Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Christmas Quiltalong

Did you know that Sew Fresh Quilts is hosting the Have a Jolly Little Christmas Quiltalong? Lorna is releasing a new pattern every two weeks and there are a wide variety of layout ideas to inspire your creativity.
I'm not going to sew all the blocks because I don't need another large Christmas quilt, but many of these blocks are just too cute to resist, so I will likely sew one of each of the block patterns just to get in on the fun.
Here are my first 3 blocks... the mittens, the Christmas bow, and the stockings. If you scroll down on the link up page you can see what other blocks have already been made.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Design Wall Monday

On the design wall is a finished quilt top made from the Broken Dishes block swap. I received these blocks last year in the swap hosted by Barb in Connecticut. The pattern is from Hyacinth Quilt Designs
I have looked at it again in person and on the computer screen, and I think the layout is right at this point. Feel free to tell me if you think there is a twisted block... I'd rather know now than after it's quilted! 
I did not put the blocks on the design wall before sewing them together. I sewed one test block first on my Sweet Baby Jayne 1964 Singer Featherweight (which still sews like a dream). Then I attached a muslin square to approximately half the blocks. 
Then I started to construct the blocks in a 9 patch fashion. The only criteria was "no repeated fabric within the blocks". After all the blocks were sewn, they went on the design wall.
It was a little tricky to get all the blocks going the right way, and the seam ripper was used on numerous occasions. You know how it goes... put the blocks on the design wall, take them to machine, sew them together, press the seams, put back up on the wall, locate the mistakes, unsew those seams, and repeat.
Thanks to Cindy at Hyacinth for the layout design and to Barb for hosting such a fun swap which resulted in these 80 wonderful broken dishes blocks.
To see more design wall posts, hop over to Patchwork Times.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Slow Sunday Stitching Friends

Happy Slow Stitching Sunday!
I have just returned from my annual retreat with the most wonderful quilting friends. We have been retreating together for more than 10 years and we have such a great time together. We stay up too late, we eat too many treats, we laugh too much (is there such a thing?), we sew until our bodies are cramping and in pain, and we catch up on the happenings in each other's lives. It's so fun and rejuvenating to be with like-minded people who share your interests and really "get" you.
There was lots of inspiration to enjoy and I wanted to share some of it with you. Here are 6 types of hand work being enjoyed this week (by some of my favourite humans!)...

Cynthia is taking some applique stitches on a wool project by Primitive Gatherings.

Andrea is binding a baby quilt, with such an adorable backing.

Jackie is creating unique crafter's jewelry by hand.

Gail is knitting socks using yarn that makes these fancy patterns.

Helen is hand quilting a huge log cabin bed quilt for a wedding gift.

I made some hand embroidered strawberries on my next Life is Beautiful block.

I hope you will be inspired by seeing these hands at work, to take a few stitches on your favourite project. We'd love to see what you're making today, and hope you will post a link below to your hand stitching blog post. 


    An InLinkz Link-up

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Scrappy Saturday

The colour of the month at the Rainbow Scrap Challenge is aqua/teal/any colour between blue and green on the colour wheel. I haven't played with these scraps much this month, but I did corral all the smallest scraps to start a Mad City Mama block. This is a pattern from Bonnie Hunter's book Adventures With Leaders and Enders. Each block has a centre block (bottom left), 4 strip blocks and 4 square blocks. I thought I had cut millions of squares, but apparently I only cut about 40, so I still have 100+ more to cut! This is what I achieved so far this month, and now I am completely distracted with Amanda Jean Nyberg's new book called "No Scrap Left Behind". 
I'm telling you, this book is fabulous if you like to collect little bits and pieces of scraps that other "normal" quilters toss in the garbage. I have no affiliation to Amanda or her publisher, so I am just sharing my own opinion as a fan. It's so reassuring to know that there are other crazy people like me out there in the world. Amanda is my twin scrap sister! I am reading every word on every page. This book is so yummy, it even smells good! Most people who read everything on computers, tablets, and phones probably don't remember how good a new book smells... or maybe this is just another quirky thing about me?!? 
Hop over to the Rainbow Scrap Challenge link up to see what other quirky scrap crazed quilters are making this week.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Finished Quilt!

This is my first finish for 2017! It's called Valentine 9 Patch and was a quiltalong with Temecula Quilts in 2014. The free pattern is still available - just click on the Temecula link. The finished quilt is 24" x 24".

I started the project with fabrics from the "Mama Said Sew" line by Sweetwater. I had a charm pack and a bit of yardage, and added a solid white Kona for the background.

The heart blocks were pieced on my 1964 white featherweight that I call "Sweet baby Jayne". This is such a beautiful sewing machine and was the perfect choice to sew these love blocks.

The machine quilting was done on my Brother 1500 which is such a work horse machine. It only does a straight stitch and has been quilting all my quilts for more than 20 years. 

A quirky bit of trivia about this wallhanging. In my excitement to start the quilting, I basted the quilt top to the backing with the text going vertically instead of horizontally. I only realized this when I was almost finished the quilting and had no intention of ripping out the stitches, repositioning the backing and starting over! It's another one of those humble moments in quilt making, but the mistake will face the wall, and only you and I will know this bit of trivia... don't tell anyone :)

How do you know when a quilt is really finished?
It has a label on the back. I stitch my labels right into one of the binding corners.
BTW I really liked using these binding needles by Fons and Porter.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Finished Mystery Quilt Top

Ta da!
My finished En Provence mystery quilt top is finally finished and on the design wall! This is the Quiltville mystery project that started at the end of November. 
It measures 70 " x 70" which is wider than my design wall, so the left side is pinned to a sheet that is covering the doorway.

I had to add in a few extra neutral fabrics in the last border, which aren't in the centre of the quilt, but I think it looks okay. Almost all of the fabrics are from Amanda Jean Nyberg's Good Neighbors from Connecting Threads.
Now we're ready for basting and quilting.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Clarissa Design Wall

Another Clarissa block is already finished! This block was finished in record time due to all the piecing I've been doing (which means lots of opportunities for leader-ender piecing). 

This is the block centre made of 4 QST blocks. It measures 4.5" and includes one of my favourite plaids.

Here is the growing block with the next round of brown homespun and tiny dot QSTs. It measures 8.5"
The last round of QSTs with an argyle print and a light tan stripe. The finished block measures 12.5"

I really enjoyed working on it, but when I put it on the design wall, it looked quite pale. And when it was put beside all it's friends, well it's a totally blah block.  That's okay... not every block needs to draw attention to itself.

Total triangle tally: 1,152!
To see more design wall posts, hop over to Patchwork Times.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Slow Sunday Stitching

Welcome to the weekly celebration of hand stitching!

This week I finished machine quilting a Valentine's quilt and today I have the pure enjoyment of finishing this quilt. 
First I removed the Frixion quilting lines with a hot iron. I have heard many times from people that don't like these pens, but I love them, and have not had any issues with them so far. I've only tested this product for several years though, so check back with me 20 years from now and we'll see how I feel about them then! LOL

Today I will be stitching in all the thread tails by pulling all the threads to the back of the quilt, threading two at a time (bobbin and top thread) in a needle, tying a knot, and pulling the knot between the layers and popping it into the batting (tutorial here). And then I'll hand stitch the binding to the back of the quilt.
And as I stitch, I am going to listen to some old Stuart McLean podcasts. Stuart was the beloved host of a CBC radio show called Vinyl Cafe and I was so sad to hear of his death this week. Over the years I have enjoyed countless hours of slow stitching while listening to his unique slow storytelling. I was also lucky enough to see two of Stuart's live Christmas productions and was inspired by his creativity and humour, and by his commitment to the development of Canadian talent. You can read some wonderful tributes to Stuart here

We hope you will join in the slow stitching party by visiting some of the links below and/or linking up your post post about your own hand stitching project.  
Enjoy every slow stitch!


    An InLinkz Link-up

Friday, February 17, 2017

Machine Quilting

It is quite possible that I am avoiding quilting the UFO of the month by becoming obsessed with this Valentine's quilt. Am I now the Queen of Procrastination?!?  
Perhaps! I'm okay with that because working on this quilt has been really fun. AND there are several more days to meet my goal this month!
I finally found the perfect heart design for the 4" empty spaces on this quilt and was eager to get going on the quilting. I started with the walking foot and stitching in the ditch around the 9 patch blocks to secure the layers together.

Then I marked the quilting designs for the empty spaces using a frixion pan and a 4" stencil that I found at The Quilt Place. There are a total of 44 hearts to quilt, which is a lot of stopping and starting. I found a way to quilt the tiny hearts with a continuous line which resulted in a total of 32 stops/starts.
I put the free motion quilting foot on my sewing machine, reduced the presser foot tension (so the quilt could be moved more freely under the needle), dropped the feed dogs, put the stitch length on zero, and was ready to go. I carefully stitched on the drawn lines. If you've never done this kind of free motion quilting before, it's a really challenging skill to get the speed and stitch length even, and to keep the needle on the line. It takes a lot of practice.

Most of the time when I am machine quilting, I start by making 3 or 4 stitches in the same place at the beginning and at end, and clip the threads as close as possible to the quilt. That usually keeps the thread ends secure. But it also leaves a little bump of thread, and I didn't want that to be visible in the solid white squares especially with so many stops/starts. So with this quilt, I left the thread tails hanging, and will hand sew the ends in when the quilting is finished. You can see the threads laying all over the place in this photo.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

UFO Update

Not much progress has been made on my UFO yet this month, but I am prepared to make lots of progress this week. The first two sections of Votes For Women are quilted, and trimmed. This is not one of my favourite jobs. The three layers have to be trimmed, which totally dulls the rotary blade.

And then you end up with a pile of mess that looks like this. These are the cutoff edge pieces that have to be dealt with.

The batting scraps are cut with scissors (to save the rotary blade from further torture) into smaller pieces and tossed in the dog bed pillowcase, which is attached to my cutting table with binder clips.

The backing scraps are cut into useable sizes of 1", 1.5" and sometimes 2". These are all civil war reproductions so will go into that scrap bin.
Now that this step is completed and I'm ready to make some progress on this quilt!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mystery Quilt Decisions

My version of the mystery quilt called "Ghosts and Mosts" is ready for borders. This was the Super Bowl Sunday mystery quilt hosted by Quiltbug. I liked the pattern and wanted to make it bigger to fit the guidelines to donate it to my guild's comfort quilt project. The pattern is for a baby quilt of 4 rows (16 blocks) and I wanted to make a lap quilt. I decided to add 2 more rows which meant making 8 more blocks. I also added a sashing with blue cornerstones, which made it a little bigger.
I was really scrounging to get enough of the gold fabrics for the last 8 blocks. Look at these sections which were pieced together from scraps.
I'm trying to decide about a narrow dark red border with or without cornerstones, and/or adding a blue border. There is also another dark red border to add. In days gone by, this decision making process would have taken a long time. And if the "right" answer did not present itself, the whole thing would go to the UFO closet.

Good enough!

Not anymore! A decision will be made quickly because:
a) this is one of those quilts where I already know how I want to quilt it, so I am motivated to get it to the quilting stage, and
 b) I have learned there is not one "right" way to do anything, but there are many "good enough" solutions!
Hop over to Lorna's Let's Be Social linky party and see what other quilters are working on today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Love Day

Happy Valentine's Day to all my quilting friends! Not only is it Valentine's Day, it's quilt guild meeting day, so I get to see some of my true friends today. And for those of you that I don't get to see, I hope you enjoy your day celebrating all the love you have created in your life. 

If you are looking for something fun to make today, Temecula Quilts has an adorable mini quilt pattern called Box of Chocolates . And they still have their free patterns called Hugs and Kisses (click here to see my version) and Valentine 9 Patch on the blog. I am pin basting my Valentine 9 patch quilt because it's the perfect project to spend time with today!
P.S. I have no affiliation to Temecula but have enjoyed so many of their projects over the years that I just have to send them some quilty love today!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Design Wall Monday - En Provence

My version of Quiltville's En Provence mystery quilt is on the design wall again/still. Did you notice that it is all in one piece?!?!  I worked hard this week to get this quilt top together because today is the Quiltville link up. If you know the pattern, you will see that I didn't extend the dark blue tri-recs units into the last border because I liked it better without them.

My quilt just needs one more light border and then it's done. The problem is that I have run out of the light fabrics that are in the blocks and in the first border.  I really don't want to buy more fabric, so I have been adding in some other scraps that were kicking around the quilt studio.  I need about 100 four patch blocks to finish and made a few more yesterday while watching Quiltcam.
To see more En Provence quilts, hop over to Quiltville.
To see more design wall posts, hop over to Patchwork Times.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Slow Sunday Stitching

Welcome to the Slow Sunday Stitching party! Take some time today to power down your brain and enjoy the benefits of relaxation with your favourite hand work. 

Last week when I was visiting the Oxford County Guild in Ingersoll, I had a lovely visit with Jean Hillis who is a past president of the guild and is a very inspiring hand stitcher. I wish you could see her wonderful quilts! She invited me to stay overnight and we enjoyed some relaxing hand stitching as we had tea and visited. Just look at this gorgeous quilt she is hand quilting! I'm telling you, I was drooling over this amazing scrap quilt with pieced blocks in the centre and a complex appliqued border around the edges. This photo doesn't show the appliqued border very well, but maybe you can see it a bit better in the next close up photo.

Can you see that Jean is outline stitching all the little leaves and flower shapes and is also cross hatching the yellow background? She is running several needles at once to do the crosshatching but you can't see them since they are to the right of the hoop. I started to feel relaxed just watching Jean. However, as with many things that are good for you, you don't get the full benefit from watching the activity ... you have to actually DO it yourself! 
So of course I was hand stitching too!

I have finished appliqueing Life Is Beautiful block #30 (with the weird tree) to it's background 4 patch block. Once it's stitched down, I carefully cut the fabric away from behind the embroidery block and applique that circular piece to another 4 patch block. You can see part of a possible layout here. Today I will be starting the embroidery on block #31.
What are you hand stitching today? Don't just think about putting in some stitches... get out your project and start relaxing! Then write a blog post, tell us about your progress and join in the link up below.


    An InLinkz Link-up

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Scrappy Saturday

Aquamarine is the colour of the month for February over at the RSC. I gathered up the Alamo Star blocks with backgrounds that are somewhere between blue and green, and sewed them together in 4 patch arrangements. The colour of the star is not a factor when I'm laying out these blocks, only the background fabric is considered. But when I see them in the photo, I am wishing I spent some time organizing the balance of the warm colours. But hey, it's a scrappy quilt and I am learning to cope with "random"! There were enough stars to make 12 blocks. You can see the 9 purple blocks from last month here
To see more scrappy projects, hop over to SoScrappy.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Mysteries of the (Quilting) Universe

I have been struggling with sewing my En Provence quilt together this week. I really like it when the seams butt in opposite directions and intersections lay flat. But this whole quilt is just a hot mess on the back in terms of seam allowance pressing. I just had to get over that and kept going because it was just not possible to have that outcome. But when sewing the rows together, in some places the seams just don't line up.
Attempt #1

I consider myself to be an accurate cutter and careful piecer, but just look at this seam join. 

If you are a regular blog reader you will know that sometimes this really irritates me, and I have to try to fix it. I take apart a problematic seam, realign the pieces, pin everything in place, and resew the seam.

Attempt #2
Here is attempt #2.
I cannot for the life of me figure out why this is not much of an improvement from attempt #1!
I have a personal rule that I will give a task my best effort 3 times, and then call it "done" no matter the outcome of the 3rd attempt.
Attempt #3

Here is attempt #3.
Does it look improved in any way?!?
After all that effort, it should be lining up perfectly!  Sometimes it just doesn't. And no matter how much effort is put in or how well the task is done, it just doesn't work. Now there's a good life lesson for me!
So, I continue on with trying my best to get this quilt top together, and deal with the frustration when the outcome doesn't reflect the effort. Why is it that some quilts go together so effortlessly and others are so challenging?!?

My friend Louise (remember when we went to see Ricky Tims?!?) is coming for her annual winter visit and we will talk every waking minute for the entire weekend. We will solve all the problems of the world, and we will feel renewed after our time together. 
And maybe this quilt top will get completed!