Sunday, October 26, 2014

Round Robin # 4 - Charlene

To illustrate how our Round Robin progressed I thought I would deconstruct this one for you.  Charlene started out with a pretty bird motif hand appliqued in her center panel.  (Don't mind the wrinkles, these projects have been handled a lot!)

I just love the little blue egg in the nest.

Dutchy added the first border of green fabric with hexies in the corners.  She added buttons to the center of each hexie for a little pizzazz.

Next came Carol and she added a border of blue half square triangles which picked up on that blue egg.  Very spring-ie!

You can really see how the wall hanging is starting to grow.  By the time it got to me Tami had added more hand applique.  Two lovely corner groupings of flowers, stems, and leaves on a pretty tea died background.  She used greens, blues, and pinks to pull in all the colors from the previous additions.

You can probably noticed the blue wording stitched on the corners opposite to Tami's handiwork.  When I received the project I just knew I had to do something in the blank corners.  This is where the challenge comes in, adding something that would compliment everyone else's work.  As I studied the project I decided that adding more applique would be too much.  I wanted a place for the eye to rest.  I had been so thrilled with the way the embroidery had come out on the last project (Signature Blocks) I decided to do some more emboridery on this one.  

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the project before I got started so I don't have any "work in progress" to show you.  But I do have a couple of close ups of what I did.  Many thanks to Charlene for sending me pictures of the finished project!

I know that Charlene enjoys Primitive patterns so I searched the internet for some quotes and some lettering that would give me an idea of what a "primitive" alphabet looks like.  I wanted the quote to be about spring to go along with the egg in the nest.  Since we started this project in the dead of a LONG, COLD, New England winter that seemed never ending I thought this quote said it all:

No matter how long the winter,

spring is sure to follow.

I'm not sure if the letters look all that "primitive" but I was very happy with the way they came out.  I chose to do the embroidery in a stem stitch with light blue perle cotton #5.  I found it gives a real clear look to the embroidery.  In second guessing myself I thought I should have used black instead of blue but Charlene has assured me that she likes the blue so it's all good.

Here's Charlene with the finished project including a cranberry half square triangle border from Jane and an outside border of leaves from Deb R.

Another pretty wall hanging ready for spring!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Round Robin # 3 - Signature Wall Hanging

We had decided at our November meeting in 2013 that we would plan on doing the Round Robin starting in January of 2014.  By December my sister Dutchy was busy at work getting her first row ready.  She would be leaving for her annual trek to Florida just after Christmas but didn't want to miss out on our fun group project.

For her project Dutchy chose a signature block.  Her instructions said we could create a row using any block we wanted that represented something about ourselves.  In that row we were to add a signature block.

For her initial block she had done a beautiful job of embroidering her signature and birth date.  She then combined it with red and white nine patch blocks. Here's a close up.

Here's what it looked like by the time I received it.  Carol decided to leave off the year she was born and the rest of us followed suit.  And in the end Dutchy removed her 'year' too.

Carol added the Court House Steps block with 1" strips (finished).  I love the bold graphic look.  Tami added the pretty hand applique fans in 1930s fabrics.  Beautiful work done by both of them!

As the months go by in the Round Robin you can see that each time you get the next project bag there are more and more rows already in place.  Figuring out how to coordinate with the graphic pattern done by Carol and the light colors in Tami's blocks is part of the fun of a group project like this.  

Dutchy and I are sisters so there were many blocks that would have been appropriate to represent me to her.  Since sewing is one of the many interests we have shared over the years I thought the Spool block would be the best choice.  To create the spool block I started with several pretty pink fabric for the "thread" and a dark brown for the "spools".  

Putting the block together proved to be more challenging than I expected.  I didn't have a pattern so I just looked at some on the internet and improvised.  Once I figured out the appropriate size I laid out all the pieces.  I started with creating the angled edges of the spool.  

A little chain stitching meant it went together quickly but I had to pay attention to the direction of each white rectangles to make sure the angle was opposite on each end.  After they were all stitched I pressed them open, with the seam allowance pressed onto the dark fabric.

Here's a close up of all the parts of the block sewn together.

For the embroidery I used a stem stitch in #5 Perle Cotton.  I like the texture of the Perle for an outline stitch.  Its a bit thicker than regular cotton floss and stands up a bit higher on the project.  

And a little trick my mother taught me is to lay a bath towel on the ironing board then put the piece face down on the towel and press from the back.  I use plenty of starch to get a smooth surface which also makes the stitching stand out.

Here's how it looked when I passed it on to Jane.

You can clearly see the piecing of the white background on the spools but that blend in once the finished piece is quilted.

And here's Dutchy the finished project.  It's the perfect size to fit on the rack she uses for wall hangings.  I can't wait to see it all done and hanging up next spring!

Next week, Round Robin #4 for Charlene.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Round Robin - # 2 Tami

I have Tami's project listed as Round # 2 but really it was the first one I got to do.  Carol's was the second one.  It doesn't really matter right at the beginning but as we get towards the end you'll see the progress on each project more clearly.

So this was what I got as the very first item to work on for the Round Robin.  Tami had created this beautiful center block.  She does wonderful hand applique work!  I have to admit I was a bit intimidated when I first pulled it out of the bag.  Per usual I hung it on my design wall for about a week or so for inspiration. 

Tami had a piece of fabric from one of our original group members, Mary Jane, who passed away several years ago.  She and Tami were very close.  Tami included the green fabric in the center of the cone flowers.  It was fabric that Tami had purchased on one of their trips to Pennsylvania.  She also added 7 blue circles to represent each of the members of the group and one gold circle to represent Mary Jane.

In her instructions Tami asked us to be sure to use a piece of the green "Mary Jane" fabric in whatever we created.  She also include in the bag some scraps of the other fabrics she used in case we wanted to use them as well.

I took the background and scraps from Tami and pulled some coordinates from my stash.  I  was really surprised to find so many pieces in my stash that would work.  

Doing another applique border at this point didn't seem like the best choice.  And I'm much better at piecing than hand applique!  So for my addition I created an angular border to contrast with the curves and circles of the flowers and leaves.  I was able to incorporate the Mary Jane fabric on the corners.  

Unfortunately, I didn't take enough pictures of the "building" of the border so I don't have much in the way of details on how it was constructed.  But you can see it's half square triangles set symmetrically from the center outward.   

The corners are half square triangles as well, just rotated to create a diagonal line.  Since I was not working with a pattern I had to do the math to get everything to fit.  Yes, math!  Not to worry, I don't mind math and I LOVE geometry :o)  I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy quilting, it's real life geometry. 

Here's how it looked when I passed it on to Jane.


Who would have predicted how beautiful this quilt top would become!  The combination of colors and keeping all the same background fabric made it look as if one person had done all the work.

Jane added the pretty appliqued border after me, Deb R added the bottom appliqued panel with her signature beeskeep, Charlene added another pretty appliqued panel at the top, Dutchy added the green border and pretty pieced side panels.  But Carol had the toughest job of all - adding the corners after everything else was in place.  Now that took some MATH!!  

We all loved it, especially Tami.  You can see that we have some very talented ladies in our group.  Learning from all of them is just one of the many things I enjoy about meeting up once a month.

Next weeks post will be Round # 3, Dutchy's signature block wall hanging.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Round Robin - # 1 for Carol

Monthly Friday Group shares a glass of wine
At the end of 2013 the Monthly Friday Night Sewing Group that I belong to decided to try a Round Robin.  This wasn't the first group project we had attempted but it's the only one I was able to finish! 

The few times the group started a project I was very hesitant to participate.  I'd give it a try but typically I didn't finish and in some cases didn't even start. I joined the group when I first started learning to quilt. Everyone else was well established in their skills but I was just too intimidated by the prospect of falling behind or not doing a good enough job.  All of them were very encouraging but I just didn't feel confident enough in my skills to join in.  Finally, when this project was suggested I was ready to jump in. 

My First Round Robin - with a different group
To my surprise several of the gals had never done a Round Robin so there were lots of questions.  The only one I had participated in resulted in a cute cat wall hanging.  (Still unfinished!)

Anyway, after much discussion, rule making, and cheering on we started our project in January of this year.  Since I didn't want to show anyone how their quilt top was coming along I've waited until now to post about them.  There are 7 of us in the group so I'm planning to do one post for each participant. I'll show what their project looked like when I got it and at the Big Reveal.

Carol's project was the first one I got.  The block was the maple leaf pattern.  If I remember correctly Carol wanted a wall hanging with a theme of the "Outdoors".  Her block reminded me of the leaves blowing from the trees in the fall.  So I picked a 3-D pinwheel for my addition.  Here's a quick run down on how I made them.

I started with a 5" square of background and pinwheel fabrics.  The tutorial I was using called for two 5" squares but I decided to cut down the pinwheel fabric to a 4 1/2" square.  This made the 3-D pinwheel float in the background. Since this was my first time making this block I knew I'd have to keep them laid out in the right orientation or else I'd get lost.  The fabrics are right sides together and all the corners point into the center of the block.

I folded each of the pinwheel fabrics on the diagonal, again pointing into the center.  I finger pressed and pinned them.

Then starting with the lower right block, I folded one corner of the triangle of pinwheel fabric over to the center and re-pinned it.  

I worked my way around the block folding each triangle once into the center.  Now you can see the pinwheel.

I did all the folding for each pinwheel color and pinning them in place as I went along.  Then I chain pieced all the subsections before making each whole block.

I added a strip of background fabric to each of the finished blocks so it would be the right size and so I could adjust the layout to be up and down rather than all the same level.  I was trying to match the block size and have the pinwheels look like they were moving.  They looked a little small after they were finished but I like that they are 3-D.  

When I had first taken the project out of the bag I saw that Tami had done a beautiful job of adding a hand appliqued row to the top and bottom of Carols row.  This is one of the fun things about a Round Robin, you see what other people were inspired to do which in turn inspires your choices!  

Our Round Robin included a small journal for the owner to write what they wanted their finished project to be.  Then each person in turn wrote a note about what they chose to do.  After reading the instructions from Carol I knew that if I left both Tami's rows in place the finished project would be too big.  Plus, I thought that the matching rows would make a beautiful finish to the project as a whole.  I called Tami and she was gracious enough to agree to let me take off the bottom row and leave it with a note for Carol to decide to use it or not.

Here's how it looked when I finished my addition.

At our last monthly get together we celebrated the end of our first group project with a pizza party at my sister Dutchy's house.  We all enjoyed a chance to eat, relax, and chit chat but we also knew "the bags" were sitting close by just waiting for us to open.  It felt a little like Christmas morning!

So we got up one at a time and read the initial entry in our journal before pulling the finished project out of the bag for the big reveal.  The nice part about reading the journal was getting a reminder of what the person had asked from the group and seeing if the results matched.

As the last person to become a member of our little group Carol had been patiently waiting YEARS for us to do a group project.  It was the reason she joined!  Well, here's Carol's finished wall hanging with an "Outdoor" theme.  

She loved it!

Post Script:

For those of you unfamiliar with a Quilting Round Robin it's a fun way to join other quilters in creating a "surprise" quilt top for each participant.  The group comes up with a set of rules to follow.  Each person picks a starting point such as a row or center block.  Then you put your project in a bag or a box so that you can't see it at the exchange.  Each month the bag or box gets passed to the next person on the list.  As the project moves from person to person it grows in size until the end, after each person has added their own personal touch, and the original person gets their finished top back.  If you're looking for more information on how to start a round robin you can check out this post at the Quilters Club of America

Sunday, June 29, 2014

When You Don't Know What You Don't Know!

Most of you already know I started a new job back in March. (Yeah!  So happy and I love my new job!)  However, since then I have neglected posting but that doesn't mean I haven't been sewing and writing. So these next few posts will be catch ups, starting with the Hunter Star.

There was a long wait between landing the job and actually starting so I decided to tackle some UFOs that have been sitting around for a while.  This one is the Hunter's Star.  I started it in 2004 while at a quilting retreat at Threads Galore in Rangely, Maine.  It was a beautiful long weekend in the fall and the teacher was Deb Tucker

When I went to my first quilting class in 2000 I had no idea what I was getting myself into or how much fun I would have quilting.  By the time my sister Dutchy and I headed to the back woods of Maine four years later I was feeling pretty confident in my skills and ready to learn something new.  What I didn't know was that this project would take years to finish.

Here's a picture of the view from the lodge deck in Rangely.  This is what we were seeing as we sewed on the enclosed porch and had our meals in the dining room.  Just lovely!

Back to the quilting.  The quilt it self was a challenge for me because it required using templates.  This was done with an early version of the Rapid Fire Hunter's Star ruler that Deb Tucker invented.  We got a skinny ruler that we used to cut the strips but the new ruler looks much easier.  So here's what happens when you don't know what you don't know.

If you're like me you jump right in - buying pretty fabric, cutting out the pieces, learning the new technique, and sewing some blocks.  I have to tell you this "jumping right in" technique has resulted in more than one pot-holder from fabric that was going to be a bed sized quilt!  I call it building my stash ;o)

I had chosen this beautiful "feather" fabric as my inspiration for the colors in this quilt.  I was still pretty new at picking colors but I chose three coordinating fabrics with what I considered enough contrast to make the "stars" pop.  It's hard to tell in the picture but the colors are a light turquoise blue, deep purple, and lime green.  Sounds ugly but in person it's really beautiful.

I chose the green as the color for the stars but of course there are no stars in the actual blocks.  They start out as triangles like you see in the picture below.  It's not until you put them all together that you see the stars.  What I didn't know was the green of the stars would blend in with the green of the feather fabric and not be enough contract with the purple so that the star points got lost.  It was fine as I was building the blocks but you'll see what I mean in some of the finished pictures.

Notice the white looking edges on the solid blue triangles?  That's from washing.  This project had been stored in a box in my basement and it got wet when I moved.  By the time I found it there was a musty smell to all the pieces.  I had paid a lot of money for the fabrics and really loved them so I decided the best thing to do was wash all the pieces.  What I didn't know was washing and drying them would cause all of the cut edges to fray!  Oh yeah, and I didn't know that every single one of those green strips, blue, purple, and feather triangles would come out of the dryer looking like so much spaghetti!  What was I thinking?

After lots and lots of ironing, with plenty of spray starch, I finally got all the pieces to lay flat.  I was really worried about the triangles because of the bias edges but the starch helped tremendously in keeping them straight.  After all that I couldn't remember what the layout was supposed to be so I set the pieces aside again for another year or so.

As the years passed I would take the project out to give it another shot.  Somehow I couldn't seem to finish it.  I loved the colors but something didn't work and I couldn't put my finger on it.  So back into the drawer it would go.  When January rolled around this year I found myself home without a job and plenty of time on my hands.  Between writing resumes, cover letters, and job searching I decided that I would have plenty of time to finish up some of the old projects that were sitting around.  This one was on the top of that list!

When I took it out this time I was surprised to find that I had lots of the triangle blocks completed.  I tried to lay them out but couldn't remember exactly how it went.  Thank heavens for the internet!  I was able to search for images of the Hunter's Star quilt and see what was needed.  What I didn't know was that some of the blocks were sewn together wrong so no matter how I arranged them on the design board I just couldn't make it look right.

But I was determined to FINISH THIS PROJECT!  So I forged ahead. First I trimmed all the long edges of the triangles so that they each strip was the same width.  It didn't take much effort but measuring was important so I took my time.  Next I finished sewing all the triangles into blocks being careful not to stretch the edges - again, starch saved the day.

Now if you looked closely at the blocks you'll see that I had sewn a feathered triangle to a feathered strip with green tips. I also sewed a solid triangle to a solid strip with green strips.  Pretty!  I was so happy that it was finally all coming together.

But wait, something didn't seem right with this batch below . . . there should be a plain side and a feather side to the block.  Get out the seam ripper.  It was a pain in the neck but finally I got all the blocks made.  Still . . . something wasn't quite right but I couldn't put my finger on it.   

What I didn't know was I should have alternated the colors of the points on the trapezoid pieces so that it could have looked like this, see how the "star points" are different?  This picture is from my sister's beautiful quilt which I'll show at the end.  Her stars have alternating colors and it is just gorgeous!

Anyway, with all the blocks made I could square them up.  Finally, I was spiraling in on the finish.  I used the 8" square ruler and the 12" rotating mat.  What a quick way to get the job done.

I laid the blocks out on the design board and left it up for a few days to see if I still liked it.  As usual I moved the blocks around over the course of about a week until I finally got one I could live with.  I have to tell you I didn't much like it now matter how I moved the blocks.  After looking at it to the point of irritation I finally said enough already and just sewed the damn blocks together.  

I auditioned a couple of options for the borders and settled on this one.  I didn't have enough of any of the original fabrics so I used the purple, (which was what a I had to most of) and put portions of the left over blocks in as corner stones.

Here's what it looked like during the class in Maine.  That's Deb Tucker on the left helping me lay out my blocks while Dutchy keeps a close watch over us.

And here's Dutchy's layout, isn't it just beautiful?!  

And here's how my Hunter Star turned out.

In the end, this multi-year project, with all it's starts and stops is finally a finished top.  What I didn't know was, after all that, I would truly hate it!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I've often heard the expression there's no such thing as an ugly quilt but I have to disagree.  This quilt is ugly!  So it has been relegated to the Finished Tops pile and will remain unfinished until I'm ready to try my had at machine quilting on my home machine.  I doubt I will ever feel it is worthy of the money it would take to have it quilted by someone else.

However, I do think it is "cat worthy" and it may yet end up as a finished quilt assigned to keep the cats happy HaHa!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Charlotte Rose's Christening Quilt

Having a new baby in the family is so much fun!  We haven’t had one for several years and unfortunately, I don’t get the see them very often.   My great-niece, Lindsay, and her husband, Joel, live nearby so I get to see Charlotte Rose as often as I can.  She was born on Halloween last year, several weeks earlier than expected.  She’s a little bit of thing and cute as a button!  Here she is just home from the hospital with Mom, Dad, and their surprised/confused but loving dog Marvin.   (As you know I’m a cat lover but Marvin is one of very few dogs I actually like!)

Now before I get all crazy with the names and family connections lets start with this: my oldest sister Dutchy was married when I was just 3 years old and had her first daughter two weeks before I turned 4.  She was a very young bride, just 19!  That means my sister's kids are my age!  So while all the "great"s in this story makes everyone sound really old we're really not ;o) 

Maybe this will help, from left to right
Dutchy, sleeping Charlotte, Lindsay, and Sharon
This month Charlotte was baptized in the local church.  It was a fun family day!  It was pretty funny to see everyone (mostly the aunties and grandmothers) crowded around this tiny person just fascinated by her every move.  She was certainly the star of the day.  She wore the christening gown made by her maternal great-great-grandmother and worn by her mother, grandmother, and several other relatives at their baptisms.  It’s a beautiful hand-made gown with matching slip and bonnet.  The little shoes in the picture were made by her paternal grandmother.

I wanted to make a special quilt for Charlotte in honor of her baptism.  So I asked Charlotte’s grandmother (Sharon) if I could use her wedding dress to make the quilt.  Some of the lace from the wedding dress had been used on Lindsay’s wedding veil so it had already been cut up a bit.  I took the remainder of the dress apart and spent some time mulling over the possibilities.

First I had to change my design wall background to black by hanging up a black sheet to get some good contrast.  A quick shopping spree at the local fabric shop turned up some fun fabrics:  a sheer grey with some pretty flowers, another sheer piece in beige with a little bit of sparkle, two shades of pink satin, some beige satin, a shiny silver blouse from by crazy quilt scrap bucket, and some soft Minkie as a potential backing.  I pinned them all up on the design wall along with the pieces of the dress and some satin ribbon to get inspired. 

My typical mode of quilting is to put all the possibilities up on the wall and see what feels right.  This can sometimes take several weeks!  Well, I didn’t have that much time so I had to make some quick decisions.   The beige and pink satins were the winners.  The sheers were too busy and not the right colors to go with the white dress. 

The beige satin actually made the dress fabric appear much whiter than it really is.  After all, the wedding dress was going on 30 years old and had been stored in a box in the closet.  When I got it I took a chance and threw it in the washing machine.  I figured I didn’t have anything to lose, it had already been cut into right?  Well, it came out very nice.  Some of the dirt around the bottom didn’t come out but for the most part it washed beautifully!

I decided on a snowball block to make the most use of the white and the lace from the gown.  I used the darker pink satin on the snowball corners and alternated the beige satin squares with the white fabric from the underskirt of the dress. 
Then I cut lace squares (6 ½”) the same size as the finished snowball blocks.  I basted the lace onto the white and pink snowballs to get the overlay effect that was in the bodice of the wedding gown.  To minimize the pink and keep the focus on the white and lace I overlaid the lace on the pink.

Working with all the “fancy” fabrics was a challenge.  They were slippery and frayed easily so I did a lot of basting.  It was fast and easy to do and just made everything sit still while I worked.  I also used a dry iron on a cooler setting to make sure I didn’t burn anything!

I alternated the white/lace blocks with the beige blocks to give it a little interest.  I debated over using just the white but it was very blah even with the pink and lace.  The beige just added a little bit of depth.  It’s hard to see in the pictures because the fabrics are shiny but I think you get the idea.  There are better pictures at the end.  (And speaking of pictures I'm sorry these aren't better but I'm still using my phone to take them!)
I created a border with the white fabric from the underskirt.  It helped to frame out the blocks and bring the whole thing together.  Then I took the lace from the bottom of the dress skirt and used it as an embellishment on the border.  Since I was planning to “envelope” the finished quilt I had to sew the lace on the front/top of the quilt then add the border on top of that.

First I handed stitched in two rows of basting on the lace to be able to ruffle it.  Then I hand based and pinned the lace to the border before sewing it into place with the machine.  This was pretty tricky, and slippery, look at all the pins!

Here’s how the corners turned out.  I wish I had thought about the fact that the lace would be rounded so I could have made the borders rounded as well.  Still, the whole point was to have a quilt that would be a memento of the occasion and I know I accomplished that.

Now you won’t believe this but I didn’t take any pictures of the whole finished quilt!  I do have these two shots showing the lace border and you can kind of see what the whole thing looks like.

To finish it off I used the envelop method.  I didn’t include batting as I didn’t want to quilt it.  So technically it’s not really a quilt it’s a blanket but I’m calling it a quilt!  The backing is a cream colored plush with raised dots – I wanted it to be soft enough to use!  After turning it inside out I stitched around the border on the outer edge and along the inner edge under the lace.  This created a square that was just enough to keep the two pieces together without doing a heavy quilting pattern.

The size is 36” square.  Small enough to use on a tiny baby like Charlotte then pack away til the next baptism.  And best of all Charlotte and her mom loved it!

Once all the deciding was done, putting the whole thing together only took about two days – well, two very LONG days but it all worked out in the end and now it's my Friday Finish to add to Crazy Mom Quilts.

Now to clean up the lace and satin explosion that has taken over my sewing room.  :o)