Monday, December 21, 2009

Making Peace with Piecing

So, I guess it's time I come clean and admit that I don't really like piecing. I get no joy in the persuit of perfect points. But sometimes it's a necessary evil. And some of the people that I love are tired of being cold on winter nights.

Here's the top I just finished for Jesse and Ashley.'s their wedding quilt. I think they've been married 7 years. Ya just don't want to rush into these things, you know, in case things don't work out. I figured as long as I was doing make-up quilting, I'd also make Jesse a high school graduation quilt too. I'm still in the planning stage. I might get it done before their kids graduate. At least that is my goal.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Double Irish Casserole

I stepped away from both the applique and quilting projects this week to do some piecing. I have to admit that I don't enjoy time at the machine as much as I do hand work. It was a good change of pace, and I was able to get a lot done in the couple of afternoons that I had free. The pattern is going to be Double Irish Chain. But as I was sewing yesterday, I realized that because it's a "stash"'s starting to evolve a lot like a pre-payday casserole. Not enough of some of the ingredients to follow the recipe exactly. The center 18 blocks will have the blue/grey print, with the grey swirl making a row outside them. I have one more row of 10" blocks to go outside that if I'm to get to Queen size. Unfortunately, I'm nearly out of the solid blue, and nothing in the stash that matches. I also need to go back and make the mostly-white connecting blocks that go between these. There's a real chance that I don't have enough of the patterned fabric to follow the design. Sounds like a project for Saturday to sort it all out. The good news is that I'm fairly certain how I want to finish the back, with a panel of variable width stripes to use up some other blues. That'll make the quilt completely reversable with a "traditional" and a "modern" design side.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I seem to make great progress in everything but photography. The girls long ago confiscated my camera and finding it (charged) is a real challenge. Blog tonight...hunt down and add the photos tomorrow.

The past couple weeks I've been focused on the Joseph's Coat Quilt Along. I figured I could get a lot done over Thanksgiving weekend between the long road trip and lots of Football. Managed to get 9 blocks done, and parts of several others by the time I returned. By the end of this past weekend I was up to 15. Since the goal was to be at 6 by last week, I'm in pretty good shape. Doing the back-basting, needle turn approach is also saving a lot of time. I saw one post that estimated that it was taking 4 hours per block. I'm averaging 2.5 since I'm not messing with the interfacing, gluing and placement steps. It has also helped me to do multiple blocks at once. Since I'm working with so many colors it seems easier and faster to sew one color at a time. I'm prepping the next 10 so when they are done, I'll be over 1/2 way (49 needed total)

Still working on the Coral Reef Quilt. Ugh. I'm not sure I'll ever get done. I spent hours and hours this weekend with nothing meaningful to show for it. I did notice Sunday morning that I was almost out of the teal quilting thread. Drove to Hancock Fabric at half-time and was horrified to find that the didn't carry that color. Not even in regular thread. What if it was discontinued? Could I find it on-line? Could I send out a plea to my quilt blog friends to dig through their stash? How much would I be willing to pay if I could find it? Fortunately my anxiety was short-lived as JoAnne's is only 3 miles further and they had the needed color. I didn't even feel bad about paying full price.

I had planned on today being a day I could completely devote to quilting. Got de-railed until about 2:00, but then managed to put in about 3 hours on the Double Irish Chain quilt. Have 14 of the 25-patch blocks done. Now it gets tricky. This is a "stash" quilt, so there isn't enough fabric to do the whole quilt in the traditional 3 fabrics. White background is OK. A blue primary color I'm pretty sure I'll have enough of. But the 3rd fabric is going to have to transition into 2-3 fabrics. I re-designed the quilt at least 4 times this afternoon. The main 3rd fabric was left over from a fussy-cutting project which makes estimating the yardage pretty challenging. I think it's going to be some trial and error. Time to make peace with my seam ripper.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Needle Test

I believe that it is important for me to purchase SOMETHING whenever I go into a quilt shop in hopes that this on-going support will ensure that the shop is there when I need something they sell. Subsequently, I have a pretty good selection of different brands of needles for both quilting and applique. When I ordered my new set of silk thread, I also decided to try a new brand of needles by Jean Lyle. When they arrived Saturday, I decided to do a controlled test to see which needles I REALLY like best.

The quilting contenders were:

Regal Ergonomically Superior Needles, size 9, Japan

Colonial Quilting Betweens, size 10, England

Jean S. Lyle, Quilting, size 10

Colonial Quilting/Betweens, size 11

Richard Hemming & Son, Large Eye Betweens, size 11, England

Jean S. Lyle, Quilting, size 11

John James, Gold n Glide Quilting, Size 12

The conditions: The Hawaiian applique quilt, going through 2 layers of batik, 1 layer of Kona cotton, and 100% cotton batting. Hooped, so fairly taught. Guterman 100% cotton hand quilting thread...the kind with the finish on it that makes it stiff and somewhat tangle resistant. I stitched approximately 2" then on the same thread, switched needles.

The results: I will be giving away the Regal size 9s. The sharp tip does a good job grabbing the fabric, but the bigger needle means having to push harder to get the needle through. I also, somehow managed to snap the tip off the needle in the 2" of stitching that I did. Both of the 10's were OK, but needed more pressure than the 11's. That's a problem if I'm doing more than 30 minutes of stitching in a sitting since it makes my hands tired. Maybe I'll save those for stitching on looser woven cottons and single layers. I loved all the 11's and didn't notice much difference between the brands when it came to performance. The eyes in the Colonial might be slightly smaller...but I'd need a magnifying glass to know for sure. The Lyle needles come in a wooden needle case which looks cool, and makes it easier to get them out than the other display cases. The 12s were just way too small. I could barely get it threaded. It glided nicely through the fabric, but where the thread went through they eye, it became frayed within a couple inches of stitching. It might work with a thinner thread, or one that isn't glazed.

The winner: Any size 11 quilting needle, with Lyle winning extra points for packaging.

I took pics of the needles, but my computer isn't reading the camera card...will try later from a different computer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Silk Thread

I absolutely love silk thread for applique. Thanks Anna for the tip about how it absolutely disappears. On this project, I've been even more amazed with how the colors don't even have to match very closely. Unfortunately, I haven't found hot pink in this brand, so either have to use burgundy or light pink. This is especially helpful on this project with so many multi-color prints. I'd be very happy if I could also find a bright yellow.

The other advantage is that it allows me to use the super thin size 11 and 12 needles that have impossibly small eyes. I actually believe the quilter's lore about smaller needles = smaller stitches. Although I have used bees wax to prevent the thread from tangling, I really prefer the Thread Heaven thread conditioner. It's not as stiff as the wax, but gets the job done.

UPDATE: I finally broke down and searched the internet for the thread colors that I want, rather than try to find them locally. That turned out to be an expensive decision. But by buying a "collection" I saved nearly enough $ to pay for the shipping ;)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Update

I now have 4 of the Joseph's Coat Blocks done. I'm still very anxious to see how these are going together, but will have to wait as well as having faith in Kellie, as she won't be posting the next step for a couple weeks. Looks like she wants us to have 14 blocks done before they are joined together.

Still slogging away on the coral reef quilt. I have most of the light green background filled in. Need to go back and quilt 6 of the fish in the middle that I missed, and 3/4 of the outer border.

Was just given a design challenge tonight by Anna. In all my spare time, I'm to figure out a series of one-fabric applique patterns for a potential workshop in West Yellowstone. The concept being Hawaiian applique moves to the Intermountain West.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Coral Reef Quilt

Although I've nearly finished 2 more of the Joseph's Coat blocks, I've spent my quilting time this week working on the Joy In the New Year UFO Challenge. The biggest, most time consuming item is finishing up the Coral Reef quilt. This monster is 96" square. I finished the applique in a couple months, but it's been years and years of quilting...mostly because I start feeling like I'll never get it done so give up and work on something else. I had to go buy another 200 meter spool of light green quilting thread, and am about half way through the blue one. I figure that by the time I'm done, it will be between 1/4 and 1/3 mile of hand quilting. The echo quilting is about 1/2" apart and my stitches really tiny (8 per inch on the front side or 15-16/" if you count stitches the same way people in the East count points on deer).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Quilt Along

I finished my first block for the Joseph's Coat Quilt Along. I've been doing it as needle turn applique instead of the technique that Kellie posted. I've learned a couple things about myself. Most notably that I like to have control over colors and that scrap quilts make me nervous. I was trying to strategically place colors so that it was controlled chaos... for example, the lime I put on one side so it would blend to the next block with lime. Next block I'll try mixing it up more.

I was going to make a tutorial on the applique technique that I've been using for the past 10 years, but discovered that it's called "Back Basting" and others have done some great tutorials already. Apple Blossom Quilts has a great one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday Quilt Indulgence

I found myself in the delightful position today to have about 4 hours to do whatever I wanted, with no family or work commitments (and no one around to bug me). I squandered a good chunk of that time watching cooking shows and working on the Coral Reef quilt. This quilt is eternally on the bottom of the priority list b/c I'm making it for myself and gift quilts keep pushing it out of the que.

I'm completely spoiled by having excellent quilt shops and 2 large fabric stores within a couple miles of my house. Today I ventured to a neighboring town to check out a shop that I thought had closed, but found out they had just moved. Lots of pretty fabric, but nothing that begged to come home with me. I was rather disappointed as I was hoping to find fantastic raspberry and lime batiks to go with one of 3 projects that I'm planning. On my way home, I stopped at Craft Warehouse where, much to my delight, the batiks were marked down 44-47% off!!! I only bought 8.5 yards. How's that for restraint?

Tonight I read about a UFO challenge called "Joy in the New Year". The idea is to clear the sewing room of unfinished projects. I have dozens in the planning least 13 that I have fabric and at least part of a design for. But I committed to 3. 1)Finishing the hand quilted Hawaiian Coral Reef (which has already eaten over 300 yards of hand quilting thread). 2)Helping my daughter machine quilt her purple quilt 3)Finish hand appliqueing the Lupines on my Teton National Park block (I may also have to re-do the leaves as I'm not happy with how they turned out. There are a couple more projects that I have in progress...but if I get these 3 done, I'm bribing myself that I can start a really exciting/challenging project that I've been collecting fabric for....

Hawaiian Quilting

I was looking through my patterns to find the designer of the Fushia Block that I recently posted...It's Up Country Quilters in Kamuela Hawaii. While I was looking for an on-line link, I ran across some other Hawaiian Quilt websites to share.

Pokalani & Co is one of the sources of patterns that I used. They have 3 books with 15 patterns each. (The shop link was broken, but these are also available from The website has 3 free patterns and plenty of pictures for inspiration, as well as history and lore of Hawaiian quilting.

Quilt Hawaiian has quilts from several designers. They have more full quilt patterns, where the Pokalani patterns are for individual squares.

According to the Pacific Rim Quilt Company the people at UpCountry Quilters have retired. That was where I bought many of my quilt patterns when I visited Kamuela HI. They carry some of those designs, and many others.

This inspires me to work on yet another of my UFO's... A bed-sized "Coral Reef" pattern. I bought the fabric and pattern as my souvenir of the Big Island and had it appliqued within a couple months of our visit. A couple years later, I put it on the quilt frame to quilt, but decided that all the curves were too difficult in that process, so it's been a lap quilt project for the past couple years. Because it's nearly King's a cold weather project. Hmmm...maybe someday it will get done.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fabric Audition

The Joseph's Coat Quilt Along has started on Kellie's Blog site and I've been busy trying to decide what fabrics to use. I think that I'm going to dip into my batik collection that I've been gathering for a Dragonfly Quilt for myself. But, I've designed about 3 variations of a quilt with no decisions. Maybe if I just borrow a little bit....
Older daughter picked out the stack on the lower right as her favorites. The center bottom blue/green and the bottom left multi are the big pieces that I'll use to pull it all together. I went shopping for an all cotton sheet to use for the background. The blue/green I picked up for $15 looks good with the blues and purples, but I'd have to leave off all the lime greens. I was looking for pink or lavender without any luck. Will probably use white. (The same amount of yardage would cost at least $60)
I'm anxious for Kellie to post the rest of the directions. I decided that I couldn't afford the fusible, wash-away product she's using for her technique. So I'm sticking with my favorite trace-baste-trim needle-turn applique technique. That'll save me 2 steps and $60. (Apparently I'm both cheap and lazy.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Tale of Two Ashleys....

I have decided that in addition to the sibling quilts, I'm long over-due to make some Niece & Nephew quilts. Graduations and weddings have come and gone w/o a quilt :( While I'm still busily planning 2 more original masterpiece quilts for the sibs, I've started on some Stash Quilts and UFO's.

Here's a sneak peak of the quilt for Ashley in NH. It's a Lisa Bongean design called Garden of Stitches. I thought the sawtooth border around each flower was too busy, and went for a much brighter color scheme. I borrowed a quilting technique from Hawaiian applique. I pieced this into 4 quarters which are being lap quilted then combined when all but the joining 2" or-so of each is done. I'm nearly done with the first quarter. The applique was a long-term doctor's office project. I only worked on it while waiting for appointments, and when I was driving a family member for chemotherapy. Subsequently, I sometimes refer to this as "the chemo quilt".

Ashley in CA will someday get a Double Irish Chain out of the blue fabric stash. The blue print was leftover from a snowflake quilt. The fabric had big sections missing out of it from fussy cutting, which has made for interesting strip piecing. The solid medium blue was the color of the girl's room (back at the time they shared a room) that was used for a variety of pillows.

Also on the top of my "to do" list are an Aspen quilt for Jesse, and a Black & White quilt for David. But right now, I'm trying really, really hard to only have 3 projects going at one time: One applique, one quilting & one piecing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yellow Zig Zag Quilt

I've been waiting to post about this quilt until I could take a picture of the final product, but every time I think about it, the wind is blowing or it's dark outside. Here it is at last.

The pattern is from Look on the right column, it's the last of the tutorials. Her finished quilt was 46x61. I added some extras on one side to make a 60ish square. I was using up yellow stash fabric, much of which was 1/8th yard pieces that I'd bought for applique. Some of my stripes are made up of 2 or 3 different yellows in the same color intensity.

I started cutting this quilt out on a Saturday, when my fingers were too sore to quilt another stitch by hand. I put a couple hours Sunday finished the strip sets (yellow/white 5.5" squares). It took another session to put together all the squares. I pressed the seams to the dark fabric, which made pressing a challenge as the seams were in seemingly random directions. If I were to make this one again, I think I'd press the seams open. The cutting and piecing can easily be done in one weekend.

I decided to try using a sheet for the backing fabric as well as the neutral color on the front. I had a new 300 thread count twin sheet and used a seam ripper to un-sew the sides of the sheet, then washed it. I figure this gave me enough extra fabric, compared to if I'd cut off the hems, to be equal to 27" of a 45" wide material. I was hoping that there would be enough fabric for the white strips on the front as well as the backing, but fell a little short. Ended up adding a 10" piece of light yellow to get the backing back to 63" square. I'm fairly pleased with the results on the front of the quilt. The sheet fabric is more prone to wrinkling than quliting fabrics, which looks good if the quilting is fairly close together, but not so good with widely spaced stitching. (Who am I kidding....I ALWAYS over-quilt)

I used the spray basting for this quilt. It worked OK since the quilt was kept relatively flat throughout the process. I used a walking foot, and quilted in the ditch, then 3 more lines between, by eye, following the zig zag. The other new product that I used was the Bamboo/Cotton batting. It definitely has a softer drape than 100% cotton, and still shrinks a little, adding to the old fashioned look that I like.

I like this quilt well enough to consider making it in black and raspberry.

Next pieced quilt in the line up is a Blue & White, Stash Fabric, Double Irish Chain. I have strips cut. Put together some of the strip sets, but messed up the order on one of the 3, so seams will have to be unpicked and resewn. I'm also certain that I don't have enough of the 2 main fabrics that I'm using, so there will be some creative piecing options as the quilt grows.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Stuff

I'm working on the yellow & white zig zag quilt and decided to try some new products.

Dritz Quilting Spray Adhesive.
The claim: temporary adhesive spray for bonding fabric or paper. eliminates basting & pinning
My experience: First was sticker shock. It was about $15 for a 6.2 oz can. I used it to baste the 22" Baltimore Block. I hand quilted this block without any type of frame. There was some shifting of the layers which caused the front to have more slack than the back. This caused an increased poofiness between the stiching lines. It looks good on this particular quilt, but I would hesitate to use it in the future using the same technique. I like it much better on the zig-zag quilt. It's a 60" square with straight line machine quilting using a walking foot.

Bamboo Batting
The claim: 50% Antibacterial Bamboo fiber 50% organic cotton, luxuriously soft, renewable resources.
My experience: 50% more expensive than 100% cotton. Does have a nice soft feel. Less prone to wrinkles in the batting when layering. It appears to drape more than cotton does. I'll know better if it's worth the extra $ after the quilt is bound and washed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Baltimore Album Style Applique

This block design is a variation of one from Elly Lienkiewicz's Baltimore Beauties and Beyond series. I changed the urn to a cut glass vase, and omitted the birds and some buds or fruits that were just inside the drooping leaves. Otherwise, it follows Elly's pattern.

I made this for my sister-in-law Diane. Back in the 90's I had set a goal to make a quilt for each of my siblings (4 ) and then my husband's (also 4). I was not a very prolific quilter in the years that my children were young, but fairly recently found myself in a position to consider the in-laws quilts. (OK...they are really know, the kind that are wanted...) Anyway...the first of the sis-in-laws to get any quilting from me was Stephanie. I made a traditional English Piecing style Grandmother's Flower Garden pillow after a visit to her house when I discovered a stylistic addiction to decorator throw pillows. It was at that point that I realized there was a much better chance of my making very elaborate pillows, than original design quilts (as is my habit.) Add to that the criteria that I never make anything for a quilter that she might consider making for herself.

Ergo...Hand applique, needle turn, 20" mini-quilt/pillow. The total bouquet is 10.5" square. Those itty bitty flower centers are .25" max. Yes. I'm nuts. The good news is that by comparison, some of my old frustrating projects now seem easy.

Why the blog?

After enjoying and stealing ideas from other quilt bloggers, I decided it was time to start my own for several reasons.
1) I wanted to join the Joseph's Coat quilt along and needed a url to sign up.
2) Friends and acquaintances keep asking to see the quilts I keep talking about.
3) My "bucket list" includes finding and organizing photos of the quilts that I've made, since they are scattered across the country.
4) Accountability. I have a goal to finish at least 6 quilts that have been on my "to do" list, by next summer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blogging...Another Addiction?

OK. This might be a really bad idea. I'm already addicted to I dare risk blogging?