Friday, October 28, 2011

Crazy Eights for Audrey

Audrey loves the sunshine! Audrey's birthday is in August but her quilt has been done for quite some time now.  In fact hers was the first quilt I made in this project of the birthday quilts for "The Girls".

Living in the Northeastern US means we get only 3 months a year when the weather is considered mild enough to go to the beach in a bathing suit.  We actually have four seasons; almost winter, winter, still winter, and road construction!  This is a challenge for a sun worshiper such as Audrey.  I remember that she would be the first one to don a bathing suit and slather on the baby oil (yes baby oil!) in hopes of soaking in the first rays of sun in the spring (that's "still winter" for you non-NH folks).  She would also be the one on the ski lift with her face pointed upward to catch a bit of the winter sun during a day on the slopes.

When I started the birthday quilt project I didn't have any idea that I would be blogging about them.  Fortunately, I took pictures as I went along thinking I would add to my scrapbook for all my quilts.  Now that I've figured out how easy it is to blog, I don't know if I'll ever get them into that scrapbook.

I first came up with this combination of fabrics based off the fish print seen in the photo on the left.  It was cute but somehow didn't say Audrey to me.  I thought it looked rather childish and while Audrey is a fun person she is certainly not a child.

It had potential but I decided to keep looking.  This combo is tucked away in the "ideas" folder.

During the inspiration phase of Audrey's quilt I had to go on a business trip to the west coast.  Luckily, I was able to combine my return flight with a stop over in Boise ID to visit Mary.  Ever the gracious hostess, Mary had planned several activities for us to do while I was there.  The main one was a "float" down the Boise river.  A story for another time but it was an adventure I will never forget!

The day after our adventures on the river I asked Mary if she could take me to a local quilt shop.  That's where I found this perfect, vibrant, sunny, floral fabric for Audrey’s quilt.  It was the inspiration for the color choices along with the last fat quarter of this deep pink they had in the store.

With the main fabric selected I brainstormed with my sister on which pattern to use.  (You'll probably notice throughout my posts that I regularly use my sister as a sounding board for my quilting projects!)  She had recently finished a summer wall hanging with a beach theme that included appliques of a pail, bathing suits, flip flops, umbrella, etc.  I wanted something that would work on the beach as a blanket for sunbathing so too much applique wouldn't do.  And anything too traditional wouldn't reflect Audrey's sunny side.  Luckily Dutchy had also just finished a baby quilt using the Crazy Eights Pattern.  I decided to try combining elements of both the crazy eights block and applique blocks to create a fun quilt for Audrey. 

Here's the audition for the rest of the fabrics which all came from my stash.  Every time I walked into my sewing room and saw these colors they made me smile.  Let's hope they do the same for Audrey.

Once I had decided on the final fabrics I chose a white background to use for the applique pieces.  This was my first attempt at hand applique so I also chose large patterns.  More on that further down.

Cutting and sewing the blocks was a breeze. The colors were such fun to work with.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of that part of the process but by the magic of digital photographs I was able to crop out a
single block to show you. 

Notice it only has 6 pieces.  The pattern name comes from the fact that you use 8 fat quarters to make the whole quilt.  I know, I was confused at first too.  Basically, using the 8 colors gives you more options than just using 6 fat quarters and 6 squares. 

In general, the idea behind the Crazy 8 pattern is that by rotating the completed blocks you come up with a scrappy look that appears to not be blocks at all.  This is where my design wall was a huge help.  I left the blocks on the wall for a couple of weeks and kept rearranging them whenever I went in for another look.  I'll bet I would still be able to give one or two of them another twist if they were still there today. 

Finally, I settled on an arrangement I liked and sewed them together before I changed my mind again!  Here's a peek at the center of the finished quilt.

So bright and cheery - just like Audrey!
 The applique blocks came out pretty good for my first try.  The motifs were fun and big enough to keep me out of trouble!

Appliques for the corners

For the back I chose a pretty paisley print to match the bright colors on the front.
It's hard to see but if you look behind the flip flops you can kind of see the quilting.  It's an overall pattern of big splashes to resemble waves crashing on the shore.  (LOVE the flip flops with their ribbon straps!)

Adding the borders and appliques to the final layout was a challenge.  Once again I reached out to my sister Dutchy for advice.  I hadn't considered that the applique blocks were all different sizes and the background is white but there's no white in the main body of the quilt.  We spent well over an hour rearranging the appliques and trying out different borders to get it just right.

I decided to add a 1 1/2" white inner border to frame the main part of the quilt and tie in the white background on the applique.  The final addition was the colored blocks and blue "water" borders.  The binding frames out the appliques and works well with the paisley on the back.

The finishing touch was the label which I wrote about a few days ago.

I love the way it all turned out!
A "Happy Birthday" Day At The Beach!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Just In Time

Nothing like a deadline to light a fire under me!  The Girls are getting together this weekend so it's the perfect time to finally deliver the quilts to Betty and Audrey. 

A while back I had made a promise to myself to get the labels on four quilts I had finished.  As luck would have it I didn't have Audrey's quilt available at the time.  I had dropped it off, with a few others, to a friend to have some pictures taken.  Well, I finally retrieved all the quilts about a month ago but didn't get the label on Audrey's until last night.

What is it with me and labels?  First I can't decide what to write on the label; too much is just ugly and not enough seems pointless.  I started out with this one for Audrey but it just sat there like a big old blob.  The lettering looks like a 6 year old did it.  I stared at it for two weeks while I worked on the Blue and Cream project but never sewed it on.  Do you have troubles like this with labels? 

The night before last I pulled out the box of scraps from the "Quilts for The Girls" project.  Dug out the pieces from Audrey's quilt and made a block for the label.  I like this one much better!  It's all sewn down and ready to go.  Can't wait to see if they like them!!!

Be sure to check in next week when I'll have pictures of the girls with their quilts.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blue and Cream - Decisions Decisions

I've been hard at work on the Blue and Cream quilt project.  It has turned into a study in organizational skills.  I wish I could say I invented these organizational solutions but I didn't.  Most of them I learned in classes or from my sister or from tutorials on the Internet.  Keep reading, you might find one or two you haven't seen.

Before I could cut all the pieces I had to decide which blue fabrics to use for which stars.  This wasn't too hard since I had to go with the quantities I had of each print.  The pattern called for 9 stars of one fabric so I had to use the blue and green floral since I had a half yard of it and only fat quarters of the rest.  I started by cutting the star centers.  I placed the nine floral centers on the design wall as shown in the pattern layout in the book.  Then I just started laying the other centers out and moving them around until I got them where I liked them.

As I started cutting the blues for the sashing, which become the star points, it was obvious I'd need to stay organized.  Notice I have the magazine open to the page with the pattern on it.  That magazine has never been more than arms reach away as I worked on this project.  

Over 200 (2") squares, 96 (3") squares, and 25 (3 1/2") squares.  That's a lot of squares and a lot of blue!  Fortunately, I have these clear plastic plates that I use for keeping all the parts and pieces in their rightful places.  I'm not sure where I got these plates, probably from my sister  ;-)  I swear I use these plates for every project now.

I first saw a similar solution in a class I took with Charlene at The Golden Gese Quilt Shop in Concord, NH.  It was a scrappy quilt and I was having a hard time wrapping my head around it.  Charlene to the rescue!  She gave us paper plates to organize our 9-patch blocks that had a fussy cut in the center. 

Two more of my favorite tools are a fabric guide and yellow sticky notes.  The chart helped me keep all the color decisions organized.  The sticky notes keep all the plates organized by size and location such as "2 inch squares for sashing".  How did the world operate before sticky notes?!

I thought once I'd picked the pattern and the fabrics all the decisions for this quilt were done but not quite.  Knowing that this quilt is a gift I was keenly aware of the recipients tastes, or what I believe her taste to be anyway.  The pattern I chose shows stars that are "scrappy".  The centers are one fabric and all the points are a different fabric as seen here.

A fun look but I just didn't see it as something she would like.  Or is it just me struggling with scrappy?  Either way scrappy stars were out!  Instead I used all the same color for the stars and I think it was the right way to go.  Here's an audition for a star.  It's hard to see the cream colored background against the white design wall but you'll see it later on.

Now normally I would take the cut pieces and arrange them in piles in the order they should be sewn together.  That way I can just chain piece them and whip out the blocks in no time.  With this quilt the blocks are actually the sashing around the fussy cuts and the star centers.

To create the sashing I started with the smallest pieces to create the flying geese blocks.  I used plenty of starch before stitching.  Then pressed toward the blue prints so the seams wouldn't show under the cream pieces.  Chain piecing worked for these but the next piece blocks were different.

The larger blocks, which kind of look like rectangular snowball blocks.  More starch and more gentle pressing. 

I ended up with a bunch of sashing blocks.  Kind of looks like a puzzle doesn't it?   Take a look at the colors on the corners, they're different right?  That's because one side is going to be the points on one star center and the other side is going to be the points on a different star center.  Even if I was doing this as a "scrappy" star I'd still have to pay attention to this to make the pattern look right.

When you put one of the stars together you get this.  Simple enough?

Notice in the next picture that, in order to create a star, the sashing between the two rows is laid out vertically and the sashing between the two columns is laid out horizontally.  Not only do I need to keep the right color points on the right color star centers but then there were all those cream rectangles to add to the outside edges.  It took me a few minutes to figure out but here's what it looked like on my cutting table.  The open spaces are where the fussy cuts go.  Can't show you those yet.  ;o)

This is when I decided I needed to put them all on the design wall to keep it all in order!  I laid all the pieces for the entire quilt on the design wall and pinned each piece in place - what a life saver!  Now I'm ready to start sewing. 

I'm afraid that's all the assembly I can show you until I deliver the finished quilt.  I still need to pick out the borders and the backing.

Did you come across any organizational tips you hadn't seen before?  Leave me a comment if you've got other ways to accomplish these same things.

Thanks for stopping by . . . Debby

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blue and Cream

Here's a peek at a quilt I started thinking about many months as while it was too hot to quilt.  I had purchased a novelty print panel of fabric while on a business trip to California.  This is going to be a gift so I can't show the whole thing but here's where I started. 

I used the panel fabric to pull these fabrics from my stash.  They have all the colors in panel fabric.  At my last monthly quilt group I had asked for opinions on which fabrics to use and got some great feedback.  They gave a resounding "No" on the floral print.  They also nixed the golden yellow, the bright green, and the silver/gray.  Good thing I had lots to choose from!

The stripe done diagonally would work for the binding, and the periwinkle blue worked best.  There were also a bunch of fat quarters that I've been holding on to forever that seemed right.

So in the end it came down to blues with a hint of periwinkle and cream for the background.  My sister had the perfect cream fabric so I got that from her stash.

I cut a few 2 1/2 inch strips from the fat quarters to audition them for the Irish Chain pattern.  It turned out to be too complicated for what I needed.  SInce I've never done one I didn't want to experiment on this particular quilt.  That's a challenge for another day.

I've spent a bunch of time in the past two weeks trying to come up with just the right pattern for this particular quilt.  I'm not surprised it took me so long - it usually does!  But I have to admit that even I was pretty frustrated at myself for a while there.

Normally I don't worry about time, especially when I'm quilting.  For those of you who know me, you know I don't worry about time in general unless it involves an airplane!  This time for some reason I was getting anxious about taking too long to decide on the pattern.  I just wanted to get sewing!  Anyway, I have gathered up just the right combo of blues and creams which coordinated beautifully with the panels.  

Picking the pattern was becoming more and more of a chore each day that passed.  I'd think I had just the right one until I spent some time with it in the sewing room.  Then it would be too complicated (Irish Chain) or too simple (9-patch) or too scrappy or whatever but just not right.  Finally, I went back to the pattern that I had originally picked out when I bought the panels.  It's in the February 2010 edition of American Patchwork & Quilting.  It's called Sweat Tea.

You'll notice that the stars are scrappy but that's not going to cut it for me.  I'll be making the stars out of the different blues but each star will be pieced with all the same colors rather than mixing them up.

I'm off to start the cutting! 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Still Too Hot To Quilt - Looking For Inspiration

I just love starting something new!  I had hoped the hottest summer weather was behind us because I'm itching to get started on my next quilt.  That first taste of fall in the beginning of September really got me motivated to quilt.  Then the little stretch of "Indian Summer" we had last week left me wilted again.  So I turned to my favorite alternative to actually sewing and that's THINKING about sewing!

Usually I find choosing just the right pattern to be as much fun as picking the fabrics.  I love leafing though the books and magazines I keep in my sewing room.  You can see from the picture that it gets pretty messy when I start getting "inspired"!  I also enjoy going on-line and checking out other blogs and quilting sites to see what other folks are doing.  Attending quilt shows is another way to get inspired.  I attended two quilt shows in August so my mind is in overdrive.  Here's some close ups of some inspirations.

Piled on the table,
and on my chair and in the basket

Here's an audition for a sports fabric inspiration

and one for a coffee panel fabric inspiration.
Choosing a pattern for a quilt is fun and challenging.  Many people leave this decision to others.  They simply see something they like and buy the whole thing as a kit.  I rarely ever buy kits and if I do they are small projects with specialty fabrics that I don't have in my stash. But, sometimes a kit is the right way to go for me too.  It certainly speeds up the process since I fuss over choosing fabrics for ages.

For example, I saw this beautiful "Rachel's Basket" quilt kit all made up at a Knight's quilt shop in Maine and fell in love with it.  The picture doesn't do justice to the colors.  There was something about it that just spoke to me.  The tiny floral, the soft colors, something seemed so familiar . . . but instead of buying the kit I bought some of the fabrics that were featured in the quilt thinking that would satisfy me.  On the ride home I was kicking myself for not buying the kit right then and there.

After I got home I put the fabrics I'd purchased into the laundry hamper so they could be washed.  Again I got that same "familiar" feeling.  Like I'd seen this white with the rose buds before.  You know that feeling?  The one that makes you go to your stash and just stare at it? 

Sure enough, I already had 3 yards of that beautiful white fabric with the tiny rosebuds in my stash!  Then I remembered.  I had purchased it in Denver CO while I was there on a business trip.  It was intended for the background of a different quilt (one with watermelons) that I was planning to make for myself.  Here's a close up of the fabrics I bought in Maine that day.  The one in the upper right is the one I'd already bought.

Looking at the fabric again reminded me of that beautiful Rachel's Basket quilt.  I just couldn't get it out of my mind.  Adding it to my wish list wasn't enough.  I REALLY wante to make this quilt.  Not as a gift, not to try out a new technique, but just for me because I love it.  And I obviously love that fabric since I'd already purchased it for another quilt just for me

The more I thought about it the more I worried that the fabrics would be discontinued and I might never be able to buy them!  Then what!  Well, I finally broke down, went on-line to purchase it from the Marti Mitchell web site.

I have to tell you I've never before experienced that sense of urgency when it comes to fabric.  Realistically I know that there will always be beautiful fabrics to purchase and wonderful quilts to make but somehow this one just pulled at me and wouldn't let go.  When the kit arrived in the mail I was thrill and relieved!  I now have it safely tucked away in the sewing room where I can see it often and day dream about making it.

But before I can get to quilts for me, I've got 3 more Quilts for The Girls that need to get finished.  I'm working on them, and the blog posts, but I don't want to spoil the surprise so I can't post until they get delivered :-)