Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Five Weeks and Counting

Dear readers, as I write this, I am a whirlwind of quilt-making activity. My boys have five more (short! precious!) weeks of school before summer vacation starts, and I am doing everything I can to be productive before we slip into our summer schedule. I have three finishes to share with you in the next week or two, and then I’ll be starting something new. : )

My first finish is this, a throw-size quilt for my mother for her (belated) birthday/Mother’s Day. It might also cover last Christmas—I can’t remember. When it takes 20 to 40 hours to make a present for someone, I think it should count for multiple gift-giving holidays!

This quilt was a long time in the making. It wasn’t complicated—actually, the block design, by Patch the Giraffe, is straight-forward. What was difficult to work with was the fabric. I used a jelly roll of the Lady Mary collection from Andover’s Downton Abbey line. The fabrics themselves are lovely, but they don’t work well together as a collection. There is no clear focal fabric, no design to anchor the group. And although armed with a few dozen 2½-inch strips of these fabrics, I didn’t have enough variety to make an interesting quilt. My solution was to buy more fabric, almost exclusively from other Downton collections, to try to make it work.

I started working with the burgundy, dark blues, and tan from the original jelly roll.

I omitted a few fabrics with cream backgrounds because they didn’t create enough contrast with the Kona Snow I used. The cream background below is the exception. In addition to burgundy and dark blue dots, it contains some purple ones, which helped me expand my palette and add some different fabrics to the mix.

These traditional dots, surrounded by purple, are not from the Downton Abbey line. They’re sweet, though, and worked well with the other designs ...

The top needed a little something else, so I added a swath of pink in the border and bound the project in the purple dot.

The result may not be a “Michelle quilt,” but I think it’s a good stab at “a Mom quilt made by Michelle.”

The funny thing is, my mom is a quilter. I’ve made a handful of quilts for other quilters (like this one and this one). After all, who could appreciate the time and effort I put into a project more than another quilter?

What’s your take on making quilts for quilters? Have you given one of your creations to someone who could have made it for him- or herself?

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Friday, April 28, 2017

There’s Not Much Left to Say!

My longest-standing WIP is done. It is quilted. It is bound. It is waiting to be cuddled up under, to be claimed by a comfort-seeking puppy, to be transformed into a kid-made fort—and I couldn’t be more pleased.

I’ve written pretty much all there is to say about this project. (If you want to know more, there’s a list of previous posts at the bottom of this one.) If the quilt here is new to you, the design is Park Bench by Jaybird Quilts, and it’s made with Carolyn Friedlander’s Botanics line, my favorite collection of hers to date.

Now on to pictures of this beauty, with quilting by See Mary Quilt ...
The original design called for three more blocks, but I opted not to use
them in my final layout. Without them the quilt is still the size of a large throw.

The quilter, Mary Gregory, did something different in each block.

Look at those pebbles, at those teardrops!

Mary knows I’m not crazy about feathers, so she used them sparingly.
The paisley in the background fabrics, however? I adore them!

That’s my favorite block in the center there.

And those overlapping petals are my favorite bit of quilting. Love, love, love!

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Wow, I first wrote about this project almost three years ago! OK, time to fess up: Just how old is your oldest WIP?!

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Friday, April 21, 2017

One Quilter’s Trash Is Another Quilter’s Future UFO

Years ago, my husband dubbed me a “leaver.” If you ask why, he will provide evidence from different aspects of our lives. If I take an umbrella to church on a rainy Sunday morning, for example, I’ll likely have to run back from the car to the sanctuary after service to retrieve it. If I write a detailed list before a big grocery run, I’ll probably leave it on the kitchen island and have to shop from memory once I arrive at the store.

So last fall, when I packed up some unwanted sewing stuff to give away at a guild meeting, I wasn’t surprised at the end of the night when I got in my car and found the bag sitting in the backseat. The demands of life: 1. Michelle’s unreliable memory: 0.

This instance of leaving instigated a rather good idea, though. If I had a bag of quilting paraphrenalia that I was willing to give away, my fellow guild members likely did, too. And my leaver self came up with the idea of a guild-wide yard sale.

The scenario the guild’s board cooked up was a win-win-win proposition. Members could get rid of sewing items they weren’t going to use and could buy ones they wanted for yard-sale prices. All proceeds from the sale went to the guild, for future in-meeting programming. Anything that didn’t sell was given to a local charity.

As a thank-you for participating, we entered donors into a drawing for a $25 gift certificate to a fabric store. (I’m sure the irony is not lost on you: We encouraged people to get rid of quilting supplies and fabric so they could win a gift certificate to buy more quilting supplies and fabric!) To ease check-out, we priced almost everything by category: Books were $3, magazines were $1, fabric was 50 cents an ounce, and so on.

I expected this event to help me clean up my sewing space. I didn’t realize, however, how much awesome stuff my guildmates were going to be giving up, and I scored big. I found a large cut of Denyse Schmidt’s New Bedford line and fat quarters from Amy Butler and Anna Maria Horner ...

And I snatched up other fats from DS, Cotton and Steel, and Art Gallery ...

I also bought multiple yards of Essex Linen, a book, and a pattern. I spent about $18 for all my loot, and I was one of many happy buyers. To boot, the evening raised more than $500 for guild programming. Yahoo!

If you’re looking for an easy way to raise money for your guild, I recommend holding a yard sale. After all, one quilter’s trash is another quilter’s future UFO, right?! If you have other simple ways to grow a guild’s coffers, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Latest Finish: Grape Fizz

Mary Fons, over at PaperGirl, sent out a call for essays last month. The purpose of this contest was to get people writing—for future quilt lovers, for posterity—about their quilts. As a blogger, I write about my quilt projects and quilting in general all the time, so my participation was a no-brainer. What follows is my submission to this contest, plus some pretty pictures.

* * *

One of the things I love most in the world is quilting, but right behind quilting is quilters themselves. Quilters are a unique breed. There’s something special about meeting another quilter for the first time. There’s an instant connection when two people who have spent hours sewing at a machine, standing at a cutting mat, and foraging in fabric shops cross paths. My latest finish—Grape Fizz—is noteworthy not only because it’s beautiful and I love it but also because it reminds me of one of those encounters.

Grape Fizz is my version of Amy Garro’s Icy Waters, a quilt that a lot of modern quilters know. It was shown at QuiltCon 2014 and also adorns the cover of Amy’s book, Paper Pieced Modern. The brilliance behind this pattern is that the seemingly complicated design is really just one block that’s rendered in different fabrics and rotated throughout the quilt. In Amy’s original, this approach re-creates the look of an iceberg. Amy uses a spectrum of blues to translate that iceberg—which sometimes pokes through the Arctic waters and, other times, is submerged deep in the ocean—into fabric.

My interpretation of Icy Waters became Grape Fizz through my decisions about the palette and quilting. Like Amy, I chose an ombre array of fabrics, from pure white, to shades of lavender, to eggplant. I finished piecing my quilt top soon after I started it, in the summer of 2016, and passed it on to my friend Mary Gregory (of See Mary Quilt) for quilting.

It’s the quilting that transforms this project into Grape Fizz. I asked Mary for bubbles and ribbon candy, lots of soft curves to balance the piecing’s sharp corners, and wow, I got it. I almost always straight-line-quilt my projects, so Grape Fizz is not something I could create without Mary’s collaboration.

Mary returned the quilt to me recently. Seeing it transported me back to last summer when I pieced the top, and my experience piecing Grape Fizz was unusual. I did not embark on the project at my sewing table, Paper Pieced Modern in hand. I had the pleasure of starting it with direction from Amy herself, in a workshop she did with the New Hampshire Modern Quilt Guild.

As the NHMQG member in charge of events, I planned the details of getting Amy to New England. In the months preceding her visit, my interactions with her were confined to quick emails about where she wanted to stay and which airport she’d fly out of. By the time her visit (finally!) arrived, I was delighted to have the opportunity talk to her and get to know her more as a quilter and a person.

And we had a lot of time to talk. We talked in the car from the airport to her hotel, during the next day’s workshop, at the post-workshop dinner, and again the last day of Amy’s visit, at her trunk show. We exchanged stories about our projects, our techniques, our quilty idols, our kids. Talking with Amy was, of course, easy because she is a quilter, and we have that common bond of making beautiful pieces of art that we can also curl up under.

As you can imagine, the weekend was inspirational, educational, and a whole lot of fun.

I wish I could say that I’ve been good about keeping in touch with Amy, but I haven’t. And that’s OK. I know that when our paths cross again, we’ll talk and share as any two quilters do. Until then, I have a beautiful quilt that both reminds me of the fabulous weekend we had together and makes me hope our next meeting is sooner rather than later.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

A Faded Finish

At a recent meeting, the guild I belong to—the New Hampshire Modern Quilt Guild—hosted a special show-and-tell. Meeting attendees were encouraged to bring in the first quilt they ever made, as well as the most recent one, and to talk a bit about how they got into quilting.

I made my first quilt, a picnic blanket for a friend’s birthday, back in 2013. I thought it would be fun to ask her to borrow it for the meeting. Since it’s March in New England—and picnicking while there’s still snow on the ground isn’t fun—she said she could go without the quilt for a few days.

Wow. This quilt has been used and loved. I suspect it’s been spilled on countless times, and it has been washed and washed and washed. What reentered my life as a prop for show-and-tell, however, became a lesson on how my quilts hold up over time.

Here’s what I noticed ...

The Fabric

I wish I knew how many times this quilt went through the washer. I suspect it has been to the spa more times than all the quilts in my house combined. (I wash my quilts, all of which are used inside my house, only when absolutely necessary.)

I used two fabric lines for this quilt: Robert Kaufman’s Kona Cottons and DS Quilts, Denyse Schmidt’s line for Joann Fabrics. In addition to feeling almost leatherlike now, these fabrics are a shadow of what they once were. I’m not exaggerating! I don’t have scraps of the solids to use for comparison, but I do have some of the DS fabrics. Check this out ...

I wish I could return to 2013 long enough to give my friend a second quilt, made only from quilt-shop-quality fabric, and see how the two fared head-to-head after so many spills and so many washings. I suspect a quilt made of higher-quality fabric would fare better. How much better? I can’t say.

The Quilting

The quilting has held up well over time. I used a Gutermann neutral on the quilt top and an Aurafil blue on the back. (Wow—I’ve been testing the tension gods since day one. I forgot all about that!) The quilting lines look good. It seems as if I had some problems with puckering as I quilted this project, and those puckers combined with the regular washings create creases and uneven fading.

This is yet another reason to quilt my projects from the center outward—and bury all the many threads that result from that approach! It is also a reminder to loosen up my top-thread tension from the start of a quilting project.

The Binding

I don’t cut the strips for my binding on the bias, and I’m almost certain that was true four years ago, when I made this quilt. There is some noticeable wear on the binding, probably from all those trips through the dryer, but it’s not egregious. What’s more noteworthy, I think, is how I bound the quilt.

Back in 2013, I used a zigzag stitch to machine-finish my bindings. I’ve since abandoned that technique (I use this one instead) because I find it hard to stop and start again neatly and because I don’t think it’s as durable as a straight stitch. The zigzags here are in good shape, however. My eye is drawn to the messy spots where I had to take the quilt off the machine and restart my line of zigzags. Otherwise, it looks really secure, albeit a little wobbly. : )

The Batting

It’s true: cotton batting has a memory. I used a 100% cotton batting—either Quilter’s Dream or Warm and Natural—in this quilt. I still use 100% cotton products from those two brands of batting. Maybe I shouldn’t. It’s clear that my friend consistently folded this quilt on the same two lines horizontally and vertically because there are two permanent creases where the quilt looks looser, almost a little bubbly.

I know this quilt might not be the best example of how my quilts wear over time because of the amount of use and washings it’s had, but the batting lesson it teaches will give me pause the next time I want to commit to buying and using a bolt of 100% cotton batting.

Your Take on This

Have you had the luxury of examining your work on a quilt after years of use as I have? (I am convinced that I’m in the minority!) If so, what did it teach you?

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I’m a Mary Fons Convert

When it came to picking my class load for QuiltCon this year, I wanted to take a workshop with someone who could teach me tried-and-true technique. I’m a self-taught sewist and quilter, and although I have logged thousands of hours behind my sewing machine, I thought I could brush up on some of the basics. Enter Mary Fons.

Most modern quilters know about Mary. She started her quilting career side-by-side with her mother, Marianne Fons, on PBS’s Love of Quilting. She was editor and creative director of Quilty magazine for several years. She is an author, a teacher, a blogger, and an all-around cool lady.

I spent time with Mary twice at QuiltCon, first in a full-day class entitled “Giants: No Fear Partial Seams” and then in a lecture entitled “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: A Brief History of the American Quilt.” Here are some Mary Fons gems I picked up along the way ...

Partial Seams Are No Big Deal

My workshop with Mary focused on her Giant pattern, a red-and-white quilt design that is composed of one block ...

The catch with this block is that it requires a partial seam. I don’t know how partial seams have gotten a bad rap. As it turns out, they are super easy. They are so easy, in fact, that I did not rip out one seam in my class with Mary on the subject!

I was not alone. The class overall took to partial seams quickly, so we transitioned from working on that technique to playing around with the Giant block. We played with value and placement of different fabrics in the block, challenging each other to come up with new combinations. I played with bookending the block like this ...

True story: When Mary saw this, she exclaimed that I was a genius. And who am I to argue with Mary Fons? (For the record, Mary may be prone to hyperbole.)

There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

People have been quilting for a long time. Applique, scrappy quilts, crazy quilts—quilters have been making them for centuries. I know there are still pioneers in the world of quilting, but at the heart of it, we’re doing what’s been done for years.

I find this comforting. I want to create something brand new. The idea that there’s nothing completely new lets me off the hook. There is such a long and rich quilting history behind me that I can focus on just being who I want to be as a quilter and forget about producing something that’s 100% novel.

This Is Not a Moment, It’s a Movement

The corollary to the fact that people have been quilting for a long time is that quilting is not a fad. Sure, it has had its high points and low points in the United States, but those quilting techniques that have been done for hundreds of years will be done for hundreds more.

That may be the most compelling reason to blog about quilting, to label our quilts, to record our history as quilt makers. What we produce has a place in the canon of quilting—we’re part of the movement! Let’s contribute to that history by documenting our quilty endeavors.

See? Mary touched on some great points. I left my second encounter with her, the lecture, encouraged: What we’re doing as quilters is important!

Are there other Mary Fons fans out there? What draws you to her and her work?

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

QuiltCon: The Pre-Conference Pouches

Last week I traveled to Savannah for QuiltCon. My brain still can’t wrap itself around everything I saw and did during the course of the conference, but I can tell you it was awesome—like, one-of-the-best-weeks-of-my-life awesome.

I went for the classes (I took two) and the lectures (I took three). I went for the show and the shopping. It was the people who made the conference what it was, though. Being around all those creative quilters, talking about quilting from sunup to sundown, was both inspiring and exhausting!

I can’t summarize all that was QuiltCon in one blog post, so I thought I’d break it into a few posts about different aspects of the experience. First up is the pre-conference sewing I did ...

I wanted to make a little something for friends I’d be seeing in Savannah. I knew I couldn’t make a present for everyone I would hang out with, so I settled on making a gift for two in-real-life friends and for two social-media friends I’d be meeting for the first time at the event.

I sewed some of Ellen Luckett Baker’s Pixel Pouches, from her book 1-2-3 Quilt. I started one of these pouches a years ago, but assembling the 54 1½-inch squares—of nearly 2 dozen different fabrics!—was more than my scrap bin could handle. A few years later, my scrap bin is overflowing. Once I considered using a color scheme and layout different from what Ellen uses, these pouches came together quickly.

This is the Pixel Pouch from Ellen Luckett Baker’s 1-2-3 Quilt.

For the first one, I used scraps from this quilt. The beauty of this approach was I already knew that these fabrics worked well together.

The back features an extra block from this quilt, which was recently quilted and just needs to be bound. (Stay tuned for that finish in the next few weeks!)

For the remaining pouches, I broke into a Basic Grey Fresh Cut charm pack and sewed three pouches in slightly different color palettes. 

The only snafu I encountered while creating these pretty pouches was zipper related. (Isn’t it always?!) I zipped two of the pull rights off the trimmed tape. It took more than a little coaxing to get them back where they belonged. My perseverance paid off, however, and the recipients were thrilled to receive a pouch with a zipper intact and functional. Ha!

I have made my fair share of pouches, but truth be told, I prefer bag making to pouch making. Size matters, and smaller often means harder and more fiddly!

Do you have a go-to pouch pattern or tutorial? Once I make a bag or pouch pattern, I usually sew it up again and again. Check out some well-worn patterns and tutorials I have used here.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Beware the Procrastination Vortex!

One of my preferred approaches to dealing with a particularly frustrating WIP is the time-out. When a project is put in time-out, it leaves my sewing space and goes to live elsewhere, preferably somewhere I can’t see it, like tucked under a bed or buried at the bottom of my scrap bin or shoved in the back of a closet. I pull a project out of time-out out when my brain can deal with a challenge.

My latest finish, the Cargo Duffle Bag pictured below, was in time-out for almost 18 months. First, I couldn’t decide on a fabric for the pockets, then I misplaced the zipper and was waiting for it to turn up, and then I had difficulties shortening the replacement zipper I bought when I accepted that the original one was lost forever.

Here’s the Cargo Duffle in all its glory!

These obstacles messed with my perspective: How would I ever be able to finish this project and finish it well? This lack of self-confidence was completely unfounded because I had made this pattern before! (For real. See that version here.) With all sense of reason out the window, the time-out morphed into full-fledged procrastination!

If only I knew how beautiful the bag would be in the end, I think I would have shortened the 18-month time-out to 8 or 9 months. (Ha!) It’s the combination of fabrics that do it for me. The main fabric is from August Fields, an old home-dec line from Amy Butler. The bottom gusset and accent pieces are a denim-linen blend that was fabric-y love at first sight. It’s the most amazing shade of blue, with gray undertones that give it an air of sophistication. As for the pocket fabric ... after scouring my local quilt shops for the right print, I found this one in my stash. The bright salmon fabric is from Lizzy House’s Catnap line.

Isn’t that Amy Butler print divine?

Each of those fabrics is lovely in its own right, but together they’re even more striking. Truly, fabric is meant to shine in completed projects and not live on a bolt or in a stash!

Should you want to make a Cargo Duffle of your very own, you can find the free pattern, by Noodlehead, on the Robert Kaufman website. It is not for the beginning sewist. The instructions, although well written, presume you have experience following patterns.

As I mentioned earlier, I used home-dec fabrics for the main bag. This was in addition to the canvas layer indicated in the pattern; the home-dec and canvas worked well together to give the bag some substance and structure. The pattern uses two fabrics for the handles, but the denim wasn’t working for me—it didn’t lie nicely—so I stuck with just one, the August Fields fabric. (Even though I went rogue, the handle construction in the pattern is brilliant. I’ve used it elsewhere, like here.)

The handles also feature August Fields.

The pattern calls for binding the exposed seams in the bag’s interior. I chose to add a lining instead. I sewed together a bottom gusset, two zipper gussets, a front, and a back in a quilting cotton to create that lining. I couldn’t hand-sew it in the bag easily (the canvas was unpleasant to poke a needle through), so I Wonder Clipped the heck out of it and, following a line of quilting on the zipper gusset, sewed into the bag’s interior. For more ideas on how to pimp out this pattern, I recommend Coconut Robot’s post here.

You can see how the quilting line along the zipper is extra thick.
That’s where I attached the lining.

OK, it’s confession time! Who else has been swallowed up by the procrastination vortex?!

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Monday, February 13, 2017

A Foray into Orange-Peel Quilting

Last year, the lovely and talented Alice, of Alidiza fame, posted a project that kicked me in my lazy sewing butt. She planned to sew Denyse Schmidt’s Snake Trail Quilt, from Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration, but before she embarked on the full-size version, she sewed up a smaller one to ensure her approach to the pattern would work.

I almost always skip that step when I shouldn’t because making a prototype seems inefficient to me and because, well, I’m impatient. Why create a small version of a project when I’m gung-ho about making the real deal?

Recently, however, I got the notion to make a throw quilt in a simple patchwork of alternating white and colored fabrics and then finish it off with orange-peel quilting. (This was @chelseafr’s fault. After I saw this project of hers, I was smitten.) Since I had never tried orange-peel quilting, I chose to follow in Alice’s footsteps and make a kidsize quilt for charity first, using some long-overlooked pastel scraps.

I cut my pastel scraps into 3-inch squares. When I ran out of pastels, I moved on to darker-value solids. I ended up using six colors: hot pink, pale pink, pale orange, yellow, lavender, and purple (it’s hard to differentiate the pale pink from the pale orange in my pictures). Then I played with the squares on my dining room table until I came up with this arrangement. I love how the darker colors anchor the top left and bottom right corners, and the configuration of the pastels has a pretty ombre-like effect.

Mother Nature’s recent behavior has not been conducive to good photo shoots. So fed up with all the snow and wind, I opened up my front door, plunked this quilt on top of the snow, and started taking pictures!

Then I convinced my husband to stand in the 20-degree cold and help!

To tackle the quilting, I consulted Jacquie Gering’s new book, Walk. I sewed my base grid on point, in the white squares, and then marked dots to guide my creation of the edge-to-edge S-curves. As I quilted my project over multiple sessions, however, I noticed that the shape of my orange peels evolved. They started out nice and skinny but grew chunkier as I got further into the quilting. About halfway through, I stopped marking my guide dots, made a peel-shaped template, and marked the quilting lines in their entirety.

When I focus on the peels here, I’m pleased with the quilting, but when I look for the overlapping circles amid the peels, I realize I need more practice.

It seemed like a cop-out, but I like my quilting experiences to be as relaxing as possible. I want to enjoy the process, and it’s easier for me to follow lines than rely on my muscle memory to achieve consistently shaped quilting. I do what I have to do to get the results I want—even if it means taking the time to do all that marking!

I have another yard of that floral print, featured on the back, in my stash. Maybe there’s another practice quilt in my near future!

I’m glad I decided to make this quilt. I really like it, and I’m sure I’ll employ my newfound confidence with orange peels again. Creating this quilt convinced me, however, not to make the throw size I originally had in mind. Between the alternating white-and-solid patchwork and the orange-peel quilting, the quilt has a distinctly feminine feel, which is pretty but not right for the throw I want to make.

I have a question for my fellow straight-line quilters out there ... Have you tried any curves in your quilting? How much did you mark, and was there a reference you found particularly helpful? And if curves are new to you, I have to tell you that this experience has transformed how I think of quilting on my domestic machine. Maybe it could do that for you, too!

Linking up to Main Crush Monday, Scraptastic Tuesday, Let’s Bee Social, Needle and Thread Thursday, and Finish It Up Friday ... 

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Precuts, Pressing, and Pinning

You’d be proud of me, dear readers. I’ve been very good lately. I have made no I-need-it-because-it’s-pretty fabric purchases in months. Of course, my local quilt shop closed last June, which has made this feat more attainable, but it’s a triumph nonetheless, right?

This phenomenon does not date back to, say, Thanksgiving 2015. Back then, the Fat Quarter Shop was offering some crazy sales, and I found myself making multiple well-priced purchases, including two jolly bars of Civil War reproduction fabrics.

These fabrics, from Barbara Brackman’s Union Blues collection, weren’t my usual thing. The more masculine palette and traditional designs, however, had the potential to appeal to my dad, who had yet to receive one of my quilty creations.

So what can a modern quilter do with Civil War fabrics? This is what I made for my dad ...

The easiest way to bridge my uncharacteristic fabric selection with my more modern sensibilities was to piece something visually simple. All jolly bars include a pattern. The one accompanying Union Blues was called Regiment and required one jolly bar plus sashing fabric. Since I had two jolly bars in hand, I used the same pattern and enlarged the quilt from a small throw to a much larger one.

My signature straight-line quilting wouldn’t have done much for this project, so I sent it off to Crinklelove for quilting. The swirling leaves of the Harvest Winds pantograph I chose softened the quilt’s strong geometry.

This was my first time using Crinklelove’s quilting service, and I was very satisfied. The process of making this quilt, however, had its hiccups. Maybe you can learn from my missteps and save yourself some heartache in a project of your own!

Precuts: A Blessing and a Curse

I love a good precut because I like owning a cross-section of an entire line. I most often buy jelly rolls and layer cakes, but jolly bars are a great size, too. The 5-inch by 10-inch rectangles can be used as is or cut down to 5-inch charms or smaller. (See my other jolly bar quilt here.) When I buy precuts, I almost always buy Moda precuts because I like Moda fabrics. : )

Precuts have their shortcomings, though. It can be annoying to sew their pinked edges together, and I’ve purchased one jelly roll in particular, from Free Spirit, whose pinked edges were so deep that the strips weren’t a full 2½ inches. I accept that manufacturers do the best they can with the available technology but that precuts aren’t perfect.

Too bad I forgot that before sewing this quilt top together! One jolly bar was an eighth of an inch longer and wider than the other. I had to ease many seams when sewing my rows of rectangles together. If only I had checked the materials I was working with up front, I could have trimmed the larger pieces before piecing and saved myself the need to ease. This experience won’t stop me from buying jolly bars, or other precuts for that matter, in the future. It just makes me more wary.
Pressing and Pinning: The Downside of Peer Pressure

Pins are my friends. I don’t pin as much as I did when I first started sewing because there are plenty of times when it’s not necessary, but in general, pinning is crucial to achieving the precision I want when piecing. (Full disclosure: Here’s a way to avoid pins and still get nice points.)

My instinct with Regiment was to press my seams open and use pins—lots of pins!—to get everything to line up when I sewed my rows together. But I had heard enough quilters (you know who you are!) comment about avoiding pins, and I chose to follow the pattern’s pressing instructions, nest my seams, and forgo pinning.

Boy, did that plan backfire. As it turned out, I had to use pins. Remember that wrongly sized jolly bar? I had to pin and pin and pin to make the seams between rows line up. And I knew I was tempting fate by pressing to one side in a project with light-colored sashing, but I surveyed the situation, checking to see whether the dark colors were noticeable in the side presses. I thought I’d be OK. When I got the final quilt back from Crinklelove, those dark fabrics were noticeable (see picture below). I should have known better!

Despite these missteps, the quilt is still beautiful. My dad—who does not see it through the quilter’s eyes that I do—could care less about any imperfections. He loves this gift, and that’s all that matters, right?

Do you have any tales of woes from projects you’re working on right now? Share them in the comments. I’ll be sympathetic. : )

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Maker of Small Things

My quilting hiatus continues! Instead of chipping away at the half-dozen quilt projects I have planned, I’m focusing on smaller, faster-to-finish projects. Earlier this month it was pin cushions. This week, it’s Christmas ornaments.

For the first batch, I started with a mini-charm pack of Basic Grey’s Juniper Berry, sewed up some four patches, and trimmed them down to 3½-inch squares. I decapitated some deer in the process (some squirrels did survive the trimming), but the results are still pretty sweet.

No decapitated deer (or surviving squirrels) pictured here.

Next up: the bonus half-square triangles from this 2015 project. (If you haven’t read the corresponding cautionary tale about bleeding fabrics and how I fixed them in that finished quilt, I recommend reading the story.)

These blocks started out as 2-inch HSTs. Once I sewed them up in four patches, they finished at 3½-inch squares, just like batch 1.

Notice the stack of ornaments waiting to be bound!

The funny thing about this process has been the binding. I was adamant about finishing the binding by machine, as I do for my regular quilt projects. After three ugly attempts, I gave up and opted to tack down the binding by hand. Not only does that technique look better at this scale, but I’m also enjoying the process. Go figure. I don’t foresee changing my approach to binding full-size quilts; I like the durability and look of a machine-attached binding on the throws I make. However, it’s nice to curl up on the couch at the end of the day and work on a project I can hold in my hands.

As with my pin cushions, I made a small project big by planning to sew up a bunch. So far I have finished five and have two dozen more to go!

I am not wedded to the baker’s twine I’ve used to hang the three Juniper Berry ornaments; it’s so twisty that I couldn’t get the ornaments facing the same way for a picture. With another 20-plus to make, though, I figure I have plenty of opportunities to test-drive other options. Maybe gross-grain ribbon next? If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them in the comments. : )

This ornament decided to cooperate for a quick picture.

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