Monday, November 20, 2017

Starting a New Quilt

Have you tried out any of the quilting magazines that are available digitally?
Several of them promote their new issues on Instagram and I was charmed by a pattern that the Quilters Companion featured last week from the new issue, #88.
It's an Australian publication and I couldn't find it locally but was able to purchase it quickly and easily via the website, -- just go to the site and search for the magazine by name.
Quilters Companion
The pattern is Jewel of the '30s by Jenny Tate.  The pattern is written for EPP but I need a new "leader and ender" project to carry me through my holiday stitching so I'm machine piecing it.
Now you might wonder why I purchased the magazine but I firmly believe it's important to support designers by buying their ideas even when I don't do it exactly as they have written.
If they don't get financial support, they lose their motivation to share their ideas.
And let's face it quilters, we need their ideas!!
So here is my piecing strategy for this one! 
I pulled out my stack of 30s prints.
Then without coordinating, I pulled sets of six prints -- blue, lavender, orange, pink, green, and yellow. 
Marti Michell has several sizes of "jewel" templates and I'm going with the largest one -- this is the multiple shape template from Set H that came be used to cut a "jewel".
I stacked my six prints on top of a 6" by 8" mat on top of my table size mat. After making the first three cuts, I can pull away the yardage.
The reason for the small mat is to be able to rotate everything so I can always cutting along the right side of the template (because I'm right handed) or along the top edge.
Notice the left end of the template is falling off my fabric.
I don't need the full diamond shape for the "jewel".
Once I've cut around the template as it lays, I need to trim the left end to complete the "jewel" shape. 
A simple twist of the template to align the purple lines that define the "hexagon" shape of the template allows me to trim off the excess (along the top edge in the picture below).
I cut two stacks from each group of six prints.
I will piece one set as cut.
The second set of each group, I mixed and matched with five other sets to scramble things up a bit more.
It was like playing cards, dealing out one "jewel" to each pile but not duplicating a color. 
Six new assortments without any more cutting. 
To keep each assortment easy to manage, I set up three pairs using the same color arrangement for each set -- orange with blue, yellow with lavender, green with pink.
These color combinations are opposite each other on the color wheel which assures me of good contrast and each pair is a warm color with a cool color -- good for contrast, too!
Here's one of the sets ready to stitch.
It took a couple de-stitching events to realize that to maintain the alternation of warm and cool which helps create more contrast in each set, I needed to have the warm print on top of the cool print for all three pairs.  
Taking the time to set up your piecing before stitching prevents the disappointment of have the pink next to lavender, etc. which might look clunky in the finished block.
Call me fussy, but I like balance!! 
If you've been following me for a while, you know what is next -- chain piecing through y-seams!!
I chain piece constantly and this technique of stitching has become effortless for me.
Stitch onto the pair at the sharp end of the "jewel".
Pivot at the dot and stitch off the piece and onto the next pair.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.

When I have three pair together, I press the seam towards the cool print (blue, green, lavender) to set up the seams swirling in one direction on the back side of the block. 
I'm ready to assemble the three pairs into a wheel. 
I need both ends of these seams to be open so I stitch into the seam at an angle, 
then pivot, stitch the seam, 
and stitch off.  
I could assemble the wheels by stitching two sets of three "jewels" together but frankly, I get more precise centers doing three pairs.  I do six-pointed stars the same way.  It's an extra y-seam, but the results are better -- and not just for me.  My students have the same experience.
And look at the way the center lays flat on the back side!
I've been working with and teaching Set-In Piecing Simplified for five years and the instructional leaflet I sell on Etsy (HERE) has lots of pointers to help you avoid the pitfalls and get up and running with this idea quickly. 
I think I've made all the mistakes possible to save you the trouble!!

At this point, I have four wheels finished.
They will be set together with hexagons and I'm auditioning two options -- both white backgrounds -- one with a white dot and the other with a pale gray dot.  
I think the pale gray dot is more interesting but it will be a couple weeks before I have to decide.
My plan is a baby quilt though at this point there is no baby on the horizon.
Happily, this issue of Quilters Companion has a couple more projects that look interesting!!

This is a busy week for me -- I'm the host at @52quilters on Instagram this week!!
So if you're an Instagram groupie, check me out over there!!

So glad I don't have to clean house for Thanksgiving this year -- just make a couple pies to take along to dinner with my new daughter-in-law's family!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Big Finish!!

Two weeks ago, I decided to finish up my grands' Jolly Little Christmas sampler quilts and hand them off to their mother this weekend to save on mailing.  The quilts are their BIG present from Grandma this year but I wanted them to be able to enjoy the quilts throughout December!!
By keeping the quilting simple and staying focused I was able to have the quilting finished in a week!?!  I used long vertical wavy lines with snowflakes inserted randomly.
Lori Kennedy's Snowflake tutorial was the inspiration -- check it out HERE
To have them ready in spite of being on the road for six days, I cut the bindings and packed the trimmed quilts and my machine in the car. 
As good luck would have it, the hotel on my free evening had a desk that was perfect to get the job done and enjoy another episode of Vera (my current English crime favorite). 
I returned home yesterday afternoon and after putting away the stack of quilts from my lecture for the National Road Quilt Guild in St. Clairsville, Ohio -- I was ready to wash and dry the newly finished quilts so they are ready to wrap and hand off this weekend! 
I always wash quilts before giving them away.  My go to settings are lots of cold water on gentle cycle with an extra rinse.
I have used Quilt Soap for over 30 years and it always does the job well!  It's gentle, pure, and rinses out completely.  It's also very concentrated, so a little goes a long way.
Thankfully, I noticed this little bleed mark when I was binding the quilts.
That meant, add ColorCatcher sheets.  The box says two but I put in three just in case.
Then I had to find something to do so I could hear the washing machine when it finished -- it doesn't do to leave wet quilts laying in the machine when you are trying to control bleeding.
Glad I did that!!
Look what's down there at the bottom of the machine!?! 
I ran each quilt through another rinse just to be sure all the renegade red was out. 
Fifteen minutes in the dryer on low and then I hung them outside to take advantage of today's breeze to finish the job!
My grandson's version has a male cardinal and the moose.  I used green for the cornerstones and the binding.
The backing is so cute and so perfect for this kid who loves to be outdoors.
He doesn't have a red pickup yet (he's only 9) but I wouldn't be surprised if there's one in his future. 
My granddaughter's quilt has a female cardinal and the reindeer block.  I used red for the cornerstones and the binding. 
The backing is a beautiful print of pine boughs from Hoffman Fabrics that I have been hoarding for years! 
I signed both quilts, dated them, and quilted the kids names into them.
I used Quilter's Dream Machine Blend batting and a silvery gray Isacord rayon thread left over from my machine embroidery days.  
You can find the patterns for these blocks and a few more over at Sew Fresh Quilts!

So two BIG presents done and two finishes from my fourth quarter 2017 Finish A Long list!!
What's next?!?
If you follow @52quilters on Instagram, I'm next week's host!!
Lots of y-seam fun stuff planned!!

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Taking a few days off . . . .

. . . . . . because I was 15 minutes (and six days?) early for my doctor's appointment this morning and then I didn't show up for a work session (that I scheduled) for my quilting group?!?  I'm off for a long weekend to see the grands and do some family history research, so I'll be back at the blogging in a week (or so). 

In the meantime, here's pictures from a walk yesterday to show you some of the fall foliage inspiration here in Northeast Ohio!!

I might miss the big leaf drop -- almost every leaf is now yellow and we are waiting for the first frost that will bring all of them down.  Looking up into the woods nearby (mostly maple and beech), the foliage is thinning.
The ground is covered with yellow leaves that quickly turn brown and the occasional red maple leaf lays on top of the layer like an accent.
The acorn crop is plentiful this year and the squirrels can't seem to eat or bury all of them.
The mitten-shaped sassafras leaves are among the most colorful but it also looks like they are delicious -- look at all those little holes -- must remember to look up what caterpillars eat them!
The only green left on the forest floor are the evergreen Christmas ferns which will soon be peeking up through a layer of snow.
The trail ends at the top of a crumbling bluff and one can survey the river valley 50 feet below.
The panorama of rust and gold sparkles in the sporadic afternoon sunshine.
The stately sycamores have already lost most of their leaves and they look like ghost trees.
One of the parts of a season with no leaves that I love is being able to see the architecture of the woods -- stately trees such as these that are hidden from view by summer's leaves.
It will be dark soon so time to go home and stitch something.
As I walk back to my car, I stop to look for the source of the soft tapping I can hear overhead.
There he is -- a handsome male pileated woodpecker!
We've lost lots of trees in our woodlands to invasive insects and diseases and it makes me sad. 
But I have to celebrate the expansion of these magnificent woodpeckers who benefit from all the dead trees.

Have a pleasant weekend -- soak up the changing seasons and do some stitching!!


Friday, November 3, 2017

Winter Workshop Preparations`

Last week, I got a reminder from the Lake Farmparks Quilt Show coordinator that it was time to submit a supply list for my February workshop and then the brochure arrived for this winter's classes.  Time to drop everything and organize some more for this workshop.  Registration begins on November 13, so there is time to consult your calendar and make plans!  I hope you'll consider joining me to start your own version of Lorena Uriarte's Opal Essence!

My first contact with the pattern was via Instagram when it was first released in Desert to Sea, a compilation of original quilt patterns from 10 Australian designers.  I ordered the book as soon as it was available and have leisurely been making blocks.  This week, I pushed my dodecagon blocks to one side of the design wall and put up the large scale tumbling blocks for Opal Essence!  Lorena made the pattern available this past year as a digital download -- you can order your copy HERE .
I was so inspired by Lorena's color scheme that I'm using it, but there are other possibilities in my head!  At this point, I've decided to make a large lap size quilt using 15 blocks (though it might get larger). With an eye to "what colors are missing", I prepped another stack of pieces yesterday.
Last year when I was re-organizing the studio (again), I set up a hand stitching area with a much loved wooden rocker that fits me perfectly by a window overlooking a little wild area of my yard.
However, since I do most of my hand stitching in the evening in front of television, I have rarely used this cozy corner.  Yesterday, I changed that and spent a happy hour doing the hand applique and enjoying the sounds of a warm fall day. 
Adding the arcs to the diamonds can be machine pieced, but I have decided to ease myself back into hand applique (big project waiting on the "to-do" shelf) so this project is a good preparation.  I'm doing needle-turned applique.  I baste the arcs in position and finger pinch the line before I begin to stitch.
Lorena uses freezer paper templates to prepare her appliques and describes it on her blog HERE
A thimble is a must use tool for me -- I hear lots of protests about the awkwardness of a thimble from new hand stitchers but after pushing the eye end of a needle into my finger many, many years ago, it only took me about 3 weeks of daily practice to fall in love with thimbles!
This is my favorite and it belonged to my husband's grandmother!
I am listening to a book on tape, but I'm not loving the reader of this one, so after about 30 minutes I'm ready to take a break.  I was glad that the weather was warm enough to have the window open and enjoy the sounds of the foraging birds below the window. 
Once the hand stitching is complete, I remove the basting thread and cut out the diamond behind the applique. 
I recently invested in this collection of MasterPiece thread and this is the first time I've used it for applique -- love it!!
No matter what color the fabric is, there is a color in here that will blend nicely. 
Once the applique is finished it takes about two minutes to stitch the block together and of course, I'm applying my "set-in piecing simplified" technique at this point!
Chain-piecing for the quickest most secure assembly of y-seams!
Order my new downloadable version of SET-IN PIECING SIMPLIFIED from my Etsy Shop.
Making a few blocks at a time and adding them to the mix is the best way to maintain color balance.  I've seen other color palettes on Instagram and have an idea in my head to work with a collection of green, aqua, and blue backgrounds with yellow and orange arcs.
You can explore Lorena's students' work on Instagram by searching the hashtag - #opalessencequilt -and I will continue to share my color experiments here on the blog.
I just need one more block and then I can begin to cut the fill-ins for the outer edges.
I'll look at it over the weekend and decide if the size is good before I start the final assembly.
The surprising aspect of this quilt is how easy the block is to construct. 
The scale of the blocks is large so the quilt is coming together faster than I expected!
(Look back up at the picture of the block with my hand on it.)
My Opal Essence Workshop is two days (Friday, 2/16/18 and Saturday 2/17/18 from 9:30 to 4:30) at Lake Metroparks Farmpark during the annual show, Quilts 2018.
The fee is $125 plus you will need to purchase the pattern from Lorena ($12 Australian which is about $9 US).  (If you are looking at the workshop booklet, ordering the pattern yourself is a change since the descriptions were written this summer.) 
 I advocate shopping in your stash for the majority of the fabrics but have determined that one can cut six large diamonds from a fat quarter so thinking some swapping could happen during the workshop to help everyone expand their range of backgrounds.

The website for the show is live so you can review it HERE and has all the information including an entry form if you'd like to show off a quilt, but registration doesn't open until 11/13/2017.
If you live in Northeast Ohio or Western Pennsylvania -- this show is accessible.
For those farther away, I'd be glad to help you find accommodation locally.

Since yesterday might have been our last pleasant day before winter, I headed to the closest woods once I was satisfied with the day's stitching progress.  I often feel a little guilty about these escapes but that evaporated quickly when the first sight waiting for me was this young red-tailed hawk!
I think he was trying to catch a squirrel but the squirrel was too feisty (this time).
We watched one another for about 10 minutes and I hope we'll meet again during the course of the winter.
I hope your weekend includes time with the world around you!!
I'm anticipating the "big leaf drop" any day now and want to be out in it!!
Think yellow leaves falling all around you while scuffling down a trail!