Friday, March 29, 2013

Hmmmm ...

Finished and HungToday I hung Cock-a-Doodle-Tea Towel.  It's the first time I've tried using the 3M Control Strip hooks ... my fingers are crossed.  FYI, the door to the left of the quilt is a short one--to my pantry.

The positive response to this quilt, in comments here and on the 15 Minutes of Play blog post have been so supportive and flattering.   Thank you for taking the time to send me your reaction and for seeing some of the fine points of what I was trying to accomplish.

I loved working in this making-it-up-as-I-go fashion and as I consider my next project, I'm torn between pulling out a finished top and quilting it on the Singer 301 to improve my skills on that machine or finding a project (likely a WIP) that will allow me more playtime like this.

I confess there was one comment that had me scratching my head a bit.
Hmm...the first Quilt Sampler magazine?
I have probably blogged more about this project than any other and I would have thought it was pretty clear to anyone reading my posts that I was making up the design as I went along.  When Laurina pointed out I had done something similar in the round robin quilt I made for her, I laughed, because she was SO RIGHT, I had added a similar sun, some (different words) and a checkerboard border.  I think I liked what I did to her quilt so much that my mind just never let go of those ideas.

But the suggestion that this quilt design already existed was mind boggling.

I had a feeling that since I didn't remember a "first" Quilt Sampler magazine, it probably pre-dated me, as a quilter ... and it turns out that was true.

I looked but wasn't able to find it online, but my friend Wendy found a copy on eBay and sent me the photo and this link to the 1995 issue.  I don't know if this is the "first" issue, but I'm guessing that the cover quilt, with it's checkerboard border, a different kind of sun and some different appliquéd words is the quilt that the anonymous commenter thought of when she left the comment.  I don't see any chickens or flowers on the cover quilt ... and well, I honestly don't see how anyone could think it inspired my quilt.

A couple last links for people who have asked.  I found the tea towel I used on Amazon here:

Ivan Bartlett Reproduction Tea Towel

And for those that liked the hen blocks, I didn't use a pattern, but I recently discovered a nice tutorial by  Vicki on her blog, Sew Inspired, for a very similar block here:

Chicken Quilt Block Tutorial

If you like the appliqué sunflowers and coneflowers, you can find them in the book, The Easy Art of Appliqué by Mimi Dietrich and Roxi Eppler.

I'm going to celebrate this quilt one more time and join the linky parties for Finish It Up Friday,  Can I get a Whoop Whoop, Off the Wall Fridays, Pat Sloan's Show and Tell, and the Weekend Update on the Block Lotto.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cock-a-Doodle-Tea Towel Quilt

Cock-a-Doodle Tea Towel is done!  I finished stitching down the black binding and added the hanging sleeve last night. The black binding is all but invisible in front of the black wall in the studio ... but will look great once it's hang in my house.

Cock-a-Doodle-Tea Towel

The quilt measures 40 by 56 inches.  It is machine pieced, hand appliquéd and machine quilted--my first FMQ effort on my Singer 301.

I used the tea towel on which it's based (for the tea towel challenge), a vintage woven tablecloth and quilting cottons, including many of the Shades of Gray charms from a swap last year.  Another part of the challenge was to use made fabric, which you can see in the pieced hens, appliqué backgrounds and border triangles. I also decided to see the checkerboard sections as a more traditional form of made fabric, especially the small 4-patches which really were added so I could use some smaller pieces of fabric, since I had decided to work from stash ONLY.

The third part of the challenge was to try something new. Besides my quilting adventure on the Singer 301, other first time techniques include using kitchen parchment as a design tool (for the sun section), an appliqué prep technique I used to make it easier to turn under the edges of the tablecloth and the 3D beaks on the hens, created by inserting prairie points into the seam. 

Here's a mosaic of some of the details of the quilt.  Use the links in the key to go to the original photos on Flickr for an even closer look, if you're curious.

Tea Towel Quilt Details Mosaic

This project is my Lovely Finish for March.  Yay!  I finished with a week to go :-)

My design wall is virtually unchanged since last week, so I'm sharing this quilt for Design Wall Monday ... it will soon be hanging on a different sort of wall in my kitchen.  I'm also linking to Leah's FMQ Friday, since a large part of making this quilt was my FMQ adventure on the Singer 301, and Lily's Fresh Sewing Day.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Evening Binding

My Slow Stitch Sunday project will be adding the binding to my tea towel challenge quilt.  For the first time in a long time (years!), the binding will NOT be scrappy–just a simple black binding to frame the quilt.

Since I cannot share a colorful scrapping binding with you to mark the occasion, here's a view from the (plain muslin) back of the quilt--showing some of my very first FMQ stitches on the Singer 301 outlining all those leaves on tea tea towel  and the last of FMQ stitching as I added black stitching to trace the lines on the butterflies.

The Other Side

Don't judge the tension and quilter control problems too harshly ... I developed a lot of skill along the way.  There are some loose threads in this photo, too, that I didn't notice until I uploaded it :-)

In case you've missed my posts on this project, here's the tea towel I used as a start for this project.

Sophie's Tea Towel

I plan to share the finished quilt later this week.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Still Quilting

As a result of the Friday Night Sew Quilt In, I'm still quilting the tea towel challenge quilt ... but I did make a lot of progress.

More Quilting

Look close and you can see the basting pins in the checkerboard border ... and that the hens are missing some quilted details and that the triangle border is only half-quilted with feathers.  I could be still quilting for a while.

A cold front is blowing–really blowing–through here, so I plan to spend my time inside this weekend, continuing to quilt away on this piece and putting together a sample lotto block and directions for for April so I can send out the sneak peek tomorrow.  

Johnny watches ...The cold weather and wind make no difference to my big boy cat, Johnny. It's his job, apparently, to go outside and survey the neighborhood each morning, before I can begin my day.  Once he determines the neighborhood is safe (and I'm dressed and ready to go downstairs), he races me to the kitchen and his food bowl ... to make sure I remember to top it off for him ;-)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

WTF! What reader do you use?
Since this news, Google Reader users everywhere are looking at the alternatives, including me.  Three popular choices are:

The Old Reader  (based on an old version of Google Reader)
I’m personally playing with Feedly (on my computer and my iPad/iPhone) but I’m looking at these others, too, since we have a few months to look around before Google Reader goes away.

Here’s the link that Bloglovin’ requires I post in order to “claim your blog.”
Follow Sophie Junction with Bloglovin

The FMQ Learning Curve

FMQ with the Singer 301My free motion quilting skills really began to improve when I decided that I would allow myself a hundred hours of practice with my Bernina before I let my self critic  (or anyone else) check in and tell me what was wrong with it.

I reminded myself of that attitude, when I decided to use my Singer 301 for quilting the Tea Towel challenge quilt and found myself feeling like I was at the beginning of the FMQ learning curve again.

I am learning the rhythm of the machine and establishing hand-needle coordination. The feel of the foot pedal is different; my control there is improving, too. I missed having a needle-down setting ... but I'm getting pretty good and being able to stop the machine with the needle down.
Still Quilting
These photos show some of the good, bad and just plain ugly as I travel up the FMQ learning curve again.

This quilt was created for fun; it's not likely it will ever leave my house.  Allowing myself to learn to FMQ on the 301 has freed me to learn and play and try new things and develop a new skill along the way, with the expectation that this quilt will be (perfectly) imperfect, but when I'm finished quilting it I will be much more comfortable with FMQ on this old machine.

The photos also show the slant shank darning/free motion foot  I bought to use on the Singer 301.  I have no connection with Sew Classic–I'm just a happy customer (I also bought a walking foot and 1/4 inch foot for this machine, too).

This is my project for WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced and I'll be working on it Friday for the Friday Night Sew In.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nature Abhors a Vacuum ...

My design wall was all but blank for a couple days and I couldn't stand it anymore.

This afternoon, I pulled out these hand-pieced blocks from 2010 and put them up, to give those two unused butterfly blocks some company.   (My cotton robin project is also on the wall ... but since it's a secret, I cropped it out).

  Back on the Design Wall

These blocks were made were block-of-the-month patterns some friends from my small group in Michigan were piecing and I wanted to play along.  I think they all finished their quilts from these blocks, while life and a few moves got in my way and I only got as far as "June"  These blocks, some fabrics and all envelopes with the block patterns have been packed away far too long.

My original plan was to make three blocks from each pattern for a total of 36 blocks for a wall hanging that would be approximately 50 inches square. For Slow Stitch Sunday, I'm picking this up again. 

Quilting Continues ... with help from GraceWhile I continue quilting the challenge quilt  (here, with Grace Hopper's help), and develop some FMQ technique on the Singer 301, I think some hand-piecing will provide a relaxing balance.

And who knows? I might actually make some progress on this three-year-old work in progress.

Early Morning Photos

My Feline Photo AssistantsAfter staying in bed long enough to watch another beautiful sunrise, I decided the sky was so beautiful and the light so lovely, I'd take the new pillows outside for photos. My two Feline photo assistants were there to help.

Since surveilling the deck–and the roof beyond if he can get away with it–has become part of Johnny's morning routine, it was a win-win idea. Grace doesn't like the cold deck, but the morning's excitement was enough to bring her outside to join us.

Early Morning Sky ... and my completed Pillow Shams

Scrappy Triangles Pillow ShamsThe pillow covers are 24 inches square, quilted simply in-the-ditch, backed with an old Hoffman Challenge fabric and bound with the darkest purple used in the half-square triangles.

They'll be going onto my bed, but these photos make me want to make something like them for the deck chair ... it looks so much cozier with quilty pillows.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Quilting Day so Far

My plan for National/International/Worldwide Quilting Day is to begin the quilting on my tea towel challenges quilt, which was my pick for a Lovely Finish in March.

Oiling the machineOne of the things I challenged myself to do on this project was to quilt it on my Singer 301.

I started my day by making myself a nice big latté and enjoying it while giving my machine some TLC.  Did you know the original owners manual for the 301 recommends,
If the machine is used continuously, it should be oiled daily.
Auditioning ThreadsAnother of my personal challenges for this quilt was to use only fabric and thread from my stash. Next, I auditioned a selection of threads I thought I'd use.

I was confident that the Singer would be happy with the cotton King Tut; less so about the shiny rayon threads from Isacord, Sulky and Mettler that I wanted to use to add some shine to the tea towel at the center of my quilt.

Testing with Rayon threadWhile I waited for my oatmeal to cook (in the rice cooker–the easiest way I know to make steel cut oats), I tested with a couple of the fine threads on some scraps and batting trimmed from another project.

After a breakfast break, I was good to go.

I started by outlining some of the design elements of the tea towel.  I could be outlining those little leaves for a while ...

Outlining the Tea Towel Design Elements

I'm joining SewCalGal's Virtual Sew-cial today and linking to the Block Lotto Weekend Update. This is also my mid-month check-in post for the Year of Lovely Finishes. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Preparing for Worldwide Quilting Day

Basting the QuiltI set a deadline for myself of getting the tea towel challenge top completed, off the wall, and ready to quilt on National Quilting Day.  I finished it up last night–can I get a Whoop whoop?

Here's a sneak peek of the pin-basted quilt.  I have some ideas about how I'll quilt some of the sections ... I am counting on the quilt to tell me what it needs for the rest ;-)

I challenged myself to quilt this one on my Singer 301. It doesn't seem to like some of the finer threads; I am hoping to be able to use some shiny rayon to outline all those leaves on the tea towel ... I'm looking forward to see how it goes.

In honor of Worldwide Quilting Day, I'm going to share the Block Lotto Weekend Update linky party here.   Please add a link with your Worldwide Quilting Day plans.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Two Projects, Some Progress

Scrappy Triangles
These two, jarringly different projects are living side-by-side on my design wall today.

The scrappy-with-a-lot-of-purpole triangle squares are the result of lots of mindless meditative cutting and sewing and trimming of those 128 half-square triangles that I shared yesterday, followed by some playing/arranging them and sewing them together. They are 24 inches square and intended to become pillow shams to use along with the Wild Pansy quilt. As I wait for Spring, I could use a boost of color in my life and I think putting thes color-saturated pieces on my bed could do the trick.

I blogged on the Block Lotto yesterday about the influences in this little project: A lotto block from last year, the arrangement in one of the quilts made by one of the winners of those blocks, and a comment about some other scrappy lotto blocks received by one of the December winners.

You can see those influences in that article and read more about this project, here:

My Block Lotto–Influenced Project

Isn't it funny how some blocks, designs and comments in a blog post can stick with us?

Still on the WallSpeaking of things that stick, I couldn't let go of the idea of using a scrappy checkerboard around the sun in my tea towel challenge quilt.

While sewing the triangles together, I kept thinking about my options. After the two big scrappy squares were finished, I reworked my checkerboard sky.

I didn't notice the symmetry of those black and white squares until looking at the photo.  It's bugging me enough that I'll have to change it, but overall, I like the lighter-brighter version of that design element.

I feel like I need to focus on that section, resolve my questions about it and finish it before I move on.

I'm still pretty happy with where it's going so far.  I think I may need another hen.  I don't know where the butterflies will ultimately land and the idea I have in my head for balancing the dark background behind the sunflowers is still untested.  In other words, it's still a challenge ... and I'm still having fun with it :-)

Checkerboard Sky Revisited

I'm joining Lee's WIP Wednesday Linky party on Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Creatively Blocked? Do Something Else

Last night I made 128 scrappy triangle squares.

  128 Triangle Squares

I'm having a hard enough time getting my body clock to spring ahead to Daylight Savings time, so I went to bed and left them like this, ready to be pressed later today. They're made from 64 four-inch purple squares, cut from a handful of purple fabrics and 64 unique non-purple squares, pulled from my mini-scrap bins. Finding scraps that were large enough from which to cut a 4-inch square turned out to be the biggest challenge.

For the Birds? All that pressing, cutting, sewing, squaring up and trimming didn't feel at all creative. In fact, more than once last night, I had that, "what was I thinking" feeling–it seemed like all too much work for the small project I had in mind and thought I would complete in a night or two.

But it was, in a way, meditative and by the end of the night, not only had I made all the units I needed for that small project, I also had a new idea about which way to go with my tea towel challenge.

(I also had this pretty little pile of thin fabric shards from trimming those squares that I think some of the returning birds outside might enjoy to use as nesting materials)

Often the best thing I can do when facing a creative block or a unresolved question is to DO SOMETHING ELSE.  Cook, garden, work on a project in another medium or just play with a small project that is completely different.  Flexing creative muscles in a different way seems to prime the pump and enable me to continue through the block or solve the problem that has left me stuck.

Your mileage may differ, but when deadlines (real or self-imposed) and helpful friends don't work, somehow doing something else works for me.

As it's already Wednesday in other parts of the world, I'm linking with Esther's WOW on Wednesday.

It Looks LIke Spring ...

Signs of SpringEarlier this week, some flowers from a friend arrived.

They reinforce the feeling that spring has arrived ... even though I know it will be a few months around here before there's no more chance of winter weather and I can really start thinking about planting things outside.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy the blooms and the floral perfume in the house ... unfortunately, I know it won't last long, because the two curious cats are finding the flowers pretty irresistible, too.

Grace Hopper and the Flowers   Johnny Be ...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Photographing Big Quilts

This is the first time in a long time that I live in a space that allows me to hang and photograph big quilts. I keep telling myself I need to take advantage of the space and take photos of a couple quilts I've made that were never really photographed and documented.

Wild Pansy is the big (100 inches square) bed quilt that I (finally) finished and added the binding last night. It was quilted by Coreen Strzalka of That's my Quilt, days before I left Michigan.  I packed it away and it has been stored in one place or another until this week. 

Wild Pansy Quilt

It was made from scrappy Buckeye Beauty blocks (with purple used in the triangles) swapped long ago and far away.

Here are some detail photos, showing the scrappy purple binding, a single block, and some quilting details.

Scrappy Purple Binding

Wild Pansy - Buckeye Beauty Block   Wild Pansy - Quilting Detail

Wild Pansy - Quilting Detail   Wild Pansy - Quilting Detail

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Checkerboard Sky?

My plan was to add a checkerboard sky to the sun I made yesterday and to spend part of my slow stitch Sunday appliquéing the sun in place.

Checkerboard Sky

But ... I'm not completely happy with it, so it may sit on design wall while I consider it and some other options.  Building this quilt by focusing on one section at a time has been interesting. I had been thinking about scrappy checkerboard borders.  My strong negative reaction to this is a reminder to wait until I get there.

Purples for a Scrappy BindingIn the meantime, I cut some binding strips from this stack of purple-ish fabrics. Finally binding a long-ago finished quilt is my Sunday evening back-up plan.

I woke to a frosting of snow and ice on the ground and sleety rain. Spending some time with a large quilt on my lap while I stitch down the binding has some appeal.

I'm linking to Kathy's Slow Stitch Sunday today. I loved her post about chaos theory and focusing on just one thing with positive intent.

UPDATE: While working on the purple binding, I kept looking over at the design wall and had the same thought as many who left comments–it's not the checkerboard that bugs me, but the combination of fabrics.  How cool to come online and get that confirmation from all of you.

As a test, I converted the photo above to black and white.

Checkerboard - converted to B&W

I'm still not 100% sure I'll go this way, but looking at it in black and white, already I like it SO much more.

Quilt #1 with my borders I have made similar sun blocks a couple times, including the one I added to Laurina's Cotton Robin quilt last year–I actually used a pattern I found online for that one. 

Coincidentally, I added a checkerboard border (At the bottom) to that one, too.  I wasn't really aware of it until Laurina mentioned it, but I definitely brought some design ideas from my round on her quilt to my tea towel challenge.

You can see the finished round robin quilt on her blog, Chicky Quilts, here.

Monday Afternoon Update

The sun and its surrounding checkerboard look the same on my design wall, but I did finish the binding last night.  I've posted an update with photos of the quilt, here.

And I'm joining the list on Judy's Design Wall Monday.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Let the Sun Shine

It's been a rare gray, overcast day.  A good time to work on the sun I wanted to my tea towel challenge quilt. The sun is approximately 25 inches wide.

Sun section

Part of the challenge is to use new techniques, so for this sun, I decided to try something I saw in a workshop with Mary Bacjz, using kitchen parchment paper.

Designing on Parchment PaperI pulled off a large sheet, laid it in place at the top of the quilt section, and started with my large circle template–AKA the lid to my wok–to draw the curve for the sun.

Then I opened the yardstick ruler that has been languishing with my quilt gadgets for YEARS and used it to draw the parallel outside curve that would contain the sun's rays.

Yardstick RulerI used a piece of painters tape and marked where the center of the circle defined by the arc would be, to make it possible to draw concentric circles.

I could have pulled out a protractor to divide the arc equally, but realized it would be easy to just fold it, first into quarters and then into eighths.  I creased the folds, then opened the paper, marked the folds and used them to draw the (approximately) equal sections and rays.

Once the pattern was drawn, I cut it into three sections.  The arc with the sun rays was used as a foundation to piece that section.  The parchment paper is lightweight and even though I was using a large piece of it, it was easy to manipulate.

The inner and outer sections became templates.  I've added the base of the sun so far.  After I've pieced the background, I'll use the outside piece of the parchment as a template and complete the block.

Step-by-Step Photo Mosaic
I'm sharing this as part of the Block Lotto's Weekend Update Linky Party.  The theme this weekend is Tips, Tricks and Lessons Learned.

A big lesson learned for me, is to be open to everything you learn in workshops because you never know when you'll find a reason to use something you thought you'd never use :-) 

If you aren't a follower of my blog, you may also want to check out some blog posts with tips earlier this week: 
Cut fabricSophie's TIps for Rose BlocksA couple of appliqué preparation ideas (including quarters as one inch circle templates and a print-friendly Tip Sheet for making Free-pieced Rose blocks.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

March Lotto Blocks

10 Steps Block for March Block LottoContinuing our year of 6 by 9 inch rectangle blocks, we're making this log cabin variation for the March Block Lotto.

The color guidelines are to use white + gray + your choice of color.

The construction is like the Court House steps style log cabin, with "logs" added in pairs, on opposite sides.  The fabric placement makes is similar to a square traditional block called White House Steps.

I always say it, but I do think this has lots of quilt design/setting possibilities.  If you'd like to play with some of those possibilities, my directions are here:
Steps Block Pattern Cover
Steps Block Pattern

The pattern includes directions for making the block, a coloring sheet, a foundation for paper foundation piecing, and the virtual quilt made from block photos from the Block Lotto.

Monday, March 04, 2013

More Bits and Pieces

Good MorningGood morning.

My Sunday night appliqué went well.

I dotted the I in good morning with my quarter-sized circle appliqué and made another potential folk-style flower block for the tea towel challenge.

Cone Flowers

This morning, my design wall has all the bits and pieces I've made and may include in the quilt ... in no particular order.

Design Wall March 4

I'm joining the linky party on  Judy's Design Wall Monday–a good place to go for quilting eye candy on Monday mornings–and Esther's WOW link list–for WIPs on Wednesday.

Sophie's TIps for Rose Blocks
Over the weekend, besides playing with these blocks, arranging and re-arranging them on the wall, I pulled the information and images from a couple of my blog posts here and on the Block Lotto about making the wonky roses, like those in my quilt, A Whole Lotta Love, and put them in a print-friendly format.  Those that are interested can download it here:

Sophie's Tips for Free-Pieced Rose Blocks

I'll also add a link to download it on my Freebies page.
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