Tuesday, March 22, 2011

And now for something completely different

 I picked up a charm pack of Moda's Fresh Flowers and decided to make a small project while I waited for inspiration to strike on the borders for my Kaleidoscope.   After working with the cool jewel tones of my last project, I was ready to dive into a new color palette.   Aren't these just yummy?

I chose a 3 inch paper pieced heart pattern from Carol Doak's book "Show me How to Paper Piece" and cut up a few charm squares into 1 1/2" strips:

Before I knew it, I had made several of these:

I chose a garden print for the border, and a yellow fat quarter was just the right size for the backing.  By the next day, I had the top finished, basted and machine quilted with a little stitch in the ditch.  Binding was done that night while watching "Les Mis" on PBS.

Here's the little cutie all finished.

I can't tell you how satisfying it was to see a project get finished!  I hopped in the car and brought it down to the quilt shop to show Maryann.

After leaving the shop, I went across the street to the nearest home goods store, and this display  is what greeted me as soon as I walked in:

I wanted to buy them all and bring them home just to display along with my quilt!

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Sunday, March 20, 2011


After a week of concentrated effort, I got my Kaleidoscope center finished and then let it ripen a bit on the design wall while I figured out just what to do for a border.  It seems that everyone in the family had a different opinion.  I even brought it to the quilt shop and got divided opinions there, too.

Finally, I decided on the first border, a black background with neon green and turquoise pattern.

That added a nice separator between the center and the outer border, but then what?

In the book there are a couple of examples of borders where the quilter took the leftover bits from cutting the wedges and created a crazy patch border.  I spent a fun evening playing with the scraps and created the beginnings of a crazy patch border:

Making the crazy patches was fun after all the precise piecing  of the center, but to me, it detracted from the orderly symmetry of the center.  So next, I tried a straight piano key border:

I like this one better, but I took it one step further, and added a black square to the corners:

Now I'm happy with the border idea, and the next step is to make it happen.

Here are a few notes I have made to myself while making this quilt:
  • Accuracy really is everything.
  • Use a dry iron. Steam and bias edges don’t mix.
  • This is the time to use “fine” pins. They pierce the fabric with much less effort so that there is less chance of stretching the bias when pinning.
  • I used a new, Microtex sharp needle #80 in my machine. I didn’t do an actual test, but I think the sharper needle helped avoid pieces being pushed down into the feed dogs when sewing, especially at the start and the end of a seam.
  • Take the time to examine each of the 12 wedges after you have them sewn, but before you start to piece them all together. Ricky Tims has you iron (?!) an unused wedge template onto the finished wedge to verify it’s size. (see photo page 29), but I did not think that was a good idea. Freezer paper adheres slightly to fabric, and I think it would put unnecessary stress on the bias edges when you removed the paper. I just used a ruler to check that the edges were all straight. A few times there was an unexpected “bump out” in what should have been a straight edge. In that case, I very judiciously trimmed a little bit here and there to make each wedge as accurate as possible.
  • Don’t rush. It’s exciting to see each pair, and each wedge come together, but it’s not worth having to rip out a seam later.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Still thinking....

I'm having a hard time deciding which way to go on the border for my Kaleidoscope quilt.  Ricky Tims' book shows so many options that it is hard to choose.

Check out the progress of these other quilt bloggers who have also been making this quilt:
    Carol at quiltfever is using a delicious looking citrus color palette.
    Patty at piecedgoods  has been industrious and made 3 different snowflake looks for her quilt.
     Lynda at quiltsbylynda has a fresh-as-spring kaleidoscope and is working on choosing her borders too.
     Kris at thequiltinggarden is just getting started on hers.  I can't wait to see what it will look like.

     Since I don't have any new quilt photos to share, I thought I'd share a photo of this:

It looks like a simple compact for face powder, but it holds a secret.  Look inside:

Pins!  And mighty sharp ones at that.  I opened a new package of "fine" pins for this project so that I could reduce the wear and tear on the bias edges of the fabric when pinning them together.  The pins came in a teeny tiny plastic box:

I felt clumsy every time I had to  reach in and get just one pin at a time.  (and those pins really are sharp!)

The other morning,  I dropped the compact on the floor, and what was left of the powder inside cracked and fell out.  I had one of those "A-ha!" moments and decided it would make a good alternative pin box.

I like to keep the label with the pins for future reference, so I just taped it inside the lid.  A great recycled pin box, and it makes a satisfying *tink* sound when I drop the pins back in.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Houston, we have a kaleidoscope....

The center of the Kaleidoscope is finished!

There are still 2 borders to be added to finish the quilt top, but the most difficult piecing is done. 

Last night, I had the four quarter pieces all sewn, but I decided to wait until this morning before attempting the sewing of all four quadrants.  The mystery of how those 12 points were going to meet in the middle would have to be solved by the light of day.

This morning, I got the first half sewn together.  I managed to make the front look pretty:

But the back side was scary.

Not scary enough to keep me from making the second half, though.  After that side was done, there was twice as many seam allowances to deal with.  I folded them back as much as possible, and held the seam allowances out of the way with a few strategically placed pins:

The directions suggest starting from the center and sewing toward the edge.  In the photo above I started sewing right at the intersection of the seams, and toward the lower edge.  It was quite a stack to fit under the pressure foot, and in fact, it did not.  You can see in the next photo that the presser foot was not making contact with the throat plate.

A little "manual sewing" with the hand wheel and I got the first few stitches sewn.  After just a couple of stitches to secure the center, the rest of the seam was business as usual:

After the first half of the last seam was done,  I pushed aside all the seam allowances in the other direction, held them with pins and sewed from the center toward the top edge.

 The suspense was killing me on that last seam.  I had to control myself from zooming along the rest of the seam just so I could finish and open it out to look.

At last, I could peek.  Here was the result:

Can you believe it?  I can't!  All along this process I have had a back-up plan to applique a hexagon over the center of the kaleidoscope to hide what I was sure would be a disasterous center.
Of course, we can't even begin to talk about what the back looks like now, but I'll show you anyway:
Before pressing with the iron, that center lump of seam allowances stood about a half inch tall!  After ironing, it flattened out a bit, but will still need some quilting to keep it looking flat.

Now I just have to decide what kind of border treatment this little baby will get.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

It's all in the details...

I started piecing the first wedges of my Kaleidoscope quilt today.  It seemed like it would be very straight forward.  Let's review, shall we?

I began with the outermost wedge pieces:

Looked easy enough.  Just 2 straight seams.  Put them right sides together and...

Wait!  What's this little piece sticking out from the bottom?

Can that be right?  And what about this dog-ear at the top?  How big should that be?

I did my best to make the intersection where the edges of the two fabrics meet happen at exactly the 1/4" seam allowance.  Because these are all bias edges, any shifting, fudging or easing is not a good idea.   Luck was on my side, because here is the outcome:
Whew!  Dodged that bullet!  On to the next seam.  Surely it must be easier than the last....

Oh no!  It appears that one piece is much longer than the other!  Put them right sides together and see what I've got.
This looked complicated, but I gave it a try.
I managed to get my 1/4" seam to come out exactly where the edges of the two pieces intersect.  A gentle pressing with a dry iron, and Voila!

Okay, now I'm getting the hang of this!  I finished piecing the wedge, and moved on to the corner piece of background fabric.  Just lined them up and...

Oh great!  Look at the top left..

and another one on the top right...

At least this time, the two sides were mirror images of each other.  All I had to do was center the background piece onto the wedge.  Here is what it looked like from the other side:

The alternate wedge pieces had their own little odd shape:

At last, I had the first 3 sections ready to sew together:

And this is what I have now:
I only have to do this 3 more times, and then I'll have a great big 4 patch to put together.  I think I have a good idea of how to deal with all these crazy angles to piece, but I am concerned about this:

That's just 3 of the 12 points that will eventually come together in the center.

 I'm just as curious as anyone else as to how that will turn out.  Stay tuned....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Choosing the background

I brought one wedge of the Kaleidoscope with me to the quilt shop to pick a background fabric.  I found a beautiful blue that co-ordinated nicely with all the colors.

After I draped the piece behind the not-yet-sewn wedges I wasn't sure if it set off the kaleidoscope enough.  I photoshopped the picture to replace the blue with a darker color and got this, which I like much better:

So, I'm going to use a black batik fabric for the background. 

No more excuses now.... I have to actually attempt sewing these wedges together!

I found another blogger who is also working on the Kaleidoscope quilt.  Her name is Lynda and you can see her progress here.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Back in the Blue

Here is the Kaleidoscope so far:

What looked like a mostly green quilt in yesterday's post looks more like a purple/blue quilt again.  It's amazing how much adding one more wedge to the puzzle can change the overall look.

I now have to decide what fabric to use for the background.  It will probably involve a trip to the quilt shop since all my fabrics in this color range have been cut into strips.  ;-)

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