Scrappy Stars!

Scrappy Stars, full view

I can finally write this post, as I caught Dave before he picked up his latest Donna Leon book (see the picture at the end for my stack).  I used to have this perfect photography studio, but then we had to replace our garage doors and I can’t staple a white sheet onto it any more.  So, I have Dave hold up the quilt for me in the back yard.

Here’s the requisite languid beauty shot: Quilt Draped Over Something.

The back.  You know that fabric you have that you love love love and it’s been sitting sitting sitting on your shelf for too long?

This was mine, so I put it to good use on the back of this very red quilt.

My quilter, Cathy of CJ Designs, did a meander over the star points and a star on a rolling wavy line in the borders. I had wanted to quilt this myself and imagined some glorious feat like Angela Walters accomplishes–all detail and punch and wonderfulness.  But in the end, I traded “Done” for “Glory,” as the pragmatic side of me realized that summer was o-v-e-r and if this quilt was to be enjoyed, I needed help on the quilting.

The label:  Scrappy Stars • No one sees what is before his feet: we all gaze at the stars.  –  Cicero

This is my number 100 of 100 quilts.  Now I’m starting on my second batch of one-hundred quilts.

I’ve arranged this stack of Donna Leon books I’ve finished in order of publication, with Death at La Fenice the very first one she published.  Notice how we get the paperbacks from used books stores (via Amazon and Abe Books online).  ( That second one is titled Death in a Strange Country.) There’s a lot of her books out there. So far, Acqua Alta is my most favorite, but I do like her subplots and characters. I’ve made a note to buy little almond cakes while we’re there, as they only appear around the first part of November — a piece of trivia gleaned from one of the novels.  At any rate, I look forward to reading more of these as soon as I can.

Pieces to Scrappy Stars

20120426-153855.jpg

I finished the first gift–a pillowcase for my son Chad who is always traveling. Because of the London Olympics this year, there is lots of fabric with British themes, and the whitish area has a map of the London tube system.. The black fabric is a piece I picked up in NY when we were there last fall– and met Chad for a day of touristing around. (Chad is the little tyke in the last post.)

20120426-154313.jpg

I wanted to show the pieces I used in Scrappy Stars. They are all a variation of that diamond.

20120426-154433.jpg

I copied off extra diamonds and added seam allowances to make these extra pieces. For the half- diamond insets in the red inner border, just fold the diamond in half and add some seam allowance.

I’m waiting here at the airport, waiting to take off to see my parents in Utah, and am posting via my iPad. Have any of you converted to this device? Do you find the posting tedious or convenient? I did pick up a gizmo that allows me to upload photos from my camera. I showed my son while we were at lunch and he said, Oh yeah. I have one of those! Why is it that I always feel about two skips behind everyone else? Story of my life.

Have a great weekend!

Scrappy Stars Saga

So I left you all when I thought I had the answers to the Scrappy-Star-conundrum with the Japanese fabrics.  Nope.  Discouraged, I headed to a quilt shop, where  guess what–out of all of the fabrics we tried, we liked the stars on some red Quilters Linen fabric.

Like I said, it seemed like the answer. Here’s some pictures of the process I went through.  I was happy with the red, as it acted like a solid, but still wanted to beef up the quilt with pattern and texture, a la Material Obsession quilt shop in Australia, as I love looking at their quilts.

Now I’m trying to add in those fabrics.  As you can see–it’s not working.  Again.  This is when I wrote the blog post on Struggle, appreciating Robert Penhall’s quote particularly.

Auditioning, Take Two.  I realize that photographs flatten out what’s going on, but as you can see, what was going on had problems.  I came home right after school, took an Internet Sabbath, and worked steadily on sewing together the center section.  When my husband came home last night, he kissed me hello and asked me how my day was.

“I hate my quilt,” I said.

After dinner, we went up together to look at the disaster quilt.  We talked, and I felt like a balloon deflating.  The view evolved as we tried different things, talking and talking, but really the quilt just has so much going on.  Like I’ve said before, I was trying to take Cinderella to the Prince’s Ball, and she really just want to go out for a burger and fries.  We folded back the end stars, took down some of the wild fabrics, paring it down.  I felt as if the quilt had beat me, as if I had caved.  But burgers-and-fries it was going to be, no matter where I wanted to go.

Cutting off of the side star.  I unpicked the center so I could save two of the star points for another project (like I ever want to tangle with this one again!).  I finished sewing the center all together, smoothed it up on the wall, and went to bed. In the morning, the pared-down quilt, white on the wall, greeted me and I chose the tomatoes on yellow for the inner border and auditioned the outer borders:

I guess I don’t feel defeated anymore, just happy it’s to this point.  I wanted that sophisticated, interesting quilt, really I did.  But what I have instead is a bold graphic set of stars, demanding un-adornment, insisting that the rest of the crowd pipe down so they can shine.

There’s a great children’s book titled “Babe, The Gallant Pig,” which was made into a movie.  At the very end, the farmer looks down at Babe, his pig, and says “That’ll do Pig.  That’ll do.”

That’ll do, Scrappy Stars.  That’ll do.

Journey to Japan

I appreciate all your comments and I like what you taught me.  I learned that if I wanted something rich and visually multi-layered, the black background was the one to lean towards.  And while I don’t like the acid yellow/green, it struck many of you as the way to go.  I started thinking about why green worked and realized that I don’t sew with a lot of greens, that is, I don’t lean to the greens as a dominant color.  So it makes the stars stand out.

Just after 9/11, my husband and I traveled to Japan and to Shanghai, China as he had been asked to speak at a conference.  Since it was right after the horrors of the twin towers falling, nearly half of the American contingent of scientists cancelled their trip.  We went, flying out of a nearly empty Los Angeles airport.  Yes, it was very eery.  But I loved the trip.

Ireland is known for being green, and it may be, but Japan is saturated with greens.  Maybe they’re noticed because they are smacked up against the painted vermillion temples.

And one rainy day in Tokyo we ducked into this shopping arcade.  Two soggy Americans who spoke NO Japanese.  But I could recognize fabric when I saw it, and one little shop had rolls of  yukata fabric, 13″ wide and in rich colors. Of course I bought some, ironed it after the trip home and hung it in the closet, too precious to use.

Until now, some eleven years later.

I had gone to the fabric shop on the way home from school on Friday, and yes–the hot pink with the purple dots didn’t work as well as the Kaffe Fassett Stencil fabric, in two-tones of green.  I liked it . . . but I didn’t love it.  And remembering what Elinor and Bert and others had said, I knew it had to sing to me.  I didn’t touch the quilt all weekend.  I would walk in and out of the studio, did a day’s work on grading and lesson prep, ignored it, studied it.  I unfolded the half-stars, arranged them all neatly and went to bed Saturday night.

I awoke Sunday morning, and I remembered that deep in one of my closets were these pieces of yukata, so I pulled them out.  They were “flat” visually, and I had four small pieces in various shades of green.  I slapped them up on the wall, just before we went to church, snapping a picture to show Tracy at church (another quilter).

Yukata slapped up on wall, underneath scrappy stars

When I got home, I looked at it again.  I’ll have to fussy cut, so as to avoid the big blotch of white, and to strategically position the other parts, but it just might be the fabric that works.  I can fill in with the other domestic pieces of fabric, for this is, at heart, a quilt based on scraps.  And the lesson from this is–trust your stash, and your heart.  Buy when you can, and don’t hesitate to save fabric bought on a rainy day for eleven years.

Quilt Scaffolding

Climbing up the Statue of Liberty one year, I was amazed to see all the scaffolding that held up Lady Liberty.  Surprised even.  I still think of that.

One of my favorite Broadway shows is Noises Off, because you see the first act pretty much straight on, then they flip the stage to show you what’s going on six weeks later in the run, and you see all the pratfalls, the nearly missed cues, the backstage angst.  And in the final act, we see the front of the stage again and the show is made all the more hilarious because we now know what’s really going on.

I used to see on lots of blogs this little button with lots of artsy arrows and squiggles and the words below that proclaimed “I took the Process Pledge!” and the quilter would show us how she/he arrived at the gorgeous finished quilt.

Here’s where that idea all breaks down, and becomes an exercise not in honesty about construction (although that can be interesting) but an exercise in boredom.  Because I’M bored with this process, yet like the rough part of your nail that catches on everything and you fiddle with and and pick at until you can track down a nail file and smooth that sucker off, I can’t let go of trying to make this work.

Here are six pictures of seven different background to my scrappy stars.  While you may think this obsessive, I’m not showing you the picture with the cherries, nor the green background with the butterflies, or the black background with the swirly waves.  Scroll through them and ask yourself these two basic questions:
Question #1–Which one makes the stars really stand out?
Question #2–Which background is the richer and more interesting?
Okay.  Ready, set, meet you at the bottom.

Background #1

Background #2

Background #3

Background #4

Background #5

Background #6

Background #7

I’m sure you noticed that the two questions are in conflict with each other after viewing the photos.

I’m also sure you are hoping that I soon figure out which it is and get on with the thing, because the fallout from the idea of me taking the process pledge–showing the scaffolding to my thinking about how this quilt is coming together–is driving you crazy.  Or to a state of complete boredom.  And you wish I would just show you a tutorial about how to  I put those stars up against a field of white and head on to the next agonizing step.  Borders.  (And P.S.  I hate the color on Background #3, so if you say that one, you lose.)

But just for fun–if you decide to leave a comment, give me your answers to Q#1, and Q#2.  And any of your thoughts and ideas might also help this move along, too.

Scrappy Stars–WIP Wednesday

When I get these blocks all up here in a row, I like to look at them.  I look at them when I’m talking on the phone.  I look at them when I’m supposed to be grading.  I look at them even though my lesson plans aren’t done yet.  I just like to look at how far they’ve come and how fun it is to use up fabrics that are already in my closet.

We had a little of that going on at dinner last night, too.  I had Two-Can Tomato Soup on the docket, and in rummaging around in the freezer, found some very forgotten French bread from our local bakery shop.  So I cut up the slices into 2″-wide “fingers,” brushed them with olive oil, ground some salt over them and broiled them until they were lightly toasted, then floated them on the top of the soup.  Like the stars above, you have to gussy up your leftovers, so I called them “croutons” — in the manner of the French — and also garnished the soup with a little bit of cream and chunks of avocado. Yum!

So this is my current work in progress this week.  Our church had its semi-annual conference (here’s a link to my favorite talk about not judging) and I streamed conference while I had lead-foot-itis on the sewing machine, sewing while listening.  Keeps me awake during the less-than-favorite talks.  I usually like to have a conference quilt finished up by the end of the weekend, but this one’s growing in my mind — maybe it needs some appliqued borders? — so I couldn’t finish it up.  Just thinking grand here.

I am posting this on the Freshly Pieced Fabrics blog, where Lee, our amiable hostess, always puts out the welcome mat for us quilters to share what we are working on.    I missed it last week because I was in the fog; happy to get back to it this week.  Thanks, Lee.  (And a big congrats to her for her quilt was juried into the Modern Quilt Guild Showcase!)

Scrappy Star, part II

This is a continuation of Monday’s post, where I began showing you how I put together these scrappy star blocks.  Head to yesterday to download a PDF file of my paper piecing template.  But if you hate paper piecing, even though this one is an easy block to paper piece, consider making strips of fabrics (one selvage-to-selvage width should be fine) to match the widths on listed on the template, then merely use the diamond as a pattern to cut out your blocks.  I’d still do the stay-stitching on the outside edge.

As with anything, the first time you make a new pattern, you’re in the process of figuring it out.  I first thought I’d sew them all together with the paper on.  So I did, but the ripping off the paper was horrid. So don’t do that.  First rip off the paper, then piece it together.

I used “fatty thigh method” as taught to me by Katie Pasquini-Masopust in a class I took from her at Houston.  Yep.  Set it on that little thigh of yours, poke and rip that paper off.

Actually, it comes off a lot easier if you crease it with your thumbnail and you use that vellum paper.  First rip off the outside 1/4″ edges, then go for the interior.  Be careful not rip out your stitching; I sometimes rip from the side, like tearing off a piece of paper from a pad.

Set it up on the ironing board, give it spritz of spray starch, press it flat. Now lay it out to decide:

OR

Funny, I how never get tired of playing this game.

Piece two diamonds together.

Don’t stitch right off the edge on either end of the seam — stay within the stay-stitching on that outer edge.  Tighten up your stitch length as you approach the place where you are going to end.  At the outer edge, the Y-seaming, that you’ll later have to do when you inset the outer pieces, is made easier with a little bit of wiggle room. And at the top, you’ll need room for all those points to meet together.

After you seam two together, then add one more to make three.

Then line up the edges, and stitch the two halves together, again, being careful to not sew across the point, but instead staying within the stay-stitching lines, breaking your stitching as you travel across that center point area.

You might freak out at this point because it has that “training bra” look in the middle, but be patient. Press each seam open, bit by bit, using a little bit a steam as you go.  It will lay down flat.

Then take your thumb and place it in the center.  Press hard and give it a twisty-twirl to get those seam allowances to lay down.

Back after twirling and pressing.

Front, after twirling and pressing.  Remember that you left a little hole in the center because you stayed within the stay-stitching line.

Here are my first four.  The first star took forever.  The second one I finished in about an hour, from start to finish.  The first two stars were scrappy, and the third I went into the stash so that’s why it looks more blended.  There’s no rules.  Because they are so big (about 20 inches across from point to point) they make a great impact.  I’ve laid them out with points touching, so you can see that the diamond pattern will also serve as the template for that missing filler piece, if that’s the direction I head.

As soon as I get my other blocks made, I’ll start thinking about settings.  I am wondering if I have enough guts to do a rich visual background, a la Material Obsession in Australia.  I’m also thinking about some kind of borders that will punch up the stars somehow.  I have no clue where I’m going with this, but I hope to enjoy the journey of creation.

Check back for tomorrow’s thread Leap Day Superior Thread Giveaway.  There are ten of us participating; you can hop around and enter to have lots of chances for some great thread!

Scrappy Star, part I

I’ve been diving into scraps this week, as I had a couple of days all to myself.  Inspired by a quilt I saw in the Scrap Attack Flickr group, a scrappy star by Svetlana of s.o.t.a.k homemade, I decided to try it myself.  It looked similar to lots of spiderweb blocks found in many traditional blocks, some published ages and ages ago, I thought I might be able to draw on my years of quilting and put it together myself.

First, download my scrappy stars paper piecing template by clicking on the link (NOT the picture).  It should measure 10 inches from tip to tip when you print it out.

A tip I learned from Becky Goldsmith is to print out your paper piecing templates on vellum paper.  I bought a package some time ago from my local paper store, so I went to the copy center and printed ONE copy of the diamond.  Then I pulled the original off the platen glass and checked it for size.  Yep.  Same size.  I wanted to make about eight stars (and there are six diamonds in each star), so I printed off 60 copies — about ten more diamonds than I needed, just in case.

Okay, so PANIC!  When starting a new process or project, I can feel overwhelmed by it all.  But then I said to myself, just choose six fabrics that go somewhat together, in fact the less they go together the better it will be.  That’s all, then you can take it from there.  I chose fabrics, laid them out, liked them.  I cut 3″ squares for the two tips, then I cut the rests of the strips 2 1/2 inches wide by 6 1/2″ long.  Yes, I know that’s way wide, but I liked some squoosh room when working with them.

Line up two at first, peeking through the parchment template to line them up straight.  Stitch on the line.  If you are not familiar with the technique, there are several YouTube videos (just google “paper piecing”).  I don’t trim up the sides yet.

As you progress, you’ll need to trim off the excess in between your seaming.  Lay it out flat on your cutting surface, and crease back the template on the stitching line, making a nice crisp crease.  This also helps when you rip that paper off, later.

Line up the ruler, slice off the extra.  Iron the fabric down into place, then keep going until you fill up your diamond.

From the paper side, use the marking to stitch around the outside edge.  Since you are using scraps, some may be off-grain and this stay-stitching helps stabilize that outside edge.

Trim.  It looks sooo pretty now, but now comes the real fun!

Lay them all out.  * Smile.*  Since you are working in such a large scale (20 inches from tip to tip), that star really makes an impact.

Or do I like it this way?  Flipping them around creates a totally different look.

I have this clever device: a hinged mirror.  I place ONE diamond, set the edges of the mirror on it, and voila! My block, in reflection.

This is what it looks like from the top, sitting on top of one diamond.

Check back Tuesday for how I put the pieces together.  AND. . .Don’t forget to come back on Wednesday for our thread giveaway.  We have ten different bloggers participating in the Leap Day Superior Thread Giveaway.