Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rainbow Scrap Challenge

Oh yeah, I finished another batch of Dakota Farmer blocks for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. At least there was no color for December; but still, at this rate, it'll take me next year too to get this little quilt done.

Piecing With Poppers

We're having a wintry mix of weather this week. I'm fine with the snow, but I hate ice and cold rain, which is probably mostly what we're getting this week.

Last summer at MaineQuilts, the state quilt show, I won this pack of five fabrics as a class door prize. Not my choice of fabrics, but I thought that at least they went together nicely. Coincidentally I wandered into a vendor's booth that same day called Piecing With Poppers. Poppers are narrow strips used to accent the fabrics and blocks in a quilt. The vendor displayed some representative quilts, kits, patterns, and of course, the Poppers. I bought a package of bright orange Poppers, thinking that I could combine them with the door prize fabrics to make a small quilt to donate. Plus I was interested to see what the technique was all about.

I made some rail fence blocks with the fabrics and arranged them randomly on the design wall. The Poppers were then sewn between the blocks and between the rows. Initially, I was having difficulty aligning the vertical Poppers, so my pal Barbara suggested offsetting alternate rows. Not only did that alleviate the alignment issue, but I thought the quilt was so much more interesting to look at. So this is the arrangement I'm going with, and I like it!

The Poppers are cut 3/4" wide, and the pattern suggests a different way to sew them together. Because the strips finish to 1/4", one side of the presser foot sort of wants to skew all over the place after you've sewn the first side of the strip. For the second side I tried it my own way first, the usual way we all sew, but I had to admit that the Popper way gave me a much better result. When sewing the second side of the Popper strip, the trick is to use the first seam as your reference guide instead of the right edge of the fabric. I had to move my needle position in order to accomplish that. Buy a pattern and give it a try, no affiliation.

The Poppers are available in various yardages. 3 yards of Poppers is 90 cents, I think. I bought a package of 45 yards for $13.50 because I had no idea what I actually needed; and I'll probably use about two thirds of the package for my quilt, which will measure something like 44" x 56". I wanted to know what kind of value that was, so I figured out that if I cut the Poppers myself, I'd get 48 strips from one yard of fabric at $10 or $11 a yard, which would be 53 yards of Popper strips. For me, I'd rather pay the extra for the convenience of not having to cut all those little strips.

I think this is an interesting technique, sort of reminds me of some stained glass applications I've seen in the past. I'm already lining up another project that I saw in their booth. It's black and white subway tiles with bright yellow Poppers, but any bright color goes with black and white. Maybe I'll put different colors of Popper strips in it.

I worked on pillowcases for Christmas this past week, made 5 sets plus one single. Some are for gifts, some for donation. This set with the snowmen is for me!
I also finished the second Curvy quilt, renamed Curvaceous because I like that word, from my workshop last year. I got it quilted and machine stitched the binding on last month. Should have had it finished last month too but just didn't get to it. Design by Mark Lipinski.

I am definitely in the mood to work off some UFOs, and I finished this top last month and got it loaded on the frame Saturday afternoon for quilting. This quilt was an exercise in learning how to make bunches of triangles using several different methods. It was a Quilt University class from 10 years ago taught by Myra Giesbrecht, but I don't know if they still teach it. After Carol Miller passed away, QU was taken over by Ruth Blanchet who renamed it Quilt Academy. You can find it if you google it. Anyway, in the quilt there are plain half square triangle units, quarter square triangles, striped half square triangles, three quarter half square triangles, and half square rectangles. I subsequently wrote a post about one of the methods to make half square triangle units, and I continue to get more comments on that post than anything else on my blog. Hope to get this quilted and bound before the end of the month.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Millenium Resurrected

The color of the month for October for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge was brown/black, I think; but that's not part of the plan for my quilt, so I got caught up on my pinks and greens. I don't know what the color is for November yet, of course, but I think I'll probably get caught up on the blues and purples next.

There are only seven different colors in my quilt, so I suppose I'm about done with the Challenge anyway. If I can get all the blocks done by the end of the year and get them sewn together into a top, I guess I'll come up with a new plan for a Rainbow Scrap Challenge quilt and start over in January.

While I was finishing up these two sets of blocks this week, I remembered my Millenium quilt. Anyone remember back in the year 2000, when it was popular to make millennium quilts--a quilt with 2000 pieces--to commemorate the beginning of the next hundred years? I thought (foolishly, perhaps) that it was a good idea to jump on that bandwagon, so I spent weeks looking for a one-patch design or a block design that might lend itself to a millennium quilt. I finally settled on a one-patch triangle and figured out that if I created half square triangle units, I could make a quilt with 1998 pieces by setting the units 27 across and 37 rows down.

I also wanted to make it as a charm quilt, so I traded triangles with a friend of mine that lived in downtown Reykavik, Iceland (we were living there at the time). Between the two of us, we couldn't even come close to cutting 1998 different triangles out of our own fabrics, so I bought a box of 2000 different 4" squares from Keepsake Quilting, who was also celebrating the new millenium. Duplicates were weeded out of the box, and other fabrics were eliminated because I couldn't categorize them as one specific color. Seems to me those were mostly novelties and florals.

Anyway, I worked pretty diligently at it for quite a while but eventually moved on to other projects. In 2002 I dug it back out and got the pinks, reds, purples, and blues all sewn together. This was not quite half the pieces. Then it went back into the closet.

I resurrected it this week and am now working on aquas, teals, and greens. Originally I thought I'd need about 5 groups of eight rows in order to hit that 1998 mark, but I wasn't sure if I could come up with enough yellows and oranges for a group of eight, or enough browns, grays, and blacks for the last group of eight rows. But I have 27 rows now, and if I add another row of pinks and another row of purples, that'll make it 29, so I think I'll make it.

I'll applique the last two triangles on top of the border, and I'll add another triangle in the border for every year past the year 2000. I even have millennium fabric for the back.

Tacoma Lakes Quilt Show

Our quilt show was held over the weekend, and it seemed to be a great success. It was months long in the planning and then over before I knew it. I was the Registrar for quilt entry, so I was pretty busy the last couple weeks before the show, taking in quilts, making sure they were ready for hanging, helping to lay out the show, and logging in all the entry numbers.

We set up the show Friday night; and other than decorations, we set up the entire show--118 quilts--in less than three hours. Every committee was well organized, and everyone knew exactly what they needed to do. Sunday evening, I think the whole thing came down in about 45 minutes. We used a gymnasium at a local elementary school. The lighting was fabulous, and we had plenty of room to move around.

Our special exhibit was a display of America the Beautiful quilts, a year-long project from McCall's Quilting magazine a few years back. The group that made these challenged themselves to use only fabrics and scraps they had on hand. They were all so different and turned out so beautifully.

Viewers Choice was awarded to SallyC for this spectacular bargello. Sally is one of our newer members. I didn't find out until this weekend that she is also a new quilter. This quilt was only her second quilt. Pretty impressive, huh?

Sherry's Prairie Sampler was one of my very favorites. I loved everything about this quilt.

Margo's Ohio Collection was another of my favorites. I have the book and would very much like to make it one of these days.

Suanne's quilt was so fun, and I really like this one too. She collected pinup girls for 10 years in order to have enough different fabrics. I wish I'd gotten a picture of the back, because there were larger squares of the pinup girls on the back too. The quilt is called "For the Man Who Loves Women" and was a gift for her brother-in-law.

I got my little crocus finished in time for the show too and put it in the minis section. I blogged about this quilt a long time ago, got the top finished and never got it quilted. Story of my life.

I can never decide how to quilt these little quilts because I don't hand quilt; and stitch in the ditch is, in my opinion, a pain. Nonetheless, I did a little topstitching with a 100-weight thread, which I liked, and ditch quilted the rest of it.

When I outlined the leaves, I carried the tan thread out into the borders but didn't like the way the tan thread looked on the border fabric. So I took a dark purple Sharpie and colored the thread. It worked great, and that's not the first time I've done that. Sharpies are good for a lot of little touchups like that. I used Sharpies to color the threads that frayed around the arcs in the clock quilt too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Clock Quilt

The project I have spent so many months working on was finally finished on September 24. It was to be a gift for my husband's birthday in October, and I also wanted to enter it in our local quilt show at the end of October as well; so everything else fell by the wayside so I could make those deadlines. Emails frequently went unanswered, blogging was nearly nonexistent, housework didn't get done, and social events were sometimes missed. Hubby has seen the quilt now, so I can finally blog about it.

Back in 2006, the online website Planet Patchwork, who sponsors the info-EQ listserv, sponsored a contest for Electric Quilt users to submit their best original designs. $1250 in cash and prizes was to be awarded for designs entered in three categories, plus a Best in Show award.
This amazing quilt, called "Time Out", designed by Lynne Chambliss, was awarded Best in Show, along with a prize purse of $500. You can see the winners here. Subsequently Planet Patchwork published a CD of all the designs entered into the contest, and I purchased a copy of the CD and found Lynne's design.

I remember thinking at the time that, while it was fantastic that anybody could draw that, no one would ever actually make it. How could you? But I was drawn to the design, particularly because my husband, and his father, and his grandfather all tinkered with pendulum clocks throughout their lives. In recent years hubby has made a hobby of buying and restoring old pendulum clocks. We presently have 13 in the house and more were given away to family members.

In 2010 I came across my CD again and decided to see if I could put this together. I figured if I could make what I thought was the hardest block, I might be able to actually make the whole quilt. I started with the bevel gear in the upper left corner and made it successfully. I made a couple more blocks, then other things intervened, and I set it aside until this year and finally finished it. This is my finished quilt.

Lynne's original design was comprised of 20 blocks that finished to 8" square. I didn't think I could piece those tiny gears in rows 3 and 5 at that size, so I made my blocks 12". Even at 12", those tiny gears finished to 3". My quilt finishes to 52" x 64".

There was very little actual piecing in the quilt, other than sometimes piecing the backgrounds and sewing the blocks together. The bevel gear in the upper left corner, the worm gear in row 4, and all of the arcs with the little pieces in them were all foundation pieced. All of the curved arcs were then sequenced, fused into place, and machine buttonhole stitched. Then the blocks were sewn into rows, the rows were joined, center circles and numbers were fused and stitched. Then, of course, the borders were added.

From the design on the EQ software, I was able to print out line drawings of each block and the foundation patterns I needed for the paper piecing. The other tool that turned out to be enormously useful was transparent foundation paper from Nancy's Notions. Being able to see through the paper was crucial to line up all those curved arcs. I can't imagine how I might have been able to make the blocks without that see-through paper. The next best thing about Nancy's paper is that it's crisp enough to feed through the printer, and 100 sheets is about $13, which I think is quite reasonable. I probably used most of a package for the quilt.

I think the quilt probably would have benefited from custom quilting; but after purchasing a long arm several years back, my husband takes pride in the fact that I am able to complete an entire quilt from start to finish by myself. I knew that would be an issue for him; and indeed, that was the first thing he wanted to know--who quilted it.
I didn't want a complicated design that might detract from the blocks, and I don't do custom work myself; so I used a pantograph called Inkblot, which is  nothing more than a meander. Besides, I could only work on the quilt when he was at work, so I had to get it loaded on the frame and quilted in one day, before he got home.

I first started trying to locate designer Lynne Chambliss back in 2012. Every now and then I would see another of her designs on the EQ website, so I knew she was still around. One day I left a message for her as a comment under one of her designs but never heard anything. Finally, this year in desperation, I contacted the Electric Quilt company to ask for their help, and they forwarded my email to Lynne. I've shared photos with her as well. Interestingly, Lynne said she'd never made the quilt herself but has made a different quilt based on the Time Out design.

I even managed to find clock themed fabric for the back of the quilt.

In thinking about a name for the quilt, I came up with all kinds of name referencing the concept of time. Nothing seemed to suit, and then it struck me that the quilt I made for my husband really had nothing to do with time. It was about his love for the mechanics of the pendulum clock, so I named it simply Clockworks.

He LOVES it!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

October Finish

The landscape in Maine is full of autumn color, the days are cool and crisp, and we had a frost this morning. There will be lots of cleanup to do in the yard over the next month--raking leaves, cutting down the hostas, and mulching the beds. I do love this time of year.

We traveled to Lubec last weekend for a little mini vacay. I had hoped to see more color in the trees; but Lubec is downeast on the coast of the Bay of Fundy, and I suppose the ocean temps kept it more moderate. Lubec and the surrounding area is known for wild Maine blueberries, and the fields turn this gorgeous red color in the fall.

The Bali Stars quilt is finally finished. I'd been dragging my feet hand sewing the binding because I was focused on another big project, but I knocked off the last bit of it this afternoon. This was the cover quilt on Kim Brackett's Scrap Basket Surprises book, and I liked it soon as I saw it. Scrappy and batik--right up my alley. My quilt chapter is holding a quilt show at the end of this month, and this is one of the quilts I'm putting in the show.

I quilted it with a pantograph called Glamorous. I don't do feathers freehand (yet), and who doesn't love feathers?

Knitting has been my sanity lately, and I've finished a couple of sweaters and another pair of socks in the last few months. The purple one is Notre Dame de Grace and will be for the winter, made with Berroco Remix, one of my very favorite yarns. You can find the pattern on Ravelry. If you're not a member, you should be; it's an invaluable resource for knitters, and it's free to join.

The tweedy looking one is a summer sweater made with a yarn from Debbie Bliss. Never got a chance to wear it because it was the end of summer and the weather turned too fast.

And the socks were made out of Crazy Zauberball. First time I used that yarn, and I gave those to a friend who needed them.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Some Progress

A couple of particularly challenging projects have consumed most of my quilting time these days, but I have made progress on a few other projects. I'm working on the last quarter of the second Curvy quilt--finally--and hope to have the top finished by the end of the month. I am going out of town two days this week, and that cuts into my quilting time, but I WILL get this finished up in September, and the colors make it a nice quilt for autumn.

This little quilt, which will be donated, was a kit from a local quilt shop. There wasn't much piecing involved other than the borders, it just took a while to get around to quilting it. There was no pattern information per se, but the kit was called "Safe Harbour".

I finished the quilting on my Bali Stars quilt this morning and took it off the frame. I probably finished this top a couple years ago, and.... it just took a while to get around to quilting it. I am SO happy to say that this is my last big quilt top that had to be quilted. What a good feeling it is to finally be done with everything in the RTQ pile. All I have left are some minis, which are in their own separate pile, and I'll probably do them on my domestic.

I used a pantograph with feathers called "Glamorous", and I love how the quilting turned out. I've had my longarm now for about four years, and I still marvel at being able to make all my own quilts from start to finish.

The pattern for Bali Stars is the cover quilt from Kim Brackett's book, Scrap Basket Surprises.

I learned about the Rainbow Scrap Challenge from someone else's blog last December, but I haven't made much headway. The idea is that a color is chosen the first day of the month, and participants make whatever block they wish and as many as they wish. Every Saturday, the ScrapHappy blog owner puts up a Mr. Linky so participants can share their progress. It's a fun way to get some ideas and see what others are doing.

I chose a 6-inch Dakota Farmer block that was featured in Bonnie Hunter's "Addicted to Scraps" column in Quiltmaker magazine. Bonnie had a drawing on her blog (I think) of how she might put the blocks together, and I liked it, so I ran with it. To complete a small quilt, I need 7 blocks in each of 7 different colors, 49 blocks total. The color last month was red, and I think that's the only month so far that I've managed to get all 7 blocks done. It's not that the blocks take so long to assemble, it's that I'm trying not to use more than two of each fabric in a set of 7, so rummaging through the scrap bins and cutting up the scraps has taken way too much time.

Our local quilt chapter is having its first quilt show for the community in October, and we thought it would be fun for each member to have an apron to wear for the quilt show and maybe some future events as well. We chose a loon from Embroidery Library and added the lettering for the chapter name. Then each member chose which thread color she wanted and the name she wanted embroidered on her apron.

We parceled out some 45 or 50 aprons to a small group of us who own embroidery machines, and I finished my requisite six aprons last Sunday. What a nice idea, huh?

I always have projects on the needles, and I finished a little summer cardigan several weeks ago. The owner of my LYS came up with the pattern from Ravelry. I used a denim yarn, Jesse from Louisa Harding, which has body to it and was perfect for a cardigan. The original pattern, called Emma by Deb Hoss, is a pullover top, but I got help learning how to change the pattern into a cardigan and how to raise the neckline because the original was a lot lower than I preferred. It was a fun knit, and it's been fun to wear.

The weather has been surprisingly cool this summer, which is my kind of weather. One morning last week it was 46 degrees when my husband left for work. Even though it's supposed to warm up to the 80's this week, a few of the trees have already begun to change color in central Maine, so it's time to think about knitting warm sweaters for winter. This is the front of my Notre Dame de Grace sweater, another pattern from Ravelry. (If you're a knitter, and you're not a member of Ravelry, sign up now. There's no fee, and it is a tremendous resource.) I've finished knitting the back, front, and one sleeve, and hope to have the whole sweater finished by Wednesday. Actually, that's a bit ambitious, but that's what I'm aiming for.

The yarn I'm using is Berroco Remix, a mix of cotton, silk and some other fibers, and one of my favorites. Even though there's no wool in the mix, it's still a pretty warm yarn.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Catching Up To August

Good grief, the time goes by quickly. Today is a gorgeous summer day in Maine--breezy, 74 degrees, low humidity, and lots of sunshine--exactly the way a summer day should be in Maine. We've had just a few days of heat and humidity here and there, and I don't think we've hit 90 degrees yet this summer. I'm hoping August will be as nice.

We've had a good mix of rain and sun this summer as well, which has been good for the plants. The hostas are blooming...

...the black-eyed susans are blooming...

...and the tiger lilies are just coming into bloom. I'm not much of a gardener, so it's good these flowers can take care of themselves.

Cherries are in season this month too, and the local grocery has had them on sale for the last three weeks for $2.49 a pound, the lowest I've seen. I bought a couple pounds and made this Cherry Buttermilk Clafoutis, cherries in sort of a custard-type filling. The recipe came from the Relish.com website, and it was really good.

Tacoma Lakes Quilters had their summer picnic this month, and most of the chapter attended. We always have a potluck edible buffet, which is so good; and this year we tried something a little different--an Inedible Buffet. Each of the participants was asked to make identical items for each person in the group, then all the items were placed in baskets on a table, and we each went round and chose from all the different baskets.

There were 32 participants this year, so we went home with quite a variety of kitchen items, sewing notions, some fabric, and a few miscellaneous items. I think my favorite thing was an awl, something I've wanted for a while and just never bothered to pick up at the store. We had such a good time with the Buffet that we'll do it again next year.
The last weekend in July is also the month that the state guild, Pine Tree Quilters, hosts its annual show in Augusta. It seemed to me that there were fewer quilts this year, but it was a nice show. I only took a few photos of quilts I thought maybe I'd like to make sometime. This one was made by The Fabric Garden quilt shop for some kind of a contest and was one of my favorites. I thought the pattern was called Doubly Charming, but I couldn't find it on the web, so now I'm not sure.

Pineapple, made by Anne Baker

Red, White, and Blue, made by Carmen Dickinson.This was from a pattern by Bonnie Hunter called Smith Mountain Morning. I really liked it done in patriotic colors.

Just Takes 2 Blue, made by Dianne Barth. This evidently was from a block of the month designed by Brenda Papadakis of Dear Jane fame.

Dianne Hire, who is a nationally known quilter, wrote a book called App is For Applique, released in 2013 by AQS. It consists of 14 of these gorgeous, detailed applique blocks, and the 15 quilts that were made with them. Oddly enough, the author only made one block and turned it into a small quilt. MaineQuilts had the exhibit of all the quilts from the book, and they were all fantastic.

I have become quite enamored of the machine buttonhole stitch method of applique, and some of the quilts from Dianne Hire's exhibit were done this way. This block is from a quilt in the show made by Sue Nickels, who seems to do lots of quilts with this machine buttonhole stitch applique. I'm a big fan of Sue Nickels and her sister Pat Holly. 

I also took some classes at MaineQuilts this year, a couple for longarm machine quilters and one called Sliced Steps by Jane Hall. Jane Hall is the pineapple queen of the quilt world, and I have three of her books. She was a delightful teacher and shared some new ideas for paper piecing that I hadn't seen before. 

This was Jane's quilt for the class, and I'm guessing it might have measured something like 22" x 27", so a smaller quilt. A perfect little project for scraps, and not as complicated as it looks. We made a mockup from printed paper samples that Jane gave us; and since it was only a 3-hour class, most of us only got one block sewn. But it was enough to get the idea of how to do it, so I'll work on some more of these blocks. 

As for me, I have been chipping away at four sets of blocks on the design wall. The top half of the Curvy quilt is done, and I'm working on the third quarter of it; the star blocks are for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge; the plaid blocks will be for a friend of mine; and the rest are for a winter quilt designed by another friend. I'm afraid I won't get any finishes this month though.

I did finish the purple String Theory socks though. This is a really nice yarn made in Blue Hill, Maine--it's got a some cashmere in it. I'm also nearly done with a little lacy cardigan, but I've been dragging my feet getting the neckband done. I'll get there.