Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Border Detail

The blocks of the "pink and green" quilt for my granddaughter-to-be assembled to be 33½"x48½". I usually like to keep baby quilts just under a width of fabric wide so I do not need to piece the back, but 33½" was a bit too narrow. This quilt needed a border, both to widen it and also to set the binding apart from the busyness of the blocks in the center. I had selected the binding fabric right away. I definitively wanted just the right pink – rosy, not pastel, not loudly shocking, but medium-toned and strong – and I wanted to set it off with just a fine line of chocolate brown as was in the feature print. I had used brown nowhere in the blocks, but thought this accent, used in moderation as inset piping on the binding, would be attractive. I had a green striped fabric I very much liked for the border that would separate the binding from the quilt blocks.

The stripe was just the perfect blend of soft tonality of greens - or so I thought. I had been unknowingly previewing the fabric folded up and so the full range of color intensity was not so obvious. I knew the darker stripes were there because I had accepted the tones as blending with the greens of the feature fabric, which also has tones more intense than pastel; but, I do not think I fully appreciated the dominance of the dark stripes once deployed in the quilt.

I cut 5" wide trial strips and placed them around the quilt top. The colors themselves were fine but that border looked like a traveling set of lights as on a neon sign outside a Las Vegas casino or as part of a garish Christmas display in a holiday light fight competition. Both of these were interpretations I did not expect nor did I want to promote. I had intended to subtly camouflage those owls, steeped deep their diurnal slumber, but I never intended to distract the eye so much that the viewer was blinded from discovering those nestled birds. Making the border narrower would decrease the distraction, but I needed more of a solution. I tried folding and pinning the dark stripes out of view on the left and bottom borders. Hmm... somewhat better.

I doubted the success of going on a quest for different fabric in just the right shades of green and I had my mind set on a green border. Then it occurred to me that I could surgically remove the offending dark stripes from the fabric and reassemble it into a subtler, less contrasting ombré. I cut a template so I would excise only the stripes I wanted to remove along the cut strips of the border fabric.

Ignoring the usual wisdom of seaming borders on a diagonal, I seamed the strips along the line of the stripes. They will be more hidden that way, especially when pressed and quilted. I now have all these squares in the middle remaining from the sections of dark stripes I cut out and of course I will not be able to throw them out!

There were two other things I did to calm down the border and make it less of a competitor with the central quilt. I made it narrower and I aligned the stripes so they looked a bit more orderly. The border width is that of one of the squares of a nine-patch block. I was lucky in that the stripe repeat was very, very close to a multiple of the block size. I centered a pale set of stripes in the top and bottom borders and centered a darker range of stripes in the side borders. The colors still vary along the edges but to less of an extreme and they no longer look like they are marching around the outside. The corners came out as medium dark squares. I confess, I did not plan it that way, but I liked those pseudo-cornerstones there!

I am often conflicted when making a gift quilt on whether to blog about it or save it as a surprise. This granddaughter is due to make her appearance into this world in May. How much should I "reveal"? Surprises last only a few minutes, seconds even. My blogging gives me hours of pleasure while I am doing it. Explaining my choices and seeing them displayed on a computer screen, crystalizes my thinking. The voice of my posts is like I am talking to an audience, but more likely I am talking to myself. Since my hobby is about process, often even more so than product, I choose to write info about it before it is complete. Besides, a quilt is not a quilt until it is quilted!

The top now measures 39" x 52½" before quilting. The quilt I'd made for this little girl's big sister, Paisley Pearl (post for February 8, 2014), had finished at 39" x 45" so this is comparable. My next step is to prepare the backing, sandwich with batting, and (gulp) "quilt as desired". Oh, and I have to name it. I am toying with Paisley Owls, or Nesting Owls or Nestling Owls. I have a leaning toward Nestling Owls. It conjures up cuddling.

Remember those two groups of eight blocks I decided to leave out? Here they are along with some partial blocks. I will have to do something with these, too! Eventually. Not now.

Linking up now with Let's Bee Social #122.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Paisley Owl Rearranging

I completed making all my blocks for the nesting owls quilt for my highly awaited granddaughter. I made 48 blocks in total for a crib size quilt. Two fat quarters yields 8 blocks so I had tentatively picked six pairs of fabrics per my post for March 31, 2016 titled simply Pink and Green. I knew I was going to omit some of those blocks to make space for incorporating the paisley owl fabric. My post for April 14, 2016 titled Paisley Owl Nesting was devoted to sizing those full owl inserts.

Along with the big owl blocks, I was going to insert some smaller snippets of the owl fabric. I decided to make the blocks first, place them on the quilt top, and then choose which ones to unstitch and inset an owl head. Squares within squares blocks would lend themselves to an off set central owl.

The nine-patch blocks lent themselves to a central row substitution.

Swapping out one of the checked rows looked better to me so I did that even though that makes the nine-patch "wrong". It avoids drawing the eye in an up-down direction. I like that the owls are nestled in there and somewhat camouflaged. I also used some of the owl paisley fabric in the nine patch and squares in squares blocks.

All this talk of nine patch and squares in squares blocks and I have yet to give credit to my inspiration pattern! The design I am using as my basis and springboard is the pattern Square Root of Nine by Quilter's Dream.

I love this women's patterns. I have these that I am itching to try: Box of StarsA-MazedThe-Space-BetweenGood-Grief. The hourglass like Hokey-Pokey might be too much work with angles but if I ever work on scraps I plan to give it a try. Most of the patterns are shown in sombre neutral like colors but they make up great in more vivid tones. I made a friend's quilt from the pattern Dash-in-the-Box in a combination of jewel-toned batik fat quarters pirated from a kit with a totally different French braid pattern. It was real fun to play with using triplets of fat quarters. See my post for July 13, 2013 titled Color Play of the Day CompletedThe designer is an interesting lady. I have spoken with her at the quilt fairs. She used to be a chemical engineer and so loves the math and the angles. Her cutting instructions are awesome and little to no fabric is wasted. Very few seams need to line up so the patterns look complicated but are beginner forgiving.

So here are my 48 blocks all grouped together, awaited some creative, artistic, awesome arrangement. Here officially ended the honeymoon stage of this quilt. I spent two days arranging and re-arranging those 48 blocks with proposed owl accent inserts on my design wall, from one ghastly, choppy, configuration to another.

Then my daughter said something very wise to me. "You know, Mom, random and balance are not the same thing." Her statement made me aware that I first needed to balance the weights of the colors and then I could randomize. I realized that much as I loved that whimsical pale pink with aqua dots fabric (central bottom), it was really throwing everything off. It made me think of the wizards' duel scene in the Disney movie the Sword in the Stone where Merlin gives Madame Mim a virus and she breaks out in spots. Once I had that visual it was far easier to let that fabric go.

I omitted the distracting owls, just for the moment, and arranged the blocks with darker tones in the outer columns. The result was calmer but the eye still traveled around.

Some blocks would need to be set aside to make room for the owls. I kept the darker tones at the outer edges. The larger, darker toned, centrally-located owls would balance this. The aqua and pale olive blocks were blaring, so they would selectively leave to make room for the owls. Besides the request had been for a predominantly pink and green quilt and that aqua was squawking. I also downsized to 5x7 blocks instead of 6x8 blocks reducing the pieced top size to roughly 35"x49" from 42"x56". It is still an adequate size for a child and I am considering adding a border to set it off. I thought I had a right fabric to frame it but, after auditioning it, I am not so sure now...

 While I ponder my next conundrum I am linking up to Let's Bee Social #121.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Paisley Owl Nesting

I'd set aside working on the "Pink and Green" quilt for my eagerly anticipated granddaughter for nearly two weeks. I had paused to digest and figure out how I was going to incorporate the feature owl paisley fabric I loved so much. That yardage had been my jumping off point for color selection but it was too pretty to not have larger uncut sections of it somewhere. I wanted it to appear as if the owls were nesting amongst the quilt blocks. My introductory post on this quilt was March 31, 2016. The basic block size was 7¼" and the vertical repeat on the owl was 7½". I initially thought that these dimensions were serendipitously close enough that I would simply substitute out a pieced block for an owl square several places.

This plan seemed adequate but once ¼" seam allowances were taken, I was concerned that the owl might look a bit crowded. What if I shortened the "nine-patch" blocks above and below to be only two rows high and had 11¾" tall owls? Somehow this option seemed disproportionately tall to me and I did not like the partial repeat of an adjacent owl.

There was alway the compromise of removing a row from just one block and having a 9½" tall owl. This looked better height wise and the neighboring owls were not so obvious. But if I centered the block vertically this approach would would entail partial rows of the nine-patch. Partial rows did not appeal.

Then I realized I could offset the owl block vertically and reduce only one nine-patch block by one-third in height. This asymmetrical arrangement also offered me the freedom to put a square-within-a-square block above or below. The outermost strip size of a square-within-a-square block is not a multiple of the basic 2¾" grid of the quilt top so I thought trimming it smaller would look odd. I decided to forge ahead with the vertical offset design, cutting the owl paisley fabric into 7¼" wide by 9½" tall rectangles. Final quilt assembly will need to be by columns rather than rows but I can handle that. An owl rectangle will always need two-thirds of a nine-patch above or below but that is not too restrictive.

My next step is to make a couple more sets of nine-patch and square-in-a-square blocks from other pairings of fat quarters. For now, I am hooking up to Let's Bee Social #120 before heading back to my sewing room.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What Did You Buy?

My daughter Robin, a mother of a 3½ year old girl and an 8 month old boy, is a quilter and seamstress with very limited spare time. She loves to enjoy her craft vicariously through me so even if all I do is buy something, I like to share with her. "OK, Mom. What'd ya buy?" This post is mainly for her but I enjoy when others read along, too.

Today I met with my Hand-Quilter Sweet Sixteen club at the learning center, an annex of The Cotton Patch quilt shop in Lafayette where most of us bought our sit down long arms. We meet every other month and share knowledge and tips about thread, tension, marking tools, quilting speed, gripping methods, bulk management, sliding surfaces, etc. An HQ16 is set up for us to try out designs or methods or just practice. Most fun is that we bring quilts we have quilted and get kudos, or else we bring ones we are about to quilt and get input on what designs to quilt them with. I really admired one of the borders club member Joan showed. I love the way the double stitching that is slightly offset gives the effect of an artsy sketch. She did a single curvy spine in one direction and on the return she repeated the spine and added the doubled leaves and tendrils. I think it is really classy. I need to remember this one – once I am confident enough with my FMQ to use contrasting color thread.

After the morning's club meeting, I often walk from the learning annex across the street to the quilt shop itself "just to look". The Cotton Patch is 30 miles from my home and has the very best selection of flannels around. I needed to replenish my non-novelty flannels to pair with novelty flannel prints for when I am called upon to make more burp cloths.

I picked up half-yards of these six flannels to have on hand. I do limit myself to just one drawer of flannels (Feb 10, 2016 post) and these just squeezed in there. They are folded the way I fold my half-yard pieces: in fourths along the WOF and then in half and then thirds along the 18" length. This sequence gives me 3" high rectangles that are just the height and width for the drawers in my IKEA cabinet. Paired with six half-yards of novelty flannels, I will be able to make a dozen burp cloths. I have a third granddaughter on the way in May so some of those will undoubtedly go to her.

I am a member of the fabric club at The Cotton Patch so I get 20% off all non-sale fabrics and each month a coupon for 25% off a selected item category. This month the category was rotary cutters, mats, and rulers. I used it to buy The Jaybird Quilts Sidekick ruler in two sizes. I have the Hex N More ruler and love it. I am using it on my Whirligig quilt in progress (Feb 17, 2016 post). I am hopeful the Sidekick ruler will be a versatile and useful.

I also bought a book of twenty baby quilts by It's Sew Emma patterns that use fat quarters. I like the ducks and I like the bows. There is an airplane one and a few others in the book that are very appealing but I am not that comfortable with solid white backgrounds, especially for a baby. I will need to play with the color palettes.

I also bought three pink buttons for a crocheted sweater for my granddaughter Autumn in Oklahoma. My daughter phoned yesterday with a cute story about her. Autumn really likes a lilac cardigan with pink trim I crocheted for her and apparently finds excuses to wear it around the house even when it is not particularly chilly (and even though it is marginally too small). She wanted to wear it to day care which her mom discourages due to its hand-made nature. Autumn promised she would wear it there and then leave it in her cubby, which is a suitable compromise. She went running into daycare and bragged to her friends this was the sweater my Grandma made for me! (Jan 16, 2016 post) Of course Grandma needs to make another. I think perhaps pink this time and perhaps with these swirly buttons and definitely a larger size!

On my way home I stopped at a quilt shop in Danville, 20 miles from my house, Wooden Gate Quilts.
There I was looking to fill in some green in my stash that I was low on when I was pulling fabrics for a quilt for my third granddaughter (Mar 31, 2016 post). I picked up  a half-yard of the olive solid and one yard of the ombre stripe. The purple trees/triangles was peeking out of the bargain bin and caught my eye. I caved and bought the one yard remnant, with no clear idea of what I will do with it.

Note that the mottled olive half-yard is folded to fit in my half-yard drawers.

At Wooden Gate Quilts I also got some fat quarters. I think the first one all the way on the left caught my eye because it was like the purple tree/triangle fabric I fished out of the bargain bin. The other four, well, once you get started, ya know, it is hard to stop. They were not selected to coordinate but, laid out like this, I do like the color palette. I just noticed the far right fat quarter goes with that sale yard of purple trees/triangles fabric.

I re-folded these fat quarters as I do all my fat quarters, twice across the half width of the fat quarter; then in half and then thirds along the 18" length. My 3" high rectangles stand in a double rows in my drawers, pretty much by color.

See anything you like, Robin? Just speak up! You know I'll share.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Pack 'n Play Sheet

My two year old granddaughter and my son spent this past weekend with us. The day before they arrived I whipped up a sheet for the Pack 'n Play she was to sleep in during nap and nighttime.

I had bought this fabric on clearance about a year or so ago. It is stinking cute but the colors are a bit "odd", somewhat unique. I did not want to commit to an entire quilt in that color scheme, especially since, as large a scale as the print was, it would have needed to be the focus fabric or a backing. The fabric design is wee woodland by Keiko for Moda, pattern 32340. A sheet is a perfect way to showcase a large scale print while eliminating a color coordinated fabric search.

I made the sheet pillowcase style. It did take more fabric, but that way it was real quick with no casings or elastic needed. I've made crib sheets with elastic in my posts for September 9, 2015 and September 16, 2015 and they take less fabric but more time. The mattress for my particular Pack 'n Play measured 38½" x 27" when flat. By running the width of fabric the longer dimension and wrapping it around the top and bottom along the straight of grain I just had two side seams and a hem. I had 2 yards and 6" so I cut off 18" and saved that half-yard for the future. Doubled over lengthwise and with a 1½" hem at either end the sheet measured 30" finished in one dimension, enough to have a 3" overhang, sufficient to wrap and tuck underneath the mattress during use. Creating that hem was quick and easy. While the fabric was still flat (no side seams yet) I ran a stitch ½" from each raw edge using the needle plate marking on my Pfaff. I then turned it under on the stitching line and up again 1" and pressed in one pass using the Dritz Ezy-Hem® tool. Dritz Thermal Thimbles were handy too since the metal hem gauge does heat up. I did not stitch the hem in place until the side seams were in.

I did not feel the need for French seams along the sides. I simply left the selvages in place and made two very generous side seams. For my width of fabric, 2" seams gave a snug fit. In the next photo, the stitching line of the seam runs to the left of the selvage edge through the middle of the bunny's tummy and through the central stem of the brown leaf branch. I pressed each of those seams to the same side before turning up and stitching the previously pressed hem edge. The mattress folds into four sections, so sliding it into the pillowcase/sheet is not a problem. I slid it in a somewhat folded configuration and then flattened it out for a snug fit. There was no cause for worry about baby safety due to bunching up. The sheet remained smooth; it did not scrumple up.

In this next photo the top edge is continuous wrapped fabric and has no seam, the sides have the 2" selvage edge seams, and the bottom edge has the 1½" hems tucked beneath the mattress by about 3". The tucked under edges did wrinkle a bit at the very crevice but the sheet on the whole stayed pretty taut.

Not all sleeping occurred in the Pack 'n Play this past weekend, but the sleep that did, was peaceful.

Linking up with Let's Bee Social #119.