Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Still here . . . .

My spontaneous one-week hiatus from Through Rose-colored Trifocals turned into three weeks?  Not sure how that happened?  Too busy stitching?  Too busy birding?  Perhaps.

I have been stitching steadily -- if you watch me on Instagram (@hueymary), you've seen some hexie machine piecing, a few bindings, a bit of birding, and some progress on some ancient UFO's.

Last August, you saw this lovely blue and yellow quilt as I shared how I layer quilts on a table -- you can read that complete post HERE
 Then it sat for several months until I started to quilt it in January.  I thought I would finish it in January once I settled on a simple "maze" for the wonky log cabin style blocks, then while when considering a design for the setting triangles, I stalled out.
Feathers were the original idea but in the end, I settled into a more comfortable design that I'm confident about being able to execute -- a whimsical flower with simple leaves and tendrils.  Surely I'll finish it in February!?!
After another long pause and sketching out several border design ideas, I decided on a simple Greek key style border which echos the "mazes" in the central blocks.
It took a few days of experimenting on graph paper to figure out the path and find the right proportions.
I was thrilled with the strategy I developed and so I'm going to share it in a progression of pictures that I hope will inspire you.  
After drawing two of the "key" motifs onto the border with a Clover Chaco Liner, I stumbled into a way to add some painter's tape "lines" to my Fine Line tool enabling me to bypass most of the marking.
The long tape line (horizontal in this picture) will dictate the space between the lines of the repeat and the short vertical pieces indicate the length of the longest line within each repeat.
A complete repeat is a square unit in my design and sits centered from side to side on the border.
Follow along as I stitch one repeat.
The tape running parallel to the edge of the tool is lined up on the seamline between the narrow yellow border and the outer blue border.
This motif begins at the horizontal tape mark . . . .  
. . . . and stops at the edge of the last horizontal tape mark. 
I rotated the Fine Line tool 90 degrees and stitched to the right . . . .  
. . . . stopping at the right edge of the left hand piece of tape in the photo below. 
Then I moved the tool and used two of the lines inscribed on the tool to measure the distance of the third line which was stitched away from myself. 
This is the end of that line . . . . .  
. . . . and now I stitch left 1/3 of the way across the open space.  I have moved the tool out of the way in this picture so you can see where I'm going.  The interesting thing I noticed after stitching several of the motifs is that I have the visual ability to judge 1/3 of that distance pretty accurately.
Now I shifted the tool into a vertical position and stitch towards myself 1/2 of the distance to the opposite line -- again, I have the visual ability to "eyeball" that distance without actually measuring it!
Rotate again and stitch left stopping at the halfway point. 
Now stitch away from myself (slightly different camera angle). 
 I missed one picture here, but the route is to stitch to the right until I reached the right side limit of the previous motif.
To get to the next motif, I again used the tape marks to maintain a consistent distance down the right side of the border. 
Here's the stop point for that line.  Rotate the tool to the horizontal and stitch left until I arrive back at the left side of the design.  
Here I am back at the beginning of a motif -- repeat, repeat, repeat.
The key was to set up the pattern on graph paper and draw through it to find the easiest sequence.  Using the tape to set up the repeatable distances eliminated most of the marking so the stitching went smoothly and it only took two work sessions to complete the borders.

Realizing that I'm able to visually judge 1/3 or 1/2 of any space saved time and energy because I didn't need to draw out each line of the design.  I'm sure if you took a ruler to my motifs, there are some spacing irregularities within each key, but as long as the lines are straight and the outer edges consistent, the brain sees my complete design as being just fine.  
Then there is the organic appeal of the slight and largely unnoticeable imperfections.
Ready to bind (finally)!!
Of course, there was none of that beautiful blue batik left for a binding and "matching" blues is always a challenge so to maintain momentum on this 13 year old project, I went with a yellow binding!!  Machine stitched on both sides.
Here's the finished quilt ready to be washed and brighten up my living room as spring begins! 
This finish puts me under the 90 UFO's mark for certain and there are three more ancient UFO's in the mill -- two are layered for machine quilting and a third just moved from "still appliqueing" to "ready to make a backing"!!  
Progress is good!!

While today is the first official day of spring, judging from the ice we found along the shore line of Lake Erie on today's birding adventure, we aren't done with winter.
Still time to stitch, stitch, stitch before the garden begins to lure me outside!
Enjoy the changing seasons!!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Great Yellow Overload!

I live on the southern shore of Lake Erie where winter is "mostly cloudy".  As long as the lake remains open (not frozen), we seem to have a surplus of cloudy weather, so I was "all in" when Project Quilting 9 announced the perfect "cheer me up" challenge last Sunday.
and have I got yellow fabric -- this is just 1/3 of it!!
The color yellow is hard to print on fabric -- can't remember any of the long explanation one of my fabric reps shared with me years ago of why that is so, but it motivated me to always buy 1/4 to 1/2 yard of every "good" yellow print I've seen, so when I need some yellow, I have an amazing assortment from which to chose!!

I started right into work on Monday pulling fabric and there in the yellow stacks was this cheerful print!!
And with that, one of my "creative mergers" began to happen!
Bees, bees need honeycomb, yellow fabrics, hexagons, Set-In Piecing Simplified, Marti Michell's templates!!
30 minutes of play in Electric Quilt produced this layout and the cutting began in earnest. 
One of the first steps in working with my own design is to figure out how to break it down into small units that are repeated over and over in the design.  (Thank you Mary Ellen Hopkins for forcing me to do this back in the 1980's!!!)  This cluster of 4 hexagons was the repeating unit I focused on through out this design -- many of them were identical in fabric, so I began by piecing 24 of them.  This unit of 4 made it easy to maintain the chain-piecing momentum of Set-In Piecing Simplified (a learning guide is available in my Etsy shop HERE).
Once those 24 units were pieced, I worked with my diagram to lay the quilt up on the design wall, adding the flower hexagons and the partial hexagons along the edges to create a straight edge.
After all the pieces were in place and I was satisfied with the layout, I started to join units together -- I find this less cumbersome to manage than stitching the hexagons into rows of single hexagons.
The next few pictures follow the progress of the upper left corner of the quilt.
I started with three units.
  At one point, I timed myself -- okay I was trying to impose some discipline -- only 30 minutes of stitching and then I needed to address other "must-do's".  I can piece between 35 and 40 seams (1 1/2" long) in 30 minutes.  
And here is the corner ready to go back on the design wall! 
There are always two units growing and so the chain-piecing strategy can be maintained as I work back and forth between the two of them.
Can you pick out the cluster of four hexagons in each of these sections and see the logic of my strategy? When I took this picture, I was working on the lower left corner.
I do goof up occasionally and that means it's time to quit for the day!
"That's not right, Mary!!"
 I've stumbled into the habit of lining up all the seams to the left that are already stitched and giving the piece a shake to make it easier to line up the two hexagons I'm preparing to stitch (where I'm pointing).  It's hard to photograph so you can visualize it, but it works like a charm!
My goal was to create larger and larger sections while still being able to switch back and forth between two sets and keep the chain-piecing going.  Those hunks of fabric around the piece are backing auditions -- the blue check was the winner!
Finally, I had two halves -- just 29 seams to go!  To keep the chain-piecing strategy going, I used pieces from a UFO to be sew-offs (leaders and enders) between each of the seams in the quilt.  By the time I finished this last seam of the quilt, I had also pieced 58 more pieces of that UFO together.  I prefer to continue to chain-piece even at this stage because 
one of the benefits of the technique is that the ends of y-seams more secure than any other method of piecing y-seams.
I also don't press any of the seams when y-seaming until the entire piece is assembled.
That makes it easier to push seams already stitched out of the way for each y-seam and nothing gets caught where I don't want it!!
It does make the pressing a bit tedious in the end, but once I find the rhythm and flow, I put on some fun music and forge on!  It also enables me to press the entire piece uniformly making it easier to quilt.
Here's a close-up of my quilting -- a simple grid that moves along the lines of the patchwork.  Since I pressed it uniformly, the location of the "ditch" along any diagonal row of hexagons is always the same.
And here's the finished piece!
Honey Bee Hop
You know?  It's that dance the bees do when they find the flowers and want to let everyone else know!!  I chose to let the bees "tumble" around because that's how they "waggle".
It's a lot of yellow, isn't it?  
And cheerful, too!!
Some statistics for you -- I used 1 1/2" hexagons and the quilt is 31" by 41".
Every bit of fabric is from my stash -- yeaaaaa!!!
You can look at all the other YELLOW responses to Project Quilting's challenge HERE and vote for your favorite ten!!  There are 119 projects to look at so better get a cuppa'.

If you are interested in having a simple handout of this hexagon quilt to adapt to your own work, leave me a comment and if the interest is there, I put one together.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

New Quilt -- A Temperature Quilt

Last time we talked, several of you gave me permission to start a new quilt!!
Okay, it was already started and it's a Temperature Quilt!!
Seems perfect for someone who spends some of every day outside birding, walking or stitching in my garden -- but before I share that with you . . . . check this out!
We are having a thaw this week.  The rivers are racing and the birds are very active -- so a walk at one of my favorite birding spots was in order.  One of the perks of winter walking is all the deer trails that are exposed making it easier to wander into little wildernesses.  I followed several this morning.
One led out to the river bank and there on a long narrow island in the river were two large brown lumps -- about the size of a Labrador retriever on very short legs -- beaver!! 
Fortunately I had my camera with me and was able to zoom in for close-ups!
They were both grooming. 
My excitement arises from never having seen an entire beaver in the wild at such close range.  They are bigger than I realized. 
Usually all I see is a head and tail moving away on the few occasions we've startled one when kayaking.  What a thrill!!  
So back to the "temperature" quilt.  My first exposure to this idea was NeedledMom's blogpost (HERE) sharing the results of her and her sister's 2017 versions. They made a flying goose unit using the high and low temperature each day to determine the colors to be used from a run of 36 solid colors -- each color represents a range of 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
I was intrigued!!
I translated their color chart into prints from my stash -- MUST use what I have!!
All the prints are labeled with a letter which coordinates to the chart I created to keep on track. 
I started with January 1 to make a 2018 quilt and in one of my "creative merger" inspirations, I am doing an appliqued free-form drunkards block unit.  This is just over 5 weeks -- the white circles are full moons because I pay attention to those (since they make me and everyone around me weird.)
Every morning, I check the high and low for the previous day at wunderground.com
and when I've accumulated a few days, I cut the pieces and leave them on the arm of my recliner for hand stitching.
I started "googling" temperature quilt and found there are variations of this (including a knitting one) and read a blog about a gal making one for the first year in their new house, so she's already over half finished!!  I just had one of those big birthdays so now I'm doing it from last summer's big birthday to this summer's birthday -- the beginning of a new decade in fabric.  I've dug around on the internet and found historic weather records of high and low temperatures for the nearest large city so now I'm prepping two or three days every day and stitching every evening to catch up.
Quick look at what I'm doing -- the low temperature for the day is a 3 1/2" cut square and the high temperature is a 3" cut square.
I write the date on the back of the large square since I'm working on several each day
I cut the arc freehand -- loving this!! 
That way none of the arcs are identical.
Here's a close-up of some of the stitched blocks.
I'm using a running stitch with a double strand of cotton thread.
Easy and fun plus I can now justify splurging on these two boxes of Superior Threads Super Bobs!!
I'm trimming out the "background" after the applique is stitched and saving those pieces to use as many as I can for the "high" temperature on future blocks.  That's making the arcs even more random and spontaneous.
My nature nerdiness (read, concerned about global warming) began to wonder what a historical temperature quilt would look like . . . . say for the year I was born!? So a smaller, simpler piece is happening simultaneously for the first 366 days (it was a leap year) of my life.  I think it will end up as part of the back of current year's quilt.
Looking forward to seeing what this looks like in the end!  Interestingly, the high's and low's were identical on the day I was born as they were on my birthday last summer -- what does that say?

Looking forward to painting in the coming week -- not really, but it needs to be done!
Have a good stitching weekend!!