Thursday, July 31, 2014

July's Lovely ... Failure

Silly String Blocks from WorkshopThese silly string blocks did not become a tote, as initially planned, nor any other lovely finished object in July.

I finally returned to work and along with the time spent earning a living, I am working on re-finding the balance of work and life, leaving the work stress at the front door and being organized enough to be able to find time to quilt again.

As far as my goal for a lovely finish, the quilt blocks did become something, this color saturated top. I got as far as buying threads for quilting it before I started the new work project. I bought fabric for a quilt backing yesterday.

It will have a plain back and lots of quilting. I'm still undecided on binding fabric ... I have enough of the plaid in the curvy strings, but would it be distracting?

Silly String Blocks + RED
I have shared this before, but am sharing it again, mostly to help me find all my lovely finishes and failures near-finished objects at the end of the year.   I am  not-so-secretly hoping to finish all my lovely goals by year end, even if a couple of them happen after the deadline. 

You can check out the successful bloggers and their lovely finishes in July here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Squirrelly Visitor

It feels like nature week at Sophie Junction. This guy appeared just outside the glass sliding doors in the studio several times today ... as Johnny slept nearby, oblivious to the wild life on the other side of the glass.

Squirrelly Visitor

Standoff at the DoorA few times, though, Johnny WAS awake and aware and appeared ready to charge through the glass to chase away the animal in his territory.

Bizarrely, the squirrel wasn't afraid of the large cat charging at him and they spent a lot of time in a sort of stand-off, simply staring at one another through the glass door.

Small Wonders

They were easy to see in person as 6 of them buzzed about a lavender plant along the walk outside my studio.

Lavender with humming birds

Can you see him now?But when I tried to capture them with the iPhone that happened to be in my pocket, the result was less obvious.  I first thought were some new-to-me variety of hummingbirds, traveling quickly in and out and around the lavender blooms and evading my efforts to capture their image.

I cropped this guy out of the photo above, edited the contrast and shadows and it is still hard to see him ... though he buzzed about in a typical hummingbird way, he didn't look like any hummingbird I'd ever seen and so I did some research ... and found the White Lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth. They really seemed to enjoy lunching on my lavender.

I found a much more lovely photo of this interesting moth on the blog, Morning Bray Farm.

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Mod-Mod Update for July

Over the weekend, I finished making the 14 July blocks I need for the full/queen-size quilt I'm making as part of the mod-mod quilt-along. The blocks are a little catty-wumpass on the design wall ... but you can get the idea and decide if you think they are playing well together.

Slightly Re-arranged

Spokes Blocks for MMQALAs I was sewing the 14 spokes blocks, I parked them on the wall, on point ... and decided I like them in that orientation.  I also thought they would be a good block to use in a setting where some are straight set and some are on-point. (I blogged about it yesterday on the Block Lotto site)

I'm joining the party for Design Wall Monday.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

It's not much, but it's progress

Scrappy Red Tote in ProgressI've sewn the sections for my new red scrappy tote together.

It will have a black twill bottom and black and red straps.

I changed my mind about making a messenger-style bag and decided on a slim tote that would be good for carrying my iPad, keyboard and some paper files, or a few library books.

I really like the scrappy version of the Spokes block we're making for the Block Lotto this month. The background is constructed from four squares and the spokes were added in a different order than in the non-scrappy blocks. First the four squares were sewn into a background with the vertical and horizontal spokes added.

The trickiest part was adding the correct fabric to the diagonal spokes so that they will match/blend with the background squares.

This is the last of my red scraps projects for the Rainbow Scraps Challenge ... I hope to finish before the end of the month, ready for whatever color comes next.

Cutting for Scrappy Spokes Block Scrappy Spokes Block

Monday, July 21, 2014

Think Snow!

Continued high temperatures have me visualizing snow in my hot, un-airconditioned studio.

Think Snow!

Snowflakes have 6-sides, unlike these blocks, which is why I called my pattern for them the more generic term,  Spokes.  You can download my pattern from the free quilt block patterns page, if you're interested.

Whatever you call them, I was thinking of them as snowflakes on my wall today. 

Some of these blocks are for the Block Lotto, some are the red monochrome blocks for the rainbow scraps Mod-Mod throw, the gray-on-white ones are my start on 14 spokes blocks for my large mod-mod quilt and two, with scrappy red backgrounds, I made on a whim.  They've been added to those tomato-red left-overs on the design wall ... 

Spokes blocks with scrappy red backgrounds.
The scrappy blocks are easy to make–the only tricky part is matching the background fabrics which are added to the diagonal spokes to the squares in the 4-patch background.

Spokes Block with Scrappy Background

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Suspending Disbelief

6 Red Spokes BlocksI had ambitious plans for my FNSI last night, but ... a too hot studio and a head still spinning from my work day resulted in limited results.

I did make the six 7-inch spokes blocks that I need for this month in my rainbow scraps challenge version of the Mod-Mod Quilt-Along.

As I made them, I realized I was a little fearful that the red blocks would be over-powering when combined with the rest. Once I suspended disbelief and moved forward, I was pleasantly surprised.

My ideas of what this version of the quilt–with mono-chromatic blocks in colors not of my choosing–continues to change each month, but ... so far, I'm not hating it.

Today I pulled out all the blocks and put them into their relative places on the design wall.

Mod-Mod Quilt in Progress

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Red Projects in Process

The practice silly strings blocks have become a quilt top, with the addition of tomato red squares from my red cotton scraps and a bit of linen.

Silly String Blocks + RED

I thought it might grow larger, but as I extended the red background, when it grew to this size, I decided it was "done." 

I had some leftovers squares and rectangles that will likely become a messenger-style bag.

Leftover Red Squares

I haven't been quilting much, as I pep are to jump into some new contract work. I haven't yet made any of the blocks for my Mod-Mod quilts–the July update was published yesterday on the Block Lotto.  I plan to make the spokes blocks I need for these quilts during this month's Friday Night Sew-In.  Some of them will be red– this month's Rainbow Scraps Challenge color.

There's been a bit more red progress going on around here.  I've made a couple more red Briar Patch blocks for the scrappy version of that quilt.  I'm joining Lee's party for WIP Wednesday.

Red Briar Patch Blocks

Sunday, July 13, 2014


I need to learn more about night photography ... but I couldn't resist TRYING to capture last night's super moon and my view of it, looking huge and bright, above the clouds over the distant mountains.

Supermoon over the mountains

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Enjoying the Process

The third year of Julie's Cotton Robin has just wrapped with The Big Reveal where she shares all the finished quilts and tells us who did which parts for which quilts.   I've participated all three years and, for me, the sum of the experiences is always greater than it's parts and getting my own beautiful little quilt back is like a bonus gift at the end.

This year, my hands touched six of the quilts made by the group (plus my unfinished twin quilt which is my work-in-progress to share today). Here are some details (and a lot of photos) from my Cotton Robin journey this year.

At the end of last year/beginning of this year I was on a bit of a binge of making and using pieced made fabric and that is reflected in the center and fabrics I sent out into the world for my quilt.

My package with extra fabricsI used made fabric for the oak leaf which is reverse hand-appliquéd and for the 1 inch half-square triangles.

I sent along more squares of made fabrics along with some of the blue batik background.

In last year's Cotton Robin, none of the fabric I sent along (normal, commercial yardage) was used by anyone, so I wouldn't have been surprised if all the funky bits of pieced made fabrics came back to me ... but that didn't happen.

My quilt arrived last weekend, with a maple syrup sampler and a magazine from New Hampshire ... I was immediately made nostalgic for that corner of the world.

My 2014 quilt with goodiesElizabeth (in Michigan) added the first borders, with the colorful stripe and the acorns in the corners.
Glen (in Louisiana) used some of the made fabrics to create the trees in the second border.
Marie turned the little top into a quilt.

Here's my beautiful little quilt and some detail photos.  The quilt is just under 19 inches square.

My 2014 CottonRobin Quilt

When the center block for the first round arrived last winter, I had no idea who had made it. It turns out, it was Glen.

Quilt #1 - What I receivedWhenever I looked at the lovely hand-appliquéd lemon wedge, that phrase, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade," kept coming to mind.

As usual for me, whatever I've BEEN working on can heavily influence my creative process.  In February, it was stitchery (the redwork pillows I stitched during the Olympics) and inset circles (for the Bead-on-a-String blocks we made for the Block Lotto.

After rejecting the idea that I could piece all the letters in that phrase that was firmly stuck in my head and squeeze them into a small border, I decided to stitch it ... in the round ... around the lemon.

After figuring out what size the circle would have to be, I used Adobe Illustrator to wrap the text around it.  First I stitched the words, then I cut the circle and appliquéd it onto the block.  Then I cut away the comers of the block and had a moment of terror when I wondered if I'd just broken a rule ...

Quilt #1 - in progress Quilt #1 - in progress

About that time, I think, Julie posted something about how our borders couldn't be a single fabric border, so, to be sure I wasn't breaking the single-fabric rule,  I added some piping and a black and white fabric.  It didn't feel quite done yet, so I decided it needed something more to continue the circle. I conferred with a friend who was not participating in the Cotton Robin (since I had no idea whose quilt this was) and I added more embroidery to continue the text around the circle with a line with X's and daisies.

This project was sent on to Marie, who added the second round, and Sandra, who finished the quilt and it came out like this:

Next for me was Marie's center, with the first round added by Mary Jane.  The note that was traveling with the quilt said it would hang in her vacation cabin with a collection of quilts with a rainbow theme.

Quilt #2 - what I addedI forgot to take a "before" photo, but this is Marie's quilt in progress, with both Mary Jane's border and mine added.

Mary Jane had done a great job interpreting the rainbow theme in her round, but it made for a hard act to follow.

There was some red batik fabric included in the package.  While I was considering how I might repeat some of the elements of Marie's 6-pointed star in the border, I happened across a book on my bookcase, Friendships in Bloom, which was full of round robin quilts and patterns for various kinds of rounds, including this one with the partial star blocks.  Finding the multicolor hand dyed fabric in my stash was another lucky accident.  It's not the kind of thing I normally buy, so it surprised me when I found it, but I thought it was a good choice to pull in all those rainbow colors and frame the quilt.

I resized the directions to create a much smaller border and used a Tri-Recs ruler to cut the tiny triangle units I needed.  I sent the top onto Rachel, who added some perfect (and amazing) quilting to finish this one.

Next it was my turn to finish a quilt ... actually two, because I volunteered to finish up a quilt for someone who had to drop out of the round robin.   But first, while I had been flipping through Friendships in Bloom looking for ideas, I happened upon a border idea that I thought would be perfect for my oak leaf center so while I was waiting for the last quilts to arrive, I made a twin center.  At the end of May, I took this photo of my design wall.

Design wall - end of MayAt the top is Liz's quilt, with rounds added by Maria and Elizabeth, ready to be quilted.

Below it on the left,  is my twin center, not exactly the same as my yellow oak leaf, but another leaf (I used quilting stencils for the leaf patterns) made from orange made fabric.

And on the right, is Kristin's center with one border added by Marybeth.  I loved the colors in this quilt and was glad that there were some fabrics (from a jelly roll, maybe) included because I didn't find many fabrics in my stash in this fresh color palette.

I haven't made any progress, except for deciding upon a design in my head, with the leaf block ... and it is my WIP Wednesday contribution.

I loved all the clean lines in Kristin's quilt so far, so I continued them with a piano key border of her fabrics (and some of mine) with half-square-triangle-like points at the end of each "key."

I quilted it with a lot of free-motion stitch-in-the-ditch to accent all the lines and some tiny 2 inch feather wreaths in the background of her Lemoyne star center.  I used what I think is an old Caryl Bryer Fallert-designed gradient fabric in some of the colors from Kristin's fabrics for the  backing and what was probably an even older Moda Marble in the same yellow as  the plain border in the quilt (I suspect the border was made from a new Moda fabric which is why the colors matched exactly). Here are some of the in-progress photos.

And the finished quilt.

Kristin's Finished Quilt

The quilting for Liz' quilt started out pretty much the same way, with lots of stitch-in-the-ditch to outline all those triangles in her center and Maria's first round.  Me being me, I couldn't resist going back and adding feather shapes in all the light halves of those half-square triangles ... I also kept thinking about adding something to that vine ... that something turned out to be more leaves, some berry clusters and a lot of flowers, which also were used as filler for the rest of the background.   As I said last night at a meeting with the Chicken River Modern Quilters, "My name is Sophie and I am an over quilter."  I sometimes manage to restrain myself–I was pretty proud of the restraint I showed in Kristin's quilt–but not usually ...  here are some details from this quilt (taken from the front and back).

And here's the finished quilt. I chose a darker red fabric for the binding to echo the two reds in a border between the center and first round.

Liz' quilt finished

(I couldn't decide which way should be "up" for this quilt.  I like this orientation. )

I washed and blocked both quilts before adding the binding. I was a little afraid of the red fabrics in Liz' quilt, but thanks to some color-catchers doing their job well (and turning quite red), it all turned out OK.   When I was done with the last round, I was a little surprised that both quilts ended up being almost exactly the same size.  Here they are together on my design wall where I enjoyed them until it was time for them to go home.

Two finishes

Are you wondering yet where the sixth quilt that passed through my hands is?  As it turns out, I made the seven sisters center that Kate used for her Cotton Robin quilt.  I sent it to her a long time ago as part of a block exchange.   It was fun for me to see what robineers Marie, Vivi and Mary Jane did to it. 

Good bye quilts, good bye Cotton Robin.  I hope Julie is up for another round, because I'm ready to commit ... again :-) 

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Baby Steps

Thanks for all the well-wishes–I am feeling much better, though I am slow to get back into the swing of things.  I feel like I'm taking baby steps, both literally and figuratively ... while playing catch-up as quickly as I can because my day-to-day life will be changing again soon.

I have squared up the silly string blocks, cut a bunch of tomato red fabrics into scrappy squares and rectangles, and started playing on the design wall.  Here's where I'm headed.

Adding red

I love how the plaid strips look like dancing X's, swaying and bending toward one another across the surface of the quilt. 

Saturday, July 05, 2014

It's What's for Dinner

My injuries have slowed me down for the past couple of days.  Sitting at the sewing machine has been uncomfortable, so I haven't worked on any of the rainbow scraps challenge blocks and I've spent a bit of time stretched out and flipping through a couple Modern Quilting books.

Barbecue Black-Eyed Peas BurgersIn one, a successful blogger with many thousands of followers, suggests that a quilter's blogging should be restricted to quilting subjects only–because, "no one wants to know what you had for dinner."

In response, I offer what I had for lunch today, Barbecue Black-Eyed Peas Burgers, served in lettuce wraps with fresh Pico de Gallo and avocado slices, and I gently suggest that some readers like to get to know know more about the authors whose quilting (or any other) blogs they follow. I love it when someone I have come to know suggests a recipe or a knitting or craft project I'd like to try or a gardening tip or other recommendation.

I've tried a lot of veggie burgers and this recipe, from Susan's Fat Free Vegan blog has become one of a couple of my go-to favorites ... though, I confess, I don't always keep it vegan and sometimes make it for brunch and serve it topped with an egg.

In the other book, the author offered a guideline for adding borders to modern quilts. Her rule is to use borders that measure odd numbers in width.  She says, for example borders that are 3-inches wide are modern, those that are 2-inches or 4-inches wide are traditional. My guess is that she was once given this guideline for a specific project; she liked the result and has since remembered it, without any of the context that might make it meaningful (like block size or the size of the quilt before borders were added or other proportions).  I'm sure somewhere there is a guideline about PROPORTIONS which feel modern (and not) ... but that rule, as it was provided, seems meaningless for modern (or any other kind of) quilts to me.

I started wondering if I have learned and passed any information to others that, out of context, is just as non-sensical and meaningless.  If you ever notice me making a sweeping generalization like these, please call me on it ... honestly, I feel embarrassed for these two experts and hope I never end up walking in those particular shoes of theirs.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Patriotic Fabric Choices

Star Challenge BlockWhen my plans for today went SPLAT–actually it was me who tripped and went splat on the pavement yesterday and was too sore to be walking around today–I thought it might be a good day to make a block for Astronaut Karen Nyberg's Star Block Challenge.

I've known about the challenge since last Fall, but forgot until Lynda reminded me in an email suggesting it might be a fun July activity for the Block Lotto community.  The deadline is August 1.

You can read more about it here.

I remembered how last Fall, I had been thinking of making a version of one of the blocks I was planning for the lotto this year ... though it was only a rough pencil sketch back then.  Now I had the pattern (June's Sunrise block) and all I had to do was resize it.

I have no doubt my red, white and blue color choices were influenced by the day.  Happy Independence Day ... wherever you are and whatever you did, I hope your Fourth of July was a lot more eventful (and less sedentary) than mine.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Rainbow Scraps Challenge Projects: Mid-Year Progress Report

Other things get made along the way, but I am working on four quilts as part of the Rainbow Scraps Challenge (RSC).

Circle of Oak Leaf BlocksI made the red Oak Leaf block last night, so now there are 7 of these 10 by 15-inch blocks.

At the end of the year, when I have a dozen of these blocks, I plan to add a few more for a twin-size bed quilt (or large wall hanging).

They will likely NOT be arranged in a circle, as they are now on the design wall, but I couldn't resist the idea when it popped in my head.

I mostly DO share photos of these projects as I complete the latest blocks, so you've seen the rest of these before, but here they are again, with my plan for each of the projects in July.

I started making the broken dishes blocks during the first month I participated in the Rainbow Scraps Challenge a couple years ago.  The triangles for the scrappy blue blocks were all cut with a rotary cutter and ruler ... and became my excuse for buying a die cutter (which I have used to cut all the rest.)  I've made 105 of the 8-inch blocks so far.  Here are 88 of them.

Scrappy Broken Dishes Blocks

Since I have made all the red blocks I think I will need, I may be giving this project a rest this month ... unless I find some time to work (ahead) on some orange blocks so that I can decide on a layout and put this together. 

34 Briar Patch BlocksThis year, I found a very old UFO, started in a workshop with Judy Niemeyer, and decided that it was a good match for the RSC.

Since the first four blocks I made (in the workshop long ago and far away) were red, I will make a couple more this month and ... catch up on the yellow blocks that didn't happen in June.

Last but not least, because I simply couldn't resist the idea, I'm making a throw-size sampler quilt as part of the Mod-Mod QAL using the RSC designated color of the month for the block of the month ... and hoping it all comes out OK.

Here's how those blocks look, placed as they will be in the quilt.

Mod-Mod Throw - Half Done

This month, I'll be adding 6 scrappy monochromatic red Spokes blocks to this project.  You can take a peek at the block (and find the pattern we're using) on the Block Lotto site here: 

If I catch up on these projects  (and some other non-RSC projects in the mix), I have an idea for a red quilt I'd love to start this month ... why is it always so much fun to start something new, even when you have plenty of UFOs to work on? 

July Goal for a Lovely Finish

These blocks are from a workshop I led in February, for the Chicken River Modern Quilters in Las Vegas, New Mexico, based on my Silly String block.  They are made from practice squares and strips that I brought along for everyone to use for their first effort at cutting/sewing improvisational curves.

Silly String Blocks from Workshop

My goal for them and a lovely finish in July is to DO something with them.  I already had a tote bag project in mind, but seeing them on the wall this morning has sparked some other ideas ... so I'm not sure WHAT it will be, but it will be a finished project in July.

I think that they are just too cool to leave languishing as orphan blocks in my studio any longer.  Since it's Wednesday, I'm joining the WIP Wednesday party on Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

As June Flew By ...

June seemed to go by in a blur ... but I did manage to start (and sometimes finish) a few projects.

Here's my re-cap for Barbara's NewFO challenge.

This pair of pincushions, made from some miniaturized 5 1/4-inch versions of the Star Chain blocks we made for the Block Lotto in March were made using these directions as a guide.

The pincushions flew away earlier this month, as thank you gifts for a couple of the quilters that stepped up to help me make replacements for missing March lotto blocks.

Thanks again to everyone who helped.

Backs of two quiltsIn June, I was finisher for two of the quilts from Julie's Cotton Robin. The deadline for mailing was yesterday. Until all the finished quilts have been received and the big reveal is published, I can only share this much.  I hope both owners love them as much as I loved quilting them.

These two little quilts have since been received and I heard yesterday that my quilt is on it's way home. I can't wait to see what happened to the funky center I sent out into the world in January.

I found a use for a stack of twenty 12-inch square neutral + cream HST sampler blocks from a long-ago block exchange. I deconstructed them them and then re-constructed them as a dozen 18-inch frames for my summer project.

Blocks made from Half-Square Triangles 12 frames made from HST Sampler Blocks

The lighting was very different in the before and after photos, but I think you can get the idea.

First two Sunflower BlocksHere's two of those frames in use, as background for the hand-pieced blocks I am making during the 12 weeks of summer.

My plan is to design and hand-piece one block each week. These are the first two.  So far, so good.

The circles are set into those deconstructed-reconstructed machine pieced background using Dale Fleming's 6-minute circle technique.

The last new project in June was this 12 by 18 inch placemat, made for one of the local guild's charity efforts, Kitchen Angels.

I used five orphan blocks, created with the last of my pink scraps in February (for the Rainbow Scraps Challenge).

It was quick to make and fun to quilt and made me want to make some quilted placemats to use at home.

In June, I made progress on a few on-going projects, but I'll save that for the RSC "half way" report in another blog post.

Placemat for Kitchen Angels
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