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Saturday, February 20, 2016

PQ 7.4 I Need a Vacation: Cutastrophe

This week's quilt is called Into the Forest.  It is in response to the Project Quilting Season 7 week 4 prompt, I need a vacation. Just taking the time to make a quilt was a vacation for me.  I have been working flat out designing and making plushies and badges for the Spring season and really needed the excuse to put that all on hold and just make a quilt.  

My initial purchase was just a third of a yard of each of three fabrics.  I had resolved to learn to use the Thangles for pieces half square triangles I had acquired years ago and never had time to play with.  Given any choice at all, I will never make HST's any other way ever again.  No fancy cutting.  No bias edges to manage  Sew two seams... well two kind of funky seams, cut on the lines and voila, HST's in multiples.  No trimming needed.  Wow!

Having made the triangle blocks, I was ready to cut the focus fabric, stitch it up and be done on Wednesday.  Ha!  The focus fabric wanted, no deserved to be fussy cut.  So I did.  I had to make a cardboard pattern but I did.  I felt a strong connection to my grandparents who would sit at the dining room table for hours tracing blocks around cardboard patterns and then cutting on the lines with scissors.  Yep.  That is what I did.  All 12 blocks and most of my fabric. Lovely, perfectly centered 3.5 inch fussy cut blocks. Yay! Me.  

Except that the pieced blocks, well, they were all a lovely 4.5 inches.  

Another day.  Another dollar.  Literally.  By the time I cut a few blocks of the correct size and stitched a bit together, it became clear that the quilt not only wanted blocks of the proper size but it wanted borders and enough fancy fabric to do the back.  A trip back to the shop.  An hour auditioning border fabrics.  A sizable bill and the quilt had both its backing and its border.

But it wasn't done with me yet.  It didn't just want a border.  It wanted a MITERED border.  A MITERED DOUBLE border.  Turns out it wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it might me.  I really love the clean look.  I'll probably be adding them to more of my quilts in the future.  

So all in all, this was a great learning quilt.  And I quite like the results.  

 The details:
The fabric for this quilt was all purchased at Barb's in Huntsville.  She has a small but eclectic collection of fabrics that appeal to me.  The main fabric is from a collection called Gentle Forest by Tea and Sympathy for StudioE.  

It measures 34 x 26... a good stroller quilt size.  It is made from quilter's cotton with warm and white batting.  It has free motion leaves in the (mitered) border and stitch in the ditch around the (properly fussy cut and thangle pieced) blocks.

Oh, and the real vacation link... I love going to the woods for vacation!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Easy Tumbling Blocks

I need to save this video.  It shows how to strip piece tumbling blocks.  This is a quilt pattern I love but...  without inset seams I just might try it.  It isn't as easy as she makes it look. There are plenty of places to mess it up. However it certainly looks doable.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

PQ 7.3 Challenge Thread

This post is long and rambling, something I wrote late at night and then had to wait for the sunlight to get a decent photo of the quilt.  Unfortunately, the sunlight hasn't added much clarity to the post.  So I am adding my pictures to the top and leaving the rest for perhaps a more clearheaded edit at a later date.

My last stitches, once I got the hang of allowing the machine to move the fabric rather than trying to control it myself 
My notion for this quilt was to start learning how to use the decorative stitches on my sewing machine.  I've played with them before and had enough experience to know that they are challenging.  Mastering these stitches is the first step in learning how to do heirloom sewing.  Besides I bought a fancy machine not a doorstop.  It is about time I figured out some more of the bells and whistles. 

Early stitches full of jumps and skips and do overs.  See the hearts and bells?   Neither do I.  That is what happens when you try to move the fabric rather than guide it. 

The project started out poorly.  I was trying to push and pull and direct the fabric.  I had to learn to guide it. Really I was just trying to keep the edge of the pressure foot parallel to my guide lines.  Even slight corrections on my part would throw the whole thing off.  I also learned to rip back to the start of the repeat, reset the machine to the start of the pattern and set my needle at the end of the last pattern in order to start again after a thread break.  I also learned to use a water soluble topper to keep things moving smoothly.
The whole quilt.  Lovely to me only because it represents my learning process and my steps towards mastering an intimidating style of sewing. 
Finished quilt is 18 inches square.  It is made of muslin with a poly/cotton backing and binding.  The batting is warm and white.  The thread is an assortment of Sulky and Isacord embroidery threads.  It was sewn on my Babylock Ellegante 2.  The binding is machine stitched with another fancy stitch!  The colors are turquoise and red because I always wanted to make a quilt in those colors 

OK.  Read on for some quilting philosophy if you wish...

I love Project Quilting because of challenges and the deadlines.  Well, I like most of the challenges.  I find myself thinking of Diane as the evil Diane or the diabolical Diane as I am trying to figure out what to make or as I am trying to finish a project that fits the theme but is way more than a week can hold.  I am quite sure that Diane is a lovely lady and I do hope some day to meet her in person.  I only hope when that day arrives I don't slip and call her names.  But even if I do, they are meant with best intentions.  It like a student of mine who was fed up with me pushing him to do his best.  He turned to me and said "I hate you.  You make me think."  It was the best compliment I've ever received relative to my teaching.

So  I love most of the challenges and I really like the deadline.  Deadlines are good for procrastinators like me.  But I also add my own twist each season.  I try to add my own goals to the project.  I want to stretch myself, learn something new, develop my skills.  A couple years ago, my personal challenge was to make large quilts.  That was a wonderful year and I have have a stack of great quilts to wrap around family and friends.

My challenge for the Focus Through the Prism off season challenge was to work on my piecing.  I think that the quilts I produced represent some of my best technical work.  Even better, the time and patience I exerted working on seam allowances and matching have paid off in terms of my continued improvement.

I know, you are all thinking what is up with the woman who penned that famous quilt anthem "Corners Don't Match and I Don't Care"?  Well I will always say that a finished quilt is warmer than a perfect UFO on the shelf.  If it holds together in the wash it is good enough for me.  Yes, I can hear some of your appalled voices telling me that it has to be perfect.  It has to be better.  It has to match.  And I ask those of you saying that to please revisit your first quilt.  If it was perfect (without hours and months of ripping and tearing and re-cutting) then I bow down to your superior skills.  If however, you tore your hair out making it perfect or if you had a few wonky seams here and there, remember the feeling when you finished it  It was a thrill.  You made that and wrapped your baby, or your mother or your best friend in its warmth and love  And they didn't care about the corners.

We all have to start some place.  It is far better to encourage new quilters to get to the wrap them in warmth stage.  How many would be amazing quilters have been shut down by unkind words or unnecessary rules and ripping?    So I am a firm believer in finish it up and move on, Dearie.

But I also think that working on the fundamentals is not a bad thing.  We can all use practice on those seam allowances and there is always room for improving technique...  IF you want to.   Matching seams and perfect points should be a thing to celebrate when they happen.  And if you want to make them happen more often then that is wonderful.  To each her own.  Lets all find our best path to wrap the in warmth.

oh... better step off my soapbox and tell you about this quilt.  I invoke the galloping horse rule for this one.  This was one of those 'evil' Diane challenges for me.  I did not want to make a thread quilt.  It did not help that my husband suggested it would be easy.  Just make a whole cloth quilt and do amazing quilting in bright colors of thread...  Arghhh.

So, I made a whole cloth sandwich and stared at it all week.  Finally I decided what I needed to do was practice working with the built in decorative stitches in my machine.  It would definitely take a lot of thread.  And I definitely need the practice.  It started pretty rough.  I was crooked.  The thread broke.  The fabric stuck to the foot. The satin stitches bunched.  The spacing was random.  The stitches did not look even remotely like the picture.  But, eventually, I started getting the hang of it.  I used a water soluble topper to solve the sticking and to keep the stitching crisp.  I learned to let the machine to the walking and to stop trying to guide it.  I learned which stitches I actually liked.

So while the project is far from perfect.  It is finished.  And it represents my own personal growth in sewing and patience. And that is really why I don't much care when my corners don't all match.  I'll just continue to celebrate the ones that do.