Monday, June 27, 2011

My Purple & Green Phase

I closed up my sewing machine on Friday. My siblings and I were responsible for a family reunion on Saturday and I had so much prep to do. I didn't want to be tempted to sit and sew. Tomorrow we leave for a family reunion on my MIL's side in Canada, so my time since then has been spent prepping for the trip. That means I really don't have anything new on my design wall. My patriotic table runner was set with the red triangles, but I haven't done anything more with it.
However, the other day as I was browsing through the electronic folder of my quilt pictures I was reminded of my purple and green phase. I felt that I needed to come clean about this part of my quilting past.  It started innocently enough with a fabric purchase of a purple and green floral. Though not usually much of a floral person, I had finally allowed myself to admit that the purple and green combination in several florals available at the time had really captured my imagination. That one fabric led to others that would "look good with that purple and green floral." Pretty soon I was rolling in purple and green fabrics.

About that same time I came across this magazine ...

and was intrigued by this article by Deborah Moffat-Hall.
All of the blocks in the sampler were made using either HST alone or with simple squares added.

One page of the pattern showed many different block layouts possible using just the HST.

Another page showed other possibilities when you add some squares to the mix.

 I thought it would be a great way to use the purple and green fabrics. I started working on one block each month when my Mom and I would get together for a quilting day. I also found a pattern for a large carpenter wheel block that I thought would make a good center for this quilt. It was slow coming together when I only worked on it 1/2 a day, once a month. Eventually I thought I had enough blocks for the size of quilt I wanted, but I couldn't see how to insert my large center block and have it stay consistent with the blocks around it, while maintaining the size of quilt I wanted. I played around with different frames for the center medallion until I was sick of the whole thing. I finally just sewed it up using the layout I had currently been playing with and since I didn't like it much, it has never been quilted.

 There were three blocks that I had made and then decided they were the wrong shades of P&G, so I stuck them together as a table runner, which I also wasn't crazy about, so it is still a flimsy, too.
But that didn't stop the purple and green phase. I began participating in a BOM program in my community. It started at the beginner level, but I attended from the start, learning little tricks and discovering new tools and techniques along the way. And what fabric did I take with me to class? You guessed it--my beloved purples and greens! After making the first twelve blocks I felt like I needed to move on to new colors, so I used coping strips and a fun sashing to put these blocks together. I did get this quilted and gave it to my granddaughter.

Then, one day, while rummaging in the deepest recesses of my quilting corner, I found a stash of those precut, BOM kits you can buy at JoAnn stores. I don't usually buy them, but there had been a clearance sale on some leftovers several months before this. The kits were $.99 a piece--and the main colors were purple and green --with a little red, pink and white thrown in. I had found 4 designs I liked, bought four of each of them and went home feeling pretty smug about getting enough blocks for a quilt top for under $20. I decided it was time to get them sewn. As I laid everything out I decided I wanted each block to be different. So I mixed and matched pieces and found some bits in my stash that would match. I did end up buying some yardage for the sashing. I have had it quilted, but for some reason I can't find the photos of it after completion. My daughters called it the Berry Patch Quilt, because of the reds and purples surrounded by green.

I'd like to say that was all, but I realized that the flower fairy quilt I've posted about before, that I made for  my granddaughter, was also purple and green.
I'd also like to say it will never happen again, but there is enough fabric in these colors still on the shelves and in boxes that history could repeat itself. Don't get me wrong--I love purple and I love green. I just think I have had enough of the two of them together to last me a good long while!!
(Has the song "Deep Purple" been playing in anyone else's mind, or is it just me?)
Until next time, which will be over a week now--we will be up in the Canadian Rockies, instead of our little mountain valley,
Janet O.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Odds and Ends, and an Oddity at the End

Do you make holiday table runners for the different occasions through the year? I have only made 4 table runners to use either on the dining table or the hutch. Problem is I don't have them for all the right occasions. I've made two for fall--one with leaves and the other with pumpkins--and two for spring, though one of those is still in flimsy stage. I have collected several table runner patterns I would like to make and every time Christmas or the Fourth of July rolls around I promise myself I will make something for the occasion. I even spent time this morning hunting for a pattern I know I have and want to make, but couldn't find it anywhere. I had pulled out scraps and fat quarters of my red/white/blue fabric and I didn't want to put it all away again. I needed to forge ahead, so I settled on an Ohio Star pattern, but I wanted more activity in the block. I put a 9-patch in the middle and away I went.
I like how the blocks turned out, but I couldn't decide what kind of setting to use.

I think the one with the blocks on point is getting my vote (though I might try blue setting triangles--what do you think?), and since I'm making it, my vote wins!
By the way, I know I have mentioned design boards before, but I want to say it again. These are great tools to use when making blocks with lots of pieces. I keep them by me as I cut and arrange the pieces on the board. Then I can stack the boards on top of each other and carry them to my machine. The pieces stay in place until I move them and I have a pile of blocks to work on without having to keep getting up to get more pieces and figure out how to put them together. Once the blocks are made they go on the design wall.
All of the loose pieces for the block arranged on the design board.
You can carry it from cutting table to ironing board to sewing
machine and everything stays in place!

Each of the elements within the 9 squares have been sewn.
Finished block.

The boards are so simple to make. Get foam core board at the framing department of a craft or hobby store. They will usually cut it for you with no charge. 15" squares have worked well for me. They hold up to a 12" block and are still a manageable size. Use adhesive spray on one side of the foam core squares and attach pieces of cotton batting that have been cut to fit. That's it! I have fifteen of them and sometimes I wish I had more.

The other night when I did the tutorial on the perforated paper method of piecing I cut all of the parts for another Mariner's Compass, just for demonstration purposes. I didn't think too much about it, I just grabbed some fabric from my "supply shelves" and went to work. The next evening when I was going to sew, the piles of cut fabrics were still sitting out. I was going to put all of it away, but was curious to see how well it would turn out. That is what I ended up sewing. I got it all finished except the center circle applique. When I took the class on this technique our instructor said she thought it looked good to have "movement" in that center circle. I liked what a batik did in the first one I made, so I went to my batik drawer again. I really like what I found to match--you might have to enlarge the picture all the way to really see it. I think I may finish this one before I complete my first one.

Okay, now for the odd. Have you ever seen a freshly sheared alpaca--for that matter, have you ever seen an alpaca? These guys belong to my brother-in-law and they are currently in the pasture that I can see from my kitchen window. The first glance I got after they were sheared made me laugh.
A face only a mother could love?
Their long skinny necks seem disproportionate to their bodies. DH and I agree that they look like some type of alien creature.  Anyway, when I see them out my kitchen window now they bring a smile to my face.
I had to make some pretty silly noises to get
 them all to look at me together.
So, until next time, from the little mountain valley where we actually were over 80 degrees today! (As we say around here, spring came just in time for summer.)

Janet O.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Perforated Paper Piecing & a BIG Finish

I am so excited to have something new on my design wall! This is something I have been working on off and on for a couple of years. It has a story behind it, but I will save that for another day. I have realized, as I have worked on the ocean waves blocks, that I miscalculated the brown border around the tree of life. I am going to be unpicking that and putting on a new one. There will be more brown, green, blue, and yellow in the next row of blocks beyond the ocean waves that will help tie it all together (hopefully). This quilt is finally up on the wall because this finally isn't.

It seems like this t-shirt quilt was on my design wall forever, but I've only had my design wall for a few weeks, so I guess that can't be true. Anyway, it isn't there any more! And when I say BIG finish, I mean BIG! I couldn't get it back up on the design wall all alone, it is so heavy. So here it is in flimsy stage (though this isn't that flimsy) on the floor. I need to get a back made and get it off to the quilter. It will be nice to work with fabrics I love again, instead of t-shirts! But I am happy with the way it turned out.

Some of you have asked about the perforated paper piecing method used in the Mariner's Compass I have been working on.  I looked online and it doesn't seem to be covered anywhere. If you decide to make a Compass, I heartily recommend this book by Judy Mathieson. If you have an earlier book by her, I am told this book improves upon her methods. I just know it is easier than I ever dreamed a Mariner's Compass could be! This method can also be applied to many other patterns that would normally use foundation piecing.

If you are curious about this method, stay tuned, if not--see ya later! To get started you will need to photocopy your pattern. Along with your fabrics and usual sewing supplies, you will need to have freezer paper and a marking pen. My freezer paper roll is probably about 20 years old (no kidding) and it didn't seem to adhere to the fabrics quite as well as that of others in the class with me, but it worked well enough.

  The pattern piece shown in the photo is one eighth of the compass. You will cut 9 rectangles of the freezer paper large enough to cover the pattern--eight will be for the piecing and one will be used for cutting your fabric.

Stack your 9 pieces of freezer paper, shiny side up, and staple your photocopied pattern to them.
Remove the thread from your sewing machine needle and proceed to stitch along the lines of the pattern, leaving perforations along all of the sewing lines.
Check the back of the papers before removing the pattern piece to make sure you got all of the lines sewn.
Remove the pattern and set aside. It can be used again for making another compass. Cut out along the outside perforations of all nine pieces of freezer paper. Number the sections on the dull side of each piece, as they are on the pattern. Cut apart one of the pieces to use in cutting your fabrics. Leave the other eight intact.
Layer your fabrics (you will need eight of each piece) and press each of the cut apart pattern pieces onto the appropriate fabric.
Cut the fabrics around the pattern pieces, leaving a 1/2 inch margin around the edge of the pattern.
Take a piece of fabric from template #1. Place the wrong side of the fabric against the shiny side of one of the paper patterns, centering it over the area labeled #1. (Can you see the pretzel in my hand? I had the late night nibbles.)
Press the paper onto the fabric.
Fold back the paper along the perforation between sections #1 and #2.
Now take a piece of fabric from template #2. Place the right side of this fabric to the right side of fabric #1, making sure that it is positioned to cover the area of the folded back section #2 and leave room for seam allowances. I find holding it to a light source helps me line it up properly.
Make sure your machine is threaded again! Sew right against the folded perforation.
Trim the seam to 1/4 inch.
Open up the fabrics, fold section #2 back in place and press this section to the corresponding fabric.
Now fold along the perforation between #1 and #3. You will need to fold on up through section #4 to complete this seam. Follow the same procedure as on section #2.
Continue in this same way for sections 4 & 5.
When all sections have been sewn together, trim around the paper, leaving 1/4 inch margins.
This completes 1/8 of the compass. Repeat this process to make 7 more of these.
When all eight sections are complete, you sew them together, just lifting the paper on the edges, so they are not sewn into the seams. See all of the paper sections still in place in the photo below.
The circular flying geese units around the edge are made using the same technique.
Then you have a Mariner's Compass with geese circling and you didn't have to tear away any paper from your seams!
If you have stayed with this, please give me your input. Did it make sense to you? I know it is long, but I am a very visual learner, so I always think other people need as many pictures as I do.

Until next time, from the little mountain valley where it is just starting to feel like summer,
Janet O.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Shop Hop Synopsis

Had a great time at shop hop Friday! DH was so patient and drove me around all day. The nearest participating shop is in a town 30 miles away--the farthest is a two hour drive. We didn't visit all 14 (supposed to be 15 but 1 dropped out at the last minute), but we got to nine of them and they were all so fun. We arrived at the first shop about 11:00 a.m. and left the last one at 7:30 p.m. Then we stopped at a  very popular local restaurant on the way home as an early anniversary celebration.

I know shop hops are conducted differently from place to place. This one runs four consecutive days. There is an overall theme--this year was books--and each store has its theme within the theme (a book title). Each shop has its own block pattern and they give you a free copy and stamp your "Passport" when you arrive. You also enter a drawing at each store for a gift pack worth at least $100. Some of the shops have the employees dress to match their theme, all of them have refreshments--some more elaborate than others--and many of them have games with prizes. If you visit all of the shops and get all of the stamps on your passport you turn it in at the last shop you visit for a chance at the grand prizes, which include Bernina sewing machines. You also get a charm pack for finishing.  Every shop has made a quilt to match their theme using all of the block patterns from each shop. Some of them are amazing.
Over the Rainbow (The Wizard of Oz).

Pirates of the Caribbean 
Theme of Twilight. Those blocks are tiny. This shop often
has miniatures in its theme quilt.

This last quilt was so amazing to me. Even though it is probably not something I would ever make, it just fascinates me. The blocks representing the different shops are all still there--in miniature on the spine of the book along with the title of the shop's theme book. The leaves of the plant on the top shelf were attached to the quilt down the center of each leaf as it was being quilted, so they are very dimensional. This quilt is made using the book The Collectibles Quilt by Wendy Etzel. Amazing stuff! There is also a book II. They are out of print but are available used online.

I am always on the lookout for bargains at the shops. There are a few shops that have great clearance corners or bargain basements. I picked up three large pieces for backings at $3.00 a yard. I really fell for the fat eighths. Since I am a scrappy quilter, the idea of small pieces of many different fabrics is more appealing than a few larger pieces. In a couple of the shops DH followed me around with each hand full of fat eighths. In most of the stores they were $1.00 each.
Most, but not all, of the fat eighths I picked up on Shop Hop.
This year it seemed that the bright and modern fabrics dominated the floor displays. They are beautiful and I admire them, they are just not me. There were a few vintage-type quilts that caught my eye. This is one I know many of you are working on (Civil War Chronicles). It was on display in several stores. I also saw a few of the Farmer's Wife quilts.
Civil War Chronicles quilt was hanging in a few shops.
I'll close by sharing with you this little patriotic quilt my cousin's wife made. I bought it at a family reunion auction after she donated it.
I have this hanging so that it is the first thing
you see when you walk into my living room.

"Til next time, from the little mountain valley where it is raining and cold--again!!

Janet O.