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.