Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Out of the Blue

"Out of the blue" is defined in Wikipedia as "an idiom that describes an event that occurs unexpectedly". I'd bought this kit of Kaffe Fasset fabrics to expose myself to combining them in a way that was out side my comfort zone. My post on its assembly and my reluctant, but dogged, forging ahead was posted on April 20th. I am just now getting to FMQing it three and a half months later. The quilting went very well much to my surprise with myself. I have titled the quilt "Out of the Blue" because unexpectedly, I really like how this quilt turned out. It was an experiment and my goal was to learn but not to necessarily like the results. Even my novice attempts at the FMQ worked out well for me. I did not do it alone, I did have lots of guidance along the way.

Initially I tried to pre-plan what I would do in each section of the quilt but fairly quickly abandoned that idea as it got too complicated for me to draw and remember. I did however know I wanted to preserve the medallion aspect of the quilt. I decide to wing it and make it up as I went.

My inspiration of how to quilt to quilt the myriad of triangles was drawn from Angela Walters' Midnight Quilt Show episode titled A Wallflower Quilt Giveaway + Tips for Continuous Curve Quilting. The four arcs within a right triangle (beige in the following photo) were easy enough for me to accomplish and I thought they were very effective in forming a central petal or leaf. I just needed to decide in which triangles to repeat that shape. I let the fabric dictate my choices.

Here is my version, replicated twice, in two khaki right triangles that were right next to each other. I liked how adjacent arcs formed an additional "petal" of sorts

Repeating that pattern four times in the very middle of the quilt resulted in a blossom pattern, not too fancy, but anchoring the center without calling too much attention to itself. I preferred the blue toned fabrics so was content to let the khaki and chintz green take a back seat with those simplistic arc shapes. Here I previewed and practiced my pattern with dry erase marker on plastic sheet protectors.

In her Midnight Quilt Show episode, Angela Walters also advised to shake up those arc shapes a bit. She suggested serpentines but I like spirals instead. So went with curlicues in some of the richer toned floral prints. In the deep purple/ burgundy print I did two spirals, kind of like vine tendrils, and still flanked by two peripheral arcs.

In the aqua larger scale floral print I put only one larger spiral with more revolutions and in keeping with the size of the flowers.

In the geometric pebble print on the corners I reverted to the simple four arc pattern like I did in the khaki. Although it seems to be an obvious choice, I avoided doing pebbles. I am horrible at them and my pebbles look like scribbles instead of a collection of mellow O's. I once spent 16+ hours removing pebbles from the corner stones of a quilt for my son. See my 5/14/2014 post. I am generally bad at any patterns that require a lot of back-tracking so I avoid them.

To remember what went where in the four corners of the quilt, I inserted paper in my practice overlays and posted them on the wall by my machine.

The quilt corners turned out like this.

Notice the parallel straight lines in the speckled fabric and in the plaid/grid fabric. In my choice of quilting motifs, I was also influenced by the Inbox Jaunt blog by Lori Kennedy. Lori Kennedy advised placing straight stitching lines next to curvy ones for contrast. Her post shows an example.

I added parallel straight lines to my repertoire. They were a bit time consuming since I put them ¼" apart or a tad closer and my shoulders got a bit sore from the intense repetitive motion. But the effect was worth it and I suspect with FMQ experience also comes relaxation of posture.

Even though I treated most of the triangles individually there was a sequence of triangles in a large scale floral print with big royal blues leaves and vibrant pink Peony-like flowers that formed a band within the central portion of quilt top. See photo near the beginning of this post. It had truly bothered me to cut up that gorgeous fabric so, in the FMQing of this top I wanted to treat the continuous region of those fabric triangles as a unit. I decided to have a quilted feather decorating that band rather than an all over filler. I like feathers that require no back-tracking, and so I refer to the book Hooked on Feathers by Sally Terry. You can see my first foray into feathers in my post for June 13, 2015 my post for June 13, 2015 where I used Sally Terry's feather method on a strip quilt. In the following photo I have her book open to a page to remind me of the feather sequence. The band where I am quilting feathers is under the hopper foot.

To create a curvy spine for my feathers I used a semi-circle ruler, flipping its orientation when negotiating bends and rounding corners.

How did I choose my thread color for the quilt stitching? At first I thought I wanted royal blue, since the quilt is shades of blue and my favorite fabric was the one with the bold pink peonies nestled among the two-tone leaves of royal blue and aqua. I considered matching the backing, which is a rich purple. By the way, I was also happy that I was able to match the seam on the backing so well. Can you find it?

I lay the royal blue and purple thread colors, on the front and also considered a pale celery color that would go well with the khaki. For my previous quilt, Storybook Charm (7/5/2017 post), I used a taupe thread on a white background. The taupe did show up strongly, and my stitching was highly visible, but I thought I would prefer light thread on a dark background this time around and let the prints sing for themselves.

I again was also influenced by Angela Walters' thread selection in the Wallflower Quilt from the Midnight Quilt Show episode I cited earlier. I like that she does do examples of quilting on prints and not on solids only. I considered both of these similar toned thread color options and chose the more green, less blue, option on the left because I thought it blended better with the interspersed khaki tone. My backup if I ran out of thread was to switch to the more blue thread for the outermost rounds of the quilt. In fact, I considered switching thread colors as I moved outward in the medallion-style top, but reasoned that would be a fair amount of trouble for very little gain. Did I really want to have all those partially filled bobbins left?

That reminds me of something else for which I was grateful. I have a sit down Handi Quilter and so I do not load the quilt and proceed from one edge to the opposite edge. I have the freedom to work around the quilt rather than back and forth allowing me to decide concentric band variations as I proceeded toward the outer edges.

On the outer edges I decided to repeat a feather motif as I had done in the peony band. As I was working my way along one edge, I was not pleased with the proportion of my feathers. They were not quite plump enough for my taste and I was not quite sure how to improve them. But I have convinced myself I am not going to get better at my FMQ by spending my time picking out stitches. My new policy, reinforced by many of the FMQ professionals, is to rip out only if absolutely necessary.

Instead I decided to mix it up a bit and do spirals on two of the other edges. I liked the spirals better but actually enjoy the presence of the feathers as well.

Feathers and spirals together break up the monotony of the stitching process as well as providing variety along the edge of resulting product. Purely by chance, I discovered they are quite similar and tend to complement each other.

All that is left to do is to trim the edges, make and stitch on the binding, attach a label, and add a hanging sleeve. Once finished, I will post the photo of the completed quilt in its entirety. For now I will link up with Let's Bee Social #190.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Pause vs. Produce

Sometimes we are so busy doing, we do not take time to reflect on what we have done. My previous post was July 5th, nearly a month ago and the day before I left for travel to see my daughter's family in Oklahoma and my sister's family in North Carolina. I was surprised to note I had been away from quilt blogging that long. I was initially dismayed that I had been unproductive for that period of time, especially when I sat down to write this post. All I could claim was that my sewing room had stayed tidy through disuse. I had nothing to say. Or did I?

I had not taken any handwork with me on travel, realizing I would be more focused on the kids while visiting. But, while away, I did reflect on projects I had completed. This post is not so much about what I (and others) have done, as it is about how those projects once gifted, have lived on. It was gratifying to see how many projects had not faded into oblivion but were in active use. I have often professed that quilting is about the process, not the product; but it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to see the product appreciated as well. If you are looking for creative inspiration or instructional tutorials from this post, read no further. If you want allow yourself to bask in the belief that what you create has an afterlife, then please read on and see these examples.

I enjoyed seeing my oldest granddaughter, four-year-old Autumn,  playing with the mermaid doll and accessories (May 23, 2017 post) I brought out to her.

I also recalled that three-year-old Vivian, my second oldest granddaughter, had taken her Lil Red Doll (March 8, 2016 post)  with her to a Sleeping Beauty stage show several months ago.

While I was away, it was cool to get a text from my son showing how Vivian and had set up two mermaid dolls for herself and her little sister Lillian. I made me feel that making three sets of them had really been worth it.

My daughter, my granddaughter, my sister, and I had a girls' night out where we went to see a Disney show, titled When You Wish, having its pre-Broadway debut in Oklahoma City. Autumn wore a My Little Pony dress made by her mom. It is gratifying to see the sewing gene is being passed on.

My sister brought with her from North Carolina a sweater our mother had knitted for my sister's oldest son. Glenn is about to turn 48 so this sweater is over four decades old. It had been worn by my sister's three sons, by her grandson, by my two sons, and now by my two-year-old grandson, Isaiah, who is the younger of my mother's two great grandsons. Now that's longevity.

Making is not restricted to cloth and yarn goods. Here is my husband Frank assembling a Spider-Man Desk for two-year old Isaiah, a true fan of the Marvel Comics hero.

Isaiah was very excited to see it and he put it to immediate use.

Seeing how into Spider-Man Isaiah was, I purchased some fabrics to make him crib sheets. I just started yesterday and here are the three prints I picked, two for crib sheets and one for a changing table pad or pillowcase. So far I have made a crib sheet of the bottom-most red fabric. I am confident the sheets will get loved and used! They will be replacing the dinosaur themed ones (June 22, 2016 post) that are fading into the past (much like Puff the Magic Dragon). Triceratops and Brontosaurus, move over for Marvel Comic heroes.

While visiting I got the opportunity to look through some quilt book and patterns with my daughter. Just spending time together like that is rewarding. I did a bit of quilt-related reading. I was bemused by That Dorky Homemade Look by Lisa Boyer, and my sister was, also. It is a humorous tongue in cheek collection of essays reminding us all to not be so serious and critical about our hobby.

A quick look at the Table of Contents gives an idea about the fun topics.

While visiting my nephew in North Carolina I caught a peek of my sister sleeping under this quilt, made for her son in 2007. The red/white/black color scheme was chosen by him based on his college Alma Mater. The pattern was of stack and whack vintage. 

So I hope your takeaways from this post are not feelings of inspiration or education, but rather an over-abiding sense of jubilation and appreciation. Reflect on items you have made. Take joy in the knowledge that many of those items you've dispersed to a good home are loved, be they a spectacular work of art, or a dorky homemade item. To quote Lisa Boyer about the dorky ones: 

The most important aspect to remember about dorky-homemade quilt making is that once you have put your last stitch in the binding, you are still only half-finished. The quilt must now under go a thorough conditioning. Give it to someone you love dearly. They must drag it around the house, wrap themselves up in it when they have a fever, spill something brown on it, and occasionally let Woofie lay on it. 

This trip, I got to see items I've made being used. It was great! Productivity? Hmm ... Why was that so important, again? I will delay being productive a bit longer while I link up with Sew Fresh Quilts' Let's Bee Social #188. It is a pretty sure thing that I will find inspiration and education there in addition to jubilation and appreciation.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Storybook Charm FMQ and Completion

I had assembled this quilt top rather quickly from charm packs and posted about it in my 5/31/17 post. Here are four representative blocks of the sixteen total.

Then I let the top sit and ripen because I could not decide how to quilt it. Since I had not invested a lot of time in the top assembly out of charm packs, I was willing to experiment with the FMQ and focus on the quilting being a learning experience. I established some guidelines for myself.

  • I thought the quilt had too much white so I decided to quilt it in non-white thread. This is a risk because any awful quilting will show up more. But a professional long armer once challenged me with the question, "How can you ever get better if you cannot see what you are doing?"
  • I wanted to call attention to the print blocks since the storybook images were so cute.  I would quilt those minimally, hoping they would pop out as the more heavily quilted white background receded. That was the theory, anyway. My approach was to constrain the quilting of those sqaures to around their edges.
  • I was going to try to decide my quilting pattern as I went. I would "wing" it . This tactic would lead to more traveling and stitching back over where I'd been, but I did find this approach was a bit liberating.
  • I would try to correct "errors" by further quilting. It is fairly easy to change a plan when you do not really have one.
  • I would rip out only if absolutely necessary. After all, I wanted to get better at quilting and not better at ripping out, so better I invest my time in the quilting part of it.

First I did an orange peel style continuous quilting line along the edges of the print squares, leaving the white ones blank to be filled in later with central quilting. Since the white squares were untouched, the grouping of six rectangles from the white and print half-squares formed a wavy pattern.

I decide to play that up with some parallel wavy lines. I did some previews – just a few – on plastic sheet protectors to decide the spacing. I hesitated to get too densely quilted so soon into the project, but the ½" spacing really looked more to scale and better than the wider 1".

I kept my guideline of not quilting the orange peel pattern in the white half-squares but the disjointed appearance was jarring in the white half-widths and disrupted the flow I had going. Perhaps I would pick out those half arcs later. I stitched them in only a few places before deciding I did not like them.

You can see the orange peel pattern only in the print squares and the wavy effect I quilted in the half-square rectangles. I was a bit wobbly initially but I gradually got  better the more lines I did.

The small neon pink donut on the hopping foot is the Handi Quilter 1/2" echo foot accessory I used for the spacing on those parallel wavy lines.

As I did more of those parallel waves I wished I'd thought more about how to terminate them instead of abruptly squaring them off. But when you do not plan, you get what you get. I was leaving how to do the white squares for a later decision.

Staring at those wavy lines for a bit reminded me of gusts of wind. The prints from the Storybook charm pack were sky related: laundry drying on a clothesline, hot air balloons, clouds, and mini-airplanes. The sky and wind theme gave me the idea of putting wind swirls at the end of those streamlines of air. There was a stitching line across on the seam line that stopped the unfettered flow but I chose to stay with my guideline of not ripping out. Perhaps one night, when the quilt is finished, and I am watching TV, I might pick at it, but not for now. Had the thread been white, removal would have not been called so much into question. 

I was determined to forge ahead and not rip out. In one case I had connected the spiral to the wavy lines incorrectly (left image, below). I pseudo-corrected by strategically adding more spirals in the right image. Now the air streams appear to join up. But look carefully. It is not quite true.

It is like an Escher illusion of the staircase that never ends, also discussed in the Wikipedia article as the Penrose Stairs.

There were white squares that had no connectivity to an airstream. In these I doubled the orange peel pattern but softened it with a central spiral so that swirly feeling continued. That spiral, depending on the number of turns I gave it allowed me to travel from corner to corner as I needed to. 

Did you catch me? That bottom left white square was adjacent to a wavy line block and so should have been connected. But my rule was to not rip out! Besides, it is at the edge of the quilt and the wavy block the full white one is next to is technically only half a wavy block. Those two facts are my rationale for leaving it. The half-block may very well be the reason I messed up made that design decision in the first place. 

There was one goof I really did have to take apart. I accidentally caught my backing folded over under the batting and so caught it in the orange peel and central spiral stitching. (Nobody has ever done that, right?) When I noticed it, I was kind of hoping it was the same white square that should have been a swirl from an airstream. No such luck. Even from the back you can see it was beside a set of wavy lines and not at the end of them. This error required undoing and so did not break my rule of no unnecessary ripping out.

Here is my backing and binding. I just happened on the Cotton and Steel fabric for half price in a clearance bin last month and thought it would be perfect. I blogged about backing choices in my post for 6/7/17. I like that the non-rigid grid adds to the whimsy. The taupe tone was a key inspiration for my thread choice.

Here is the completed quilt. I am pleased I was brave to use a contrasting thread color and was not hampered – well, not too much – by analysis paralysis for the quilting pattern. My original focus was to have the printed squares pop and the white recede. I was not very successful with that goal, but I was successful in my more desirable goal of learning a lot and increasing my confidence to just go for it. I do not intend to invest time in a fancy label. I'll just use a fine line fabric marker to write the year 2017, the quilt name Storybook Charm, and my name in some yet to be determined location.

A closeup reveals a few glitches but overall I am pleased. The saying is not to worry about it if a mistake cannot be noticed by someone whizzing by on a galloping horse. In my case that horse had better be a Kentucky Derby winner with a myopic jockey.

Linking up now with Let's Bee Social #184.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My DL2Q Blog Books – Volumes 6, 7, and 8

My Volume 8 blog book for DianeLoves2Quilt arrived the day before yesterday. I am always excited when these show up in the mail. So far they have always come earlier than the promised date. When I went to publish a post about Volume 8, I realized I had missed writing about my previous two blog books, Volumes 6 and Volume 7. Combined in this post is a look at the Covers, Dedications, and Tables of Contents of these three volumes. Capturing my blogging efforts in books like these gives me a satisfying sense of accomplishment for both my crafting and my writing projects. I intentionally do not select uniform covers in case the publisher discontinues whatever I happened to choose. Besides, I love the array of colors as the volumes sit next to each other on my shelf.

Volume 6:  Jul 1, 2015 - Dec 31, 2015

My grandson Isaiah's quilt, Bugs 'R Us, is on the front cover and its post was dated 7/15/15. The count for the knitted vintage Christmas stockings hit double figures and those ten are shown on the back cover. A post about them is dated 12/28/15. I created this book in May 2016.

The Dedication for Volume 6 reads

The second half of 2015 saw the arrival of Isaiah on July 16, 2015. With three grandkids, many projects are baby-centric; but there are some home decor projects, knitted items, and even one ribbon-winning quilt. Another family addition (to my sewing room) was a refurbished 1952 Singer Featherweight sewing machine.
– Diane I. Chambers

Here is the Table of Contents for Volume 6

Volume 7: Jan 1, 2016 - Aug10, 2016
My third granddaughter Lillian's quilt, Nestling Owls, is displayed on the front cover. The post for its completion was dated 5/11/16. My blog entry for Overlapping Squares, the quilt on the back cover, was posted 6/8/16, and was my focus on ruler work to quilt the circles with my sit down longarm. I created this book in December of 2016.

The Dedication for Volume 7 reads

My fourth grandchild, Lillian was born May 11, 2016. Hers is the cover quilt. Volume 7 contains a variety of kids' projects, many knitted or crocheted besides sewn. This volume also features my growth in bravery with free motion quilting using my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen.
– Diane I. Chambers

Here is the Table of Contents for Volume 7

Volume 8: Aug 11, 2016 -May 30, 2017

My blog entry for the front cover photo of our master bedroom was posted 12/21/16. My blog entry for the dolls on the back cover was posted 5/20/17. I generated this book in June 2017.

The Dedication for Volume 8 reads

In DL2Q Volume 8 you will find curtains & cushions for our master bedroom redecorating, dolls & pillows for the kids & grandkids, plus burp cloths for babies of friends. Progress on a challenging hexagonal quilt is here, plus purchases & winnings from craft & quilt shows. A bit of knitting & crocheting is tucked in, too.
– Diane I. Chambers

Here is the Table of Contents for Volume 8


The online company I use is Blog2Print and I have been happy with their product. In my post for 4/17/13 I recorded some tips I adhere to when I go through the process of creating these books. One of these tips is to supply enough information in links that they can be looked up since they cannot be "clicked" in the paper copy. Some idiosyncrasies with captions I encountered are addressed in the Volume 3 and 4 post dated 03/18/2015. Also I wait for a sale to order, often as much as 30% off. This month of June 2017 was particularly worthwhile for large books – $.25 off for each additional page.

Links to my previous volumes can be found at
       DL2Q Volume 5       posted  12/16/2015
       DL2Q Volume 4       posted  03/18/2015
       DL2Q Volume 3       posted  03/18/2015
       DL2Q Volume 2       posted  04/14/2014
       DL2Q Volume 1       posted  04/17/2013

I am sharing this post with my online friends at Let's Bee Social #183