Monday, June 30, 2008

Lookee what I found - "new" Piece o Cake

I know I should not be looking at applique patterns, and I should be prepping the At Home and Away for tying and embroidery, but - yesterday I found this wonderful re-introduced Piece O Cake pattern -

Its called a Walk in the Mountains, the patterns are downloadable, with good pics and general instructions, from their website

I'm already planning the fabrics for this one - the plan for the browns and blues with the Applique Delight blocks is put away. I've been wanting to do a more pictorial type applique design for quite some time, but ones I've seen by some very talented applique artists, see much too complicated to me for some reason. Because this is from Piece O Cake, I feel that I can get started on this type of applique design with some re-assurnace that its designed by the very ladies who got me started on applique in the first place.

Here's an interesting use of space...

Mike had cooked up some barbeque pork tenderloin for next day sandwiches - he then thinks that he'll try the meat grinder that we picked up (unknown to us) in a box lot at the same auction that I got the vintage quilt blocks. While I'm cutting up those blocks, and pressing them for the hexagon piecing, he's wandering around trying to figure out where he can clamp the meat grinder (our counter is too thick). So I said, try my ironing board (right next to the kitchen). So here you go,

Here's the picture I was really aiming to take - an assortment of the fabrics for the hexagons -

I've got at least six of several of the colours, so I'm thinking of arranging them in a diamond pattern so I won't have to introduce new fabric to make a grandmother's flower garden pattern, and stick to the idea of making something small - just using the fabrics retrieved from the blocks.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tying quilts....and who's on first?

Many of us have a large library of quilting books - some that rarely get opened, and some that were used for a particular pattern and then not looked at much again. I use almost all of my books for inspiration, never knowing when a border, block layout or colour scheme might trigger an idea on how to start or finish a quilt.

Yesterday, I found myself flipping through the reference type quit books I have to find information on tying a quilt. Its been a long time since I tied that one quilt, and I want to make sure I do it "right" as the quilt police just might be at the local fair's quilt competition.

My favourite batting for machine quilting is Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 - I've tried all the others, but have always come back to this one. And now its avilable as fusible, wow! - a whole other topic. I do use a cotton batt sometimes for smaller wallhangings and table covers.

It seems that a polyester batt is the best for tying a quilt, and what do I know about polyester batts? Not much. But as usual the web as a wealth of information to ponder - manufacturer's website for one, and most important - this article from Quilters Newsletter

The chart lists most current battings being produced (most because the new bamboo blend batts are not listed) - whether it should be machine or hand quilted - quilting distance required. A great reference.

Next comes the decision making about what thread or yarn to use for the tying - I went through my drawer of heavier threads, and decided for now to try the Sulky blendable cotton 12 weight, with two threads through the needle. I've ordered that with the batt, and started practicing my tying on an orphan quilt block.

I thought at first, well why practice tying a knot? I came across a method where you don't cut the thread inbetween knots, and, you do make the knot while you go. Then just snip the connecting threads. Pictures next week I hope when I get to work on the quilt.

Now I'm thinking that the quilt I'm going to be tying needs some hand embroidery in places - when I had sewn the top I had been thinking of all the places that machine quilting would enhance the top, and now that that will be missing, I'm going to spread out the top and see what some decorative stitches might do for it.

Who's on first?

My kids are teenagers, and my husband works shifts as well as a second part time job. When my oldest was at home, he was a shift worker as well. I would have to keep track of their comings and goings - who would be home for dinner, when would dh be home at the same time as one of the kids so they could talk, who needs a ride from here to there and when, etc. It always reminded me of "who's on first" - that sketch by Abbot and Costello. So we're back to "who's on first" and "what's on second" for the summer - Wendy and Scott running different schedules and my husband with assorted vacation days and more shift changes. I'm thinking of tying a voice recorder around my neck so I can just simply talk into it, to remember who is where and what time they'll be home.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stop the presses! all the planning!

Have I ever got myself into a pickle. I finished a queen size quilt top that I had designed, with the intent of entering into our local fall fair last September. I never got it quilted - and put forward the idea for this year. So now I've taken the quilt out of its storage, taken a good look at - great! I still love it! - pulled out the batting I had put away for it, I've already made the backing, *then* I go to take a look the rules for the fair competition, to review them.

Get up the web address - start reading - oh oh - good and bad news - they've changed the requirements for the different classes - first time in years they've been changed. Good news - I don't have to try to quilt this humongous quilt on my regular size sewing machine (the longer arm sewing machine is having fits, so while its in service, I wanted to get this quilt started to be sure to meet the deadline). They've changed the size of the machine quilted quilt, for the provincial class, to a minimum of 48" x 48". That gives me more options on what to enter - but, do I have one ready enough to consider? Hmmmm...

There's a new "tied quilt" entry - I have tied one quilt before, and I could do that with the queen size pieced top I have - it would mean being awfully warm this summer with a quilt on my lap, as I don't have a hoop, but likely much easier than trying to machine quilt it.

There are three new machine quilted classes - again, I'd have to think if I have any I could consider entering.

So I think there goes my applique and hexagon plans - instead I'll be spending lots of time tying a quilt :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Listen to your instincts...

Yesterday I spent playing with applique patterns, fabrics and layouts. Following up with Monday's post, I haven't been happy with the quilt blocks I've made this winter/spring - there was just some feeling that this wasn't going to work for me - be it the pattern or the colours. The truth is, I've had a set of rich brown fabrics tucked away that have been calling me to applique. These have been sitting in their basket, and everytime I've thought about using them for my project, I turn them aside and choose something else. But they keep calling me - Penny! you like me! be brave! no, the patterns don't call for a rich brown flowers or leaves or hearts, and I can't for the life of me find any that do - despite flipping through a hundred magazines, a hundred websites, and a hundred books. And then I fiddled on EQ again - and I'm just going to do it. I'm going to try to stick with this and see how several work - not just one - here's a pic of the base fabric selections -

and one of my EQ layouts done in these colours - I'll likely be using applique patterns from various places - but mostly I'll be working from the Piece O Cake Applique Delights

Over the years, I've happily changed and made up my own colour schemes for pieced quilts - I don't know why that with applique I have such a hard time going my own way.

And now for something completely different, take a look at these wonderful creative pincushions - winners and entries from a contest by Piecemaker Magazine

I just walked into my sewing room, and I felt I had to take a picture - this is what it looks like after my fabric throwing yesterday - and, I had cleaned it up at one point! At least the fabrics are off the floor, and the picture doesn't show the little ironing nook on the right where most of fabrics are kept -

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Applique with a little help from my friends

I learned to needleturn applique with the help of internet friends, one of whom led me to the Piece O Cake ladies and their Applique Sampler book. This book has given me the best tips and their Sampler quilt was the first full needleturn project I did. I had practiced and learned from other expert appliquers - but everyone has to find the techniques that work for them, usually collecting them from various places. A quilter friend named Karen moderates a number of yahoo groups, one of which is Applique Addicts which is led by her and another quilter, Kimberley. This group is full of talented ladies who hand-applique using techniques such as back basting, needleturn, and freezer paper templates. Audrey is another friend who hand appliques. She took a workshop with Karen Kay Buckely, where Audrey learned about Karen Buckely's circle templates. The mylar circle templates are wonderful. I have learned to do pretty decent circles, just with needleturn, but using the templates make it less stressful and more accurate. They come on a little ring, which is great - if I can remember to put them back on the ring! Mary Ellen's best press, mentioned in the Folk Art Finery post helps to press those circles flat and sharp before pinning or glue basting to the applique piece.

I'm having real problems committing to a hand applique pattern/project. I think, if I added them up, hmmmm. about 5 different blocks started and not finished this spring - oh, and two partly completed cutwork style blocks - because I changed my mind about liking the pattern and lost the enthusiasm.. I got out the Piece O Cake book Applique Delights, thinking I would do their 5" block sampler, but I've even seem to have lost interest in that. So for now I'm working on one of the blocks in that book, while I consider alternatives. I have a couple of applique quilt layouts I designed on EQ about a year ago -

My Mom's bbq birthday party was a great success - although we did have rolling thunder, lightning and downpours for the first two hours. But the sun came through in time for us to sit on the patio for dinner. My soon to be daughter in law has come to a few of our family parties at different homes and she asked afterwards - do you often have all of them here, at your home? There is about eighteen us of us, and I'll say it again - my house is small!! And I replied, oh yes - we've even at them all here a few times in winter, for Christmas and Thanksgiving - she looked at me, and then my son, as if to say I"ll have to see it to belive it.

So today will be a very quiet day, as I recover from the party (more reocvering from the preparation for the party!). Wednesday is grade 8 grad day for my youngest son - happy and sad all at one - I'm sure other Moms know what I mean.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Do these instructions makes sense to you?

Sometimes even the best pattern designers, book editors, and testers can end up with mistakes in their instructions. I read the following - then proceeded as directed - despite a little voice in my head saying "something's not quite right here...."

3 pink prints
4 brown prints (one for the binding)

from each of the pink prints, cut
2 strips, 1 1/2" x 21" (6 total)
2 strips, 2 1/2" x 21" (6 total)

from 3 of the brown prints, cut
2 strips, 1 1/2" x 21" (6 total)
2 strips, 2 1/2" x 21" (6 total)

Pair a 1 1/2" wide pink strip with a 1 1/2" wide brown strip. Sew these together into strip sets; repeat to make a total of 6 strip sets. Cut the strip sets into 1 1/2" wide segments (40 total); you'll need 20 matching pairs of segments.

So, I'll do some math - because I have an awful lot of fabric left over - maybe even enough to make two of the wall hangings!

one 21" strip set cut into 1 1/2" segments - 21 divided by 1.5 = 14 pieces
six 21" strip sets cut into 1 1/2" segments - 21 divided by 1.5 x 6 = 84!!!
three 21" strip sets cut into 1 1/2" segments - 21 divided by 1.5 x 3 = 42

I will continue sewing up this wallhanging...and we'll see if I've made a math error.

Tomorrow we're hosting my Mom's birthday party - there's about sixteen of us that make up "my side" of the family. That's an awful expression - my side - makes me think of the Hatfields and McCoys! We've planned a bbq, with my sisters and brother bringing salads and sides - right now the weather forecast doesn't look too good - not very warm, and thundershowers or rain. But we live in the soutern Ontario, just north of Toronto, and anyone who has grown up here knows you can't count on the weather. It can change from hour to hour and day to day - I mean, really change - hot humid and sticky one afternoon, needing a coat the next day!

Its late afternoon, and I've finished this little quilt top -

And I do have leftovers....I might still have read this wrong - so if someone else gets a different result from the directions, please let me know. The books is Bits and Pieces by Karen Costello Soltys - I've made another top from her book with great results. I'd rather instructions be generous in their fabric cutting - nothing worse than if you make a mistake and cut a square too large, then end up with just a thread of fabric left, and still needing one more piece!

The pattern calls for buttons to be sewn onto the lightest squares - but I did some test sew outs of ominigrams on my D1 and placed them on those squares, I think I'm going to do that instead of buttons. I have soooo many buttons, it could take me days and even weeks to decide on what buttons to use.

I'll add these leftovers to their sibling leftovers. I made a full size quilt that was set with alternate strip sections of applique and pieced baskets and stars. I prepped fusible applique, then decided not to include it in the quilt. This little top I made today is from leftover fabric from the strippy quilt - and I'll add these leftovers to the applique and someday make yet another top. Here's a pic of some of the bits -

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hexagons - Piecing and Applique In Progress

I'm a restless person - always thinking of one thing while doing another - starting something, then starting another. Cooking while talking on the phone, watching TV while reading the paper, browsing the web while my mind works out design ideas. I don't think this makes me a genius of multi-tasking - rather it takes my weakness of lack of concentration and gives me a kind of superpower of productivity - as long as I'm doing something, I'm happy!

Quilters almost always have a list of projects that they're currently working on, a list of projects they'd like to start, some they've started and given up on, and more patterns, ideas, and inspirations to start even more. There's never a day where a quilter can't find something to suit her mood, time available, or abilities.

Paper Pieced Hexagons

My husband and I love to attend estate auctions. I was fortunate enough to buy a box of vintage quilt pieces - my guess is they are from the late 30's-early 40's. There were eight completed six pointed star blocks, and several blocks not yet appliqued on to the muslin. While the applique stitching was good, something had happened to make the fabric puff out from the base muslin - either the muslin shrinking or the applique not pinned well to the base square.

I also discovered the hand piecing done to make the stars was quite loose - basting, really. So I've begun to take them all apart, and make a hexagon quilt from the fabric pieces. It will likely be a charm quilt with random placement of the pieces, but I'll wait and have fun playing with patterns as the pieces are made.

I'm using hexagons from Paper Pieces. These are made from stiff cardboard and are cut much more accurately than I could cut my own. I did some paper hexagon piecing a few years ago, using freezer paper and regular paper - I find the cardboard Paper Pieces much easier as the stiffness of the carboard means I really do just have to baste the fabric over the edges. The pieces can be removed after sewing all sides of the hexagon to other hexagons, or after applique. And, I can lay it down on the ironing board, spray starch (well, not really - see below) all over, give it a good press and its ready for other applications - maybe even machine applique?

Mary Ellen's Best Press is the best "starch" I've ever come across. I've never liked using starch - I find it can leave flakes and bits on my iron and ironing board, and I don't like the stories I've heard of bugs and long term storage. I've been using Spray Sizing, but its hard to come across these days - not many people iron their shirts anymore! The Best Press is easy to use, smells nice (it actually comes in three scents), and it will apply lightly or heavily for the results I need, without any flaking or mess.

Folk Art Finery...and school's out for the summer - almost!

Here are the applique blocks for Folk Art Finery, a pattern by Lydia of the Rabbit Factory. This was the first time I've used Beth Ferrier's method of freezer paper templates and glue stick for "invisible machine applique". However, I decided to use a blanket stitch around each piece as I felt it fit the style and fabrics I was using, and I'd tell anyone to not use the blanket stitch when doing the freezer paper machine applique method. It is very hard to remove the freezer paper! The blanket stitch just does not make enough perforations to remove the paper easily - it does require a bit of scary tugging and pulling. Eek. But they've pressed out nicely and I'm now working on the foundation pieced sashings - next will come the scalloped border - which makes me think of all the options open to us for applique - fusible, freezer paper, cut away or upside down, hand applique....hmmm, decisions decisions.

My youngest son is about to graduate from elementary school - Grade 8 - and this marks a huge landmark for me. All three of my kids have attended this school, meaning that I've been a parent at Crosby Heights since 1995!!! This is amazing for me, who moved frequently as a child, teenager and young adult. I finally settled down with my family, in 1995, and have stayed in one place all these years. I still get itchy feet, still look at the real estate ads, but finally I truly feel at home. My husband and I often talked about moving as soon as the kids were able to get out on their own - a two storey home really doesn't suit someone like me with my physical abilities - and we really should be in a bungalow - but even now I'm starting to think about installing an elevator instead of moving. This really is a laugh, as our little house is just over 1000 square feet, a two storey semi with finished basement, that is a little older than me.

Here's a picture of when my kids in 2001 - I think - my oh my, they're all taller than me now, but that grin on younger son's face is still there, especially when he's telling some ridiculous story based loosely on a truth; my daughter's smile doesn't appear quite so often for me right now, and her ears are much decorated with hoop and stud earrings; and oldest son is living with his girlfriend - my likely soon to be daughter in law.

Day one of teenage daughter's summer holidays - so we'll see how we get along today - hopefully we'll start out positive to mark the beginning of a great summer to come.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hello! - June 19, 2008

Here I am....Starting a blog when I don't know much about blogging, I only know I'm passionate about piecing, quilting, stitchery - and how it relates to my life and others.

It occurred to me that quilting as a hobby, craft, passion relates so much to my daily life as a wife, mom, and individual. Scraps of information, leftover feelings, words to be said are all floating in the mind like so many pieces of colourful fabric, waiting to be thrown out, judged, placed together like a puzzle to form a path to take, and eventually laid down, done and finished, to be enjoyed, or put away to reflect on another day.

Everyday I choose what I'll be sewing that day, often changing from project to project. My choices are effected by how I'm feeling that day - chaotic, contemplative, energetic, restful - and by what is happening in the lives of my family and friends. I hope that using this blog will help me to understand this relationship and to record my daily work, trials and errors, and successes.

I have mixed connective tissue disorder, diagnosed in Fall 2000. My husband and children are a wonderful support while I pursue quilting and all its tanglements - he often says its better to live in a world of fabric and threads than to live with a bored and grumpy early retired Type A wife not much to do.

The web quilting community has also been a support that I could not have done without - I have met good friends who have shared much about the craft and with them I have learned, played, and laughed
while quilting the pieces.

Tomorrow I'll share with some pictures of work finished recently, works in progress (wips) and if I'm brave I'll dig out my unfinished objects (ufos) that I'll admit to having too many of.

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About Me

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southern Ontario, Canada
I began quilt-making in January 2001, as therapy following diagnosis a chronic autoimmune condition. I enjoy creating and exploring hand and machine applique, machine piecing, english paper piecing, machine quilting, and machine embroidery. I have been working with Electric Quilt for several years and I'm comfortable with just about very aspect of using EQ to design pieced, applique, and embroidery quilts. I'm an early retired Mom with two teenager and a son who'll be married in Fall '09. My husband is my biggest quilting supporter.

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works in progress

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