Friday, February 28, 2014

Rainy Day Books

We finally are getting the rain we so desperately need here. It is a beautiful sight as I gaze out my sewing room window into our backyard. Everything looks so fresh and clean and the colors of the pink blossoms on the plum trees and yellow leaves on the euonymus bushes are so vibrant.

In keeping with the rain-inspired mood, I sewed up two cloth books that were wet-day related. These are two books I already had in my stash before I bought the ten more books at the quilting and sewing show in San Mateo. (See my February 23, 2014 post about those ten books.) They'd been cut out and just needed the batting added before being sewn. First is The Tale of Jemima Puddle~Duck. The first photo is the back cover on the left and the front cover on the right. The subsequent photos are the pages of the book in reading order. The last photo is manufacturer's information for the book.

Next up is a book about what to do when the weather is not sunny called Rainy Day Games. I bought this book at the San Mateo show in February of 2013, only one year ago, and I am already sewing it up after only twelve months residence time in my stash! The first photo is the back cover on the left and the front cover on the right. The subsequent photos are the pages of the book in reading order. The words of the verses of the poem are cute. If you cannot read them in the photos, they are all typed out in my February 23, 2013 post titled Went Shopping. I really must have liked the poem back then, too. The last photo is manufacturer's information for the book.

A grey day does not make me feel very ambitious, so making up these two books was just the right amount of effort to expend. Counting two cloth books remaining in my stash from a year ago (February 2013 show), plus the ten I just bought this week (February 2014 show), I only have twelve left to complete. Any progress whatsoever in the fabrication and distribution of my cloth literary collection is a good thing.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

WIP: Ghastlies Quilt – Tree Top Assembly

At the end of my last Ghastlies post I was decided tree strips. I committed to one double height green tree row and, while my mind was churning on others, I made some tweaks on the polka dot brick rows. I had one brick on the left edge of the quilt where a little boy was hiding behind his mom's skirt. Had I left it that way, once I trimmed the edge, none of her skirt would have shown and a smidgeon of the boy would have been covered by the binding.

I removed that brick, trimmed a half inch off the right edge and re-inserted it so more of the skirt showed and the 3/8" binding will just come up to the little boy's pudgy cheek.

Back to those trees... Oh, how I agonized on how much more tree fabric to include, how tall to cut each tree strip, and where to place them! If I had trees on the top should they be on the bottom also? Did I need equal amounts of white/grey/green trees? Should I save some green trees for the back? In the next photo the trees look grey but it must be my lighting because they are really green as in the preceding photo. As a backing, I'd been planning to use that yellow fabric whose olive dots matched the tree fabric so exactly they seemed meant for each other. Now, I was reconsidering. 

Tucking in a few tree rows in all three colors here and there, I experimented with repeated layouts. I reforested that quilt with trees many times over! After rearranging yet another configuration, I stood back and stared once again at the quilt on the wall. "Stop!" I scolded myself. "Enough!"  So I added no other strips, joining together only what was currently on the wall. Here is the assembled top on my design wall, with a bit of sunshine streaming in on the lower left side edge. I decided that asymmetry was good, tree edge on top, dot edge on bottom, uneven tree row heights. The grey and the green double tree height rows only appear one place each but hey, that's OK. If I'd included all the fabric combinations I was considering, this tall, tall, quilt would have been more appropriate as a floor runner down a long hallway.

After saving the green trees to use with the yellow fabric with olive dots, I changed my mind for the backing material. I will use this pink and grey stripe instead. The uneven stripe widths are unique and, since I know this is for a girl, I no longer have to pretend to be gender neutral. I plan to break up the length of the back with a grove or two of grey and white trees, just to add a bit of a surprise.

In the game of Scrabble, I view Q and Z as partners in crime. I am pairing that duo again for the edges of this quilt so it will have a Quirky Zebra binding. It should be fun!

Now I am at my typical stall point of backing, batting, and FMQ. I plan to prepare the backing and batting today. I just might distract myself this evening with sewing some of the cloth books I bought this weekend (see 2/22/13 post) and put off starting the FMQ with the lame excuse that I'll be fresher in the morning. To quote Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind...

Here are my stats updated relative to last week's WIP post. I have completed nothing and started nothing new since I have been actively working this Ghastlies quilt exclusively. The ongoing projects are unchanged from my 2/19/14 WIP post and mostly awaiting FMQ so I have not repeated them here.

Stats since 02/19/14 WIP:
     Completed  projects - 0
     Currently in progress - 7 - but actively working only on Ghastlies
     New projects - 0 thus far - unless I cave and sew cloth books

I will further delay my FMQ by linking up to Freshly Pieced WIP to check out what has been keeping others busy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

San Mateo Quilt Festival

Yesterday, I went with my husband to the Quilt, Craft, and Sewing Festival in San Mateo. He has a good knack for and likes the challenge of finding what I "need". If a want a pink mini-stripe, he's on it! If I feel a yen for golden stars and moons he goes on a quest. He is also my CEO... Carries Everything Out. He asked me what my goals for this show were.  

I said "No more quilt kits. I have too many. Talk me out of buying any kits!" (I love them all but truth be known some of them were bought because they were a great price. There is also the tendency to think they will make up in a wink but each takes longer than I think and cuts in line in front of other items I want to make.)

What I do want, though, is cloth books for kids. With a 16 month old granddaughter and another granddaughter due in about 5 weeks I need to stock up. Well, I did stock up. I bought ten of them, each more adorable than the previous one. That works out to five per granddaughter.

There are two of The Mitten whose illustrations by Jan Brett are just beautiful. There are two of the Counting Monkey and two of the Calendar babies by Joy Allen. The illustrations by Joy Allen in the book of months are just precious. After all, both girls need to learn to count and recite months of the year. These three are in the top row.

I did not buy two of every book. For Christmas time one will get the snowman book and the other the little light book in the bottom row. One will get The Twelves Dogs of Christmas and one will get The Twelve Cats of Christmas.

I also replenished several of my basic fabrics. Here are a half yard each of some black dots that I use for accenting and outlining and some pin-striped fabric with dots potentially for making binding. I bought a half yard of my signature polka dots theme in shades of pink and orange. It reminded me of a poster for advertising lipsticks.

I knit as well as quilt and I could not pass up  these beautiful, cloth buttons with hand embroidered flowers. I think they will look lovely on the front of a cardigan. One of the notions booth had them for sale and I could not choose from among all the colors she had. I can even envision them mixed and matched on the same garment.

Several years ago I made a burp cloth out of this blue owl fabric. I only had a fat quarter at the time and wished I'd had more. When I came across a yard of this flannel, I just had to buy it for some other baby down the road. It will look awesome paired with a green or a blue polka dot flannel that I already have in my stash.

Of course I succumbed to a few impulse purchases for fabrics that I do not yet know what I am going to do with. Packaging is so important and and this stack of pink, yellow, grey, and charcoal with its bright pink bow, just called to me. I walked away from it twice but eventually came back and bought it.

Here are the fabrics spread out to view. Those spurts of yellow among the grey and pink prints are like bursts of sunshine. The scrolls add a bit of maturity to keep the medley from being too flowery. I am thinking about doing variations of an Ohio star type block, perhaps with a consistent center (the largest scale daisy print, perhaps?) but with the outer points in different fabric per each star block.

My tastes do have extremes. The bright colors and large graphics of the following fabric is quite a contrast with the delicate greys and pinks of the previous bundle. I bought one yard. Its disposition is still undetermined.

Here is the selvage with the design and fabric manufacturer information.

I thought these birds would make a nice backing for a quilt or a feature fabric for a block with the coral-orange, poppy-red, and clear-blue. I bought two yards of this and will just stash it away until inspiration strikes.

While at the show I looked at, but did not buy, a free motion quilting machine, the Tiara by Babylock. It has a 16" throat and you sit in front of it rather than standing. It does not set on a moving frame; you move the quilt, not the quilt head, so it takes up much less space. I hear it is the same machine as the Handi-Quilter Sweet Sixteen. Does anyone have this machine and can give me feedback?

All in all I enjoyed the show with my husband and did not go overboard on fabric. I kept my impulse purchases to a minimum. I did not buy any kits. I gathered information on a quilting machine but made no rash buying decision because of a "show special". Maybe I did go just a bit overboard on cloth books, but I think a grandmother is entitled to do so.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

WIP: Ghastlies Quilt Design - Layout Thoughts

I originally planned to make a strip quilt using only the fabrics from the Ghastlies collection by Alexander Henry. I'd bought 1 yard of the feature character fabric in mauve and 1/2 yard cuts of the coordinating twig tree fabrics in each white, green, and grey.  I was going to cut the character fabric in thirds for three 12" high bands. Since this fabric has a 12" repeat, even though it is railroaded, each band would have had the same whole characters and the same characters whose head or feet were cut off.  I decided instead to cut only two feature bands 15" high each and thereby showcase different family members of the Ghastlies relations. Here is my estimate of where to make those cuts. And, yes, I would be "wasting" 6 inches of the feature fabric.

My size goal for the quilt was about 42" wide (one fabric width), and about 60" or so long. This leaves about 30" of height to play in with the other fabrics. I considered a checker board of the Ghastlies Forest twig tree fabric but rejected it. The trees were already in neat rows. There would be a lot of fabric lost in the 1/4" seams and a lot of fussy cutting for not much effect other than ... rows of trees. I decided to keep the trees in horizontal full fabric width bands, cut one tree-row or two tree-rows high. The white background is so crisp and bright, it draws the eye, so the strips of white background trees will be only one row high. I already cut  grey bands the height of two rows of trees, but have not decided if I will use them. My intention was to save the green trees for accents on the back, partnered with my yellow fabric with olive stenciled dots but I am reconsidering substituting some of them for the grey trees on the front.

But breaking up full width bands still had some allure, if not for the Ghastlies character and trees fabrics then at least for the other fabrics I was introducing. I really liked the interrupted band effect I'd sewn in my Classic Cars quilt top based on the Check Me Out pattern from the It's Sew Emma line. (See August 3, 2013 post.) For cars, the checkerboard motif was great because of the association of checkered flags with racing; but I thought the regularity of that pattern was not in keeping with the tone of the Ghastlies.

Then I looked at my fat quarters as laid out on the top of my sewing machine cabinet and got the idea to use rectangles instead of squares.  I decided to assemble an array of staggered elongated rectangles, irregularly colored, for a sort of brick wall of similar patterns. I am also becoming more convinced I want to put some of those green trees on the front to tie in with the bushes in the character feature fabric and with my green spots selections.

I set the Ghastlies character fabric apart with a 1/2" wide band of black polka dots and decided to insert brick walls either two or three rows high of brightly colored fabrics. Here is the middle portion of the proposed assembly on my design wall. I did not entirely "waste" that extra 6" of Ghastlies characters. Can you find where I plan to insert fussy cut bricks?

So here's where I am now. The "brick wall" bands are assembled and the Ghastlies feature fabric is edged in black polka dots. But these strip quilts have a way of growing taller and taller. My remaining decisions are the height, color, and location of the tree rows. So far the height of the bands adds up like this:

√  30"        2 x 15" high      Ghastlies feature fabric (15" each)
√  24"        8 x 3" high        bright fabric bricks 2, 3, or 2 rows high  (3" each row)
     9"        2 x 4.5" high      Forest fabric cut two trees high (4.5" high) color TBD
     5"        2 x 2.5" high      Forest fabric cut one tree high (2.5" high) color white

54" committed, 14" still to play with =  68" TOTAL ... growing too tall?

I also have to go back and add a few inches to the black polka dot strips. I had only a fat quarter to work with, and when I pieced the strips on the diagonally, I lost some width in the seam. I need to add a bit back at these four edges so I do not need to cut about 2" off one side of the quilt.

Neatly joined together, I am pleased with how crisp the polka dot rectangles look in my three brick walls. This two-brick-high wall is in the bottom part of the quilt. Those white trees will sew up only one row high. As soon as I finish this post, I am going to my sewing room to be decisive about those trees.

Here are my stats updated relative to last week's WIP post. Since I have been actively working this Ghastlies quilt exclusively, my new projects and completed projects counts have plummeted to zero.

Completed projects since 02/12/14 WIP post:

Ongoing projects:  
  1. Ghastlies baby quilt (begun in February 12, 2014 post)
  2. Classic Cars strip quilt (August 3, 2013 post)- need to back, quilt, and bind
  3. Grinch quilt (May 22,2013 post) - all borders added, need to back, quilt, and bind
  4. Jack O'Lantern Trio (February 2, 2013 post) - awaiting FMQ
  5. Chicken quilt - awaiting FMQ
  6. Overlapping square wall hanging - awaiting FMQ
  7. Mask quilt (October 19, 2011 post) - hidden away awaiting inspiration for arranging hexagons
New projects since 02/12/14 WIP post:  

Stats since 02/12/14 WIP:
     Completed  projects - 0
     Currently in progress - actively working only on No. 1 
     New projects - 0

I will be linking up today to Freshly Pieced WIP. But I am not allowing myself the pleasure of browsing and commenting until I make those tree decisions!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

WIP: Ghastlies Quilt Design - Color Musings

For a while now I have been wanting to make for a baby quilt out of the Ghastlies fabric line by Alexander Henry fabrics. It is intended for my daughter's best friend throughout high school and college, who was also the matron of honor at her wedding. I knew this friend had a penchant for this Ghastlies fabric and her baby was due around Christmas time. The large scale print comes with a white, grey, green, or mauve background. Here is the feature fabric in mauve that I will be using. That lady character with the broom is 8.5 inches tall, bow to toe, and the little rosy-cheeked girl off to the right is 4.5 inches tall, also bow to toe.

When my three children were born in the 1980s, it was the norm not to know the baby's gender until the delivery room. In this day and age, however, it was a rarity that my daughter's friend elected to neither find out, nor reveal, the baby's gender. So I was faced with the dilemma of having to gender-neutralize the mauve colored fabric. Fortunately I procrastinated enough that the baby was born before I made the quilt. I learned she had a baby girl, and I could proceed on the quilt without gender ambiguity or the challenge of masculinizing the feature fabric. Actually, the Ghastlies are amusingly frightful enough that they could be slanted to either gender.

I'd bought a yard of the feature fabric and a half-yard of each of the coordinating tree fabrics with white, green, and grey backgrounds, planning to make a simple strip quilt of horizontal bands. That way I will not cut up the large feature print Ghastlies too much. I just love these Charles Wysocki style black twig trees and would like keep them in rows. I also bought a bit of the mottled mauve and black mini-print peeking through on the far, far, left but just might table that one. Here was my first layout proposal, but it seems ho-hum and a bit too serious to me. I wanted to brighten it a bit for a baby without compromising the intended tone and mood of a theme titled ghastly. One quilt teacher told me once that every quilt needs a bit of yellow. I tried adding a bit of yellow and lucked upon the yellow with olive dots with just the right tonality for the green in the bushes of the feature fabric and the green of the tree fabric. However, plunked in place as a row, it seems like an afterthought.

I googled "ghastlies quilt images" for inspiration and liked that several quilters (sorry I do not know their names to give credit) spiced up their quilts by added orange to the mix, leaning toward a Halloween theme. I particularly like these examples, but did not want a Halloween theme for a Christmas baby.

So I went to my stash. Nothing lightens up a mood like cheery polka dots. I selected these candidates and will need to narrow down my choices. I still like the yellow with olive stenciled dots but perhaps I may need to place it more inconspicuously on the back. Rows of trees will still be in the quilt but whether I will fussy cut them one, two, or three trees tall is yet to be determined.

Taking a closer look next to the feature fabric, here are my thoughts on the down-select for the supporting, coordinating fabrics.  I am pretty sure that the dark green in the upper left will be included since the dots are erratically shaped and have a bit of a monster vibe to them. The upper central coral-pink dot is a keeper, too; it echoes the little girl's rosy cheeks. That pin-dot lilac will add just a bit of white without being too stark. I am considering binding it in the black and white pin-stripe or, if I am feeling really playful, that black and white zebra print.

Next I need to decide what pattern and quilt layout. I especially admired the wonky cut and the harlequin-like styles of the orange accented images I googled. I have been thinking on variations of the strip layout, but that is a topic for another post. I will probably spend more time deciding the design of this quilt than I will spend time actually assembling the top. But I really think the design decisions are fun and they play a large part in making quilting so personal.

Here are my stats updated relative to my WIP  01/15/14 post. Some projects jumped from new to completed, never being in the ongoing category in a WIP post. Most ongoing projects are awaiting quilting. I suppose I could send those projects out to be quilted but I want to practice FMQ and try my hand at renting time on a commercial long arm quilt machine, so there they sit, pining away in ongoing limbo, until completion.

Completed projects since 01/15/14 WIP post:
  1. Paisley Pearl quilt (February 8, 2014 post)
  2. Hello quilt (February 9, 2014 post)
  3. Thor from Days of Yore cloth book (February 7, 2014 post)
  4. Thor Dragon pillowcase (February 11, 2014 post)
  5. Two chickadee burp cloths (February 9, 2014 post)
  6. Six owl themed burp cloths (February 7, 2014 post)
Ongoing projects:  
  1. Ghastlies baby quilt
  2. Classic Cars strip quilt (August 3, 2013 post)- need to back, quilt, and bind
  3. Grinch quilt (May 22,2013 post) - all borders added, need to back, quilt, and bind
  4. Jack O'Lantern Trio (February 2, 2013 post) - awaiting FMQ
  5. Chicken quilt - awaiting FMQ
  6. Overlapping square wall hanging - awaiting FMQ
  7. Mask quilt (October 19, 2011 post) - hidden away awaiting inspiration for arranging hexagons
New projects since 01/15/14 WIP post:  
  1. Hello quilt
  2. Thor from Days of Yore cloth book
  3. Thor Dragon pillowcase
  4. Two chickadee burp cloths
  5. Six owl themed burp cloths
  6. Ghastlies baby quilt
Stats since 01/15/14 WIP:
     Completed  projects - 12
     Currently in progress - assembly completed on 5 of 7;  finishing is my bottleneck
     New projects - 12

I will be linking up today to Freshly Pieced WIP for more inspiration.