Monday, December 30, 2013

Celtic Solstice Update and Christmas Projects

Hope you all had a marvelous Christmas!  We had a house full with lots of love, laughter, wrapping paper all over the place and food, too!

Getting ready for Christmas certainly curtailed my stitching on Celtic Solstice, though I have made some of each of the clues.

I also had to prep 110 angels for my 2 and 3 year old classes. Here is the "grown-up" version I did for my own tree.
For the kids, a sparkly star sticker and chenille wire halo were used.  they attached a white cupcake paper for the wings.  On mine I used copper wire for the halo, painted a wooden star with copper metallic paint and used a heart shaped lace doily for the wings.
Then there were the "Jingle" pillows I needed to make.  They are Pottery Barn knockoffs.  I made red for the family room.

Blue for the foyer.
The other pillows were made other years.
We just needed a "Believe" pillow to join the Silent Night and Holy Night pillows in the Living room.
I will admit the "Believe" pillow did not get completed until the day AFTER Christmas.
And Miss Summer just had to have a tutu for Christmas.
So that's why my Celtic Solstice clues are barely started!  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  Here is where I am on Clue 1.
A lot cut and quite a few stitched -- but not done!
And Clue 2?
There are actually a few more than this done now, but they were not when I took photos.
Clue 3?
Ditto.  A few more are done than when the photo was taken.
Clue 4?
I actually have quite a few more of these done now.  Love making 4-patch blocks.
And Clue 5?
I think I have about 20 of these done now and more cut and ready to go.
So, I am really behind, but hope to catch up this week with New Year's Day off work!
A 3-ring binder helps keep the instructions in order.
The yellow post-it notes help me find the page I need quickly to check numbers or pieces to cut or units to make of each clue.
It is a lot of fun and I can't wait for the reveal when we get to know exactly how all these units will be joined into the quilt.  This is a challenge for me as I like to know where I am going on a quilt.  Hope you are having as much fun with this if you are doing Bonnie Hunter's  Celtic Solstice Mystery.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy and productive 2014!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

On The Design Wall Now

Hope you all had an excellent Thanksgiving!  We had a house full.  Our number for holidays is always somewhere around 20 with 22 being the minimum.  Sometimes our grand kids bring friends and sometimes our children's in-laws come so it varies from holiday to holiday, but it is always a lot of fun!

Not much went on in the studio most of the week, but I had pulled out a really old UFO after the Vines and Stars came down off the design wall.  I cannot stand for it to be empty!  The UFO began a very long time ago when several of us decided to make a charm quilt.  A charm quilt, if you are not familiar with the term is a quilt that contains only 1 template piece, but repeated in 1,000 different fabrics.  Jo, Joan, Lorinda and Bonnie, remember those days?

We exchanged 10 fabrics each month in a designated color.  The rule was, for instance on red, it could be any variation of red from pink to burgundy and light or dark. We each had all of the templates and drew around them on the fabric, cut them with 1/4" seam allowances and gave them to each other according to the color of the month.  I made a move during that time, so mine were mailed each month.  All 10 pieces would go for a standard 1st class postage stamp.  Obviously, since I am still working on it, mine never got completed.

Here is what it looks like with 976 fabrics.  I do not guarantee that there are no duplicates, but that is still a LOT of different fabrics.  I am still hand piecing the rest of the missing pyramids.

The contrast is a little weak on the bottom row, so pieces will be moved around.  Each of the larger triangles is made up of 16 smaller triangles.  I have not decided how I will handle the half blocks on the two side edges.  If I piece them, I will need another template that is half of the original triangle or pyramid shape.
I have also decided to participate in Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt Celtic Solstice.  I have never done a mystery before, because I really like designing my own quilt and, if you know me well, you know I have a tendency to want to be in control of the design.  Not knowing in advance where I'm going with something is a bit unsettling to me.  Okay, I admit it, I'm a control freak!  There, I said it!  You may all laugh now, because you probably already figured that out.
The first clue was given yesterday on Bonnie Hunter's blog.  It will be a challenge to actually follow the rules, but at least I'm going to give it a try. 
Here are a few of the clue one pieces made using the Tri-Recs ruler set.
You can read more about the mystery on Bonnie's blog.  It is not too late to join in on the fun.  I do like the scrappy look of Bonnie's quilts, but usually decide on my own patterns rather than use a predesigned quilt pattern.  The few times I've tried to follow a pattern, I end up changing it so that in the end it does not look like the original.  It's more fun to put a personal touch on anything, don't you think?
Hope you have a wonderful weekend!  Stay tuned for more on the progress of the pyramids and the mystery quilt.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Vines and Stars Quilt Top Finished - Finally!

At long last, the borders have been added and this top is done!  Great feeling!  As I told you, this quilt began as a demonstration piece for classes I was teaching on how to applique' vines and leaves.  There are a few tricks to making those sharp points on the leaves and having a vine stay even as it curves.  I used it as a demo at the AQS Show in Nashville way back in 2005 for the first time.  While it's been fun, I'm glad to have the top finished! 

Sorry about the telescoping of the photo.  The quilt is too large for the design wall.  It is 94" x 99". It will shrink some with the quilting, though.
Do you remember that I nearly ran out of the black background used for the applique strips and the 8-pointed stars? I told you about it here.  Well, I found what I think is the perfect solution for the borders.
The blacks actually match better in person than they look like in the photos.  Can you see the musical notes?  Originally I found a black with a treble clef, but it seemed too close to the other black and really didn't "pop" as a border even with the colorful striped inner border.
But this print seemed to bring it all together.
It works for me.  What do you think?
Sorry for the odd angles on the photos.  I was sitting on the loft rail and not feeling all that secure!  It is a rare rainy day in the desert, so the light wasn't very cooperative either.  I won't complain about the rain, though, we certainly can use the moisture even if it isn't an ideal day for taking photos.
Hope you have enjoyed the story of the vines and stars quilt.  Have an awesome day!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Sew Day and What I've Been Doing

My sister called a couple of weeks ago or maybe more to ask where I've been.  She says she keeps up with what I'm doing mostly through my blog.  Yes, that means I'm not a very good correspondent and I rarely call anyone.  It's not that I don't want to, but we live across the country from each other and there is that whole time difference.  Arizona doesn't participate in Daylight Savings Time, so half the year there is a two hour difference and half the year it's only 1 hour.  By the time I decide I should call in the evening, it's too late where she lives.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Seriously, I've just been busy with this that and the other.  Here are a few of the things I've done in the past few weeks.

First I was invited to a sew day at Evelyn's.  Evelyn had just returned to Arizona from Wisconsin where she spends part of the year.  She is not exactly a Winter Visitor as she has a home here, but it is just a lot cooler in the Summer in Wisconsin and she has a home there, too!  She and several others get together occasionally to sew and this time, they asked me to join them.  Though I was only able to stay part of the day, it was a great time and I got a lot done, too!

This is Evelyn busily stitching away.  Evelyn does mostly art quilts.  She is collaborating with a Wisconsin quilter and they enter quilts in shows together.  Her house is chock full of quilts on the walls and draped over furniture.  There is a LOT to see at Evelyn's house!
This is Judi.  She makes the most incredible miniatures you would ever want to see!  She was hand piecing the most amazing mariner's compass block.  And it was for Sue!  Judi's work is accuracy with a capital A! Tiny pieces with sharp points to die for!
Tari was piecing blocks. Her lamp is in the way, so we cannot see them.  I cannot remember what block she was working on. She kept her nose to the machine and worked away all day!
Sue was busy squaring up her applique blocks.  Sue also is a long arm quilter and probably produces more quilts or quilt tops in a year than anyone you know.
Here is a close up of one of the blocks Sue was working on.  There are pieced blocks in the quilt as well.  It is a lovely soft palette and will be beautiful when completed.
Also present was C.J.  She is Sue's cousin and arrived later in the morning.  Her name isn't really C.J., it is Judy.  Since there was already a Judi in the group and since this Judy is Sue's cousin, the group refers to her as C.J. which is short for Cousin Judy as it's less confusing that way.
And what was I working on that day?  Sewing the blocks together for this quilt.
Since that day, I have set the strips together and shortened the vine strips as the star block strips were not quite as long.  Remember I did the vine strips when I was teaching vine and leaf applique so the quilt had not been designed at that point.  I just randomly selected a length for the vine strips.
The first border has just been cut and placed on the design wall.  It is not stitched yet.  I really like the multicolored striped on the black for this inner border.  Stay tuned for what the outer border will be.  I also have a tutorial almost ready on how to hand piece eight pointed starts that will be coming soon as well.
In addition to doing that, I unstitched in excess of 1,200 inches of quilting in the border of another quilt.  I was just not happy with the way it looked so it had to go.  Here is what replaced it.
It is finally bound and ready to go.  As it is 100" by 100", it took a bit of time to do all of that picking out stitches and re-quilting! I cannot show you the rest of the quilt as it will appear in a magazine.  I'm still working on the directions for it.
So that sort of brings you up to date.  I will try not to take such a long leave from my blog again.  I really missed you and hearing from you.  You make my day when you leave a comment so please let me know what you have been doing or what you think about what I've been doing.
Until Next Time,

Monday, September 16, 2013

Quilt Backs Can Be Beautiful Too!

There have been no idle hands in my house.  It seems there is always something waiting to be done.  In between painting about 150 clothespins for "birdie" legs and cutting out 220  birdies and 220 birdie wings. (Yes, I'll show you the final project one of these days.) I've been busy machine quilting.

I can only show you the back for now, but after it is published, I'll show you the front, too.

You have seen this back before it was quilted.  The bobbin thread is just a neutral ecru color since there were so many different pieces and colors of fabric in the back.  They do not match up with the blocks on the front so neutral was the way to go.  You can see the quilting better on the darker fabrics.
But I do like the relief you can see on the light sections, as well.
What I do not like is the border.  It is the rolling part you see on the lower edge of the above photo.  I think it is going to come out.  I know!  Hours of quilting, but before I put the stippling that was planned in, I need to be happy with what will be highlighted when the stippling recedes and the curves "pop".
What would you do?  Leave something you don't like or spend more hours picking it out?
You may see part of the problem with the border looking at this closer up photo of the dark blocks.  The border quilting is too small a scale now that the center is done.  I'm also not happy with the quality of the quilting in the border.  The border was quilted first because I thought it was what I wanted and I was still undecided on the interior.
Once the interior was finished, I decided the border just didn't cut it at all.

Can you see why now that you are looking at it again?  Yep, just not the right scale.  Sigh!  Where is that seam ripper?  I'd better get started.  Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike "unstitching" something?  It's my least favorite, but it's necessary sometimes.

Hope you are all beginning to experience some Fall weather.  Unfortunately it's still 104 degrees here today.  Won't be needing to use a quilt for a while yet!  Have an absolutely fabulous day!

Until next time!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

More Progress on Vines and Stars Quilts

Surprise, I'm back sooner than you may have expected.  Between job and family and working on two quilts simultaneously, there never seems to be time to tell you, dear friends, what is happening in my studio and life.  I'm trying to do better, honestly, I am!  You have no idea how much I miss you when I am unable to connect with you through this blog!

Autumn Chains is being quilted on my Bernina during the daylight hours when I can see to quilt better.  So during the evening hours when it is too dark up here in the studio to quilt confidently, I spend time on Vines and Stars. I'm really trying to maximize the hours I have when I'm not at work.

Last week, I showed just the applique strips and the stars completed at that time.  You can see photos in my last post  here.  Here is a look at what has happened since then.

There are two more blocks than there were in the last post.  That doesn't seem like much progress, but all of the remaining 16 blocks have now been cut.  All of the background triangles have been added to the design wall as well.  If things seem a bit off, remember that all of these pieces are separate pieces placed on the design wall. The quilt looks a bit "wonky" at this point, but it will be fine when everything is stitched together.
See all of those white spares?  Yep, 16 of them to be filled in yet.  Do you notice what is missing?  I mean besides those 16 blocks?  There is very little blue and yellow !  How did I miss that?  That is why a design wall is essential -- you get to see the big picture before the blocks are sewn together.  I've actually added very little more blue, but there are several yellow blocks waiting to be stitched together.
You may remember that there was some doubt that there would be a sufficient amount of the black background fabric.  It was purchased when we lived in a different state several years ago, so purchasing additional fabric was not an option.  Here is what was left once the background pieces and remaining blocks were cut out.

Yikes!  The largest leftover chunk is 9" x 12-1/2".  Enough to go back and re cut the block in the lower left corner.  Did you notice it?  Nope, you can't see it.  There is NO contrast in the photo.  In person, I can see it is a block made with a dark rust star, but it disappears in the photo.  Maybe there will have to be a blue block to replace that one.

Design walls and taking photos in progress are a good thing in quilt making!  It is far better to see a problem before all the pieces are stitched together.

Hope you are having an absolutely awesome week!

Until next time


Friday, August 9, 2013

Vines and Stars Progress

Since my machine is busy with a machine quilting project, I've been needing to stitch something.  My friend, Julie, over at Julie K Quilts has been taking older UFO's and focusing on them which has been an inspiration as she gets those done.  She inspired me to bring out this ongoing project and spend more time on it again.

Yep, it has a ways to go to be pieced.  The applique strips have been done a very long time. These strips  began as a carry along project when I was doing a lot of teaching and traveling. They served as a demonstration sample on how to applique leaves and stems. They were worked on in quite a few states! This is my first strip quilt and I am liking it a lot!
Once the applique strips were done, I started working on the hand pieced 8-pointed star block.  The pieced bocks finish to 6 inches. I've gone back and forth on how to set them, but this is my preferred way to put the blocks and strips together.  I  need to make 17 more blocks for this setting of the quilt.
There may not be enough of the black, so I'm thinking of other ways to fill in the triangles.  Once all the blocks are done, I'll measure what is left to see if I can cut the quarter-square triangles or if I need to be creative by string piecing or something along those lines.
This quilt is using up a lot of bits and pieces left from other projects.  A true scrap quilt, except for the black which was bought as yardage too many years ago to think there might be some in a quilt shop somewhere!  I do love the multi-color leaves and stars.
Any suggestions for a different way to set the stars or a creative way to extend the black?
Do you ever have projects that get put away for months at a time?  What motivates you to get them back out and start working on them again?
Inquiring quilters want to know so leave a message about your experiences with UFO's.
Hope to be more regular in blogging than the last couple of months.  I miss you!

Friday, July 12, 2013

How to fit 100 inches into 7 inches

It seems there is never enough time and you, my friends, are often the ones ignored as things other than blogging take over my time!

This week I've spent parts of two days with those nasty things doctors want you to do -- you know, a physical and then blood work.  These are not my favorite things to do!  Besides my doctor's office is almost an hour away, so it takes far more time than the few minutes they spend with you in the examining room!  Next week, there is the last thing --  that dreaded, but necessary mammogram!

When there IS time, I've been quilting, but I can't really show you the whole thing as it will eventually be in a magazine.  Just took a few photos to let you know how I fit a 100 inch square quilt into the 7 inch harp on my Bernina.

All of my quilts are quilted on a domestic machine and while I'm not an expert at this, I have done quite a few so have learned a few tricks.

The first stitching I do on any quilt is what I call bones quilting.  Although the quilt is pin basted, it needs to be stabilized so that it won't shift during any of the free motion quilting that comes later.

Before putting it through the machine, both sides need to be rolled toward the center.  Each quilt is different, but in this case, the bones quilting was diagonal from corner to corner of the blocks for this part of the quilting.

The rolls are fairly loose because if they are too tightly rolled, the roll is stiff and hard to manage.
You can see the roll on the left side of the quilt in this photo.  The items to the left of the machine really should be removed from the desk while I'm quilting.  They tend to get knocked over or on the floor which is not a good thing! When I get to the free motion quilting, I use more of a "fluff and stuff" method to get the quilt through the harp, so that's when things really need to be moved!
My ironing board is lowered and placed behind the desk where the machine is.  The quilt would pull the quilt if it were allowed to hang over the back of the desk.
You may not be able to tell, but there is a rectangular padded board on top of a standard ironing board which really helps as it is 48" long and 16-1/2" wide. The quilt gathers up on the ironing board while I'm quilting.
So that is how a 100" quilt fits into a 7" harp on a Bernina that is quite a few years old.  In fact, I have a newer machine that was purchased primarily because it has a bigger harp, but the Bernina is still the one I enjoy machine quilting on the most.
Do you have any tips for quilting on a domestic machine?  Most of what I've learned was just learning by doing.  In fact when I started I was told by a very famous machine quilting teacher that taking a class would cut the learning curve a lot.  Unfortunately, I was in the midst of writing my Pine Tree Quilts book and had no time for a class, so it was learn by doing.  Sometimes, that's the best way to learn.  When you make mistakes, you learn not to do it that way again.
I'd love to hear if you have any brilliant tips on machine quilting on a domestic machine.
Until next time,

Thursday, June 13, 2013

S'more Chocolate!

Last week was our Vacation Bible School -- four days of fun and kids!  Our Nursery and 2's and 3's class is only for the volunteer's kids as the regular classes start at age 4.  This means we have a limited number of the younger ages, but we still need volunteers to staff these areas and for the 2's and 3's, we do a Bible story, crafts and music just like the bigger kids.

For my volunteers in this area I decided to give them s'more kits on the last night as a "thank you" for serving.  We had over 175 volunteers in the entire program, but a limited number in my area, so this was feasible to do.

Pardon the bad color, these photos were taken at night with the overhead spots on.
Simple ingredients - graham squares, marshmallows, chocolate bar were placed in a cellophane bag and a thank you label attached.
Ready to go!
Of course I sampled. One marshmallow was plenty, but for presentation, two looked better.
Even though I'm chocolate sensitive, which means too much gives me a migraine, sometimes, a girl just needs chocolate!
In the summertime, nothing is better than a hot fudge Sundae and this is the fastest, easiest hot fudge recipe you will ever find.
Simple ingredients - cocoa, corn starch, sugar, water, vanilla and butter, plus a smidgen of salt.
Cook in the microwave, stirring every couple of minutes - watch carefully and make sure your container does not overflow.  Chocolate cooked onto the microwave surface is not a good thing!
Couldn't be simpler!  Click on the above photo to enlarge it to read the recipe.
Enjoy some chocolate goodness today!


Friday, May 24, 2013

E-Reader Cover for an Artist

Since you know that I write an article for the Quilters Quarterly magazine as I told you here, I thought I'd show you one of the past projects I did using one of the products that I tested.

Our granddaughter is an artist.  She is in high school, but she is truly talented.  Her drawings are amazing.  As with many artists she also likes to read.  Being a typical teen, an e-reader is easier to carry around than a book.  She had received one for her birthday, so I decided to make a cover for her using an artist theme.

The finished product closes with Velcro.  The narrow silver between the artists names is fusible ribbon. I like the way it separates the black from the bright colors.
When completely flat, you can see all of the artists names.  The black rectangle at the top is one half of the hook and loop tape. (Velcro) The other half is on the lining.
The lining is bright and happy, also.
It was fun adding "our" artist with those who have been famous for many years.
Our artist will be famous someday as well.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!