Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Perspective of a Quilter

The past two months in our household have been stressful due to the holidays, houseguests, medical emergencies, a car collision, and torrential unrelenting rains, but I try hard to keeping my sewing alive despite distractions like these because sewing is calming to me. It is my yoga. Obviously, though, the sewing cannot be anything too strenuous right now. My random dabbling in the last week or so covers the unrelated topics of sleeves, sheets, classes, and the perspective of a quilter.

I prepped the sleeve to add to a quilt I am entering in an my quilt guild's April show. Obviously this was too strenuous. I cut it too short and am going to have to piece it longer. Aargh. At least I discovered the shortfall before attaching it. And I got to enjoy the zing of the whimsical spotted orange fabric.

Not very exciting but at least productive, I seamed the two bottom corners of the flat sheet from a set so the foot end does not keep coming loose from under the mattress. This also helps me know which is the bottom edge and which are the side edges when I change the sheets. Two seams was apparently the correct level of difficulty in my present state of mind because I did not mess it up. If I did, I thankfully have not noticed it yet.

I started and completed an entire Craftsy class. This is great, as watching half of my Craftsy classes is one of my 2017 quilting goals. The Angela Walters class was a real keeper. It was mesmerizing to watch the designs being stitched but, even better than how to do them (practice, practice, practice is always the answer) she discussed and illustrated when to do them. Her examples of sampler quilts, appliquéd quilts, small block versus big block quilts, medallion quilts, etc. were great thought-provokers. I think this is the first time I have finished a Craftsy class in its entirety. I highly recommend it.

The weather has been gloomy of late with all the rains. To brighten the household a couple days ago at the grocery store I bought an 8-stem bunch of bright, cheery, orange tulips. I brought them home and set them in a tall vase of water and was thrilled that the next day they had all straightened upright and were opening up. The third morning I came downstairs and was aghast that they had sucked up all the water and were sadly drooped over. I felt so guilty that I had not been paying enough attention to add water sooner. To recover that blast of color, I cut the stems short, removed any leaves competing for water, and inserted each stem through a fat straw to see if I could revive the tulip blooms. It worked and they continued to open up. Aren't they gorgeous?

Each bloom was opening far wider than I had ever hoped for.

Two days later they were broader, strikingly vivid, and still going strong. They reminded me of something I could not quite put my finger on. Then it hit me. Those tulips looked very much like some fabric I had in my stash. I rushed to dig it out.

This is a border print by Valori Wells titled Isabella. Granted the flowers on the fabric are poppies, not tulips, but that does not stop me from enjoying both fabric and flower and associating them with each other.

I also have two yards of a coordinating floral that is very striking as well. Each bloom is about 3" - 4" across. Now I am excited that I resurrected these pieces and want to make something out of them.

It then occurred to me I really must have the perspective of a quilter. In my brain the flower imitated the fabric, not that the fabric was inspired by the flower. I sure hope Mother Nature does not get mad at me for not giving her full credit. I do not know how much more rain I can take! For right this moment, the sun has come out today (not tomorrow as that Annie song tells us) so perhaps Mother Nature is OK with me. Now I will zot on over to Let's Bee Social #161 and luxuriate in all the luscious colors of the rainbow reindeer romping there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Y-Seams? – Y, Certainly!

The previous time I touched this quilt was almost a year ago, last February. I have a 2017 goal to complete it by April 2017 so I resurrected it. The original American Jane Pattern Flying Circles by Sandy Klop (AJP294) finishes at 72" x 90". I originally intended for this quilt to hang on a 45° angled wall in the corner of my living room, reaching up to a vaulted ceiling. After pondering it for a while I concluded that the wall aspect ratio was too narrow and tall to do justice to this quilt because I would have to truncate the quilt a fair amount in one dimension to fit. I would be able to get only three hexagons across in width oriented point to point. The wall was also narrow enough that it fell short of fitting four hexagons in width, oriented flat to flat. I decided I would make this quilt for the couch instead, keeping it an odd number of hexagons wide and a manageable length to be used and folded easily. After shooting a cell phone image of the pattern cover and inserting it into PowerPoint, I decided on aiming for 60" wide by 75" long dimensions. By making the quilt at least five hexagons in the narrower dimension, I would be able to capture the secondary patterns that emerge. Three hexagons would have barely done that.

With some cut and paste to capture the neat zig zag border, I now had an idea of where I was heading.

I counted those hexagons many, many times and kept getting a different total. I made myself this chart to help me count them repeatably, know how many triangles to make, and check them off as I worked. The top in grey is for the neutral grey hexagons/triangles. The bottom in red is for the colored hexagons/triangles.

In past posts about this quilt, my topic focused on color selection and placement. My post from January 23, 2016 is when I first started on this project. It illustrates how one shape can make this intricate tessellated pattern.
This post from February 4, 2016 shows me playing with some color combinations
Here it is, nearly one year later, having renewed interest and a focused goal, I wanted to motivate myself with evidence of forward progress. As a strategy, I chose to concentrate first on some neutral grey tone hexagons to get down the rhythm of a Y-seam technique. This post will address some details of construction. My design wall started out looking this way when I resumed working on this quilt. I like that the white-bladed pinwheels all turn counter-clockwise and the dark-bladed pinwheels all turn clockwise. That was a challenge that kept me on my toes during assembly!

A trio of squatty triangles join at a central Y-seam to form an equilateral triangle. I am getting very, very skilled at these Y-seams. They are not hard but they are time-consuming. A registration dot must be marked at the top corner of at least two of the three squatty triangles, generally the lighter colored ones, and that is the starting point of each seam. These are the white pieces in the upper left. After sewing two pieces together (1st seam), one squatty triangle needs to be folded back to add the third squatty triangle (2nd seam). These are the pieces in the lower right. The plaid triangle has been folded  back in order to add the second white triangle shown offset immediately below.

I sew my quarter in seam along the right edge starting at the dot. Because the seam must start at the dot and not at the edge, the pressure foot must be lifted each time. The process is only quasi-chain piecing and so goes a bit slower. I also learned it is best to have the needle stop in the up position, not the normal approach to chain piecing. Seams are best sewed from the center (where the dot is) to the outer edge. At the bottom portion of the photo is the next set ready to be aligned and then run through under the pressure foot

For the third seam, if I wanted the side with the registration marking side facing up, I would need to sew from the outer edge in toward the center and stop at the dot. Then I had this brilliant revelation. Well, only sort of brilliant because it is obvious now, but this novel idea had never occurred to me before. I could actually sew a quarter inch from the LEFT edge and begin at that central dot. The quarter inch foot really does work that way too! I tried it and guess what? I could use the left side of the quarter inch foot is just as easily and as accurately as the right. I am not ambidextrous and I learned that being right handed and having many years of ingrained sewing habit did not hamper this ability all. I'd always defaulted to putting the smaller width of fabric through the throat of the machine but for small size piecing that is not necessary. This flexibility frees me up to always mark the lighter fabric and let it be on top.

After that third seam. I trimmed the six triangle dog ears by lining them all up and making one slice. I think in a previous post I had tried using a turntable to zip off each corner but I changed my mind and found this method to be more efficient. I did not use the turntable at all.

Pressing the equilateral triangle formed by the three squatty triangle was kind of magical as long as I was consistent. First I would set each seam. Then I would snug the tip of the iron into the center and press upward on only the seam. I was careful to avoid wandering across the seam line and crumpling the seam allowance beyond that center point.

When I flipped it over, I could flare open the central region so that it kind of twirls around and I got this cute mini rosette where the three seams join. I squashed this flat with the tip of the iron and then gave a finishing swipe on the right side again.

Six of these equilateral triangles now can be joined with straight seams to form a hexagon, two halves of a hexagon only at this point. It is such a feeling of satisfaction, a real aha moment to see these seams all lie in one direction and those three cute rosettes at the Y-seam junctures. OK, I will admit, you do need to be a certain type of quilter for this to give you a nirvana moment.

By pressing the six radial seams all in one direction the bulk in the center will be minimized in the final joining of rows.

These points all come together nicely and make me proud. I am almost reluctant to cover up their intersections by following the pattern suggestion of appliquéing circles in the center. I probably will though, since I think they will add a bit of pizazz.

Oh, well, when I get to the tri-color hexagons that are coming up next, I will be able to enjoy and display perfectly aligned points on them. I hope. It is just about time to start those colored hexagons. I have just one more dark bladed pinwheel and two more partial dark greys to finish at the bottom border. Here is my design wall status upon writing this post. Before I get back to sewing, I am linking up to Let's Bee Social #159.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Quilting Goals

I never make New Year's resolutions. If I did they would be the like those of much of the population
   • lose weight
   • declutter
   • exercise more
   • socialize more

Evaluating these resolutions is often demoralizing twelve months later when
   • my weight has not changed by much (if it did, it came right back)
   • I'd still find it hard to throw out things I love (or did love at one time or another)
   • my preferences would still be that I'd much rather quilt/read/sew/knit than exercise
   • socializing is still an effort for an introverted person who is not energized by a crowd

However, I do set quilting goals and I try to make them SMART
   • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
   • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
   • Attainable – assuring that an end can be achieved.
   • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
   • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

I'd much rather post quilting goals that are quite parallel in concept to New Years resolutions but are much more likely to be achieved because they are something I want to do rather than feel obligated I should do. I liked my four focus areas from 2016 and so I have tweaked them here for 2017.

Reductions (like losing fabric weight from my stash)
   • At last count I have ten purchased kits waiting in the wings. Complete four of them.
   • Another kit purchase is permitted only for every two completed.
   • Continue to implement a method for scrap management, organization, and usage
   • Buy tools or threads instead of fabric
   • Take only technique oriented classes. Success is learning the technique not completing a class project.

Completions (like decluttering those UFOs & USOs -  unfinished & unstarted objects)
   • Complete quilt begun from the Sandy Klop Flying Circles pattern by April
   • Piece, FMQ, and bind Who Says Woof quilt by Christmas
   • Assemble and FMQ Mask Quilt and bind by Halloween
   • Make one mandala wall hanging
   • Complete anything new I start within six months of beginning it.

Skill-building (like exercising more)
   • View at least half of purchased Craftsy classes (new goal)
   • Practice with my new featherweight Fiona by taking it to one class or visit
   • Make one quilt top or wall hanging with curved piecing OR appliqué OR paper piecing
   • Practice my FMQ skills by quilting at least three community outreach quilts

Reflection/Networking (blog and internet socializing)
   • Enter at least four quilts in my guild's show this year
   • Publish a blog post once a week on average or at least 50x/year
   • Take time 1x/week to comment on other quilters blog posts - not just read them
   • Share items at guild meetings and at Handi-Quilter club meetings 3x/year
   • Keep a running draft of my 2017 in Review post as I complete items
   • Remember to add labels to blog posts so I can find them more easily
   • Generate at least one blog-to-print hardcover book

Now I will publicly share these goals at Let's Bee Social #158 so my quilting network friends can keep me honest.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 in Review

Here are my accomplishments for 2016, followed by pictures and headings only. Details are in my past posts as indicated by a clickable completion date after each name. My own assessment of how well I met my 2016 goals is at the end.

2016 Completions:

4 quilts + 7 doll quilts
6 crocheted or knitted items
6 home decor items
22 burp cloths
3 crib sheets/covers
4 miscellaneous sewing items


Nestling Owls for Lillian 39" x 52" (May 11, 2016)

Overlapping Squares 48" x 48" (June 8, 2016)

Orange and Grey 40" x 50" (August 10, 2016)

7 Doll Quilts for Autumn and Vivian (December 14, 2016)

Vineyard Furrows 16" x 20" for AVQ guild challenge (December 31, 2016)


One crochet cardigan for Autumn (January 13, 2016)

One circular knitted blanket for Lillian (March 21, 2016)

One baseball jacket for Isaiah (May 8, 2016)

Second crocheted cardigan for Autumn (October 19, 2016)

Knitted vintage Christmas stocking for Lilian (November 29, 2016)

One circular blanket for Isaiah (December 17, 2016)


Set of five barstool covers for Dan and Carrie (February 2, 2016)

Pair of Bathing Beauty pillowcases (June 29, 2016)

Pair of Seaside Pillowcases (August 17, 2016)

Pair of window seat cushions (November 23, 2016)

Completion of two pair Master Bedroom Curtains (12/21/16)

Bunny Pillow for Alex (December 25, 2016)


Pack 'n Play Sheet for Vivian, Isaiah, Lillian (April 6, 2016)

Cars changing pad cover for Isaiah (May 4, 2016)

Doggies changing pad cover for Isaiah (May 4, 2016)


Eight burp cloths for James and Hillary (February 10, 2016)

Six elephant burp cloths for Emily(March 25, 2016)

Four pennant party burp cloths for Lillian (June 15, 2016)

Four Spring Turtle burp cloths for Lillian (June 23, 2016)


One Lil Red doll set for Autumn and one for Vivian (March 8, 2016)

Microscope Cover for Frank (June 14, 2016)

Cloth Book - My Book (June 21, 2016)


My quilting/sewing/knitting goals for 2016, repeated in condensed form below, were set and elaborated in my post for January 2, 2016. In retrospect they seem somewhat lofty and wordy although I do like the four main areas of Completions, Reductions, Skill-building, and Reflection/Networking. I did not do too badly on Completion and Reduction goals. The Skill-building goal seems to be the one that would help me grow most as a quilter, but it is the one at which I was least successful. It is a goal definitely worth keeping. My Reflection/Networking habits appear to be pretty well established. I failed miserable on the last bullet of Reflection/Networking, one newly added, but I did buy a quilt themed weekly planner. I gained the self-knowledge that daily notations are not my style and not where I want to devote my effort. My blog posts are sufficient for reflecting and networking. The pictures in the planner were gorgeous and inspiring though, so the planner purchase/goal was not a total loss.  :•)

Completions - grade B: 4½ out of 6 - not bad since I did other things
• Overlapping Squares 
• Orange and Grey aka Poppy Bella Bird 
• Master bedroom curtains 
• Five barstool covers 
• Piece, FMQ, and bind Who Says Woof quilt  half-√,  still in progress
• Assemble and FMQ Mask Quilt and bind - remained a UFO, has been since 2011

Reductions - grade B+:  fabric and class curtailing was moderately successful  
• Organized scrap yarn stash - donated full skeins to guild quilt show  
• Limited impulse kit purchases to three (overshot goal of two) half-
• Organize my purchased patterns  
• Began to implement a method for scrap management, organization, and usage half-
• Buy tools or threads instead of fabric
• Took only classes that were technique oriented

Skill-building - grade D: met only 1 out of 5, so obviously needs work
• Practice with my new featherweight Fiona by taking it to one class or visit
• Make one quilt top or wall hanging with curved piecing
• Make one quilt top or wall hanging with appliqué
• Make one mandala wall hanging or equivalent to practice paper piecing
• Practice my FMQ skills by quilting at least three community outreach quilts  

Reflection/Networking - grade A: after deciding to drop the final goal 
• Publish a blog post once a week on average or at least 50x/year  
• Take time 1x/week to comment on other quilters blog posts - not just read them  
• Share items at guild meetings and at Handi-Quilter club meetings 3x/year  
• Keep a running draft of my 2016 in Review post as I complete items  
• Remember to add labels to blog posts so I can find them more easily  
• Generate at least one blog-to-print hardcover book  
• Spend at least 10 minutes/day in sewing room 6x/week; put brief thoughts in notebook

I plan to reword and simplify these goals for 2017.