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!

 

 

Learning new skills

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Well, I now have my first medallion quilt under my belt and am loving the way it has turned out.  I bought the peacock fabric and companion stripes that appear in the 6th and 9th border four years ago on a trip to Pennsylvania’s Amish country.  I also got the peacock feathers and the teal and gold fabrics at the same time, and I’ve been waiting for just the right pattern to come along to inspire me to cut into the peacock, which was a print rather than a panel.  I finally found the pattern that you see above that is by Marie Bostwick and Deb Tucker (the designer of the set of specialty rulers that I’m always touting because they make my life so much simpler and productive).

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go on my local quilt guild’s 4-day retreat, and I was excited to get the peacock quilt done.  My first problem with it was the peacock and accompanying flower design was much larger than the fabric used in the original pattern, so the oval template provided simply wouldn’t work with my print.  The Monday before the retreat was our monthly guild meeting, and as things worked out, our speaker showcased several of her award winning quilts with ovals included in them, so I asked her if she had a formula for figuring out how to cut a perfect oval.  She did not have an answer for me.  Evidently she does hers by the seat of her pants and is much more skilled than I am.  Next I asked the person that I was convinced knows absolutely everything about quilting, but alas, for the first time since I’ve known her, she couldn’t tell me the answer.  So Super-Hubby to the rescue.  I was explaining my issue to him, and he went to the computer and  found two how-to videos on how to make a perfect oval that both used the same easy technique!  What a wonderful quilter’s husband I have.  I’m attaching the links to both videos.  The first one I thought was a little easier to understand, but the second one has a better visual, so if you’re interested you might want to watch both of them.  The second one, I just moved the bar past the goofiness until they actually started showing the technique.  They are both about a minute or so long.

So on Tuesday, we went outside and I made my oval on freezer paper, which I ironed to the back of the peacock design I wanted to use, and then used my usual applique technique to finish the edges, and by the time I left for retreat on Thursday, I had a little over a third of it hand stitched onto the gold background.  I figured, how long could it possibly take to throw a few borders on it, so I packed 4 other projects that I wanted to try to get done.  Evidently it takes a long time to put 9 borders on when 3 of them are pieced borders and two of them are mitered, because I finally finished getting border number 7 on just in time to pack up and head home on Sunday afternoon.  I never even touched my other projects.  And I wasn’t goofing off, but hardly left my work area to check in with what others were doing.  But when you think about it, with 3 pieced borders, I probably made enough pieces to make up a twin sized quilt.  And the pieced borders created another issue.  Since my center medallion was larger than the pattern, when I made the pieces for the borders to the pattern specifications they didn’t fit perfectly.  So my friends Holly and Debby came to the rescue and helped me figure out how to position coping strips to make the borders look good.  I especially love that Debby came up with the idea on the 7th border to use Deb Tucker’s “Corner Beam” ruler to make the corner pieces in that border along with coping strips to make them fit perfectly.  I think it adds an unexpected element, but turns the corners nicely yet doesn’t draw too much attention to themselves.  I also want to thank Holly for the refresher course on how to do the mitered borders.

Saturday night, we had a show & tell.  I had two of the border #7 s on the quilt and it was hanging on the design wall in the main workroom where I was assigned.  There was another small group of quilters in a more remote building who brought their projects down to the dining room next to my workroom for show and tell.  Just as we were finishing up show and tell, the fire alarm went off and we smelled something like toast burning.  Against all rules that you hear about from fire marshals, I ran into the workroom and grabbed my peacock off the wall and the box with the rest of the fabric in it and slept with it in my room that night.  As it turns out a member of the staff was cooking a tortilla over an open flame and it caught fire, so it was much ado about nothing, but I was NOT going to let all my hard work go up in flames.  Don’t try this at home.  Okay, I’m a bad, bad girl.

Even though I didn’t get my other projects done, I had a great time with a great bunch of ladies.  If you’ve always been afraid to try an oval, I encourage you to watch the videos and give it a try.  The worse thing that can happen is you mess up a few pieces of paper.  I am simply terrible at math, and had to do the oval twice because the first one I made didn’t turn out big enough.  It’s worth the time and trouble when you get great results.  I’m glad I didn’t cut up the peacock fabric into a one block wonder as I was tempted to do several times over the years.

Happy Quilting.

Easy Pineapple Block with no Paper Piecing

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As promised, I’m sharing what I learned in a recent class on making Pineapple blocks without the dreaded paper piecing.  The dimensions used in the class make a 14 inch block.

To make the feathered portions, you will need to first make four Triangle-in-a-Square or V-blocks using your favorite method, either the Tri-Recs rulers or Deb Tucker’s V-block Trimmer.  These should be squared up to 6 inches.  After they are squared, place the V towards your left on the cutting mat.

006 Cut this piece in half as shown so that you end up with two 3 inch pieces

 

007 Cut each half into half again so that you end up with four 1 1/2 inch pieces

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To make the feather, flip each of the pieces 180 degrees.  I used pieces that I had already cut from other V-block units because I am going for a scrappy look.  The top of the photo shows the cut pieces before they are flipped and the bottom of the photo shows the pieces after they are flipped.009 Sew the four pieces together, being careful to not make the mistake I made several times of sewing the wrong two edges together.  You will end up with four feather units like in the photo below.010 Next, you will want to make your centers, which are just quarter square triangles.  Make two half-square triangle units using four different fabrics (if you are going for a scrappy look).  Square up the HSTs to 6 1/2 inches, then cut them in half diagonally.004Using one piece from each of the HSTs, sew them together making a 6 inch quarter square triangle. 005 Now all you need is four 4 1/2 inch squares to complete your block.011 If you like you can use a 6 inch square of feature fabric in the center instead of the quarter square triangle or just one piece of coordinating fabric, which makes this block even more simple. 012 Some of the quilters in the class used a limited palette of colors.  For instance, one used teals and grays, and her quilt promised to be stunning.  I hope you have fun trying out this easy method.  If you are intimated by the idea of making a V-block or don’t know how to do it, I recommend you go to Deb Tucker’s website at this link: http://www.studio180design.net/videos/?id=5 and watch her video on the tool that she developed.  I used to be intimated too, but found her tool extremely easy to use, and now I make V-blocks (or triangle-in-a-square) like a pro.  Just so you know, I am in no way affliated with Deb Tucker nor do I receive any compensation of any type for talking about her products.  I just happen to really like them and want to help make challenging units easier for my loyal readers.

1280 Half square triangles on the mat…

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…put one down, square it up 1279 half square triangles on the mat.  My apologies to those of you who like 199 bottles of beer on the wall, but I think I’m going to need 199 bottles of beer to finish this quilt.  I had promised myself last year when I made another quilt that needed a huge number of HSTs that I was done with HSTs for all time, but then I fell in love with the quilt that I posted about in “After a forced hiatus…”  So here I have been for the last two weeks diligently making half square triangles.  Each block in the quilt calls for 20 HSTs, and I’m making a queen-sized quilt.  So far I have half of them actually made, but half of those are waiting to be squared up…the most tedious part of the whole thing.

But do let me share with you one nifty shortcut that I discovered some time back to make things go faster.  Instead of marking the stitch lines on the HST, I use the Angler 2 guide.  Following the directions for positioning the guide on my machine, which is easy, I tape it down with painter’s tape, and I mark a corner of it with blue painter’s tape because I have to take the guide off every time I change the bobbin.  You just line up the left “shoulder” of your square with the dotted line, the right “shoulder” with the line on the right, and the bottom point with the 1/4 inch line on the bottom and sew away.

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Then you just flip your piece around 180 degrees and do the second line of stitching.  What a timesaver!  I do a lot of multiiple HSTs using larger squares (refer to the March 6 post entitled Lazy Quilter’s Quick Half Square Triangle Method for how to do this), and the squares tend to hang off the end of the machine so that you can’t line the point up with the 1/4 inch line on the guide.  I solved that problem by putting yet another piece of painter’s tape on the appropriate spot, although I’ve found if you have your two “shoulders” lined up properly, the point is going to end up in the right place, but the tape is a helpful guide to make sure you stay on target once you start sewing.

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One caveat regarding the Angler 2 and its availability.  I heard last year that the woman who created it was tragically killed and her children did not wish to continue with the production and sale of the item, so they may be very hard to get ahold of.  So if you think you’d like to try it and you find one available, you should grab it while you can.

I’d like to say this will be my last quilt with so many HSTs in it, but I’m not making any more promises to myself.  These are just such versatile little shapes that I just know I won’t be able to help myself.

Lazy Quilter’s Quick Half Square Triangle Method

This post is inspired by a post by my sister-in-law, https://stitchinggrandma.wordpress.com/ in which she was kvetching about making large numbers of half square triangles. I’m sure a lot of people use this same method, so I’m certainly not claiming any credit for it, but just trying to be helpful. Using this method, you can make 8 identical HST at one time, only having to draw two lines.
Let’s get started. Let’s say you want to make HSTs that are squared up to 2 1/2 inches (2 inch finished piece). Cut a 7 inch piece of each of your two fabrics, marking the lighter of the two on the wrong side as illustrated in this first photo 1/4 inch from each side of the center, corner to corner:
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Stack the two pieces of fabric, right sides together, and sew along the lines. I always like to press at this point to flatten things out after stitching.
Next, I like to place my sewn piece on my spinning mat. Cut the fabric in half from top to bottom as shown in this photo:
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This is where the spinning mat comes in handy because you don’t have to move the fabric. Spin the mat so that the first cut is going side to side and cut the fabric in half again from top to bottom (or side to side if you don’t have a spinning mat). You will end up with pieces that look like this:
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Then spin your mat or move your ruler and cut between two of the lines of the stitching (just like you normally do when making 2 HSTs).
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Spin the mat (or move ruler) one last time and cut between the two lines of stitching that remain uncut.
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Voila! You have 8 HSTs. I like to square up the pieces using Eleanor Burn’s Quilt-in-a-day HST square up ruler. Just place the HST on your mat, before it is ironed open. In this case, because we’re squaring up to 2 1/2 inches, place the 2 1/2 inch line on the stitch line with the point more or less in line with the point on the HST, trim both sides that are beyond the ruler, and they always come out perfectly.
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If you want to make larger HSTs, for each 1/2 inch larger, add 1 inch to the initial size of the square you cut. So for a 3 inch squared up HST, cut your fabric 8 inches square. To make smaller HSTs, subtract 1 inch for every 1/2 inch smaller. So for a 2 inch squared up HST, cut your fabric 6 inches.
Hope this helps at least someone out there. Happy Quilting!