Thanks for dropping by to take a look at some of my thoughts and ideals. Hope you will let me know if this has been helpful, useful, inspiring or whatever, and remember to come back soon.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Why is it taking me so long to finish this???

There are so many different ways to make quilts that it is really hard sometimes to decide which project to start next.  Sometimes projects are just so time consuming that I find them difficult to complete.  It isn't that they are not pretty, it isn't that I have made some kind of error that just ruins it for me and it isn't really because I want to have another unfinished quilt laying in my stack of to do projects, they just take so long and I have a desire to complete something, or see something that I want to do now!  I'm so sure that none of you experience the same type symptoms (tongue in cheek).  The fact is that we are all human and sometimes we just pick a project that is larger than our attention span.  (I have a few of those.)  Through my few years of quilting I have learned that there are some projects that I just don't need to start, and there are some that if the size is adjusted then perhaps I would have some hope of finishing.

I have one project that I have been working on (I should say working on and off) that is just one of those that I want to finish, I love what I am doing and the meaning, it's just too darn big.  I wish I had gone with something smaller.  What inspired me to start this was a class I took and in one short class, (4 hours)  I basically completed my project of a small wall hanging.

I really had a lot of fun creating this in a class I took a few years ago.
Lots of great machine quilting and completed in just a few hours.

This was really a wonderful class and we spent the majority of the time doing the machine quilting on this piece.  Actually most of the class was the quilting and quilting is one thing I love.  Every leaf has a different quilting pattern as does each of the different sections of background and the borders.  All the different patterns were really neat to learn.

I was so enthused about how quickly the project went together that I immedately when home and finished the project and the started looking around for what I wanted to do next using the same technique.  Here are some of the things I did not take into consideration when I dove into my new project.

1.  When you do a class project you typically already have the fabrics that are going to be used or they are supplied for you in addition to any special supplies such as bias tape, fusables and spray adhesive or whatever is required for the project.

2.  If the fabric is supplied then typically the pieces are already cut for you, or at least they are rough cut so most of your class time is not spent at the cutting board.

3.  The pattern is supplied in a ready to use format.

Okay, lets start with number 3.  The pattern.  I now have the know how and want to pick a pattern.  I had been told where to look for patterns.  This was not something you could run out to the quilt store and purchase.  The advise was to purchase a coloring book and pick your pattern from the pictures in a coloring book.  That is a great ideal.  I now know that I could have picked dozens of patterns that would have made wonderful blocks for a quilt and would have been really easy to complete.  I could have even used the blocks in a Georgia Bonsteel type configuration and had the blocks all quilted and then put them together.  I could have made an awesome quilt in just a few days!!  I actually found the pattern I wanted to use in a relatively short time in a coloring book with Christmas scenes.  I chose a nativity scene.  Since I collect nativity sets I thought this would be wonderful.  I still think it would be wonderful.  Of course the next step was enlarging the pattern to the size I wanted which was large!!  This I managed on my copy machine by coping portions of the page enlarging them as I went to the size I wanted, then I had to tape all the pages together.  I believe I have something like 40 pages tapes together for this project.  Needless to say this took quite a bit of time to complete.  It was like a 3 day project just to get the pattern enlarged correctly.  Next I had to get my fusible fabric and the pattern was to be traced onto the fusible.  This part of the project only took me a couple of days.  Boy I was moving fast.  I had just spent a week just getting my pattern and getting it ready!

Now lets skip up the the very first consideration, the fabric.  I had to pick the fabric for this project and I really do strive to do things right and I know there are fabrics out there that are prints that when cut correctly you can get some wonderful effects.  I started to hunt my fabrics.  This process took about 4 months.  Every time I entered a fabric store I was on the lookout for fabrics that would give me exactly what I wanted.  I had the wise men the animals the doves the wood in the stable the straw, there was a night sky, oh this was a very detailed pattern, in case I forgot to mention that bit of information.  I would wind up purchasing 1/4 yard of fabric or a fat quarter for a beard.  This was getting to be a very expensive project also, but the effects are really worth the effort.

It may be a little difficult to tell at this stage that this is a dove, but the fabric I found
actually is feathers and I attempted to cut it so the feathers on the wings were
going in the right direction.  Yes fussy cut!

This section, which I believe you can tell is a beard I think is great.

Another section of beard and notice the skin tones. 
I actually used different skin tones for all the wise men
which meant different hair colors and types.

This picture shows two of the wise men and as you can see they are
very different.

The last picture also shows that this project is not complete.  As you can see, finding the right fabrics will make a huge difference in the completed project, when that happens. 

Now for the other thing I did not take into consideration when I started this project, cutting the fabric.  Almost every piece of fabric is fussy cut.  Doing fussy cuts takes an enormous amount of time if you are being very particular about the effect you are striving to attain.  The orientation of the pattern piece and the the orientation of that item on the quilt both play a part.  There are some pieces that I have cut several times before I achieved the effect I wanted.

My project hanging on my quilting room wall.
As you can see from the above picture, my project is not yet at the half way mark of completion.  One day I'm sure it will be a great show piece for my collection and will beautiful hung with some shelves around to hold a few of my nativity collections.  I actually have at least one nativity in every room of my house and in some I have more than one and I love them.  They are a constant reminder of my Lord and what he gave up for me.

I hope you have a great day, and a wonderful time quilting.  Let me encourage you to sign up for my blog.  I promise you will not receive emails trying to get you to purchase my products or use my services.  I hate it when I sign up for something and then get a mailbox full of junk!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Some quilts take longer than others!! Quilting

I actually didn't start out to make this into a 2 part post but it got so long I really didn't want you to get bored and just quit reading so here is my method for quilting for the "Oriental Garden Path Quilt."

This is a picture of the blocks and I think the quilting did make the right
portions of the block pop up.
 The quilt itself began with a print fabric, oriental, with a oriental garden with pagoda and waterfalls which was given to me by Kay.  The name of the pattern used for the blocks is "Garden Path".  I had recently taken a class by Nichole Webb showcasing her book of quilting designs called "Garden Branching".  Okay, these things all just seemed to go together in my mind.  I had also designed the quilt to have some larger spaces for special quilting and Nichole's patterns just really seemed to fit.  First I did a simple stitch in the ditch quilting around the blocks.  Next I wanted to pull the fabric down in the second square so that the center square popped up and the eye would be drawn to that fabric because that was the focus fabric.  I did a sort of simple small paisley pattern.

Since the object of the quilting in the background here was to
pull it down so the other pieces seemed to pop up I did not want
to draw attention to the quilting by putting a contrasting
color in this area.  The object was to minimize.
 Now anyone who has flower gardens will tell you that the beauty of the garden is in the variety of flowers, colors and sizes.  Well I wanted my quilt to show that same diversity so I wanted to use patterns of several different flower and I wanted to use different colors in the flowers.  Anyone who does machine quilting will tell you very quickly that it is more difficult when you have to change thread numerous times in one quilt.  Most quilts will be quilted with one or two different threads.  Rarely will you see them use 3 different colors in one quilt.  When you are talking about a really nice show quality quilt though you will often find quilts that have used several different colors to enhance their quilting.  Well, my quilt isn't show quality, but I really wanted this to be special, soooo.  Here are some pictures of part of the flowers that I quilted into the quilt.

Picture #1

Picture #2
Giant Camellia

Picture #3
Whoville Rose

Picture #4

Picture #5
Star Flower

Picture #6

Picture #7

Picture #8
Gerber Daisy

Picture #9
Drooping Thistle
Picture #10

Picture #11

Picture #12

Picture #13

Picture #14
Drooping Thistle

As you can see, some of the flowers turned out better than others.  The yellow (Picture #14) just did not pop on the background fabric, so I didn't do very many yellow flowers.  I thought the picture of the thistle was great but it was much prettier to me in the blue (Picture #9).  I did do violets in groups and as a single flower and I did the fuchsia in the same manner.  You will notice the green around the flowers.  This was the branching or vines that pulled all of the quilting together and it was done with a verigated green thread.  There is a green bush shown in the fabric with the pagoda and I tried to duplicate this in the large outer border. 

I really enjoyed quilting this quilt.  My biggest problem was I got behind on my other quilting while I was trying to finish this so had to take it off my machine before it was finished and for some reason I let this lay in my quilting room, folded up for more than a year before I decided on the 4th of July to declare my independence from a UFO (unfinished object) and put it back on my machine.  The really interesting part is when I put it back on the machine and started quilting again I was finished in just a couple of hours.  I really don't know why I put it off so long, but am so happy I finally kicked myself into finishing this project.  Well it is almost finished.  My friend Peggy has the quilt now, putting the binding on for me.  There just isn't anything as wonderful as a great friend, but a finished quilt runs a close race.

I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures in quilting, my trials and triumphs.  Let me know how you are doing with your projects.  I love hearing from my blogger buddies.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Some quilts take longer than others!!

Some time ago I was asked to teach a short program on and provide a pattern for a block.  I was very excited that people I know had actually asked me to teach.  Well that didn't really last too long.  I struggled over what pattern to teach that would be somewhat easy to piece and yet go together in a fashion that made it appear to be a more difficult block.  I looked through book after book and searched online and it seemed that I couldn't find anything I felt would be a good project.  Finally, just a couple of days before I was scheduled to teach I found what I thought would be a great block!!  After looking at about a thousand patterns this was the one.  The blocks were relatively simple.  It was a square in a square pattern that extended out to another border around that and then an accent along each outer border.  The pattern was called Garden Path and the directions for cutting were simple.  There were no 7/8" or 3/8" to make things more difficult.  I took great pains to copy the pattern down correctly and made my sample.  I presented the program and everyone admired the block.  I was greatly relieved that it had gone so well....until......  The following week I had a telephone call from one the people and she literally blasted me that my directions were not right and there was no way anyone could make a block out of that pattern.  I thought I had been so careful, but not careful enough.  I had left out one line in the directions.  Now what is that saying about "the best laid plans of mice and men...."

Well, I decided to go ahead and make a quilt using the block pattern that I had demonstrated.  First I had to decide on fabric.  Just prior to these events a friend, knowing how much I loved oriental patterns had given me a piece of fabric that she had that did not match anything in her stash.  She was trying to whittle down her fabric stash to more manageable proportions.  (Something I have never, ever, ever had the urge to do.)  This particular piece of fabric was an oriental garden complete with pagodas.  Well the name of the pattern was Garden Path so why not use that oriental garden fabric to make a garden path, and then I pulled out some more oriental prints from my stash that contrasted with the piece I was given and then I picked a very neutral background.

This is the garden path block  and some of the fabric
I chose to go with the piece of fabric I was given.
 I decided that I really didn't want to go with a traditional sashing pattern, that this quilt should have some special quilting and I wanted room to do that quilting.  At the time I was thinking about ferns and feathers.  Oh well, it wasn't time to quilt just yet, I had to finish putting it together.  I had 12 blocks and I wanted to make a quilt that was larger than a lap quilt and smaller than a bed quilt, and I did not want to use just a 2" sashing around the blocks so I decided to do some math.  Gosh, who would have thought that math would have come in so handy.  Well actually I loved math so it wasn't a hardship.

You can see in the above picture there is a variation in the spacing between the blocks, and in the picture below.

This picture gives a better picture of the different block setting.
You will notice the points are closer to the border for some blocks.
The points on the blocks are not in a regimented line.
 Quite simply I decided how wide I wanted the inter portion of the quilt and basically I decided that I would use the 2 1/2" sashing measurements and I would typically use 4 of those for a total of 10" of sashing.  Instead of cutting 4 - 2 1/2" strips, I cut a 1" and a 4" and a 2" and a 3" and that was my 10" of sashing and then I just put those in different places in the row.  I sewed a strip on each side of the first block and then on 1 side of the other 2 blocks.  Then I carried it a step further and used the same technique for the sashing on top and on bottom.  The final result was to give my quilt a very unique appearance in the setting and it is not one that you will find in a pattern book.  I like things simple, but I like things unique.  I guess this is all part of the reason I love freehand quilting on my machine.  Every quilt is different.  Even if I tried I could not exactly duplicate any quilt.  That is part of my love for quilting, the creating of something unique.

Well I got the blocks and sashing together, in much less time than you would imagine.  Just about 2-3 hrs and I was ready for borders.  Borders are really special things.  You simply don't want to forget the function of the border.  The border functions to stop the eye.  It says "Okay that was the quilt and that is the extra special portion, take time to look again."  Really the border is not there because you want to make the quilt bigger and so you just added borders until it was the right size.  This particular quilt, I felt, was to have very special quilting, so I didn't want a first border that would overwhelm, just a little pause and then we will see what's next..  My choice was a very narrow, green and black geometric that really looks almost like a solid black with a little texture.  Turned out to be just what I wanted.

Now I was ready for a final border and I wanted the oriental fabric again, but it needed to be a fabric that combined many of the colors I had used in the blocks.  The cards were the perfect choice as far as I was concerned.  I did make sure that the fabric was cut so the cards were all correctly oriented to the person viewing the quilt.  On top the cards are all with the top of the cards toward the outside top of the quilt and down the sides they cards are all with the sides of the cards on the outside of quilt and still with the top of the card toward the outside top of the quilt and the bottom border has the top of the cards against the border and the bottom of the cards pointing to the outside edge of the quilt.

This picture of the bottom left corner of the quilt shows
the fabric orientation of the border.
It was actually hard to tell where the fabric was seamed together which was an accident on the first one and then I started striving for that look on the second one and it worked out very well if I do say so myself.

Well now it's time to pick out the backing and of course I had to go with another oriental fabric.  This is one I really loved and I had to piece the backing.  I learned a long time ago that when you were having to piece a backing the correct way was to make all 3 pieces the same size or put a larger piece in the center and identical smaller widths on each side.  It is not preferred to just place a seam down the center of the backing.  Well since I had gone to so much trouble with the rest of the quilt, I needed to go all the way, and since I had matched the pattern so well at the seams on the border I wanted to see if I could do that on the backing also.

It really is difficult to tell where the seam is in this picture. 
I put an exclamation point under the seam and the seam is not at the end
of the wooden post but going through the center of the second flower
from the end of the post.

All in all I think the quilt turned out very well.  I did do some special quilting, but not what I had originally envisioned.  I actually love the quilting and how it goes along with the whole theme, but I'll give you a look at that next week. 

Happy quilting.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Scrap quilt?? or Kit???

A friend recently brought me a quilt to quilt for her that I think is just really a neat little quilt.  A very simple little quilt.  (In case you haven't guessed.....I love simple.)  This particular quilt was simply half-square triangles with a couple of borders.  What made it so neat was the  play of light and dark across the quilt.  The simple use of color made it a striking quilt.

As you can see the color is the highlight of this little gem.
Isn't this just a lovely little quilt!!  I really enjoy the way she used the light fabrics opposite from the darks and then in a few places there are the random pieces of medium thrown in for variation and it makes the light colors pop even more.  All this with simple half square triangles. 

Now the finished size of the square is 3" so the square had to be 3 1/2".  In order to make a half square triangle you can take two 3 7/8" squares, place them right sides together and cut them diagonally (corner to opposite corner) and sew along the diagonal cut and you will have a 3 1/2" square.  It's really a very simple trick that makes all your half square triangles the right size.  From the two original squares you will have 2 - 3 1/2" squares which will be 3" finished size in the quilt.

Just a little closer look at the individual blocks.
 Hummmm.  I just wonder if I have enough scraps to do one of these?   Of course, I know I do, but what about you?  If you are like most people you tend to lean towards a particular color scheme and you can pick out those colors from you scraps and wind up with a really great scrap quilt.  Just remember to use a variety of colors unless you want an all blue with the alternating lights or maybe you are into light blue and yellow, with alternating darks instead of the lights.  So many possiblities and what a wonderful way to use up some of those scraps.  Of course you could use any color combination, and you could use any size half square triangles to make up this neat quilt.

If you want to change the size of the half square triangles here is the easy way to do the math.  Just add 3/8" to the unfinished block square, or add 7/8" to the finished block size, either way works and while it may be just a tad aggrivating to cut on the 7/8" it is better than having off sized blocks.  Know how to do this little math step means you can add in half square triangles to any of your patterns and get them to fit properly with nice little corners.  So if I need a block that is 4" finished and I decide I want to toss in a half square triangle then I just add 7/8" to the 4" and cut my squares 4 7/8" for a perfect 4" finished block.

Now I know several people who routinely cut their left over fabric into strips and that is how they organize their stash.  I think they all cut different sizes too which makes it interesting.  If you are one of those people then you may have to trim your precut pieces to get a standard size.  If you cut your fabric in 2 1/2" strips then trim down the strip to 2 3/8" and cut those into squares.  It is really better to do the trim first and then cut your squares.  You will have a finished 1 1/2" half square triangle when you finish your quilt.  Whatever the size you have cut, remember to trim off that little 1/8" and then cut your squares and have fun sewing.

It can really be a headache to try to sew long strips of the half square triangles into rows and little errors in seam allowances can add up over the width/length of the quilt giving you something you really don't want to deal with, so the best way to do this quilt is sew the blocks into larger blocks and then piece those together.  For example, use the half square triangles to make a 9 patch block (3 blocks long, 3 blocks wide), or a 16 patch block (4 blocks long x 4 blocks wide) and then sew those squares into the larger sections.  This will help keep any errors in seam allowances spread throughout the quilt so you will have a quilt that is easier to square, and your machine quilter will like you a lot more!!

Speaking of machine quilting.....I really didn't know what I was going to do with this particular quilt because I didn't want to do an overall pattern that would detract from the lovely piecing.  What I finally decided was an outer border of "ocean waves" pattern, and an inner border with stars and then a special little pattern in the blocks.  I did a stitch in the ditch and then put a little design in the dark fabric.

One of these days I'm going to take a class in
photography!!.  You can see the ocean waves
pattern at the top and then the stars in the second border,
and finally the design in the dark triangles more clearly
on the backing.
I used a maroon thread both top and bobbin and the quilting really doesn't show up on the front of the quilt.
I think this is a better picture of the design on the dark triangles
and the freestyle stars on the inner border.

Quilting should enhance the quilt, not take away and this quilt really didn't need anything that would make it appear busier, so I felt the maroon thread was ideal for this little quilt that already has plenty going on with the play on the light and dark fabrics and the many pieces. 

I hope you all have fun reading this and it inspires you to try out this pattern.  If you do, please let me know and if possible send a picture.  I love seeing what others are doing.  Each quilt is a unique statement of our own taste, desires, and love of quilting. 

Take time this July 4th Holiday weekend to thank God for the independence we have in the United States and our wonderful men and women in the military who fight so we can keep those freedoms.  We have a wonderful country!!  If our leaders are not doing what you think they should, pray for them.  If they are doing what you think they should, pray for them.  Prayer works.  Have a great day!!