Sunday, December 30, 2012

Still Churning Along in Another Colorway

I am continuing construction of my Churn Dash-ish Quilt.  I guess that will be its working name until I come up with something better.  I absolutely love the pattern I am working off but do not want to reveal it just yet.  I think it is kind of fun to see only parts of a quilt at a time and try to guess where it is going.

I had one question about what I thought was a missing part of the churn dash variant block so I called the designer at A Q_i_t_r's Dr__m to see if there was any errata for the pattern.  (There, a hint for whose pattern it is, if you really do not want to wait.) She answered my question quickly over the phone – but not so quickly as to make me feel foolish, like "Well, duh, that was obvious."  I forgot I had made some half-square triangles for two churn dashes in step #5 so I did have all the parts I needed and there were no errors in the pattern.  It was also nice to have a contact person in addition to an e-mail or website. I'd met the designer at the San Mateo Quilt and Craft show and just love her patterns, and buy more at each show.  They are so creative and well thought out.  And she has the neatest way of displaying the fabrics she sells.  She folds them into equilateral triangles and perches them standing on their bases on the merchandising table.

Can't you just imagine a whole flock of these funky little fabric friends marching side by side, beckoning you? You just want to scoop them all up they are so inviting.  Any way, I digress.

Here are the notorious HSTs from step #5.  There are many construction methods but the one in the pattern and the one I like best is to sew two diagonal lines 1/2" apart and then slice between them.  I like to line them up slightly overlapping on the cutting board,

then slice through all at once placing the ruler's 1/4" mark on the stitching line...

... and Voila, half square triangles!  I know. I could just free hand slice between the two stitching lines but somehow, any one who cares about how her pressing directions look on the back would also be bothered by uneven seam allowance widths.  To some, this is sick.  To me, this is the precision part of quilting I love.

Also there are corners of the churn dash that have a right or left handedness to them.  To be sure I make one a mirror image of the other, I line them up on the cutting board before slicing off the corner as a nice double check.  See, the one on top and one on bottom face different directions so I am OK to cut away.  I actually caught a mistake I'd made where the two rectangular sections were alike, facing the same way. I could correct it by ripping out the seam and re-sewing since I had not cut the corner off yet.

Also, with this method it is more difficult to mess up by cutting on the wrong side of the stitching line.  But nobody out there has ever done that, right?

Here are my churn dashes in my second colorway.

And here are my concentric, offset boxes in the same colorway.

I am not yet posting any assembled block pix, so if you are really curious, you have to figure out my hint in the second paragraph. The kit for my source fabric had 30 fat eighths so, taken six at a time I have enough fabric for five colorways. This will make five sets of six assembled blocks each since each three fat quarters or six fat eighths make six assembled blocks.  This French Braid pattern that I am not using has five vertical construction stripes that blend similar colors. All the ingredients are there. I am just mixing is up a lot!

Here are the six fat eighths that I will use for my next set of six blocks.  I have made pairs of two oranges, two lilacs and two limes.

Oh, to keep track of what I've cut I also make myself little shapes printed on and cut out of card stock using PowerPoint to keep track of my stacks of pieces.  These are not templates.  They just sit on top of my stacks of cut pieces so I can readily find what I need.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Churn Dashing Through the Snow

Well we do not have any snow at my house in California but I still thought a bit of Christmas humor in the post title might be cute.  Yesterday I worked on a variation of a traditional churn dash quilt block.

Since my churn dash variation was asymmetric it was easiest to lay out the pieces in a little tray and transport that from the cutting board to the sewing machine.  I am piecing one block at a time till I get used to the pattern.  I do not want to mass produce a bunch of goofs.

Also, piecing one at a time, I can try out different pressing directions and see which I like best.  The blue and green pressing pattern was tidiest on the back.  My pressing mantra was "triangle down". An added benefit of this pressing sequence is also that I can see the triangle points, so as better not to nip them off in subsequent seams. 

The blue/green block was not the first block I constructed. The pink/blue block, constructed earlier, is much less tidy on the back. I considered going back and picking out the intersections of the other blocks so they all press the same directionally. But none of the triangle tips got nipped off in the seam, even though they were not visible at time of sewing.  I considered ripping out intersections to change pressing direction but decided that was being too anal, even for me. It is the back of the block after all and not visible when batting and backing are there.

Here are the three Churn Dashes, right side showing– the side that counts!

And here are their three complements.

Instead of using fat quarters, I experimented with using pairs of fat eights, blending fabrics that were semi-twin-like in their appearance. The pink is actually two pink batiks and they are so similar as to be barely noticeable in the churn dash. The two greens are a bit more dissimilar but still close and the two blues have the biggest variation. It is really obvious in the upper left triangle of the green background churn dash. (Keep chanting, Diane. Art, not a mistake! Art, not a mistake!)

Each assembled block has a churn dash block, a concentric rectangle block from my previous post, and background. Three fat quarters make six assembled blocks. When adding all these elements I am surmising that there will be a color flow throughout the assembled block that will add interest and not look like I goofed and was too lazy to fix it. I am a mechanical engineer by profession so very left brain dominant– analytic and logical by nature.  I find it difficult to let the creative, intuitive right brain have its freedom. Maybe the exercise of this quilt will give my right brain a break and let it have its way. I will show the assembled blocks later. I suspect I will like the end effect, despite myself.

The fabrics I am using were in my stash from a kit I bought on clearance.  The kit has 30 fat eighths of batiks and came with a totally different pattern. (I will show that kit on a future post.) Here is the six fat eights that I will use for my next set of six blocks. I have made pairs of two blues, two yellows, and two pinks.

The last time I made a quilt that was right brain dominant I kept complaining to my husband that it was awful, ugly, and – had I not bought the kit of die cut, non-45 degree triangle shapes that could be used for little else – I probably would not have completed it.  The pattern directions gave a lot of freedom, reading simply, "Join as desired." But I did complete it. And I loved it. My daughter loved it, too. So I gave it to her. It is called Batik Storm at Sea and is featured on the right side bar of my blog if you scroll down far enough. Here it is again.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Of All the Gall! Now Optimistically Onward :•)

Of all the gall– gall bladder that is! Distracting me from my quilting! I had surgery to remove it on Dec 20. Surgery went well but, one week later, my abdomen is still a bit too sore to drive or go back to work–  I cannot yet painlessly or quickly make the  switch from gas pedal to brake pedal in the car. However,  I just tried yesterday afternoon and I can use the foot pedal control on my sewing machine. Alleluia!

Don't you just love the euphoria of starting a new project?  You love the colors you picked. You relish the feel of that fabric you have been drooling over as it flows under your fingertips. You swoosh with ease through the multiple layers of fabric with your rotary cutter, freshly outfitted with a new blade.  This new blade does not have that repetitive glitchy hitch like its predecessor from when you ran over that pin once early on and convinced yourself then it was too new a blade to replace. You enjoy seeing how that pattern you picked really "works" as you figure it out and get into an assembly rhythm. You are convinced that at the stellar rate you are progressing you will have completed all 257 blocks of your most eye-catching creation by tomorrow morning. Aaah, the splendid departure from reality.  I love being in that zone! Here is a peek at a new quilt I have started out of batiks.

I love the color intensity. The fabrics I have shown read like a solid but some of my other selections are a bit more busy. I hope I can combine hues varied enough to contrast against the business.  We shall see. I am using fat eighths instead of fat quarters as called for on the pattern and so far, so good. I will reveal the pattern in another post but I am very pleased with its layout, illustrations, and instructional detail. And what quilt does not have just a few half square triangles sprinkled in for zest?

Since I am home recovering next week as well, I plan to sew and blog a bit several times during my recuperation.  Stay tuned. Gee, what a shame I cannot yet drive to the grocery store and lug those heavy bags into the house.  "Lift nothing over 10 lbs" per doctor's orders.  But the weight of a fat quarter? Not even close!

After my November kidney stone incident and before my December gall bladder surgery, though not fabricating any quilts, I was thinking about quilting... honest!  To speed recovery after surgery you are encouraged to think calming thoughts, recite positive affirmations, and visualize relaxing scenarios.  The night before my surgery the last thing I did before bed was walk through my sewing room, focus on my design wall (Grinch quilt still poised there), then gaze at and stroke several fabrics in my stash.  I reviewed my pattern collection. I told myself if things got dicey I would concentrate on the assembly of my next quilt to distract myself. Some people envision a sunny serene meadow or a shady forest glade to soothe.  For me, it's the beauty and intricacy of a quilt in planning. Quilting. Better than yoga meditation.

I have not yet discovered if I've cut any pieces wrong. I have not yet had to stop to discover a creative way to recover, to find a close twin fabric to substitute. I have not yet put the blocks on a design wall and, with self-doubt, chastised myself with, "What were you thinking...?". Hopefully those events will not occur.  But if they do I will rise to the challenge... and still love every minute of it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Slight Setbacks, Not Seeing Red, Mini Xmas Gifts

My daughter just pointedly hinted to me today that I have not posted a blog entry in a while.  How does one tactfully say in a quilt blog that sometimes there are life events that take precedence over quilting? By chance, most certainly not by choice, I was indisposed one long week in November passing a kidney stone. Afterwards, I did manage to whip up some mini-projects for Christmas, but then had to undergo gall bladder surgery the third week in December. (Yuck, let's avoid details on that.)

I made some Christmas flannel burp cloths in a Grinch print, an antique toys print, and a snowman and snowflake print. I forgot to take pictures of the snowman/snowflake ones but maybe my daughter will take some being clutched tightly in my granddaughter's tiny little fist. I pre-washed the red burp cloths separately and was I glad I did.  The red Grinch flannel bled terribly.  I used the quilt detergent Synthrapol and two Shout Color Catcher cloths which came out hot pink and still, the white flannel Grich print came out muddy looking.  I repeated the wash with Synthrapol and two new Color Catchers and they again turned pink and the white flannel looked awful.   I then washed them (yes, a third time) with Era laundry detergent and two more color catcher cloths (yup, up to six) and the Era removed the muddiness from the white and transferred it to the color catchers.  It is my go-to awesome detergent and I do not understand why so few stores carry it. Note: I never dried the burp cloths in the dryer between multiple washings.  They did, however, sit out a bit air drying while I was contemplating my path forward.  Here are pix of the Grinch and toys burp cloths. Note the Grinch's recovery to sparkly white. The beige toy background started beige and remained that way despite the burgundy toy flannel.

I made up two cloth books that came out really cute.  One is Winnie the Pooh themed, just like the nursery.

The artwork by Joy Allen in the second cloth book is just precious and the colors so rich and inviting.

I made another pillowcase for my son-in-law.  He is such a trooper with Elliott and Emily, the two cats that my daughter brought into the marriage. Elliott has hero worship of my highly allergic son-in-law (must be male bonding) and will not leave him alone.  At least I can supply a steady stream of pillowcases for frequent changes to go with the allergy pills for counteracting sniffles.  The cats are curious about the baby, too. 

Hope all had a Merry Christmas. Also, here's hoping I will not wait so long to post again.