Saturday, July 23, 2016

What I’m not Doing on My Summer Vacation

Dear friends, I’m writing you from a summery state of captivity. For the past month, I’ve been held against my will by two little boys and a golden retriever. We’ve been spending our days going to the pool and running around the playroom, talking Pokemon and eating ice cream. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like prison to you, but my captors do not support my quilting hobby.

I know this because every time I sit down to accomplish something at my sewing machine, I am interrupted by “Mom, he’s hitting me!” or “Mom, Rose is eating a shoe!” Well, I will show them. I’m going to finish some quilts this summer if it kills me (and it very well may).

I am close to completing five projects. I have two quilt tops that are finished and set aside for Miss Mary to do her magic (blogged about here and here). I have three other tops that I am going to quilt myself. This past week, when summer school and camp provided me some time alone, I did a little binge basting ...

I paired these sweet foxes with scraps from Grape Fizz to sew this quilt top.
(The design is Stitched in Color's Penny Patch Quilt.)

My guild reviewed the basics of paper piecing by sewing these Dutch Windmill blocks.
(The design is from Red Delicious Life.)

How is your summer going? Are you like those teacher friends of mine who have 10 glorious weeks to churn out quilt after quilt at their leisure, or do you find yourself as I do, running around the house in a bathing suit, armed with a water blaster and chasing after a 7-year-old, thinking, “I am too old for this!”

What are you doing on your summer vacation? We want to know!

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Tale of My First Block of the Month

My longest-running WIP has been the Park Bench block of the month (BOM) I started in 2014. I hit a snag after making a handful of the blocks that year and let it derail me for, like, 18 months.

This past April, when I was planning projects for my guild’s retreat, I knew it was time to face Park Bench. There’s nothing like being stranded at a Catholic retreat center for a weekend with a sewing machine and quilty friends to get things going.

And now here it is, the full quilt top ...

Each of those hexagons finishes at 16 inches. They’re so big and so satisfying to sew.

It helped that the fabric for this BOM is Carolyn Friedlander’s Botanics collection. I’ve liked her fabric lines since Botanics debuted, but this combination of pretty colors, not-so-feminine florals, and versatile low-volumes is my favorite.

Now, the whole point of a BOM is that you end up with the same quilt in the same fabrics as everyone else. If you’re me, however, you manage to mess it up. The snag I mentioned earlier? Two of the packets I got over the course of the project were mislabeled. Instead of investigating why the fabrics didn’t sync with the provided pattern, I figured my quilt shop had to make some substitutions and I went with what I had, wrong labels and all. I ended up not liking the blocks and decided to omit them from the finished quilt top. (Take a peek at a full finished top here, at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework.)

I consider this a Big Girl Decision. These hexagons are time sucks. I’ve put plenty of resources—including beautiful fabric!—into making them. Editing three of them out of the final layout is painful but necessary. I’d rather snuggle up under a smaller quilt than have those ugly blocks staring me down in the final product. And I know what you’re thinking, but I so dislike them that they will not appear on the quilt back, either.

The beauty of having finished this top is that I have a sizable pile of Botanics scraps. This line is out of production, so these leftovers are worth their weight in gold. 

My latest scrap-busting technique is putting scraps to work in another quilt before I can relegate them to an uncertain future in my scrap bin. I’ve been loving much of what Nancy Purvis has been posting on Instagram lately, and I’m thinking that I could pair the Botanics scraps with a pale grey to sew something akin to her Scrappy Happy Quilt. (See other pictures from her along these lines here and here.)

Do you have any thoughts, reservations, or recommendations about my plan for those lovely scraps?!

To see other pictures from this quilt top when it was a WIP, click here.

Linking up to Let’s Bee Social and Scraptastic Tuesday ...

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Grape Fizz: A Flimsy Finish

I really like paper-piecing. The accuracy I get with paper-pieced projects (like this one or this one) makes me giddy. I still do my fair share of “unsewing” when I paper-piece—most often because a chunk of fabric doesn’t fully cover the intended area—but my skills are rock solid. I didn’t think I needed to improve my technique until I took a class with Amy Garro.

I’ve been following Amy’s blog, 13 Spools, for years (even before it was called 13 Spools!) and was excited when she came out with her first book, Paper Pieced Modern, in early 2015. Other than completing a free block from her here and there, though, I had never tackled one of her full-size quilts.

That changed when my guild—the New Hampshire Modern Quilt Guild—hosted a daylong workshop with Amy. Our project was her Icy Waters design, the cover quilt from Paper Pieced Modern.

If I had pieced Icy Waters outside of the workshop, I would have resorted to my old approach to paper-piecing and there would have been some unsewing. Amy, however, encourages quilters to do much of the work up front with smart cutting. Then she trims her fabric to match a seam on the pattern before sewing it. I had always trimmed the seam allowance after sewing. There’s still waste with Amy’s method, and I made some mistakes in the first block or two. After that, though, that the opportunities for screw-ups were more about organizing the blocks, not the actual sewing.

I finished the quilt top a week and a half after the class. Now I just need to send it out for the quilting. (Have you ever hired a longarmer to quilt for you? I’ve blogged about two quilts I had professionally quilted: one features custom work; the other was quilted with a panograph.)

I’m calling this project Grape Fizz. Right now, it’s really just grape; the fizz will come in with the quilting. I think swirly ribbon-candy quilting will soften all of those hard lines.

This color is a stretch for me. I’m no stranger to shades of purple, but I’ve never devoted an entire quilt to it. The floral by Valori Wells started me on this track, and I added various solids to achieve the ombre effect while still ensuring there was enough contrast between the colors. I’m calling it a success!

What does pushing outside of your color comfort zone look like for you? Have you made the leap yet? If not, what’s stopping you?!

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