Thursday, February 28, 2013

Such a Busy Month

I was always the kind of student who could find anything more important to do right when I should be writing a paper or cramming for an exam. And I'm finding the same to be true now, especially since I made a commitment to learn FMQ, in order to finish 2 major projects.

But to free up my time, I have to free up my mind, which means knocking off my list those little chores that nag at me.  In my sewing room, I had a basket on my table that was overflowing with scraps. For some reason, I feel I can't move forward until I deal with them. I divided them up into 3 categories last weekend.
1. Pieces big enough to do something with, (wider than 2.5")
2. Pieces too small to do something with but too big to throw away, (> 1", < 2.5")
3. Pieces too small to do something with, but could be used to make applique circles (>.75", <1").
4. Throw away.

I then spent some more time shoving category 2 into separate jars according to color.  It seems that blue is a major color for me. I needed 3 jars for blue, dark, medium and light.
I spend about 1/2 hour in the morning before leaving for work doing something in the sewing room. This week, I've been grabbing a jar and making crumb blocks out of those pieces. So far, I have 2 blocks done. The white one is 9x12" and the green is a 9x10" polygon.

When I get these done, I don't know if I'll be any closer to starting to free motion quilt, and then I received an invitation from my good friend from Spilling Energy to learn with her Free Motion Quilting during one of our play dates. Yes! Now I can get started.

I've also finished up a number of other tasks on my conscience, but I can't share photos since they are surprises. I mailed out this week my contribution to Kim O'Donnell's block for the Modern Mystery Round Robin 2013, and I mailed to Moscow the embroidery challenge Masha is hosting at autumn-colors-sew-along.

And 2 nights a week, I hand quilt on Laura's quilt, since it is high time that project is finished off as well.

And to finish up some business, the winner of the Fairmount Park Table Runner giveaway is Holly Zurn! I can't wait to see how she uses that fabric.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Quilt U Be Mine Big Reveal

Happy Valentine's Day!

Last October I entered in another one of Michele's Round Robin Swaps with a little trepidation. This round robin was only 4 months long, and it required each participant to add on 2 borders up to 6" in width before sending it on to the next participant. This was a big commitment to enter right before the holidays. But I agreed. I was in the middle of designing my first block when Hurricane Sandy hit, which totally threw my schedule off balance. But my teammates were very gracious and understanding ladies and and did beautiful work on my block even though I had sent it out 2 weeks late.

In mid November, I sent out my 8" starter block.

I received from Rachell  in Utah her center block.

I wanted to play with the rhythmic flow the center hearts gave and added the applique tulips and the dancing squares. Here is a closeup of the machine applique.

In December, I received from Michele, Rachel's block from California.
Michele took the center block and tilted it a bit which created a waving movement. I wanted to repeat the polka dots somewhat, so I made log cabin blocks with white centers then appliqued dots on top of the top border.

In January, I received Michele's block. I broke the rules a bit with hers. I made my border additions wider than 6" so I could play with my new Dresden ruler.  I also added applique birds and flowers to give it a Pennsylvania Dutch feel to it. I knew that Michele has plans to attend the Lancaster, PA quilt show in March. Then to make the Dresden plates fit the quilt, I added another border at the bottom. Not sure what that design is called, I quickly sketched it out on graph paper.

 Here are close ups of the applique and half Dresden plates.

 At the end of January, I received my little block back, and my, how it has fattened up!  I love it. I haven't done much to it other than add a leftover applique bird to the center pink border, but I like how the different shades of red make the eye dance. It will be fun to add on to this one more to make it into a lap sized quilt. The borders were carefully constructed, and the color balance is very playful. A very fun combination. Thank you to Rachell, Rachel and Michele for not only putting such careful thought into their additions, but also for sending me their tops on time, giving me plenty of time to construct complex additions. I was able to test new skills, new rulers and border designs. A wonderful experience!

Thanks again to Michele for coordinating, or more accurately, corralling such a diverse group of quilters into keeping deadlines and doubling up on the border additions each month. I invite you to go to her website, Quilts from My Crayon Box, to see the links to all of the other finishes.  They are stunners!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review - Log Cabin Quilt ebook by Fons & Porter

Eric Woolf, the Online Media Coordinator for Fons & Porter, asked me to write a review for their latest eBook, Build Your Best Log Cabin - Free Log Cabin Quilt Patterns You can access it here for free.
The book was 24 pages long and focused on three log cabin designs, the Traditional, Courthouse Steps, and the Chevron.Each pattern type came with beautiful photos, basic instructions, and a really nice cutting chart to accommodate a variety of finished quilt sizes.

A very important yet often overlooked detail in pattern instructions, finished size proportions, were provided for both the finished quilt as well as the finished block. Each project was also labelled with a project rating of either easy, intermediate or challenging. To finish up the details, each project also provided a list of material requirements to complete the suggested color layout.

I've sewn log cabin quilts in the past. My first one was a traditional block created to insulate a drafty door in an ancient building we lived in while stationed in Germany. The second one was the courthouse steps pattern which I gave to my father years ago. So to test the instructions in this book, I chose this time the Chevron Log Cabin.
There was a pattern for a doll size quilt to represent the chevron pattern, but I focused instead on the sample picture provided and tested the size chart. For my blocks, I chose the smallest size, 4 1/2 inches, with a strip width of only 1". Silly me, I thought that if the blocks were smaller and narrower, the project would go faster. Wrong. If anything, working with such tiny pieces of fabric made the process longer. There is no room for error in a tiny block. One tip I did pick up on was in the margins of the book. Their quick tip was to line a pizza box with a piece of batting to hold the strips without them sliding around. I tried that using a flat plastic box I had on hand and it worked!

The chevron block I made consisted of 8 strip sets, a total of 17 pieces per 4 1/2" block. I cut out the pieces exactly as instructed per the size chart. Here is where I would add a suggestion in the book. While the size chart depicts the width, the quilter should cut the strips a a 1/2" longer than the required length. So many variables are present that the book cannot account for to ensure accurate quilting. Besides sewing an accurate 1/4" seam using accurately cut strips of fabric, other variables would be the tension of either the top thread or the bobbin thread, whether a sewing machine needs a tune up, or in my case stopping and starting in the middle of sewing a block to answer a phone call or tend to a sickly daughter can also play a significant role in the finished results. As you can see, by the time I got to the end of each row, there wasn't quite enough fabric to stretch to the end. The technique I normally would use is to use a piece a little longer than needed then have a little extra to block and trim at each strip for more successful results.

I can fix this for the most part through blocking or resewing, and although it isn't quite done yet, I wanted to show you the chevron blocks so far. My plans are to turn this into a pillow cover.

The last section of the book included instructions on how to add piping to the binding and how to create binding with no lumps. I enjoyed this book and found it to be a well written primer for a very popular and versatile pattern.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Giveaway Reminder for Lonni Rossi Fairmount Park Collection

I just wanted to remind you again of my blogiversary giveaway I am hosting this week. Follow this link and leave a comment to enter your chance to win this beautiful collection of Lonni Rossi Fairmount Park fabrics along with instructions in this kit to make a gorgeous table runner. 

Enter here and leave a comment!