Wednesday, March 25, 2015

East Coast and West Coast Purchases

I've been traveling. I was in North Carolina last week visiting my sister and the weekend I returned my husband and I took a 90 minute drive up north to Sacramento so I could check out a quilt show there. Here are some of my purchases.

In North Carolina...
I picked up a half-yard piece of each of these boy-like flannels for burp cloths.

I bought three fat quarters of this orange and white  stripe to go with some bathing beauty fabric I already had at home. It is a pretty darn good match on the oranges based on memory alone.

It also reminding me of summertime as a kid and the Creamsicles brought by the ice cream truck in our neighborhood.

Somebody else must like Creamsicles, too. While searching for an image I came across this wall sculpture on It really tickled my fancy.

I bought some pinkish fabrics. The one on the left is 1 yard, just enough for an apron for my sister. The one on the right came home with me because I liked the squiggly pattern and it reads like an interesting solid. I plan to use it as sashing so I bought 1½ yards to minimize piecing long stretches. It seems versatile enough that I am sure it would also be good filler somewhere.

I've noticed I am into asymmetry of late and I bought a card of three buttons because I liked the offset flower. The gray and yellow combination seems to be everywhere now, but this gray had a slate-like bluish tone to it that caught my eye for some reason that I could not quite put my finger on. When I got home it clicked. These buttons will be the perfect accent on a periwinkle sweater I am knitting for myself. It is one of the projects that just got set aside and others intervened. I bought a second card of three buttons at my local store. The buttons are large but then the knit is rather bulky so I think it is fitting. Funny, but just a acquiring a set of stimulating buttons has renewed my interest in this project.

And in Sacramento...
At first I was practical, buying only fabrics that read like a solid. My sister in North Carolina had been unable to find turquoise pin dot for an Easter dress for her granddaughter. Believe me, we tried and hit every store for miles around while I was visiting there last week. Of course I had to buy it when I found it out here in California and mail it back to her.

But that purchase whetted my appetite for pin dots so I got a yard each of grey and orange for my own stash.

I have a boy grand baby on the way, so these two blues will definitely be useful. They read like a solid and I think the term for that these days is low volume fabric...? I bought one yard of each.

I bought one yard of this purple because I liked the whimsy of the irregularly shaped polka dots.

Then that whole "stick to practical solids and low volume fabrics thing" went awry. I could not pass up these fat quarters. I think they will add great dimension to a quilt so I bought one in each colorway. Although I could only get one fat quarter of each, that is a good thing since a fabric like this is best taken in low doses. A little goes a long way. Crazy! I hope I do not get dizzy working with them!

I bought this pattern. I was drawn to its asymmetry and think the construction will be quite different and maybe a bit challenging. I actually like the colors and fabrics it is made up with. I may keep the white, gray, and charcoal but tip the orange more toward red and tweak the turquoise to a blue that better matches my d├ęcor.

My daughter has a friend who loves pirates so I bought this pillowcase kit. But then my granddaughter loves pirates, too, so... ♫ YO-HO, YO-HO, a pirate pillowcase will be ♫.

Ok. I have not determined a use for this fabric, but how could I pass it up when I have two granddaughters?

Then at home...
After traveling I am usually tired and take a couple days to recover. So I launched into a couple of quick projects to relax. Doing this also further delays my FMQ in waiting, which demands my courage and concentration. I made four burps cloths, each of which take two fat quarters or a fat quarter and a regular quarter yard. And I made an apron that took 1 yard of fabric.

I paired the race cars flannel I'd bought in NC with a multicolored chevron graphic print from my stash to make two burp cloths. I made both cloths the same, instead of complements of each other as I usually do, since I had the chevrons in a quarter yard cut and not a fat quarter.

The two blue zoo animals burp cloths I made today are not complements of each other, either. Again, the orange flannels I had were quarter yard cuts and not a fat quarter format. I'd bought a clearance kit of fat quarter cuts about two years ago that was intended to be made into a patchwork flannel blanket. I have been pirating the pieces for the central section of burp cloths instead.

Here is the apron for my sister, also sewn today. The night before I'd left from visiting her we had hastily traced her favorite apron on a sheet of newspaper for a pattern I could take back with me. The waist ties are extra long, just as she likes them so she can criss cross them in the back and tie them in the front. The neck tie is not adjustable simplifying its construction. It is attached at just the custom length that is comfortable for her.

I got to practice using my handy-dandy Clovis Bias Tape Maker. I only steamed my thumb twice! Ouch! Not with using the bias maker, though, but afterward when ironing the tape output from the end of it in half along its length. I've got to get better at that part of the process. I made the ties along the length of grain and did not bother with making them bias. They are simpler to cut out this way, the straight of grain feeds though the bias tape maker just fine, and in use they are not as stretchy, so they work well.

Here is the apron all tied up with a scrap of leftover ties and ready to mail off.

Now I am linking up to this to look at others' Works In Progress at this week's Freshly Pieced.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Yay! My Blog Books Arrived

Volume 3 and Volume 4 of DianeLoves2Quilt arrived on January 20th and January 22nd. I guess I was pretty prolific this year, since I exceeded the page limit of shared book and had to split it into two volumes. I just plumb forgot to blog about the blog book arrival I was so intent keeping up the momentum on my Simple Gifts quilt and helping my son and daughter-in-law move at the end of January. Then, in March, I forged ahead on my Classic Cars and Overlapping Squares UFOs.

I picked a bright sunny yellow for the binding on Volume 3 and featured a cover photo of myself with my daughter, my daughter-in-law, and my two granddaughters. They were all visiting on a gloriously sunny Father's Day weekend. The dedication of Volume 3 reads:

"The first half of 2014 saw the addition of a second granddaughter, born April 6, 2014. Keeping up with sewing for the new baby and her toddler cousin, born October 11, 2012,  kept me busy."

The back cover is a Dr. Seuss tongue in check tribute to the two granddaughters, who we lovingly dubbed Thing1 and Thing 2. See? That bright primary yellow also really sets off the red and blue of Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Volume 4 covered the holiday portion of 2014. The oranges of the tree sweater in the front photo and the green of the stockings and Grinch Quilt in the rear photo inspired me to go with a purple for the binding. Why not? Primary colors for Volume 3 and secondary colors for Volume 4. Volume 4's dedication reads:

"In the second part of 2014 there was a bit more knitting, a bit more decorating, a bit more visiting, a bit more remembering and a bit more of a seasonal theme."

The rear cover photo features some of the Christmas decorations at our house in 2014.

My post about my first blog book was April 23, 2013. I discuss in that post my lessons learned. I talk about changes I implemented in Volume 2 in my post for April 14, 2014. Obviously I am happy with this company since I have used them for five blog books now, four volumes of DianeLoves2Quilt and one smaller blog book to go along with a gift quilt Color Play of the Day containing posts just about its making (completion post on July 19, 2013). The link to SharedBook is The site is user friendly. I intend to continue periodically collating my posts into a coffee table style book I can enjoy paging through when not at the computer and that I can pass on to my kids someday.

However, I'd like to make folks aware of a limitation of shared book that I just encountered. I wanted to extend making hardcover books to my other blog. I compiled a book over a period of posts but, when I previewed the blog book online, the captions were integrated in, and indistinguishable from, the main text. I contacted the SharedBook help line with the issue thinking perhaps it was a WYSIWYG ... what you see is what you get... preview quirk. Unfortunately, with my caption style, the software treats formatting the captions in a way I found unacceptable. I do not caption in DianeLoves2Quilt so it was a non-issue for this blog. In the other blog though I would need to go back and add blank lines and additional manual line breaks, which was too daunting a task for the number of posts and pictures I had. Maybe I will change my format from this point on and, perhaps when I am bored on a rainy day, go back and play with older posts if I still want to make historic blog books for WanderOrPonder.

But now, I am on to more quilting-centric works in progress by linking up to this week's Freshly Pieced WIP.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Classic Cars - a Photo Finish

This week I warmed up my FMQ skills with my Classic Cars strip quilt. First, I did simple stitch in the ditch around each square. I used the straight edge of the Handi Versa Tool to help me stay on the seam lines for the stitch-in-the-ditch work.  My practice with that specialty ruler on my December Day Tree Table Topper (my January 13th post) helped me stay consistent and straight. Then, in the light colored squares of the checkerboard I added four arcs. I left the darker squares without the arcs so they would puff up and be more prominent. Plus, I will admit, I was a bit afraid that crooked arcs in a contrasting color thread would show up too much and detract from these squares. I did the arcs free hand and I did get progressively better as I did more of the red-gridded white squares. The quilt had eight checkerboard rows of ten squares each, so after forty white squares, or 160 arcs, I learned not be so locally focused and mesmerized watching the needle penetrate at each stitch. Rather I adapted to setting my sights over a wider area as I completed each arc and visualize how I wanted it to look. They came out much smoother this way without little zigs and zags. They also approached having a more common size.

For the feature fabric of the strip quilt, I chose not to quilt over the cars or their titles. My stippling and meandering is not very good so far, but I still wanted to depress the area among the cars so they would stand out. I went with a predominantly horizontal meander pattern much like the ripples in calm pond water. I was trying to imitate how in all the fancy car commercial, the pavement beneath is often wet so it is shiny and shows off the car. Also, with this pattern, I had only one direction to deal with in avoiding getting trapped, and so it was a bit easier for me to execute than a true meander. It also kept the stitch density low so the quilt will drape more in use and be softer. Here is a section quilted. I used black thread on black. The quilting is subtle but I know it is there. I only crossed the silver lettering twice and I may go back and pick out those stitching lines if my eye keeps finding those little glitches.

Slowly but surely I am getting better on my HandiQuilter Sweet Sixteen. I had not fully appreciated the field of view advantage a longarm has over a domestic. The hopper foot is a much smaller obstruction around the needle and moves so quickly it is like it is not there. It is the same phenomenon as looking through the pickets of a fence as you speed by in a car and they seem to disappear. Plus with the higher and wider throat space, I am able to scan the bigger picture as I sew. I am becoming  more appreciative of the creative freedom my HQSS gives me and less intimidated now that I am actually using it.

Next up was my binding selection. I considered black as shown on the left in the next photo. It was too graphically distracting and too somber. Both options reminded me of black arm bands – too funereal and mourning. I wanted the quilt to be more light-hearted.

So I tried the orange/red/blue route as shown to the right in the next photo and I could truly see any one of the three as a viable option. The colors were all very complementary. In the end, even though the binding is a narrow border, I went to the least graphic and least distracting so focus would be on the cars. I chose the red-orange on the bottom. I like the way the white on red-orange picked up the plane and suitcase travel icons of the inserted bands bordering the car print.

Classic Cars had its beginning in my post of August 3, 2013. I added a label with the quilt's name and a label showing my initials and its completion year as 2015. I'd embroidered them on grosgrain ribbon with my Pfaff and placed them diagonally in the two lower corners of the quilt back. That is why each end is trimmed at a 45° angle.

Here is the pieced back. The labels are at the two lower corners with their edges tucked under the binding. I put them on before folding over and hand-stitching the binding in place

And finally, after two years in the making – or rather two years in the stalling, car pun intended –  is the photo finish of the completed 40" by 57" Classic Cars quilt. I took this photo upstairs, near the door of my sewing room, under our hall skylight. I am glad I had a sunny day to try this indoor location and it seems to have worked lighting wise. Also I did not have to contend with the wind. Maybe this quilt has in its future a picture with a background of lush greenery once our northern California drought abates. Better yet, I hope someday it will have a photo of a Bouncing Baby Boy on it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Overlapping Squares - Selecting Backing

This week I added a third quilt top to my pile of quilt sandwiches to be FMQ'd. While I was on a roll with spray basting Simple Gifts and Classic Cars, I prepped my Overlapping Squares top. One fourth of it is shown in the following photo. I'd made this top years ago from fabric I bought while visiting my sister in North Carolina. The quaint little quilt shop near where she lived was nestled within in a two-story home with honey colored hardwood floors and steps that emitted friendly creaks as you climbed them to look at the quilts and wares on the second floor. The shop owner retired but I still have fond memories of that place. But, I digress.

The quilt top is made of only only three fabrics, each of which consists of printed in bands of four shades of one color. The three fabrics' overall colors were called Pumpkin, Iris, and Blossom. An accompanying pattern called for fussy cutting strips along a shade line and assembling the quilt log cabin block style to give the illusion of overlapping squares. This color combination and modern geometric look will not go at all in my home but I still think it is yummy. The top is folded in quarters so only one fourth of it is shown in the following photo. I want to wait until it is quilted to reveal the entire top.

In the next photo I have shown the same portion of the top surrounded by four candidates for backing fabric. I really did have reasons for considering each contender. The upper left mini-checked fabric blended surprisingly well with the pumpkin color and I considered it because I thought it supported a kind of boxy, contemporary theme.  It would be safe. The fabric on the upper right is quite a surprise with the kitty faces. Believe it or not, the "purple" and "orange" tabbies are spot on color-wise with the Iris and Pumpkin and the red background blocks match well with the Blossom color, too. The cat fabric is kind of mottled when you look up close, so it also goes with the marbled effect of the overlapping square top fabric and its block layout fits in with the theme of the top. It really does go with the top in an odd way, but I still cringed a bit, thinking perhaps that "odd way" may be too "way out there". The top is 48" square so the cat fabric would also have a pretty obvious seam when it was pieced. Having just struggled to match seams on the backing fabric of Simple Gifts, my post for February 25, 2015, I was not up for a battle like that again so soon.

The lower left fabric of uneven squares is a companion print to the cat fabric. Although it too has a great color match to the Pumpkin and Blossom, it features and draws out the greens and blues of the cat fabric, neither of which are in the quilt top. But it does support the block theme and has a mottled/marbled effect. It, too, would need to be seamed but I think a joint would be more forgiving in this smaller scale print. It was the lower left fabric of uneven squares that I had packed away with the top for years, intending to complete the wall hanging some day. I'd thought it a good compromise between the possible too-blah check and possibly too-daring cats. The blue kind of niggled at me though, and I think I may have sub-consciously been a bit reluctant to break it apart from its companion kitties, though. Even so, I was preparing to seam the uneven squares fabric and use it.

But then, out of the corner of my eye, on the bottom shelf of my stash reserved for larger yardages of fabric, I found 6 yards of the splotchy water color fabric, shown at the lower right of the previous photo and again in the next photo. I'd bought it on sale to use it at some point as a backing but somehow it was never quite right. Though not necessarily an exact match color-wise with the Pumpkin, Blossom, and Iris, it did not clash. The yellow transitioned through Pumpkin on its way to the soft pink. The blue did not seem so isolated since it transitioned through Iris on its way to the other colors. I liked the overall feel of the print thinking the muted, undulating shapes complemented the rigidity of the overlapping squares on the front.

I e-mailed my daughter photos of my options and she independently came to the same conclusion I had. Like mother, like daughter she, too, supplied an explanation for her choice. "I would probably do as much of the watercolor multi in the lower right as I could... The red checks go colorwise but I'm not big on such a 'definitive print' feel with the moda-marble-ey front. And I'd avoid the cats and the basketweave entirely, as they have the same definitive print problem and read as primarily blue/green an not all that harmonious with the 'sunset feel' of the top to me." Yay!

I still had to piece the watercolor splotchy fabric but with only one seam in the lengthwise direction. I was quite pleased with how the matchup went. I need the clue of the offset at the top of the fabric to find where the seam is. I picked a few water drop spots as my register marks and the rest fell into place. Sweet! It is now draped over my upstairs railing waiting in line to be quilted.

Being a retired engineer, the logical left side of my brain is not going to give in very easily to decisions made by the artsy right side of my brain without some sort of justification. This post may be a bit too wordy, but it is noted in my sidebar that I did take the process pledge. You can read about that at For now I am hooking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.