Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Quilting Process--Past the Ditch

Quilting in the Ditch in Process!
Nancy from Dizzy Dog Quilting left me a comment from my post on Sunday.  In my post, I was lamenting about how boring ditch quilting is. (Ditch quilting is where one stitches as close to the seam as possible.) She said that she enjoyed doing it because right away she knows which ditches she is going to quilt and no marking is involved. I hadn't looked at ditch quilting that way; but, now that I have, I agree! Thanks for your thoughts, Nancy.

Perhaps on my next project, I won't grouse about ditch quilting ESS (every stinking seam)! I know the importance of ditch quilting--it helps the quilt lie flat! I generally start planning how I'm going to quilt my project from the time I begin choosing the fabric. Isn't that crazy? This works when I know what the pattern is. It doesn't work so well in cases like this mystery BOM (block of the month). I didn't know what it was going to look like until I stitched the pieces together with the last clue!

Often, as I'm stitching in the ditch, an idea comes to me.
Stencil Audition
This time? Not so much! So. . .I got out some of my quilting books and stencils. Sometimes that helps. . .Nope!
I decided against the stencils for a couple of reasons--marking will be involved and I didn't have stencils that I felt complimented the stars blocks in the quilt. For me, quilting must enhance the piecing or the appliqué!

The books were fun to review. But, there wasn't a design that said "pick me!"

I selected some threads to use on the project. I haven't quilted with 40wt. cotton threads in a while so I chose a few of those. Sometimes picking thread opens the quilting ideas. I like the threads; but, I didn't have a vision yet.

Next, I started drawing. Sometimes that helps. Okay. . .now, I'm making some progress. I draw small thumbnails on the back of an envelope or another piece of waste paper. Thoughts of possibilities are beginning to materialize; but, nothing definite has struck me.
A Sample of Free Motion Quilting books
Then, I thought about how I wanted the quilt to feel or what techniques I wanted to try or practice.

 Sometime ago, I bought a pounce marker and some stencils. It would be great if I could use them on this project. Maybe, I'll revisit those stencils later!

Then again, I would like to be more comfortable with the quilting rulers and I would like to quilt in a more modern style.

With the rulers in mind, I drew some more and came up with a plan for the 8 1/4 inch squares. Once I have a sketch in mind, I often draw it full size on a piece of newsprint to play with other filler designs. Then I will draw it one or two times on a piece of paper until I get what I think I want to quilt!

In the photo above, the square for this design is above the Freehand Filler book. I plan to use the bottom of the design for the setting triangles adjacent to the squares.
Full Size Drawing of the Design
I even have an idea for the purple border and an inkling of an idea for the outer border. It is style I haven't tried yet.  So to keep the quilting density consistent as I go, I'll be doing a part of the squares now and as I finish other parts of the quilting, I'll come back and fill in the details. I haven't tried this before. This is my plan today; now whether or not I can stick with the plan. . .well, I guess you'll need to stay tuned!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving

The family at Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving was terrific and special. What made it terrific was that our small family was united! This is a big deal as our oldest daughter is married with two "littles" and is conscientious about sharing the holidays equally between us and her husband's family. Our youngest daughter lives in England so her home visits are few. What made it special was that our youngest granddaughter, J, celebrated her third birthday on Thanksgiving!

Of course, there was a lot of cooking. My sweetie, brined and then cooked the turkey on the traeger. It was delicious. He also made the green salad, the mashed potatoes, green beans as well as purchased all the supplies! He chopped and diced the ingredients I needed for my part of the dinner. He even roasted a piece of salmon for me because I turkey doesn't agree with my stomach! I baked a pumpkin pie and a carrot cake--both dairy free so Miss J could have both if she wanted! (She chose the cake. Miss K chose the pie!) I roasted sweet potatoes, made the stuffing and gravy. Daughter N and her friend J helped with preparations and provided wine, cheese and charcuterie. Daughter A and her husband J made a fruit salad and brought a wonderful selection of breads. We wanted not for food!

Still quilting in the ditch!
Every dish was delicious. Of course, the day passed too fast and we all ate too much.  We kept the salmon and A's family made out with the turkey leftovers. A and I made plans for black Friday shopping. Black Friday shopping is our tradition. Our goal is to leave the house around 4AM and return about 7AM! Daughter N was leaving for the airport when I was headed out to shop. She would have loved sharing Black Friday with her friend J as he couldn't believe all the Black Friday advertising or that people shop at that time of the day!

Now, I'm looking forward to getting back to the ditch quilting on this project. Ditch stitching is necessary; but, oh so boring! I still haven't an idea of how I want to quilt the blocks. Hmmm. . . maybe I'll come up with something for those borders and start there.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankful

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, hubby and I will be in the kitchen cooking dinner for the family. This is the time of year that I reflect on being thankful.

Dad with his 80 star quilt
 First, I'm thankful to report that my dad whose doctors told him he had one to six months to live as he had a terminal lung disease in February 2015, has beat that timeline. Although his health continues to fail, his brain is still sharp and we continue to visit each evening about what happened in each of our days!


Daughter "A" and me at a fall football game












The "grands" "J" and "K" with Papa 
Second, as I've written, I had two arthroscopic knee surgeries to repair meniscus tears. The first was in December on my right knee and the second was in April on the left knee. Unfortunately, I had too much arthritis under my knee caps for the surgery to be successful. Yesterday, I had my third gel injection in each knee. I hope that the injections will provide enough space under the knee cap so that I can extend my leg without my knee catching. I hope that I will be able to return to my daily two mile morning walks which I have greatly missed! I am thankful that I was a candidate for the gel therapy and I am thankful that physical therapy has helped me regain some function. I am hopeful that I will be able to kneel again. I am a candidate for knee replacement; but, I hope to delay those surgeries for as long as possible!

Third, I'm thankful for my family. My husband has supported me through the knee challenges and continues to support my quilting habit. Our daughters are two terrific women. Getting to spend time with them is so precious to us both. 

"N" and Dad at a London Market
Our oldest daughter and her husband live about half an hour from us. They are extra special because they are the parents of the two granddaughters who play with us on Mondays and Wednesdays. I often blog about their antics and how I'm doing my best to inflict them with the quilting bug!

Our youngest daughter currently lives in London, England. We visited her there last summer and I blogged about our trip. I'm planning to visit her next year. . .not sure when; but, although we FaceTime each other at least once a week, I really appreciate those in the flesh visits which don't happen but a couple times a year.

Finally, I'm thankful for my quilting friends. Thanks for reading my blog. A special thank you to all of you who leave a comment! Thank you to those I get together with to stitch or who offer suggestions about a project or who encourage me to try something new or different. 

So as we dine tomorrow with family and friends, let us all take a moment to at least be thankful for getting together to share a meal and great conversation!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fabric Purchases for the Year

A collection of stash fabrics for a project
This has been an atypical fabric purchasing year for me. Last year, I completed a goal of using 50 yards of fabric from my stash; but, I also purchased nearly that same amount. In the end, I didn't open up much shelf space nor reduce the size of my stash!

There was a time that I didn't have much of a stash. I purchased the fabric for a project and stitched it up. It was a good system. Then, I became hooked on pretty patterns, a type of fabric, new fabric lines and great bargains!! Over time, my stash grew to over flowing the tub system I had in place. It is quick and easy to buy items and there is so much out there that I like to buy!

A friend said that I needed to put the fabric on shelves to see it because I would use it if I looked at it. For me, this was partly true; but, didn't work as well for me as it does for her! My definition of stash is fabric or embellishment not used in a year, becomes part of the stash.

This year, I have been careful with my fabric purchases. If I bought a fabric, the primary goal was to stitch it soon so it didn't become part of my stash!  I was successful for eight yards of fabric purchases. Those eight yards became "Tinkling the Ivories," binding on "Totally Hexed", a blue skirt for K, a flower WIP and a pink skirt for K. When I stitch that blue skirt for J, I will have stitched ten yards of fabric that I purchased this year.

A bag of selvages waiting to be stitched
into a tote!
--I did buy a yard of a 1930's fabric that I just liked. It is in the stash and I don't have a purpose for it; but, I still like it!
--At the same time, I bought three yards of silk print thinking it would make a wonderful skirt. It is a small floral print on a navy background. It was six dollars!!
--I also bought five yards of an orange batik because the price was right ($3/yd). It is also part of my stash, but, I will use it when I work on a mastery BOM that I collected the fabrics--but, never started. --I also bought three yards of a dark almost black fabric for a background. I didn't start that project either. I've been thinking about the project for a while; but, for now, it can marinate in my head! The remaining fabrics I've stitched.

So, that brings the total fabric purchase this year to 22 yards. I've stitched 10 yards into projects. Making my stash increase by 12 yards. BUT, I've also used 22 1/2 yards of fabric from my stash in completed projects. I'm thinking of doing a BOM beginning in January. . . .the background requirements are 11 yards!

Hmmmm. . .I'm going to need to FINISH more of my WIPs to bump that total stash yardage used! On the other hand, I'm pleased that I still have a net loss happening with my stash!! Back to stitching!!


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

#FALQ4 Finish #5--a second skirt and a photo shoot!

Miss J finished her skirt--again with help from me. She loves animals so the print on this fine wale corduroy fabric with the kitty print was perfect! I think blue is her favorite color. . .at least the last few times I've asked!

We did the usual sewing. She thought that threading the machine was fun!

She got such a kick out of fusing the interfacing to the skirt facing. She felt the texture on the interfacing. She patted the interfacing--bumpy side down--on the wrong side of the facing. Then we put the iron on it to fuse. She was surprised to find that she couldn't separate the layers and that the fabric was "hot!"




She tried pinning and did a little driving. She is more into the power phase of the project though! Then she would pass off the work to her sister, K. K would stitch a few seams so J would finish her project sooner!















J liked doing the hand sewing; but, said the needle was too "ouchie!" She stitched a few inches of her waistband and that is ok. She worked a little on each step of the process.















Then she tried it on. She liked it and I thought we were finished; but, for taking up the waistband a bit. But, we were missing a part. . .the tie. So we made one and then when she tried it on she needed to have her photo taken . . .

here. . .


















and like this. . .


















with these props. . .


















and take some here. . .


















We had a photo shoot!!!! (I hope Mama approved!)

My original list of finishes for the quarter is here.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Featuring Gail--pocket wallet and project

Winner Gail putting her pocket wallet to use! 
Gail, was the winner of the pocket wallet drawing I had back in July. You can read about the drawing here and here. It was a surprise to me that someone near by would win the pocket wallet!
















Gail's palette
Gail and I try to get together every other month. We make a day out of it. We catch up with a visit, show and tell, lunch and we often collaborate on a project. On this day, she was inspired by Jean Well's improvisational curved piecing technique and purchased these lovely fabrics from FiddleSticks. Her goal was to create a wall hanging as a gift for a special couple celebrating a mile stone anniversary.

Fiddlesticks is such a cute quilt shop and Cheran Bee, the owner, is a gift to each of us. She really does support whatever project you are making.  She honors each finish with such enthusiasm that you can't wait to go back to her shop to pick supplies to start a new project!

Gail's vision was to stitch these fabrics into a background, add some appliqué, quilt/finish it for a friend's anniversary. She liked the look of  Jean's curved piecing technique; but, like most of us, making that first cut is the hardest.


Cutting a gentle curve. . .free form!

We cut a strip and started the process. A year ago, October, I had taken a class from Jean and had a blast creating. Jean is a wonderful teacher and so approachable. I was sharing Jean's technique with Gail. Sometimes seeing the technique makes more sense than trying to recreate that technique from the text in the book!

Gail also likes to pin. . .with Jean's technique, you don't need many. Line up the edges to get a start and stitch!












Lining up the fabrics for stitching
Gail will tell you that she is a technical expert when it comes to piecing. This "do what you want" approach was scary for her. In a couple of hours, after we had completed the background, she was so full of oohs, ahhhs and "I can't believe I created that! It is so beautiful" comments that I wished Jean would have been there to have heard them!


















She pressed after each addition, ooing and aahhing along the way. She kept saying, "I can't believe how pretty that is." And I also heard, "This is fun!"

I agree, fun is IMPORTANT in any part of the process!














Sometimes something old from the stash can be the perfect
back!

She was concerned about what she was going to do for a back. As I listened to Gail, I spied a calico in her stash that was begging to come out to play. I laid it with the other fabrics. I said, "What do you think about using this fabric for a back? It  comes from the era that you are honoring." She agreed!

Getting to this point took Gail less than hours!










She stitched some more. She pressed until she had enough fabrics stitched together for the size of top that she had in mind. Notice how wonky the sides are. This happens when there are sharper curves or multiple curves.




















Holding the ruler next to the edge and
chalking the line is a quick squaring
technique. 
It wasn't a problem to share one way to square the sections. I often use the design wall to chalk a line and then I'll fold the fabric back on that line to see if that is the spot that improves the look of the top.

If the left overs are 3/4 of an inch or larger, I save them. One never knows where a little pop of interest might be needed in a quilt!



















Using paper is an inexpensive
method to check scale and
proportion.
Gail used construction paper cut outs to play with the scale and portion of her trees and figures. I'm liking where she is going with this piece!

The couple that received this like to geocache and that was the activity that Gail wanted to create in this piece.





















Trees appliquéd with a narrow
zig zag
This is a photo of the actual trees stitched to the background. I love the dark brown fabric, Gail chose. She made a freezer paper template of each tree and turned the edges of the fabric. Then she removed the template before anchoring it to the background.





















A case of the template system not
working well when there are
a lot of tight curves.

That same technique wasn't working for her figures because there were too many sharp points or curved sections. So instead of trying to peel the paper off the fabric all at once, she did the paper removal in small sections and was able to remove the paper template.





















All the appliqué is in place!
This is what her piece looked like after she removed the templates from the back of her two figures and flower. I sure encouraged Gail to quilt this piece on her domestic using her walking foot; but, she decided that she would rather do her tried and true method which is by checkbook.

Quilting is my favorite part of the process. Quilting is Gail's least favorite part of the process. She is wise because she recognized this and has a wonderful relationship with a longarm quilter. Gail trusts that the quilting will enhance her project. Quilting by check book allows her to do what she likes to do. . .piece!

So often, people will put the project aside and not finish thinking that they will wait to quilt it when their skills improve. Then, they don't make time to practice. It is hard to improve if you don't plan to practice and then don't follow through with the practice!







The quilted piece
Being realistic is important. Bottom line is that a finished quilt is going to be easier to display than an unfinished top or a package of blocks! I had a teacher who had many favorite sayings. One she said often was, "Finished, is better than perfect!" She had a point!

This is what the quilter did with the quilting. The gentle lines are a good accent for the piece.

















Close up of the quilting
The quilting is a little different in each area. Note the quilting on the female figure as well as the dark brown area at the bottom of the piece.

Gail is detailed oriented. She even has some special quilting stitches with the male figure which is honing in on the "coordinates" with his GPS.

She told me that the "era" calico wasn't large enough for the back so she chose one of the fabrics that was left from the project.











Gail's label



She faced the piece because she wanted the wall hanging to be more art like.

I like her label!

Gail gave this to the couple and it was appreciated.

I am honored to have been a consultant on this project!









Wednesday, November 9, 2016

#FALQ4 Finish #4--A Skirt

Stitching the skirt--driving!!
Miss K did it with help from me. . .she finished her skirt! She thought using tape to baste the zipper in place was a great idea and she tried to baste a few other items with a piece of wonder tape. It is a cool product and sure saves some time and frustration with zipper insertion!















Providing the power to the machine
She added the top stitching. When we sew, her legs aren't long enough yet to touch the foot pedal so she gets to choose whether she wants to drive or whether she wants to provide the power. Some days, she is all about driving or guiding the fabric. . .other days, she is all about providing the power. On the "power" days, I set the foot pedal on the table and she pushes the "go" button with her hand. Let me tell you, on "power" days, I need to be quick because she runs pedal to the metal! :) She did a little of each with this project. Her driving is getting much better. . .although, her attention tends to wander. As does mine at times. . .I guess we really are related! :)

She chose buttons two pink buttons from the button box  that were the perfect size. Then we used the Bernina to sew the buttons to the decorative welts. She liked seeing the Bernina stitch back and forth!



The needle is sharp
K did a little hand work. I put the needle in the fabric and she pulled it through. Her first question was how do you knot the thread to end?

Wasn't that a great question? We estimated and then counted how many stitches it would take before we needed to answer that question. Even J climbed into my lap and watched the process up close and personal!

Then, K saw that we take three tiny stitches on top of each other and then hide the thread to make a knot. She was surprised at how sharp the needle was. Yes, she stuck herself so she needed a bandaid!

The big tahdah moment was putting on the skirt for the first time. Yes! It fits! Yes! It swirls! Ahhhh. . .now, may she wear it often and love it!

Her mama texted me the evening she took her skirt home. Mama said K was so excited to share the skirt with her daddy. She planned to wear it to her "school" the following day!

Miss J's skirt fabric is ready for me to cut out the pattern. I may get to that over the weekend. Because the two girls are about the same size around; I wanted to see how this skirt fit Miss J. I'll be need to make a smaller size as we needed to take up the waist a bit.

This is my fourth Finish-A-Long 2016 for quarter number 4. You can read my list here.