Monday, April 16, 2018

Before The Blog: My first quilt


When I started blogging about 10 years ago, I saw it as a place to record my quilting endeavors and all that goes with that.  However, there are quilts that I made before I started blogging that I wish to document here so that all my quilting efforts can be found in one place.  I've decided to do a a series of posts to highlight the quilts that came BTB, or Before The Blog.

I guess the best place to start is with my very first quilt, a queen size Rail Fence:

I made this quilt in a Night School Community Ed class.  I just wanted to make one quilt.  I had no idea what it would lead to.

The class supply list came in the mail.  (yes, this was before the Internet.).  It was a Xerox copy of a hand written list that stated that I needed four fabrics.   The class list included some advice  about standing back and squinting to see if there was enough contrast. (a technique I still use today.)

I went to my local JoAnn's fabric store and stood in front of their giant wall of quilting cottons, trying to decide what I needed.  As I was pulling bolts and putting them in a pile, I remember asking the opinion of another customer who was also there in the quilt section.   I told her my plan was to just make this one quilt.  She stifled a small laugh.  "Just wait and see", she said, smiling.

Undaunted, I eventually chose these four fabrics for my "one and only" quilt.

The class was enjoyable, although most of the sewing was done at home.  At the last class we brought in our finished quilt tops and learned how to tie them.  For the batting, I chose a Mountain Mist product called "Fatt Batt" which was a very thick, and my quilt turned out more like a comforter than a quilt.

Only thing left was the binding.  I managed to get a double fold binding sewn on to the top side, but the idea of hand sewing the binding to the back, all around the perimeter of that queen sized quilt was daunting.  I decided to try to sew it down by machine.

Remember, this was before the Internet so I had no access to helpful websites or Youtube videos.  But perhaps that was a good thing, because I had no idea what a difficult process I was about to undertake.  Had I known how hard it would be to sew  a straight line while managing the weight of a bulky queen sized quilt  hanging off the edge of my little sewing table, the process of hand sewing the binding would have seemed easy in comparison.

Tons of pinning, and much arduous stitching later, I was finally done wrestling that queen sized monster underneath my presser foot. The binding actually looked pretty good from the top side, as I did a decent job of stitching in the seam line where the binding meets the quilt.  The back side was another story entirely.  It was not pretty, but it was done.

I had it on my bed for many years until the seams started to pull apart in a few places.  I no longer use it, but, I still have it stored away.

So that is the story of my first quilt.  I now understand what the lady in JoAnn's was smiling about.




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Friday, April 6, 2018

Springtime for Santa Domenico



Last fall, I designed a table runner based on a photo of the street tiles in Santa Domenica, Italy. You can read about that here.   I finally got it quilted and bound and ready for the table just in time for the Easter Bunny.

As a nod to it's street pavement inspiration, I wanted to quilt it in simple blocks.


The central white areas were easy to quilt, by just stitching in the seam allowances.  For the gold areas, I had to get a little more creative.  I decided to try using a hera marker to make guidelines for the quilting.



Using the ruler as a guide, I marked indentations on the fabric with the marker,

Then I stitched along the marked lines.

Since this was a project I designed through trial and error, I had a few pieced units left over.

I decided to use them to create matching coasters.

Here is the bunny-approved  runner on my table:

and here is a reminder of the street tiles that were the inspiration:


Happy Spring!

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Fifty Cents worth of Fun and Frolics


As mentioned in my last post,  I bought a cute woodland panel for 50 cents at a recent Super Bowl Sale.  I thought it would make a great donation quilt for "Quilts for Kids".  The fabric was called "Forest Frolic" and consisted of six  9" square animal motifs, plus two banners with chickadees.

Now, I have lots of projects in the quilting queue, and yet somehow this one went straight to the top. In the back of my mind, I kept trying to figure out the best way to use this panel, and finally  I had to just get it started to see where it would take me.

The quick and easy thing to do  would have been to cut out five of the animal motifs and set them together in a big nine patch block.  But... that would have left me with one extra animal motif, and two of these cute little chickadee rows:

So, I decided to cut into the panel and see what else I could come up with. (Hey, for 50 cents I didn't have much to lose.)

I trimmed around each of the motifs, including the chickadees and set them out on my design board:

Then I cut 1 1/2" strips from each of 5 coordinating fabrics:

and began sewing borders around each of the motifs:

I played around a bit, and eventually,  ended up with this arrangement:

Now came the fun part.   How to piece this puzzle?   I measured each component and charted it out on graph paper.

The chart helped me to figure out what size the background pieces had to be, and how to organize the piecing into smaller subunits.  (I actually enjoy these types of calculations, so don't feel bad for me.)

I considered using a variety of different fabrics for the background pieces, but,  I would have had to subdivide them into even smaller pieces in order to avoid  having two of the same colored fabrics touch, and that was taking this challenge just a little too far.

Instead, I chose a basic beige fabric for the background to mimic the block centers, and started building up my puzzle:

I was able to construct the quilt top into 3 big pieces, and only had to do some partial piecing on one of the sections.  (I think my experience making my Long Time Gone quilt helped me out quite a bit.)

After sewing those last few seams, I added a narrow brown border to visually contain the squares, and  some fun asymmetrical borders with bright orange cornerstones to finish off the top.  Here is the big finish:

I'm happy with the outcome. I think it will make a cute quilt for either a boy or girl, and one thing is for sure...it is one-of-a-kind!

I still have plenty of the coordinating fabrics to put toward future quilts and now my brain can go work on something else.



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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Fabric Sale or Fabric Fail?

I bought this cute Woodland panel for 50 cents at a Super Bowl sale at my local quilt shop:

I thought it would make a cute Quilts for Kids donation quilt.  When I looked through my stash for some coordinates, it seemed that everything I had was just a little too bright, and made the panel look dull in comparison.

So, this weekend, I went to a local fabric blowout sale that advertised fabric at $4.00 a yard.  I picked out some fabrics to go with the panel, but with a 1 yard minimum purchase, I ended up spending $20.00 for five yards.

Now granted, that's a great price for fabric, and I will most definitely have some leftover to add back into the stash.  But, does it really make sense to spend $20 for fabric to go with a 50 cent panel?

Toby is still mulling this over.



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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Shawl wrapped up

I'm a little late, but here is the update on Prayer Shawls I made in 2017:

My first finish was this teal and white color combination that I had only just started back in 2016, but got it completed last year:

I also made two shawls from what has become my favorite pattern, the One Skein Wrap.  The first one was a combination of white with pink:

The second one was this magenta/cranberry colored one that I blogged about here.

This next one was made up of rows of fans.  I think I may have to dig out that pattern and make another one.

With Spring and Summer coming, I wanted to make a more lightweight lacy shawl, so I made this one:

With all the open areas in this pattern, it was not surprising that it only took two skeins instead of the usual three.

This next one was a bit more masculine. It's based on the granny square pattern, but done in rows. 


Long color variations in the yarn from white to purple made for an interesting finished look in this next one:

Not as many shawls in 2017 as there were in previous years.  I developed some wrist pain, so I had to cut back on how long I could crochet in one sitting, and also take some time off for it to rest. 

My Prayer Shawl group continues to be going strong.  In only four years we have created and given away over 1000 shawls! 

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Dad's Plaids become Mom's quilt

It was 2 years ago today that my father left this earth.  He had a peaceful passing at 87 years old, but we still miss him every day.  This is especially true of my mother who was happily married to him for 63 years.

As you can see from the photo, Dad loved a plaid shirt.  His closet was full of flannel ones:

I wanted to use them to make a quilt, but it was hard to think about cutting into them.  This past Christmas, I decided it was finally time to make the quilt.  I wanted to showcase the plaids as much as possible, so I cut out large squares using the sleeves and bordered them with black flannel:

This was my first time using flannel.  I found that cutting narrow strips from the loosely woven fabric  was a bit difficult.  Then I remembered that I had recently acquired a Stripology ruler.  I hadn't even tried it yet, but this was the exact right time to use it.

I only mention this because one of my Dad's favorite expressions was "the right tool for the right job".  It seemed so perfect that I had the exact tool for this job while making a quilt from Dad's shirts.  He would have greatly appreciated that.  The strips were then easily cut, all at the same time.

I laid the blocks out to give a basket weave effect:

With Christmas fast approaching, I needed to get this quilted quickly.  My friend, Rosemary was kind enough to do a beautiful job of stippling to get the project done with a quick turnaround time.

On Christmas Eve, I gave the quilt to my mother.  She was immensely surprised, pleased and, of course, emotional.  She told me she loved it, and has been using it on her bed ever since. She tells me that she sleeps better with the quilt over her.  I could not have asked for anything more.


I have kept all the remaining shirt fabrics for some future keepsakes, even the small scraps.  It was a healing experience for me to work with them and I'm so happy with how it all turned out.






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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Red and White Resolution

When I left off in my last post, I was working on a small red and white quilt, but due to a mistake I ended up with two different sized blocks:

I needed to enlarge the birdhouse blocks by a half  inch so they would match the pineapple blocks.  I thought of adding a border to them with some solid white fabric strips that I left over from another quilt.
But, as I think you can see in the photo, they were actually too white and wouldn't quite match.

If you recall, the original challenge for this quilt was to use only fabric from your stash, so I went looking to see what else I had.  Luckily, I found a scrap of white fabric about the size of a fat quarter that I could use:

I had just about enough to frame each of the birdhouse blocks:


I trimmed them to match the size of Pineapple blocks, but then decided to turn them into Snowball blocks to help hide the fact that they had been expanded.

Seemed like a logical choice, but it took me many tries to get the red triangle corners to match up to the Pineapple blocks.  The test block above shows several attempts.  Each one of those triangles pictured in the test block was a slightly different measurement. Also, I had to be careful not to cut into any of the embroidery.

Eventually,  I decided to go with what I had, and I sewed the blocks together:


I'm not thrilled with the way the 2 blocks meet at the seams, but at least they are consistently inconsistent, and I can live with that.

A half inch white inner border, and a 2 inch red outer border will bring this mini quilt up to 20 X 20" which is the maximum size for my guild's challenge.

Fun to see what you can come up with using just your stash, which I think is exactly what the goal of this challenge was supposed to be.
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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Rookie mistake!

Our guild has issued a challenge to make a small quilt using only fabrics from  our stash.  I took a look through my fabric and found these little embroidered birdhouses that I bought at a quilt show years ago:

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The birdhouse squares measure 5 inches, and I thought I would combine them with red and white pineapple blocks to make a little quilt.  I knew it was an opportunity to use the "4-5-6 Pineapple Trim" ruler that I had bought for my Long Time Gone quilt. 

"Great!", I thought, "I can make the 5 inch size Pineapples to go along with the 5 inch squares.

I happily started building each round of my Pineapple blocks:

After eight rounds, I had finished my Pineapples so I could set them out next to the birdhouses and see how it was going to look.

It was only then that I realized my Rookie mistake....

The birdhouse squares measured 5 inches unfinished, and the Pineapple blocks measured 5 inches finished!

I do not  know how I could fail to realize that the birdhouse blocks would finish at only 4 1/2 inches.  (*smacks head with  palm of hand*)

It's going to take some creativity to make this work, but I'm determined to get a finished mini quilt out of it.  Stay tuned....


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