiting for a peek.
   Something old----not that old, but the blocks had been on the design wall for a month or so.  I finished off a few more and stitched them together today.

  I enjoyed the play time on the design wall with these floral string blocks.  I nixed the original idea of putting a sashing strip between them after reading comments last month.  So thanks, Nicki and Dana, I listened to your advice. And that is something new for me!
  This one is rather small as the blocks are only 9 inches.....a narrow border at least to finish it off.

  Design time was just trial and error....... turning and twisting the blocks, walking away, and looking back.  If I wasn't happy with it, I took everything off and tried again.  Because I had no "picture" in my mind, I ended up with this very random layout.  Just enough dark areas to produce the contrast needed for that soft blended effect in the other areas.

   Something new----  I decided to do something with the box of batik ends and leftovers, as it was full to overflowing.  I knew what I wanted to do with them.  I wanted a "jumbled library" throw or wall hanging like Wanda at Exuberant Color has on her sidebar.   While you are there, check out her latest colorful project.   It  is a simple but effective design.....I am being tempted by it.
    Just be warned, the improv style piecing is addictive and time consuming!  Right now this little piece is about 40 inches by  24 inches......and I lost track of the hours working on it.  With very little on TV to watch at night, I just kept stitching away.   Not sure what size this one will end up either.

  Vicki Welch had a very good post noted in her newsletter today.  I highly recommend it to everyone.  Read it here.  Even though most of her testing and results relate to dye bleeding from hand dye fabrics, I found a gem included.  What detergents we use to wash our quilts is very important and her results were a bit surprising to me.
  Something old, something new Linky Party is going on this year at Never too hot to stitch.  I decided I needed a little motivation this year after all  :)   Thanks, Lynne, for providing that touch.
Happy stitching.

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