Summer 2016 Goals

Pattern Cover SpectrumTo introduce my newest goal, I need to talk about my new pattern covers.  I made them in a new software I’m trying to learn, Affinity Photo, fearful that any day my upgrades on my Mac will render my old copy of Photoshop more obsolete than it already is.  And no, I don’t want to pay a monthly fee to use their software (are you listening, Adobe?)  I just heard that Affinity Photo is launching a beta version for PC users, too, although it was developed as a Mac software.  So this is the first of my summer goals.

affinity_photo

They also have Affinity Designer, which I’m also trying to learn, but since I don’t know Adobe’s Illustrator very well, it’s like banging my head against a wall.  When my friend recovers from getting her daughter married off, I’m going to bug ask her to teach me a few things.

Long Man Novel Cover

To keep reading is another summer goal, and this was the latest book I finished, while quilting up a few things for my Riverside Sawtooth post.  It set me down so carefully in time and place.  No, it’s not a grip-you-by-the-throat novel, but a quiet one, filled with well-drawn characters from a time in our past.  I listened to it on Audible, which I would recommend, as the narrator really gets the sound of the voices and it adds another dimension to the story, I think.

Cal Primaries 2016

Can I mention Summer Events?  Here’s about the only political statement I’ll make on this blog: we recently (and sadly) lost our ability to have a primary election here in California.  We’d all been so excited, actually asking everyone “who are you going to vote for?” and really getting interested in politics in general.  We are one of the final primaries on the Presidential Election Schedule, and for once, we were going to Have a Say!  Except now we aren’t, because of the recent events (which has made great theater, I have to say).  So, hope everyone else in the United States had a great time voting–as usual, our votes won’t count.  H o w e v e r. . . I will be watching the conventions. After teaching Critical Thinking a few years, and having my students watch the conventions and have them analyze the speeches, the rhetoric, looking for the logical fallacies and spotting all the weakness in candidates’ arguments, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  It’s going to be a long, hot summer out here, and hey! we need something to compensate us for not getting a Primary Election.

rio-2016-logo-header

And it that’s not enough excitement (!), we can always watch the Brazil Summer Olympics, although with all the talk lately, it may end up being like our primary.  Click on the link at the end of the post to see this colorful Olympics design in action.

In other news, my garden is growing well, I’ve got a few more projects in the pipeline, but my main quilty goals this summer are as follows:

Small WorldMagScreenShot

1. Finish My Small World.

Shine_Quilt Top Final800

2. Quilt Shine: The Circles Quilt

Riverside Sawtooth_labeled

3. Quilt Riverside Sawtooth

Rosette #5

4. Keep working on this quilt.  Remember this?  It was one of the units in the New Hexagon Millifiore Quilt.  I’m halfway through, and my friend Laurel is all done with hers.  And her quilt is gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous, so I need to perserve and Be A Finisher. (However, notice I didn’t say “finish this quilt,” but instead wrote “keep working on this quilt.”  I am reasonable.)

halloweenqal_pattern cover

5. Finish this quilt top, and if possible get it quilted, too.

ohchristmastree4_0treejpg

6. And… this one, too.
I am all done with the hand-stitching.  Now just to figure out the borders, and get it quilted.
Easy, peasy.  We are coming right along in our Quilt-a-Long, with Step 5 coming up on June 2nd.

ChristmasTreeLogoSM

Other summer goals:

7. Be a good citizen and follow the national political process.  Every other week ought to be about right.
8. Visit my kids and their kids. And my parents.  And my husband’s family.  That’s about eight car trips right there.  I’d better work on #4–if only to have some hand sewing for car travel.
9. Celebrate my one-year anniversary of recovering from my surgery.  I think a night in front of the TV would be appropriate, in my nightgown with hand-sewing on my lap, to memorialize where I was last year at that time.

Voting booths
10. And oh, yeah.  Vote in California’s Primary.  I’m so excited, yes yes yes.

Not $ewing in Geneva

GenevaSewing1 GenevaSewing2 GenevaSewing3

I know what you are thinking: what? more traveling?  Well, my husband Dave is a scientist who studies genetic toxicology and was asked by the World Health Organization to come and work on a committee to discuss some chemicals and they would pay his way.  And I could go and stay for free, and fly using frequent flier miles, so why not?  I thought it would be like Lisbon, where I’d find cute shops selling fun sewing stuff, and when we walked by Mercerie Catherine B (above) on Saturday afternoon, I could hardly wait to go back and explore.GenevaSewing4

First, we had Mother’s Day and when we went to church, they handed out roses and pieces of chocolate to all the Moms.  Score!  That was sweet, even if everything they said was in French.GenevaSewing5

And we had to go and see one of the two tourist attractions in Geneva.  Which I did. . . multiple times.GenevaSewing6

I did scout out a few textile shops.  This one was right across from the Manor department store, but because Geneva is a waaaaay pricey city, I chose not to drop my Swiss francs in that shop.GenevaSewing7

Instead, I thought this a better investment, until I could back to Catherine’s, which was closed until Tuesday (4-day weekend).GenevaSewing8I went out to this place, which was a long tram ride out of the center.GenevaSewing8a GenevaSewing9

Yes, that is five bucks for a fat-meter of outdated material.  The Liberty cottons were 35 bucks a meter.GenevaSewing10

And regular quilting cottons were around 20 dollars a meter (the franc is nearly equivalent to a dollar this year).GenevaSewing11

The Manor Dept. Store (my home away from home, because I ate there a lot–picking up sandwiches and meals in their food hall. . . and why doesn’t America have food halls?) had this array of fat meters.  I didn’t check the prices on them.GenevaSewing12

While standing admiring this display of bias tape and ribbons — wound neatly onto cards and not tucked behind cellophane wrappers — I met Roxanne, another quilter, and we had a great discussion.  Quilters, the world over, speak the same language.  She said most of the quilters she knew in Switzerland ordered their fabrics online.GenevaSewing13

I did have fun noticing the European-style fashions in the windows.  I think style this would make a great dress for summer.GenevaSewing14

Check out the knees of this pair of jeans–little kitty faces!
GenevaSewing15

So back to my story.  When Catherine’s opened up, I went up there, expecting to buy something, but everything was incredibly expensive.  GenevaSewing16

I did find this small needle minder that I loved, but they were out of the matryoshka kit.  Good thing, because the house kit was 65 dollars for a square of linen, a pattern and the threads.  Yes.  SIXTY-FIVE. GenevaSewing17

I took a photo of the pattern company who designed that matryoshka kit: Un Chat dans l’aiguille and had fun looking around their website, following some links, which led to more links, and which led me to discover that I’d been doing some of my tried-and-true stitches incorrectly, proving there is always more to learn, at any age.  Here’s a link to some of my favorite series of videos in French, and even though it’s not a language I speak, the videos say it all.  And some great English videos by Mary Corbet are here.  So I left that day empty-handed, but full of admiration for the traditional embroideries found in Europe.GenevaSewing18

I even went back another day, when I bought half-meters of three different Christmasy looking braids, which I’ll put on the back with my label of the Oh Christmas Quilt (more motivation to finish it!).  I still couldn’t bring myself to buy much more than that.  And I just looked and admired and loved everything I saw.

I peeked in on the class they were holding, and every woman in there had a portable light, a stand with a hoop for her embroidery and an attached magnifying glass for working those teeny counted cross stitches over fine linen.  It really was quite inspiring, and made me think of ways to incorporate more hand stitching into quilting designs.  I have a few ideas and will let them percolate, as is my usual after taking in the sights and colors of different places.GenevaSewing19

But check out what I saw at the flea market on Saturday, the last day before we came home: a Bernina sewing machine.  It ran, of course, on 220 voltage and besides that my luggage was already full, but wouldn’t that have been a great souvenir!

Hallowe’en 1904 QAL–Step Four

Step 4 halloweenQAL

It’s the WONKY STARS step!

If you are appliquéing your stars onto your smaller background blocks, go for it and we’ll see you next month.  For the rest of you, even those not making this quilt, I’ll walk you through a stack and slash version of a star, pioneered by Thelma of Cupcakes and Daisies.

HalloweeenQuilt 1008dollars

You’ve seen this before; this is an image I found on the web some time ago of the quilt we are making, Hallowe’en 1904 by Blackbird Designs.  Yes, we are again hard at it for the Hallowe’en 1904 Quilt-A-Long.  All of four of us will have quilts ready for Halloween, so I’m excited about that prospect. Well, maybe it’s more than four of you out there in the Internets, but at least two of us — Leisa and I — will be among those finished in time for that fall celebration.

Again, Leisa and I are making NINE blocks, down from the original twelve in the pattern.  I posted a version of smaller quilt *here,* using all twelve blocks and formulated by Mary Burton.  But we’re doing nine, with four appliqué and five star blocks.

A recap of last month’s sewing:

halloweenqal3_60 halloweenqal3_61 halloweenqal3_62 halloweenqal3_63

Yes, all four are done, even the one with the weird-o leaf.  It’s staying put for now.

touching up stitching

Here’s my tip for touching up those stray bobbin threads that work their way up if you are doing satin stitch: get out a Sharpie marker in the color of your thread and color it in.  I also use it for errant free-motion-quilting oopsies.

And this time, we’re heading right into How to Make A Wonky Star.  If you want to go the traditional route, of cutting and appliquéing your stars down to your background, go ahead and get going, and we’ll see you next time, on June 13th.  Anyone else who wants to learn this technique, stick around.

crazy nine patch block

(from here)

It’s not a new technique as we used to use it to make things like nine-patch blocks: stack up a bunch of fabrics, cut, swap out the fabrics and sew.  I also found a version of this stack-and-slash used in a star block, and the copyright on the page says it’s from 2000-2005. And Bethany Reynolds is credited with the first national use of the technique known as Stack-N-Whack.  I tell you all of this to say there is nothing new under the sun, especially in quilting, but only new turns at an old technique or form or idea.

Halloweenqal4_0

We’ll get this far this month, but will do five of these blocks, saving the points around the outside for next month (although you are free to move forward if you want). Halloweenqal4_1

Get out your strips of fabrics, cut according to the chart.

halloweenqal2_wonkystar1Halloweenqal4_5

Different versions of the Stack & Slash Star pattern. Halloweenqal4_2I drafted and revised this star block multiple times, trying to get the proportions of the Stack & Slash pattern correct. For this reason, please print off only enough for your own use.  Please don’t print off enough for your mother or your girlfriend; send them here to get their own.   Download the PDF file here: Stack&Slash StarEastmondHalloweenqal4_2a

You’ll notice on the pattern that there are lots of little diamonds and slashes.  (These are your notches to help you get the thing back together.  It doesn’t matter if you use mine, or make up some marking system of your own, but please do this!)  Lay some clear template plastic over the pattern and trace.  Looks like mine got reversed somehow, but really it just doesn’t matter one way or the other.  Now pay attention to what is the center of the star (A1, B1, B2 and C1) and what is the background (all the rest).
Halloweenqal4_6

Working with a single layer of fabric (yes, you can stack them up, but don’t put the fabrics back-to-back unless you want to have some “regular” stars and some “reversed” stars.  It will drive you a bit crazy, but it’s do-able, in case you forgot), lay out the background templates. (See example below)

Halloweenqal4_10

If you do the usual cut of WOF, you’ll have part of the fabric facing you and part of it will be facing down to the cutting table, because of that fold.  Unfold it before cutting and you’ll avoid this problem.  I just had to go back in and cut some parts “backwards” and I made enough for a star or two.  So  you’ll notice that some of my stars are wonky to the left, and some are wonky to the right.  It just doesn’t matter.  Really.

Halloweenqal4_7

Cut around them.Halloweenqal4_8

Start stacking up your pieces underneath the templates as you cut them

VERY IMPORTANT:  To get the appropriate amount of wonkiness, you’ll need at least FIVE different background fabrics, because there are 5 different pieces to the background.  If you want to have the star pieces all different, you’ll need FOUR different star fabrics, because there are 4 different pieces to the star.  Confused?  Just walk yourself through one and you’ll see what I mean.  I only had four different background fabrics and you’ll see some repeats, but I did have the five different star fabrics.Halloweenqal4_9

You’ll need to do some shuffling as you sew.  Notice how all the fabrics are the same up above–all the star points are the same fabric and all the backgrounds are the same.  In this stack and slash method, you will think of them as separate stacks.  From the picture above, take one of the star points (start with B1) and move the top fabric to the bottom.  Then move the next star point (B2) and move the top TWO fabrics to the bottom of the stack.  Repeat for C1–moving the top THREE fabrics to the bottom of the stack.  Now all the star sections will be different in your block.  If you cut in layers and have multiple layers, just follow the instructions, treating the same fabrics as “one” and shuffling them all to the bottom. If this is all too confusing, on YouTube there are multiple videos — just type “stack and slash,” or “stack and whack.”  If you have a lot of time, *this* one is in four parts, but it’s very thorough.

Repeat that process of shuffling the top fabric to the bottom of the stack for all five background pieces.
Halloweenqal4_11

We’ll assemble this in three sections: A-section, B-section, C-section.  First sew A2 to A1.  Concentrate on that lower edge–keeping it aligned (where it butts up against the B-section).  Press toward star.  Sew A3 to A1/2 section, again, concentrating on that long straight edge.  Press.  Trim up that long edge, if necessary.

Repeat for the B-section: This time sew B2 to B3, concentrating on the long edge against the B1 piece.  Now sew that unit to B1.  Trim the edge where it will join up to the C-section if necessary, erring on the side of too little, rather than too much, trimming.

And the C-section follows the same process: C1 gets sewn to C2; press.  Then sew that to C3; trim if necessary to get a long straight line where it will join the B-section.Halloweenqal4_12

Join the sections together, pressing the seams to one side.  All the outside edges are skitty-wampus.Halloweenqal4_13

Trim up the block to a 5 and 3/4″ square, REMEMBERING TO TRIM ON POINT,  so the main star tip is pointing UP to the corner.  Yeah, I know mine got turned around pointing to the right, but I think you can figure it out.  It’s the star point sitting on top of that long B1 piece.  Repeat this over and over.  You can cut and sew a bunch and it goes much faster.
Halloweenqal4_14

Halloweenqal4_0

Add on your outside large triangles, varying them from orange to black, as are your star points.  We’ll save the outside HSTs for next month.  So, get busy making wonky stars and we’ll see you on June 13th!

1halloweenQAL logo

Here’s our schedule:

Step 1 (Preparation): February 2016–buy all the fabrics and find the pattern.  Mine was purchased from Common Threads in Waxahachie, TX (www.commonthreadsquilting.com).  The quilt measures 90 by 90, which is too large for me, so I’m only doing nine blocks.  Each block is 20″ square, and with the outer borders, that should come to roughly  65″ square.  I may change my mind, but this looks good from here.

Step 2: March 2016–Cut out the quilt: the tan backgrounds of the squares, the border triangles, the smaller half-square triangles, strips for the wonky stars, but save the piano key border for later.

Step 3: April 2016–Assemble four blocks and add large appliques; use Thelma’s method (of Cupcakes and Daisies) for adding the curlicue stem. Make and add half-square triangeles (HSTs) around these blocks, using the 8-at-a-time method of HSTs.

Step 4: May 2016–Cut and make the wonky star blocks from templates and strips.  I’m doing five blocks, so will need to make twenty wonky stars and true them up.  Add on the large outside triangles.

Step 5: June 2016–Assemble the rest of the star blocks, by adding their HST borders. In the pattern, they are mixed up and varied, but also harmonized (some have a mix of orange and black, some have just black, some have just orange.)  Make your own rules and go with it.

Step6: July 2016–Arrange the blocks on your design wall and stitch together.  Cut the pieces for your borders.  Make the four corner pinwheels.

Step 7: August 2016–Sew borders together and attach them to the quilt.

Spectrum: A Colorwheel Quilt

Spectrum_labeled

Spectrum: A Colorwheel Quilt
Quilt No. 153

Spectrum_Quilting1

You’ve seen this beauty before, as I’ve been working on it steadily since last summer.  Since this summer is about to arrive, I thought I should finish it up and get it up in my shops at Craftsy and PayHip (for EU quilters), in case anyone wants a colorful wheel of color on their sewing studio wall. Spectrum_detail

It’s also great for quilt swaps, or special gifts.  I started on mine for a swap, but soon realized I wasn’t going to finish it in time, so made for her instead another colorful creation of mine, Colorwheel Blossom.  (It was a colorful Kaffe Fasset fabric swap.)  But then I had two quilts, so I gifted one to someone who loves and uses Kaffe Fasset fabrics, keeping one for myself. Stack of colorful quilts

Before I sent my swap quilts off, I took them outside for some photos, and love this stack of fun (colorful?) quilts, a prism of quilty delights.

The pattern has templates for English Paper Piecing, if you like to do that sort of thing (I do!) and full instructions for how to put your quilt together.  While the color wheel is 16″ in diameter, the quilt can measure up to 18,” depending on the size of your background.  It is stunning made up in Kaffe Fassett fabrics, and I’m teaching it that way this Spring in classes at my local quilt shop.  Enjoy!

Riverside Sawtooth, a finished quilt top

Riverside Sawtooth_labeled

Riverside Sawtooth, the name I’ve given for this original block of mine, has been finished — or at least the top has. It is a compilation of bee blocks from the Mid-Century Bee, as well as several of mine.  I started making these in the Alison Glass blues fabric, but trying to describe what color of blue that was to people all over the United States was a challenge: I finally settled on “painter’s tape blue.”  I like this quilt not because of that color and that block, but also because it’s a scrappy two-color block.  Have a bunch of greens, or pinks, or reds that need to be gathered together into a quilt?  This would work great.

Riverside Sawtooth_small1

Through the process of arranging and cullling and making more blocks to balance colors, I had enough blocks for another small mini.

The genesis came from seeing a similar antique quilt, but that maker had done a more traditional construction (and sorry–there was no name on that old quilt).  I wanted to see if I could make it as a block, the sawtooth incorporated into the construction process.  It took me several weeks of working on it, then testing it.  I wrote up the pattern and sent it as a test block out to my beemates and incorporated their tips and tricks into the pattern wording.  Now thoroughly tested, I tweaked the pattern and at long last, have it available for download in my shops at Craftsy and PayHip (for EU customers).  The pattern includes lots of detailed photos and walks you through it the process, so it’s good for anyone’s set of skills, beyond the what-is-a-rotary-cutter-and-how-do-I-use-it barely beginning level.
Riverside Sawtooth_small2

Here’s another mini full of full dotty blocks.  I loved working in this tonality of blue — hey, I love blue in any tonality — but the inspiration of Alison Glass’ fabrics kicked me into finding blue fabrics that coordinated with hers.  The large quilt (72″ square) is in the line-up to be quilted, and then I’ll probably label it and get it up on the 200 Quilts list, but for now, I wanted to make it available to you, if you want to try your hand at an updated fun version of a block.

Riverside Sawtooth_detail1 Riverside Sawtooth_detail2 Riverside Sawtooth_detail3a Riverside Sawtooth_small3I’ve been working on a few more patterns and I’ll roll them out one by one over the next several weeks, as I get the typos expunged, the photographs completed and then uploaded for purchase.Riverside Sawtooth_small4

tiny nine patches

Oh Christmas Tree QAL –STEP 4

5XmasTreeMay4

Today is Step 4 of our Oh Christmas Tree Quilt-a-Long (#ohchristmastreeqal), following a pattern by Wendy of FlyingFishKits and which was published in Simply Moderne issue #3, by QuiltMania. As always, we have an assist from Wendy of  Wendy’s Quilts and More (blog) and wendyquiltsandmore (IG), as she is slightly ahead of us in her creating.

ohchristmastree4_0treejpg

Here’s the twist: instead of creating the under-the-tree scene this month, I’ve gotten so many queries about sewing these things on to the background and the tree, that I think we’ll head that direction instead.  Go with the flow, right?  Above is my tree, everything sewn on.  I’m heading this direction because a lot of those questions have to deal with the idea of how much embroidery to put on that outer edge?  Should you leave a space for attaching and more embroidery?  Should you go right to the edge?

The basic idea for attaching is this: lay out your circles, birds, and leaves to your liking, using the pattern and photos as a guide.   As I go through the rest of the flower photos, I’ll have some tips, so please read through to the end.  But first! Wendy has some tips for us about what’s ON the tree:

ohchristmastree4_20

She writes: “I thought I had too much white space in certain areas.  I’ve added 4 more small leaves and 4 more small circles, keeping the additions symmetrical because the gaps were symmetrical.  I just felt some areas were less densely filled than others and I didn’t want gaps in the middle of my tree.  That’s probably because I didn’t exactly follow the pattern for the size of my leaves and flowers, but also because things move slightly as you sew them on.”  She sent me two photos.  The “before” is above.

ohchristmastree4_21

This is the after.  You can see extra circles and extra leaves.  (And yes, I love her under-the-tree scene!  Next month, next month.).  In addition to adding these extras, she attaches them differently than I do.  First she lays them all out, takes a photo so she can remember where they are, and then takes all off but the items closest to the tree trunk.  She sews those down first then adds in the decorations bit by bit, moving from the center to the outside, because she said she got tired of being stuck by pins.

ohchristmastree4_10

I couldn’t face the thought of re-attaching the flowers after I’d gotten them arranged, so I used appliqué pins (shorter than usual) and sewed on the decorations moving from the outside toward the center. Since I use really small pins, and put my hand around the flowers and birds as I sew, I didn’t have too much trouble.  One IG reader said she used a bit of glue to secure the decorations and from her photo it looks like she’s attaching them from the inside to the outside. Again, try what works for you.ohchristmastree4_11

You can see me scrunching things up in my hand.  Since I worked from the outside in, I had very few pin pokes.  I attached the leaves by using the same stitch I used on the trunk: a separated back-stitch (refer to this post for more info).

ohchristmastree4_14I was intent on getting them all on, and doing it quickly.  You could take more time than I, adding an extra embroidery stitch, if you wanted, for it’s YOUR tree.ohchristmastree4_12

I also learned to put a regular pin right in the middle of my decorations just before I started sewing them on, so they wouldn’t buckle.  I have one bird who looks like she is expecting, as the wool can shift as you are attaching, bubbling up.  I’ll show the Mama Bird to you later.

Now for some general tips about attaching the flowers and birds.  Before we talk about different ways to sew them to your tree, here’s a couple of photos of circles before attaching, showing various state of “close-to-the-edgeness” of the embroidery.ohchristmastree4_1flowers

After I pinned these to the tree, I went in and added another circle under the red one, giving it a bit bigger presence.  Ditto on the purple circle below.  You may find yourself making small alternations after you get everything pinned down, either adding leaves and circles as Wendy did, or giving another border to a too-small/wrong-color flower, like I did.ohchristmastree4_1flowers2

ohchristmastree4_5

I group the way I sewed these down into two categories: A) snuggle a stitch in or around the existing embroidery, or B) adding another ring of decorative embroidery to affix it to the background.  Let’s do the A-category first.  You saw the flower medallion above; I attached it with tiny stitches at right angles to the outer edge in a matching thread.
ohchristmastree4_5a

Wendy often leaves the wings undecorated, using the “attachment phase” to put the stitches on, but I’d already embroidered them when she told me this, so I sewed it down to the background by using a small matching (green) thread in between the existing decorative (pink) stitch.

ohchristmastree4_5eI used the small perpendicular stitch again here in matching (blue) thread, but varied the length of them slightly, so the longest are between the yellow stitches and the shorter stitches are near the yellow.

ohchristmastree4_15I also decided to keep some flowers simpler, and did a simple backstitch around the outside edge.  Keep it smallish and even, and you’ll get questions like I do: “Did you do it on the machine?”  No, and if you look closely, you’ll find the bobbly places.  Remember, this is folk art and we aim to enjoy ourselves!  More backstitching:ohchristmastree4_6 ohchristmastree4_6aohchristmastree4_6bohchristmastree4_6c

Now for some B-categories: adding another bit of embroidery to attach them.ohchristmastree4_5b

This is a slanted buttonhole stitch.  It’s done exactly the same as a regular buttonhole, but instead of keeping the needle perpendicular to the outside edge, you slant it.  I like the look of this one a lot.ohchristmastree4_5c

Regular buttonhole.  I used matching thread if I thought the flower was busy enough.ohchristmastree4_5d

Here’s where I used the backstitch (on the small yellow flower, left) and then used a different color of thread in a buttonhole stitch (magenta flower, right).ohchristmastree4_5f

Here’s an “un-even” buttonhole stitch, with shorter and longer “legs” of the stitch, co-ordinating with the existing embroidery.
ohchristmastree4_7

This bird was sewn on with a matching yellow thread, buttonhole stitch.  But I slipped a smaller seed (or regular) stitch in between the existing red buttonhole stitch on the yellow bird’s wing to sew that down.  ohchristmastree4_7a

Photography of women depends on flattering angles, but I dropped the camera down low so you could see my pregnant bird.  She didn’t start out that way, but the wool shifted.  The bubbling up is exaggerated from this angle–it’s not really noticeable from the front, but now you know why I started putting that pin in the center of my birds and flowers as I stitched them down.  Didn’t have that trouble with the leaves, for some reason. She’s attached to the background with a simple backstitch.  I also did a line on the birds’ beaks.  I tried to make them happy birds (It’s Christmas, remember?) by the slight curve of the stitching, but some of the birds turned out a bit moody.ohchristmastree4_8

This is another where I snuck a small stitch in between the existing embroidery (A-category), and below, the last photo (!) where you can also see detail on the bird’s beak.ohchristmastree4_9

We are definitely getting closer to the end, now, and I’m pretty excited.  Next month (June 2nd), I’ll have an alternate scene for you for under the tree, and then we’ll roll out from there.

ChristmasTreeLogoSM

No giveaway this month, but here’s a recap of our schedule:

January, Step “prepare”: buy the magazine, books, gather your fabrics, buy the felt/wool, buy/find the pearl cotton.
February, Step 1: Make the tree on the background and stitch it down.
March, Step 2: Make 21 flowers.
April, Step 3: Make 10 birds and all the leaves.

May, Step 4: Appliqué down the flowers and birds.

June, Step 5:  Scene at bottom of tree–make, then appliqué onto background.

July, Step 6: Sawtooth border (reds); sew together and attach.

August, Step 7: (finish up Quilt-A-Long): Make wonky star blocks, sew them together and attach border #2.

September, Step 8 Show and Tell, just in time for school starting again.

Yes, we cut a month off our sewing, so you’ll have plenty of time to finish your quilt before December.

Happy Stitching and we’ll see you in June!

Good Friday: Four-in-Art Challenge • May 2016

4-in-art_3FourinArtMay16_1

Good Friday
Quilt No. 164, May 2016
#2 in the Color Series: MusicFourinArtMay16_2 FourinArtMay16_3

This quilt was inspired by time spent in Antonio Gaudi’s magnificent creation of La Sagrada Familia, a basilica in Barcelona, Spain.  We visited there in March of 2016, on Good Friday of their Santa Semana (Holy Week).  It was a fitting capstone to our visit to Spain, and to other of Gaudi’s architectural buildings, and from the moment we walked in, we were overwhelmed.  Gaudi based a lot of his structures on natural elements, curves inherent in draped forms, local mountains, rock and nature.  So I took my cue from the same, as well as trying to weave in a representation of my experience there with color, music and the Spirit.FourinArtMay16_SagradaChristIn most of the Catholic churches we visited on our trip, the center crucifix of Christ was based on what we perceived as physical pain: the suffering that Jesus as a mortal man endured on the cross for all those many hours of the crucifixion, his head bowed, the expression on his face, agony. Yet in Gaudi’s church, Christ was under a canopy that appeared almost like upside-down blossom of a trumpet flower, surrounded by a vine laden with clusters of grapes, the expression on his face transcendent, his eyes focused upward.FourinArtMay16_La Sagrada FamiliaAnd high above him, nearly 200 feet in the air, is a golden arrow or tree that points to a further high point, a representation of his ascension to heaven.  The symbolism is rich and layered for those who are familiar with the story of Good Friday.  I sat down in the chairs in the nave to think and to let myself fall into what I was seeing, and surprisingly, hearing.  As I sat there I became aware of music, just below the level of hum of the crowd.  It was hard to decide what the score was, whether it was some oratorio like the Messiah, or a choral rendition, such as Ave Maria (which was later played at noon).  The beauty of the stained glass, the unique and thoughtful Christ in the unusual baldacchin, the representation of the Resurrection by this golden motif pointing upward and the music were a fitting celebration of the events of Good Friday.

FourinArtMay16_SagradamotifLaSagradaFamilia_13 LaSagradaFamilia_12On a more practical level, during our entire trip I had been puzzling what I would make for our May Four-in-Art art quilt, with its dual themes of color and music; I knew that day that I wanted to attempt to recreate some portion of what I had experienced, however puny my attempt might be.FourinArtMay16_5

This is my third try at this structure.  I had started out with the swirly pink, yellow and blue batik, but first used a yellow solid.  Then when we went to visit my son in San Diego, I found a fabric store that sold silk shantung, and a bit of the glistening crisp fabric came home with me.

FourinArtMay16_6

I worked those diamonds multiple ways, but finally had to settle for a tepid reference to the intricacies of Gaudi’s design.  I’m not too happy with the blue pieces, wishing I had instead something more grayed to bridge the swirling pastel batik to the outer gray, but again, I was aiming for a representation of the experience.
FourinArtMay16_7 FourinArtMay16_8Because of the lattice shape, the dimensions of this quilt are quite different than the usual 12 inch square quilts I’ve been making in this series.

FourinArtMay16_9I backed it with more of the batik, quilted it up on my new quilting machine, and bound it in more batik, wishing to let the edges flow, not constrain, the design.
FourinArtMay16_10 FourinArtMay16_11 FourinArtMay16_12 FourinArtMay16_13 FourinArtMay16_14I was surprised when I laid it out on my flagstone for a photograph in the sun, how the sheen of the silk echoed the glinting bits in the rock underneath it.  The label reads: “The intense spiritual experience of Good Friday in Barcelona, as I sat in the nave, with color, sound and Spirit blending around me, prompted this quilt: an attempt to recreate one of Gaudi’s motifs.”

Perhaps to someone who wasn’t there, it may seem puny or very far from that design motif high above the nave.  I agree.
But it will do.

tiny nine patches

Please visit the other quilters in the Four-in-Art group, so named because we work towards quarterly challenges (next challenge will be August 2016):

Betty         https://www.flickr.com/photos/toot2

Camilla     http://faffling.blogspot.co.nz/

Catherine    http://www.knottedcotton.com

Janine         http://www.rainbowhare.com

Nancy         http://www.patchworkbreeze.blogspot.com

Rachel         http://www.rachel-thelifeofriley.blogspot.com

Simone       (sitting out this round–her daughter’s getting married)

Please also visit our blog: Four-in-Art Quilts.

tiny nine patches

5XmasTreeMaySee you tomorrow for STEP FOUR of the Oh Christmas Tree QAL.

Downtime Sewing • Odds ‘n’ Ends

chickentimeflies2

Or as my friend used to say, “Time flies whether you are having fun or not.” So what have I been doing?

Spelling Bee Blocks_April 2016

Blocks for our Spelling Bee for Carla, who has just opening a knitting shop.  I made two and then one more for Simone, whose daughter is getting married and she’s making the wedding dress.  She gets a pass, I’d say.MCM Bee Sewing

I made bee blocks for Mid-Century Modern Bee, for Stephanie, who doesn’t really run a blog, but is here on Instagram.  Actually she’s in Russia, but try not to hate her.  It looks like a fabulous trip.Shopping Bags Scout auction packet 4_16

Did (what I call) Duty Sewing to make an item for the Scout Auction at our church.  I was thinking Scouts=Food, so I picked up four boxes of treats at Trader Joe’s, a Dairy Queen gift card and two shopping bags, and wrapped them all up fancy.  It’s to help raise money to send boys to camp.  I used to be in the boat of forking over moolah for Scout camp (I had three boys), and am really really happy to be at this end: donating, rather than doing.planted garden_April16

Planted my summer garden.  This time we didn’t buy the fancy-schmancy tomatoes at the Swanky Garden Center, but instead went to the local nursery and Lowe’s.  They look much healthier.  Things that grow in my garden are an endless fascination to me, and I sometimes check the seedlings daily.  I’m #goofyaboutmygarden, thank you very much.Market Sewing

Did some market sewing for a friend.  I also made plans to go to market, courtesy of Painter’s Palette Fabrics, who I sewed a quilt top for. . . and now I get to see it!  Can’t wait–so excited.IG Fun April 2016

Perused Instagram.  I had no idea that people still crocheted granny square bedspreads.  My horizons are widened every time I follow a hashtag that’s new to me, in this case #makersmovement, which is for (duh) people that make things.  We used to be called crafters.  I like the term Makers much better.Halloween Blocks

Finished up last month’s blocks for the Halloween QAL and got the blocks ready for this month’s post on May 13th.  You know, when you break down a quilt into chunks, it’s much easier.  And I know I would have never have gotten this far, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I had to make the bits of the quilts to post.  Thank you very much for putting up with me.First selfie

Cleaned out Started cleaning out the photo cupboard, where I found my First-Ever Selfie, painted when I was six years old and in Brownie Scouts.  Interestingly, we didn’t have a dog at that time, even though I painted one in the picture (wishful thinking?).GameThrones1 Dbrovnik street

Found out that the street where we stayed in Dubrovnik, Croatia in 2014, was one of the sites used in Game of Thrones, a show I have never seen.  In the top photo (taken from the web somewhere) is the scene from the movie.  The middle photo is their comparison of how it looks when it’s not been movie-fied, and the bottom photo is taken by me, leaning out our window, looking back up the street.  I found this out one day when I was reading the NEWSPAPER (yes, I’m that old) and saw the top photo.  I ran upstairs to compare mine with theirs, then found the middle photo on the Internets.Costco macaron

Another eureka moment was when I discovered that Costco sells macarons.  Yes, I have two boxes in my freezer right now, but I gave away the coffee-flavored cookies to a neighbor (I hate the taste and smell of mocha/coffee).  I’ve also gotten three bids on a new HVAC system, and one guy is wandering around my house right now, taking mea$urement$.biscotti

In the cooking department, I made biscotti to take to my son, who lives in Normal Heights, in San Diego, California. My recipe is *here.*

Normal Heights Fabrics

Found out there is a fabric store in Normal Heights, in a former movie theater, which had some silk shantung, perfect for working on my Four-in-Art project for the May reveal.  I’ve also been to the doctor’s twice, but the patient — like Mayor Shinn’s wife in the movie The Music Man — will recover.

4-in-art_3

Coming soon to a blog near you, on May 1st.Design Wall April 2016

And my design wall last week, as I was figuring out a scene for under the Christmas Tree (next step is coming May 2nd), working on my Four-in-Art art quilt, and enjoyed a completed mini–a sample to check on how my pattern worked for some more market sewing, which I’ll show you very soon.  (You know the game.)  Now back to the sewing.

New Quilting Machine

HQ Sweet 16_1 HQ Sweet 16_2 HQ Sweet 16_3

So here’s a short story:  This all started two years ago when I test drove a Bernina FancyPants Machine during one of my Road to California classes.  That thing could do everything but cook dinner, and I pined about it for a year.  I love my current Husqvarna Quilt Designer machine, but it is coming up on it’s 14 year-old birthday and one morning, I woke up with an unhappy touch screen.  Horrors! and so the intensity of my search increased, or at least the anxiety of wondering when my machine would conk out on me.  Then I took a domestic free motion quilting class with David Taylor this year at Road to California and at first, I was unhappy that we were working on Handi Quilter’s Sweet Sixteen machine–what?  No teensy weensy harp space of my regular domestic?  But the techniques are the same, so I took to this machine like a duck to water.

HQ Sweet 16_4

Now I needed TWO machines: one to replace my aging Husqvarna and this new Sweet Sixteen quilting machine.  But I only had resources for one.  After some time to think about it, I decided I could prolong the life of my Quilt Designer if I took the quilting tasks off its back.  One afternoon last week, Richard of Quilter’s Cocoon toted this up to my guest bedroom, set it up for me, gave me my first lesson (so happy I’d had the day with David Taylor to augment what Richard was teaching me), and I was up and running.

Except I wasn’t.

I didn’t touch if for two days.  Scared? Excited? Thinking I was out of my mind?  All of the above?  But I finally put together a mini quilt sandwich and went to town, trying out new stitches, using the two rulers I’d purchased, taking it out for a test drive. Notice how all four corner blocks are different; I was having fun.  No, I don’t name my machines (but know a lot of people do, and invariably it’s always my childhood nickname of Betsy — which explains why I don’t do it) but we do refer to it as the “quilting machine,” to keep it distinguished from my “regular machine.”  (By the way, the pattern for this quilt — Ribbon Star Beauty — will be up on Craftsy later on this week.  It’s a fun little mini that sews up quickly.)HQ Sweet 16_5

My daughter has a new shop in her small town of Kingman Arizona, The Farmhouse Kingman.  I plan to send this to her so she can use/sell it in her shop.  If you drive through Kingman on your way to somewhere else, stop by and see her.  She’s in the old section of town, with a cute shop of fun farmhouse decor items.

And that’s the whole story.  Now back to quilting.

Hallowe’en 1904 QAL–Step Three

Step 3 halloweenQAL

Welcome again to the Hallowe’en 1904 Quilt-A-Long.

halloweenqal_pattern cover

As a refresher, we are making this quilt, a pattern from Blackbird Designs.  I must admit it took me a while to re-orient myself to what-the-heck-I-am-doing in this process, but I dragged out my box of stuff, found my pieces am ready to get going.  (If you aren’t making this quilt with us, scroll down to read about making 8 half square triangles at one time, as well as some tips for shaping bias strips.)

Springtime 2016

And of course, it’s lovely springtime in Southern California, so that really makes us feel like working on Halloween stuff, but we agreed to work early so we could hang our quilts up at the first of October, not the last.  While the original quilt has twelve blocks, my friend Leisa and I are making a quilt with nine blocks, and so have adjusted all the quantities accordingly: four blocks with appliqué and five blocks with stars.

In Step One, we gathered supplies.
In Step Two, we did all our cutting.  There is a cutting chart you can download and use to guide you.
Now, in Step Three, we making the appliqué blocks with the Halloween shapes on them: pumpkin (2), pumpkin with cat (1) and moon and star (1).  We’ll also talk about how to make half square triangles (HST) more efficiently, and then about appliquéing the whole thing down.  Here we go.

Halloweenqal3_0

Leisa came over for an afternoon, and we started by tracing around all the templates, getting our motifs organized.  We decided to add a black cat to our pumpkin, so here is the PDF file: Halloween Cat.  Print it at 100%, so it ends up about six inches tall (or tweak it to make it bigger or smaller–whatever you like).  We wanted the cat facing to the right, so flipped it over and traced the outline on the back with a black marker pen.  Then Leisa traced it out for us on the fusible stuff.

Halloweenqal3_10

Remember that it has to be backwards, to be facing the right way.  We used Steam A Seam 2, following their directions of which paper to trace onto, and then cut the shape out loosely, after which we ironed it onto the back of the fabric.  I recommend using either a pressing cloth, or a larger piece of their release paper so you don’t get any gunk on the iron.Halloweenqal3_11

(pumpkin leaves)Halloweenqal3_12

Cut out all your shapes and then set them aside.

Now grab a stack of your dark and light 7-inch squares.  Layer two together, so the light is on top.  You’ll be making HST eight at a time in this next step.  This is not a new idea, but it’s explained pretty well *here* and *here* and *here.*

Somewhere in my web travels I picked up this chart: HST 8 part

I wish I knew where it was from, because it’s a great chart with lots of sizes.  If you know where it’s from (I couldn’t find it in my searches) let me know so I can give them proper attribution. [UPDATE:  Katell from France wrote in to tell me it’s from Jeni Baker’s Book Patchwork Essentials: The Half-Square Triangle.   I suggest you pick up a copy of her book, as it has lots of great tips for making perfect half-square triangles.]

Halloweenqal3_2

So basically, you draw two lines across the two diagonals of your block, then stitch 1/4″ away from either side of the line.  It looks rumply because you’ve been sewing on the bias.Halloweenqal3_3

Take it to the ironing board and press and steam out the block so it lays flat, and the stitching is nestled into your fabric.
Halloweenqal3_4

Now you’ll be cutting across the block in two ways, as shown by all these extraneous photos.  I’m sure you’ll get it after seeing all these.Halloweenqal3_4a

First cut side-to-side and top-to-bottom. Don’t slide them apart–mine are that way just to show you.Halloweenqal3_4b

Then cut along your penciled lines.  Again, do it while everything’s together.  Mine are apart for illustration purposes only.Halloweenqal3_5

Take the triangles to your ironing board and press to the dark side (insert Star Wars reference here). Halloweenqal3_6

I use a Bloc-Loc ruler (6 1/2″ size) to true them up to 3 inches square; it has a groove in it that fits neatly over your seam and makes truing up much easier.  You’ll need three sets of these blocks for each large block in this quilt.  You’ll repeat this process, choosing different darks and different lights.  Let’s do that math again.

Each Eight-at-a-Time square makes. . . 8 HST.  You need 24 HST per quilt block, so you make three sets.  I tried to vary my fabrics, using three different lights and three different darks (or oranges).  You’ll find out why you want variety in a minute.  After they are all trued up to 3″ square (all 24 per block), set them aside.Halloweenqal3_7

Take the smaller light background squares, and choose four.  Stitch them together:Halloweenqal3_7a Halloweenqal3_8

Choosing either black or orange, sew on four large triangles, two at a time, to your set of four light squares.
Halloweenqal3_8a

Grab your stack of HSTs.  Starting with one set, distribute them around the block, two per side, spacing them randomly.  I also put my smaller corner blocks down, so I can make sure to keep everything as random as I can (trying NOT to match the fabrics, but sometimes it happens. If it does, don’t fret).
Halloweenqal3_8bHalloweenqal3_8c

Here’s mine (orange HST) and Leisa’s (black HST).Halloweenqal3_9

Start with the lower edge of triangles; sew them together in a strip.  This goes on very smoothly if you are using a 1/4″ seam allowance when you stitch (not 3/16ths” and not 5/16s” Strive for accuracy).  Press to the dark side (okay, I couldn’t resist).

Halloweenqal3_9x

Matching up that center spot, pin, and then stitch the row onto your larger block.  Press toward the larger block.

Now for the side rows: pin, but add on the corner blocks on each end.  Press the row’s seam allowances toward the dark side EXCEPT for those corner blocks.  On those, I pressed toward the corner block, so that putting this together would be easier (the seams will nest–you’ll see what I mean).  Now attach them to the larger block, matching those corner seams, and stitch.  Press toward the block.

Halloweenqal3_9b

Ta-DONE!Halloweenqal3_13

Get your cut-outs, and start playing.  Remove the backing paper and you’ll find it easier, as the fusible stuff is tacky and will adhere lightly as you arrange and re-arrange.Halloweenqal3_14

When you like where things are, fuse them to your block, following the directions that came with your fusing product (I use a cotton setting, lifting the iron on with an up-and-down motion until it’s adhered, but don’t mash it flat and sear it into the cloth.  Easy does it).Halloweenqal3_15

Leisa’s block.Halloweenqal3_16

Leisa’s pumpkin in place.Halloweenqal3_17

Now it’s time to make that curlicue vine/stem.  Cut a bias piece of fabric, 1-inch wide and at least 14 inches long.  Fold it in half, with the right sides outside.  Stitch in fat 1/4″ seam.Halloweenqal3_17a

Trim the seam to a scant 1/8.”Halloweenqal3_17b

I use bias pressing bars and insert them into the tube, rolling the seam allowance to the top.  Press lightly.  Remove the 1/4″ bar, and press the bias lightly.  You don’t want to mash it flat, but you do want to set the bias tube so the seam remains to the back side.Halloweenqal3_17c

On a padded surface (I use my ironing board), coil and pin one end fairly tightly, then using the pattern pictures as a guide, loosely curve the curlicue stem the other way.  Steam it with your iron, then let it cool.  Remove the pins.Halloweenqal3_18

Drape it/arrange it/fiddle with it on your block.  I concentrated more on the coiled up section, then let the curve artfully drape back to the center of the pumpkin, not worrying about how long it was.  Halloweenqal3_18a

I decided to sew it down by hand.  First sew the outer edge, then the inner edge (shown below), coaxing that inner edge flat with nudges from your finger and by taking smaller stitches.  You are not necessarily aiming for *flat* but more for *nice curve.*  After stitching it down, give it a little steam from your iron to press it lightly.Halloweenqal3_18b Halloweenqal3_19

Next one is prepped up.  I cut off the extra stem about 1/2″ below the pumpkin’s edge and folded this end  (as well as the inner coil end) under 1/4″ and tacked the edges down.Halloweenqal3_20

I’m not a huge fan of machine-done buttonhole stitch, although I really like it on others’ quilts.  If you are skilled at that, try that stitch.  For me, I went with a medium-wide satin stitch, my needle just over the edge of the piece.  Halloweenqal3_20a

I lifted up a leaf a bit as I got to the end, another advantage of not searing your applique piece into your fabric.  I ironed it back down again after I was through.Halloweenqal3_20b

Pumpkin is on.Halloweenqal3_20c

Here’s my secret to getting even appliqué stitching without having the bobbin thread pull up to the top: two sheets of computer paper.  It also prevents stretching as you stitch.  I’ve backed all my stitching with this for years and years and years–it comes off easily, like tearing perforated paper, and makes your stitching nice and smooth.  After stitching down the pumpkin (the shape at the bottom of the stack), stitch down your leaves (next layer up) and finally, your cat.  In some quilts, I’ve seen a star in the middle of the pumpkin.Halloweenqal3_21

Well, that’s it for this step: because we’re doing nine blocks, we chose to do four with cut-out motifs.  You’ll need to adjust whatever you’re doing to the number of blocks you’ve chosen.Halloweenqal3_21a

Close-up of my appliqué.  If truly this bias thing is driving you mad, feel free to try Thelma’s method of drawing a shape and fusing it down.

Halloweenqal3_23

Now I need to get busy and finish these!  I have all of this month to do it in.  Next post in the Hallowe’en 1904 QAL will be May 13th.  I plan to finish up these three, then make scads and scads of HSTs, getting ready for the next steps.  Hope you can finish yours, too!

UPDATE:

Halloweenqal3_24white pumpkin

Here’s my latest block.  I cut down the moon because it needed to be more round (according to my husband and I always listen to him) and I smallerized the star, then put them both on a white pumpkin.  I did two layers on that white pumpkin: the fabric you see and I underlined it with some cream solid fabric so the black wouldn’t show through.  I created a stem (2 1/2″ inches high), and a smaller moon and star for inside the pumpkin (PDF file of the patterns are here: StemStarMoon_OPQuilt).  Print it out at 100%.  I’m much happier with things now.  Don’t be timid about playing around with your pieces and colors until you find what makes you happy, too.

1halloweenQAL logo

Here’s our schedule:

Step 1 (Preparation): February 2016–buy all the fabrics and find the pattern.  Mine was purchased from Common Threads in Waxahachie, TX (www.commonthreadsquilting.com).  The quilt measures 90 by 90, which is too large for me, so I’m only doing nine blocks.  Each block is 20″ square, and with the outer borders, that should come to roughly  65″ square.  I may change my mind, but this looks good from here.

Step 2: March 2016–Cut out the quilt: the tan backgrounds of the squares, the border triangles, the smaller half-square triangles, strips for the wonky stars, but save the piano key border for later.

Step 3: April 2016–Assemble four blocks and add large appliques; use Thelma’s method (of Cupcakes and Daisies) for adding the curlicue stem. Make and add half-square triangeles (HSTs) around these blocks, using the 8-at-a-time method of HSTs.

Step 4: May 2016–Cut and make the wonky star blocks from templates and strips. We’ll be using Thelma’s method.  I’m doing five blocks, so will need to make twenty wonky stars and true them up.

Step 5: June 2016–Assemble the rest of the star blocks, adding the large triangles on each corner and their HST borders. In the pattern, and in the photo above from Thelma, they are mixed up and varied, but also harmonized (some have a mix of orange and black, some have just black, some have just orange.)  Make your own rules and go with it.

Step6: July 2016–Arrange the blocks on your design wall and stitch together.  Cut the pieces for your borders.  Make the four corner pinwheels.

Step 7: August 2016–Sew borders together and attach them to the quilt.