Self-imposed Challenge

I have been MIA from my blog for several months now, not because I have lost interest in quilting or blogging, but because I’ve been too busy quilting and living life.  I had a serious bout of illness in late November where I was laid low for about three weeks, and the illness included some sort of horrible virus that morphed into a bacterial infection, the double whammy of pink eye in both eyes, and a torn retina that needed to be repaired by laser surgery during the peak of my illness including a horrible cough that I had to try to control during the laser surgery so that I didn’t move my eye the wrong way.  I describe the procedure as “spot welding” my retina. It was one of those “Lord, just take me home now” periods of life.   In early November, I also took off for 5 days to my quilt guild’s annual retreat, which was a wonderful time.  I have also had three root canal procedures done in the last six weeks, one of which resulted in a pulled tooth, so now I “get” to go for an implant. In the meantime, I soldier on making quilts.

I have challenged myself to use up as much as my stash as I can in order to make room for some new fabrics.  Some of the fabrics in my stash cupboard are ten years old.  With that in mind, for the retreat, I decided to embark on a complicated bargello style quilt.  I had taken a class in how to make a bargello several years ago and ended up with a lovely, but simple quilt with all the columns being a uniform size.  I have always wanted to make a more complicated one, so I dug through my stash and cut 180 strips of fabric.  I used the book by Ruth Ann Berry, Bargello Quilts In Motion.  She includes in her book easy to use charts on how to make each column.  Here is the quilt that I made.

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I wish I had a little larger sewing room so that I could take complete photos of floor to ceiling quilts like this one is.  I only got about half of the columns assembled during the retreat and then I sewed them into pairs to make it easier to cart home.  This was a mistake.  When I got the next few columns up on the design wall at home, I noticed that I had put a couple of columns together with some sections inserted upside down, so the design didn’t flow like it was supposed to and had to get out my trusty seam ripper.  So if you embark on a project like this, be sure to have all your columns complete and up on the design wall before you start attaching them to one another.  Because this quilt has columns ranging from 1 inch cut size to 2 3/4 inch cut size, another thing that I learned is that it is essential that you iron meticulously before you try to quilt on a longarm machine.  The quilt just kind of folded up on itself like an accordian when I pinned the bottom to the longarm leader and I had to remove it, iron and start all over.  I also liberally used Best Press to get everything to lay down properly.  I prefer Best Press to starch because it doesn’t make the quilt stiff and I don’t like to wash my quilts unless absolutely necessary. My friend who longarms professionally belatedly suggested that you can stay stitch the top and bottom of the quilt if you don’t have a border.  This is the only quilt I have ever made without a border.

The last lesson is when you are ironing your seams, start in the middle and iron the left side to the left and the right side to the right so that when you smooth the top while rolling it on the frame, you don’t have flipped seams all over the place.  One of the great tips that Ruth Ann includes in her book is to pencil in the column number on the top piece of the column to help keep everything in order.  This worked better than pinning a number on, which tends to fall off at the most inopportune times.

Well, it’s done now and I am thrilled with the result.  It was just what I wanted and I only bought a yard each of two different fabrics to get the color gradient that I was looking for.  I even used a  couple of large yardage pieces out of my stash to make the back!  Someone at the quilt retreat thought the beginnings of the quilt looked like the Richter scale that measures earthquakes (you can tell we are in California) so I named it 7.2.

During the last few months, there has also been a flurry of grandbabies born and to be born in my circle of friends, so I have been working on baby quilts.  Both of these two were made entirely from my stash once again.  I utilized a couple of adorable panels that I had purchased some time ago because I just can’t resist a cute piece of fabric.

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I called this one Fairy Sweet.

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This one is called How Much is That Doggie In The Window.  Here is a close up.021

The grandparents are crazy about dogs just as I am.

Ten days or so before Christmas, I received a frantic phone call from a friend who wanted to know if I had a quilt I was willing to sell her for a gift for her mother-in-law.  I told her I didn’t, but that I could make her a really simple one in time for Christmas and emailed her photos of a couple of others I had made in the lasanga or noodle method, which goes really fast.  She loved them, picked out her colors, and in about 5 days, I had this one completed, also using nothing but stash fabrics.  Fortunately, she wanted florals which I always have tons of because I love flowers. 009

This one is named Rows Garden. The only reason I was able to get it bound in that time frame is I used the binding technique that my sister-in-law, stitchinggrandma.wordpress.com turned me onto.  It’s totally done by machine, and you end up with a little flange of accent color on the front of the quilt.  If you look closely at the close-up of Doggie In The Window, you can see the beige accent separating the wood grain binding from the edge of the quilt.   This quilt has a yellow accent separating the border from the same color binding. Here is a link where you can find a tutorial on how it is done. http://www.freequiltpatterns.info/free-tutorial—susies-magic-binding.htm  .  I have started using this method for all my quilts because arthritis in my fingers makes it difficult to do handwork.  Besides the accent just brightens up the whole quilt and makes it a much quicker process.

Last, but not least, I made this little quilt to donate to my quilt guild who provides comfort quilts to social services in our county which gives the quilts to children who have been traumatized in some way.  Once again, this is all fabric strictly from my stash.

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And a close-up photo of the feature fabric and you can see the gold accent separating the brown binding and border.  Just love the look.

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Thank you for taking your time to read my blog ramblings.  I hope you find something in my blog useful or entertaining and I wish you all a wonderfully blessed and prosperous New Year!

 

 

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Creating a Dog From Scratch Can Be Ruff

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I have not forgotten about blogging over the last few months, but boy, have I been busy.  In May, I flew back to Delaware to visit my east coast partner in quilting crime, my sister-in-law, Mary of stitchinggrandma fame.  We had the opportunity to go on a four day retreat with Cheryl Lynch, www.cheryllynchquilts.blogspot.com,  at her lake house in the Poconos to learn how to take a photograph of our pet and turn it into a quilt.  I don’t normally do art type quilts mainly because I like to stick with bed sized quilts and I simply don’t have any wall space to hang an art quilt.  But I am game to try anything once, and besides, I wanted to have a quilting adventure with Mary.  In addition I figured that I could make a pillow top out of the completed project.  So I sent off the above photo of our dear Rottweiler, Fannie Mae von Nubbinwagger who passed on at the ripe old age of 12 around 2003.   My first clue that this was too large for a pillow top should have been the fact that we were requested to bring a 56 inch square design wall!   Indeed, the project ended up being 56 or so inches square without borders. Cheryl had us overlay our photo with a grid overlay, and following the grid, make 2 inch squares of fabric.  Sounds easy enough; right?  Well, not quite.  On top of many of those 2 inch squares, other little pieces of fabric needed to be added to make up the details of that particular grid square.  Some of the pieces I used ended up having up to 8 additional fabrics on the little square.

Here is a photo of the end product, minus the binding which I’m still working on.
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I just love the way it came out, but was it ever a lot of work.  I have literally worked on nothing else, except for longarm quilting a quilt for a friend, since I got home just before Memorial Day.  I dreamed about this project.  I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about how I was going to achieve a particular effect that I wanted.  I emailed Cheryl and whined when things weren’t turning out the way I expected. (By the way, Cheryl is a wonderful and patient teacher.  I recommend her Pet Mosaic class if you ever have the opportunity.  We were treated like queens at her home.)  I continually asked my dear husband’s (Quilter’s Support Staff) opinion.  I remade the nose three times.  I totally redid the eyes four times.  I remade the eyebrows once.  I was worried I would make a mess of the actual quilting. I agonized over some of the fabric choices.  It was like being in labor for three months.  It was worth it, but I suspect that making art quilts will go the way of paper piecing in my mind.  Never again.  I saw, I learned, I did, I redid.  I’m done!  I am glad I did it though.  It was a real challenge and helped me develop some skills that will come in handy in other quilting projects.

Here are a couple of closeups of the quilting that wasn’t nearly as challenging as I made it out to be in my mind.  The hardest part was remembering which direction the fur on Rottweilers lays because we lost our last one 5 years or so ago so I didn’t have one to pet.

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When I quilted the nose, I couldn’t see the thread on the fabric so I ended up going over the same spot several times trying to make a pebble effect.  The pebbles came out really well on the mustache area that you can see in the last photo, though, maybe because I got so much practice on the nose?

Now that this project is done, I can go sweep the cobwebs off the walls all over the house that have been ignored for so long, and maybe I can blog a little more often.

Old Time Fun & Quilting Too

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Last Saturday, our little rural community held it’s 11th annual Dutch Oven Dinner where everything from chili verde to cinnamon rolls is cooked in dutch ovens.  Well, the one exception is the homemade ice cream.  This year there were over 100 different dutch ovens going.  The cooks start preparing around noon and dinner is served around 4.  It is a fascinating process to watch.  The photo above shows some of the guys getting the charcoal ready to go.  Once the charcoal is ready, it is transferred to a metal bucket, and taken around to the cooking stations, where a few coals are placed under the dutch ovens and a few are placed on top.  The tops have a little lip all the way around that keeps the charcoal in place.  There are specialized tools to lift the lids to stir or check on the food cooking inside.  The piece of metal under each oven is a part of an old plow.dutch oven 3

This is a photo of a few of the ovens cooking away.  When the coals start disintegrating into ash, more is brought around to keep things going. It’s amazing that a half dozen pieces of charcoal is enough to thoroughly cook a dish.

The great entertainment doesn’t stop at watching the cooks at work at this event.  There are also all sorts of old time craft demonstrations.  This year there was several blacksmiths manning their forge, a couple of Native American drummers doing traditional drum chants, gold panning, and there were even two restored chuck wagons that had been set up as if they were an actual campsite.  The one in the photo below was actually used in the ’50s TV series Rawhide and belongs to one of the founding families in the area.

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Last, but in my mind, not least, for the first time, I was asked to do a quilting demonstration.  Below is a photo of my area while we were setting up.  I am in the red shirt, and the incredibly handsome gentleman in front is my wonderful husband, or as he called himself, the Quilter’s Support Staff.

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The other lady is a quilting student of mine who agreed to help out, and later in the day another lady from our local quilting group came and demonstrated hand quilting and sold raffle tickets for the hand quilted scholarship quilt that our group made.  My intention was to demonstrate the versatility of half-square triangles.  The blocks hung on the design wall all have HSTs in them and look totally different from one another.  In reality, I ended up demonstrating how to make 4-patches and 9-patches to beginning quilters and wannabe quilters.  I was pleased to be able to encourage several people to hang in there or to look into actually taking a class.  More advanced quilters also stopped by the booth, and we had a great time discussing our passion for quilting.  My husband amazed and amused me because when I was busy with other people, he was actually using the pieces I had made to demonstrate the 4-patch to show other interested people how to make them.  He truly is the best Quilter’s Support Staff that I could have.

All the money raised at this event goes to build a rural life museum featuring the history and founding of this area. A good time had by all, and I can’t wait until next year.

More projects finished and unfinished

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A continuation of my “Back In The Saddle” post from the other day, here are a couple of other projects that I’ve finished in the last few months.  The one above really should have gone at the head of “Back In The Saddle” since it is a cowboy themed quilt.  I only had to purchase the border and binding fabric to make this one….so that made it free!  Hahaha.  It is going to be donated to be raffled in a scholarship fundraiser for some of the local kids.  I named it “Happy Trails”.  The back fabric is a print of cattle.

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This one has been on the back burner for about 4 years, every since I purchased the pattern.  I searched high and low for just the right bird fabric to go into the bird houses since I wanted a realistic feel to it rather than whimsical that the pattern called for.  I finally found it when I was blessed to be able to go to the Houston Quilt Show nearly 3 years ago.  All of the birds were in one panel, the perfect size and just what I was looking for.  I tried to use prints of actual “building” materials, although the basketweaves are only good for building bird houses or bee skeeps, and I don’t know many people that actually use bricks to build bird houses, but realism does have its limits.  When I went searching for the background fabric, I was aiming for cloudy skies, then ran across this cloudy sky fabric with mallards flying around…perfect!  Not sure how visible it is in this photo.  I never realized how difficult it was to find fabric that resemble flowers climbing on a trellis.  I did the best I could with what I could find.  I particularly like the brown, bare branches that reminded me of a princess under a spell sleeping in her castle and thorn bushes growing up the walls to keep the handsome prince from rescuing her.  Okay, so I had to have some whimsy.

The last project is as yet unfinished.  Every year I raffle off a custom made to order quilt to benefit one of the ministries that our church is involved in.  This year’s winner was…wait for it… the PASTOR’S MOTHER!  Really, the drawing wasn’t fixed, and she being a magnificent quilter in her own right, gave the prize to the pastor’s wife, who truly deserves this special treat for all that she does for everyone else.  She picked out the center panel, and I purchased the other fabrics and then got her approval on the colors.  I’m not going to let her see it any further than that until it is presented to her.  Here is a photo of the progress so far.

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She really wanted me to include some sort of a trellis pattern in the quilt, so the interwoven border is what I came up with.  It took me two weeks to assemble it.  What a royal pain!  I only had a drawing from the internet that showed little squares representing the placement of the pieces, so had to figure it out from that.  I am really proud of myself for being able to pull this off since math is a struggle for me, even with a calculator.  Each piece of the puzzle was only two inches squared up, an inch and a half finished and included dozens of the dreaded Half-Square Triangles that I keep swearing I will never make again.  If anything was out of order, it had to be torn out and redone, so I placed each itsy-bitsy piece in order on my design wall, and pieced each tiny row one row at a time, placing them back in position on the wall when finished.  When it came to turning the corners and making it all come out perfectly, I was tearing my hair out.  It took me two days to figure it out.  Fortunately, I didn’t sew any rows together until I had them all assembled.  The sides came out to be the perfect length, but I just couldn’t make the top and bottom work until I figured out to put a tiny strip of the yellow on either side of the panel to make it come out just right.  What a challenge.

The blue strip on the left will be the next plain border, then I’m considering putting in a ribbon border made with the yellow, green and brown since it needs more brown.  Once again, I only have a drawing to go by, so we’ll see.  I intend to also make a square-in-a-square border with the leftover flowered stripe that is in the third border out and a diamond-in-a-square border with the diamonds pointing to the top and bottom.  Then the last border will be a companion stripe that matches the panel with the flowers and bluebirds.  The quilt will be a large queen when finished…if I survive the math.

This last photo is of the glorious Lady Banks roses that are giving their all in spite of the fact that my darling hubby butchered them in early January after I asked him not to.  Just because they were bending the wire fence they are growing on to the ground was no excuse for pruning them at the wrong time of year.  I thought there would be hardly any blossoms at all since they bloom on the previous year’s growth and only one time a year at that.  What a pleasant surprise and now I suppose I can let him move back in from the doghouse…for now.002

 

Back In The Saddle again

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Spring is here in the Central Coast of California.  We were blessed so far with near normal rainfall this rainy season after years of severe drought.  This photo of the wisteria over our patio is the best bloom we’ve had in years.  The honey bees are having a heyday buzzing about the gorgeous blossoms.

Spring is one of the reasons why my poor blog has been ignored for the last few months.  I’ve been busy with getting the garden cleaned up, including pruning around 60 rosebushes and 24 fruit trees.  Also we have trays of tomato seedlings that will be ready to go in the garden in another 6 weeks or so.  I still have to get the other vegetables ready to go in.  Time is running out.  It always seems time is running out.  Since I’m the volunteer bookkeeper for the little country church that we belong to, I’ve also been busy getting the end of the year/tax season chores dealt with as well as our personal tax information.  But that is all finished and I can return to the “normal” chaos.

Don’t think I have ignored my quilting though!  I have started and finished several projects in the last few months.  This is a photo of the table topper and the back of it that I made for my quilting buddy’s birthday.  She loves her “girls” as she’s named her chickens.

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I also finished the Half Square Triangle Hell quilt that I was complaining about earlier.  Here is a photo of the ho-hum original block, and the blockbuster secondary pattern that one gets in the finished product (the pattern is called Joanne’s Quilt).002002

One of the other projects that I worked on was making an eight foot by 4 foot banner at the request of the local Episcopal church’s vicar.  I forgot to take a photo of it after it was finished, but here is a photo of it partially done pinned horizontally on the design wall.  There are 3 of the Celtic crosses evenly spaced over the 8 foot length and it is bordered all the way around in black.005

There are several more projects that I have done, but now I’ve got to get back to getting chores done so I can spend the rest of the day working on another medallion quilt that has me stumped as to which pieced border to add next.

Scrap Dance Top Done

A few months ago, I signed up to do a mystery quilt Quilt Along at the blog From My Carolina Home.  (https://frommycarolinahome.wordpress.com/)  It was supposed to be finished by September, and I couldn’t figure out why it was taking me so long to complete mine.  I was following the directions to make a twin sized quilt, and it seemed like there were just an endless number of pieces to cut and sew together.  Once I started putting blocks up on the design wall, I figured out why it was taking forever.  The directions actually made a queen sized quilt!

Here is a close up of one of the blocks, showing that I ended up using two different background fabrics because I ran out of the swirly looking one about two-thirds into the project.  Fortunately, I had two fabrics with very similar colors in my stash.  The rest of the quilt was made totally from scraps, and even though there are so many pieces, it didn’t even make a dent in my scrap bins.

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Here is a photo of the completed top:

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I just love how this quilt turned out.  It was worth all the effort put into it, including having to tear out one row of one of the blocks after the top was completed because the HSTs in that row were facing the wrong direction and ruined the pattern in that section.  At least I found it before it was quilted and bound.

Still knocking names for it around in my head.  One is “No Kitchen Sink” and another is “Quiltaholic goes Scrap Happy”, but we’ll see.  Now I have to go back to half square triangle hell (see 1280 HSTs on the wall post previously) that I took a break from a couple of weeks ago in order to complete this top.  So, stand by, I might actually finish that quilt soon.  One can always hope.

Learning about color and other random thoughts

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I took a class on Tuesday at my local quilt guild taught by a wonderful fabric/pattern designer named Nancy Rink. She taught us how to use Joen Wolfrom’s 3-in-One Color Tool. Since I am the Queen of Quilting Gadgets, of course I happened to have one in my tool inventory, purchased when I was a brand new quilter, but I had really never even looked at it closely. I was surprised early on that I was blessed with a pretty good sense of color, so it just gathered dust in my cupboard, but I reasoned that we can all learn to improve our skills.  I’m really glad that I decided to take the class, because I learned a lot about color that I only understood in my “gut”, but now understand why things work the way they do together.  We were instructed to bring a black or other neutral background fabric, a focus fabric, and a variety of tone-on-tone or solids, a design wall, and a camera, but not our sewing machines!

Using the tool, Nancy taught us how to use the color wheel, and the individual cards to make different blocks, all of which had the neutral background and at least one piece of the focus fabric.  Here is how mine came out.

The first one is Monochromatic, using our focus fabric, and picking from the card that our focus fabric was found on, pick other fabrics that were on that card.  This was really fun because we all were free to dig through everyone else’s fabric to find just the right thing.  (She had told us to expect to share in advance.)  My focus fabric is the medium green surrounding the center.

003Block 2 is Complementary, which is the focus fabric and the color directly across the color wheel, using lights and darks of either of the two colors.

004Block 3 is Analogous Counter-clockwise, moving counter-clockwise from the focus fabric, using 3-5 of the adjacent colors without skipping any of the colors.

005Block 4, Analogous Clockwise, using the focus fabric, moving clockwise around the color wheel, using the next 3 to 5 colors without skipping any.

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Block 5, Split complementary, starting with the focus fabric, go to the complementary fabric and then add at least two colors next to the complementary fabric.
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Block 6, Triad, starting again with the focus fabric, pick the two other colors that are equally spaced around the color wheel, and make one of the three colors your dominant color.
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Block 7, Tetrad, which is four colors equidistant around the color wheel, one of which is your focus fabric.
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Block 8, Polychromatic, which of course just means many colors, so including my focus fabric, I put in as many of the other colors I had already selected into the block as I found appealing.
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The class was a lot of fun and a great learning experience.  It was interesting how each block looks different, but still plays nicely with the others.  The one I struggled with the most is the Triad because of the orange-red that was called for, but now that I look at the photos, it does work.  I probably will use the pieces in a scrap quilt I’m working on and won’t sew these blocks together into a quilt like was intended.  But when I’m struggling with picking just the right border or sashing or third color to bring into a quilt in the future, I have another great tool to help guide me along the way.
I’ve also been away from blogging for so long because I have a foot injury, and have spent much of my time going from the podiatrist, to getting tests, back to podiatrist, more tests, and on and on.  Keep in mind, the closest town to where we live is 30 miles one way, so every trip in is a least two hours.  Then I came down with the stomach flu and spent two days on the couch with trips only to the bathroom or the bedroom to lay on the bed. This is my second day of not having to lay down most of the day. You know how sick I was because I didn’t even walk into my sewing room from the time I dropped my stuff off from class on Tuesday, until yesterday afternoon when my quilting buddy came to sew. I managed to then sit in a chair all afternoon and ripped out four log cabin blocks that I was unhappy with. That’s absolutely pitiful for me, usually spending a least three hours a day working on a quilting project.  I can hardly wait to get my energy back.

“Name This Quilt” Contest

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This is my latest “nearly finished” project (just one side of the binding left to be handsewn) which I started about a year and a half ago. It is done in a “Radiant Star” pattern by Eleanor Burns which I started in a class at a local quilt shop. It has become my most favorite quilt that I have ever made, replacing even a one-block wonder made several years ago which is now a close second. I love to name my quilts, but can’t decide on what I should call this one, so I thought I would encourage feedback from readers of this blog. The prize for the winning entry is a still-in-the-package “Splash” rotary cutter by Olfa. If you’re not familiar with this type of cutter, the blade is changed with just a flick of the thumb…no more struggling with trying to figure out which way to put the parts back together. A real time and frustration saver.
The rules for the contest are simple. Just post your name for this quilt in the reply section of this blog on or before June 1st, 2015. The winner will be chosen purely subjectively by me, oneblockwonderwoman. A hint, I love humorous names and plays on words. For instance, I once named a flowery strip quilt that I made for a great-niece “Rows Garden” because the name just made me laugh. I like more serious names as well that really fit the quilt. You may enter more than one name. And that’s all there is to it. Time permitting, I will post the winning name the week of June 1st and get your rotary cutter off in the mail as soon as I get a mailing address from the winner.
I’m looking forward to seeing all of the creativity I know quilters possess. Thank you in advance for participating, and feel free to share this contest with your fellow quilters.

What a surprise…another One Block Wonder In the Works

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This lovely Sunflower fabric is the next One Block Wonder I’ve started working on. It is a challenge hosted by a One Block Wonder group I follow on Facebook. The powers that be picked 6 different fabrics, and the members that want to participate get to pick one fabric, make a OBW out of it, and then we’ll post our finished results on the FB page just to see how different the same fabric can be when using this technique and the unique flair each quilter puts into their quilts.

I certainly didn’t need to sign up for this challenge as I have about a dozen UFOs waiting to be completed, but I am hopelessly hooked on OBWs.

Here are my blocks. The design still needs a lot of major tweaking, but that’s my favorite part of the process. It feels a little like painting without the mess and clean-up.
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From panel to finished top…

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Well, the quilt top for the raffle quilt that I posted about a couple of weeks ago is ready for quilting. The panel at the beginning of this post is the original fabric used to make this one block wonder.
Here is a photo of the finished top.
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It was a total fluke that the main body of the quilt came out as a heart shape, but I decided to leave it that way since the people who won this custom made quilt are newlyweds.
On to the next project, which you will be surprised to hear is….another One Block Wonder! I just can’t help myself.