Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Farmer's Wife, Blocks 13-15

I just completed the next set of blocks for my Farmer's Wife quilt.  I know, the quilt-along isn't being called the Farmer's Wife any more, but I bought the book and love the colors in the quilt, so I've decided to continue to call mine by its original name.  The challenges for me this week were (a) triangles, (b) tiny pieces, and (c) tiny triangles (!$@%!).

We made a second Basket block this week.  The first one didn't have a handle -- on purpose, but some folks thought it was a mistake.  So this time the block has a handle made of triangles.  However, to me the triangles were more evocative of flowers in the basket, so I used scraps of the pink floral from my English paper-pieced pincushion.  It took some thought to figure out how to actually piece the block, but I'm pleased with the way it turned out.  

Basket block #2
The second block is a Scythe.  It isn't in the Farmer's Wife book, and I couldn't find any reference to it in my initial poking around the web.  The first time around I made it wrong, using squares instead of the brown-and-white four-patches.  Turns out some other people had the same problem (Randy posted a clarification).  Once I figured it out (on my own!), I still had trouble.  I really don't know what happened with the little 4-patch in the bottom corner.  I re-sewed, re-cut and re-sewed again.  The truth is, I was in a hurry to finish it before leaving town for a week, a guaranteed recipe for disaster!

The Scythe block
Last, and definitely least is a Cut-Glass Dish block.  Inconsistent seams contributed to so me of the problem, but pressing seemed to cause the most significant problems.  I used Best Press spray sizing and even steam at one point, but those triangles had minds of their own.  I am so disappointed in this block -- I know I can do better!  I plan to make another one and use this one for practicing my free-motion quilting (LOL!).  Quilting over all these seams should be a great chance to learn how to maintain an even stitch length.

The Cut Glass Dish block (though I called it a few other things, too!)

With the two Bonus Blocks and the extra Calico Puzzle block that I made, the Farmer's Wife project now includes 15 blocks.  Now about 10 percent of the way done!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My iPhone let me down :-(

Drove in to Garden City for the Long Island Quilt Show yesterday.  It's a long drive, but fortunately I had my friend Peggy along -- we never stop talking and the time and miles fly by.  We had a fabulous lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant, then headed over to the Garden City Field House.  The place was filled with so many beautiful quilts, but not one picture that I took with my iPhone came out!  I'm so disappointed; I really wanted to share them with everyone.  Sigh.

The quilts ranged from king-size to small wall hangings; from very elaborate to someone's very first quilt (it won a first prize, nice!); from intricately pieced to all kinds of applique; from densely machine quilted to hand ditch-stitched; from muted batiks to brilliantly colored; from traditional to ethnically-inspired art quilts.  Oh, how I wish you could see them!

This was my first quilt show since I started quilting.  There were about 20 different categories in the competition, some more interesting to me than others.  I don't know if I'll ever approach the exquisite work in the very best quilts, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of the quilts really looked like something that I could tackle with some success.   Fortunately, my DH and I were going to some friends' for dinner, so I didn't have to cook when I got home.  Fueled with enthusiasm, I sat right down at my sewing machine for an hour.

There weren't as many vendors as we'd expected, but given the number of quilts and people, I'm not sure where they could have set up shop anyway.  There was one big place that had sooo many different notions and tools, I'm surprised the floor wasn't damp with drool!  A couple of vendors with highly discounted fat quarters and half-yards.  I scooped those up to use in my Farmer's Wife quilt.  My stash isn't all that big, and since most of my early quilting projects were for babies, the fabrics don't work very well in this quilt -- I needed more muted colors.  Can't wait to dig into them!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bonus Blocks!

Last Saturday was National Quilting Day, and I missed it!  So glad to have been in Memphis with people I love, but after a week-long dry spell of no sewing at all, I was glad to get back in the groove yesterday.  Did a little more work on the Otsego Lake quilts and picked back up on the quilt-along that was formerly The Farmer's Wife.

Randy, of the Barrister's Block, posted a couple of bonus blocks last week when some people complained that the Farmer's Wife Basket block was incomplete (no handle, OMG!).  But I didn't get to them until now.

These blocks aren't in The Farmer's Wife book, but I wanted to include them, so I started on these.  Sorry the photos are a little dim, I took them in the evening without benefit of actual sunlight.

Shoo-fly is very traditional and an easy block to put together, so that went pretty well.  The little print is red starts on a neutral background.

The Civil War Quilting Circle block went OK, too.  I didn't have any fabrics that would seem to be traditional in a Civil War quilt, but the background is plain muslin and the dark blue is a dark chambray.  The yellow and red colors (but not the fabrics) are common in Civil War-era quilts.

There are also three more blocks that are part of the actual quilt-along... more on those in a couple of days.  Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to attending the Long Island Quilt Show tomorrow!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Miami Quilting

The other day I mentioned in passing some good times in Miami.  Gay-Gay, my daughter's mother-in-law, defies all the nasty things people say about mothers-in-law.  When we met, we quickly became good friends.  Unfortunately, I'm in New York and she's in Miami, so we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like.

This past Christmas I really wanted to quilt something for her.  But who needs a quilt in Miami?!  Then I found these place mat patterns.  Fun!

  Each place mat used a batik, two marbled solid colors, and a print.  I used "Miami" colors -- blues and pinks.  The letters and shapes are a very dark brown print. 

Choosing a print that worked with a batik was a bit of a challenge.  The colors in this little floral were OK, but the print itself wasn't my favorite.

On the other hand, this leaf print looked pretty good.

The letters and shapes are all fused and machine-appliqued.

 This was my favorite.  I used a pale print that was more like a batik.  And I had a green print of unknown origin in my stash  -- I think I bought it to make doll clothes for my daughter several decades ago.  It is NOT good in large pieces, but it worked great for the olive!

I love batiks, so I used the main batik from the front of each place mat for the backing.

The pattern didn't call for any quilting at all, but the batting needed it.  I ditch-stitched, then hand-quilted around one pattern element in the batik section of the front.  (This doesn't really show up in these photos).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Grandma Time in Memphis!

I'm off to Memphis, Tennessee, to double-team my grandsons while their parents are off celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary.  My teammate is their other grandmother, Annie (a.k.a. Gay-Gay).  We've been a great team before -- planning the wedding, shopping (any time), restaurant-hopping in South Beach and Coconut Grove.  So I'm sure this will be a fun week.

One of my first "quilting" projects was a holiday tic-tac-toe game for these boys.  It's really more just sewing than actual quilting, but it does use batting!

I made the X's and O's by fusing the pieces for the Santas and reindeer onto the red and green squares, then zig-zagging around them.  The eyes and the reindeer noses are French knots.  Santa's nose is a little pink circle -- I had to hand-stitch those.  The "board" is just muslin with double-fold bias tape for the lines and edge.  Stitch up the bag and it's ready to go.

This was so fun and easy.  I plan to make more with different holiday themes.  Bunnies and chicks, flags and firecrackers, turkeys and pilgrims.  Any other ideas?

My beautiful boys with their wonderful Papi.  How'd I get so lucky?

 I have some Memphis Tigers fabric in my stash.  J (the younger) insists that the boat must have Tigers flags on it.  Gotta get these done before they arrive at the lake for the 4th of July.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Chicken Madness!

A year ago, shortly after I embarked on my quilting journey, I was in my favorite quilt shop and spied a basket of the cutest quilted chickens.  My husband grew up on a chicken farm, and everyone in the family has chickens around, from small decor items to a barnful of actual birds (that would be my nephew).  So I knew I just had to learn to make those chickens.

Turns out, they were just about to have a class to make these chicken pincushions, so I signed up.  Fun!

We brought in two identical blocks -- didn't really matter what size.  I made these 8" log cabins, with sunshine in the center and chicken tracks all over the orange and green fabric.  We needed a small piece of fabric for the tail and beak, plus some felted wool for the comb and buttons or beads for eyes.

The stitching was simple -- stitch around two sides, pull up the corners and sew the long side together, leaving space to fill with stuffing (no! not that kind of stuffing!).  The beak, comb and tail are just sewn in as you do the seams.

I really want to make a bunch of these in different sizes and fill baskets with them to give to the family. Next time I'll use bigger beads (or buttons) for the eyes.  This girl looks a little sneaky.

 Here are just some of the chickens that we have in our house:
A glass paperweight, a guess...

A twofer on my kitchen desk

A pretty bowl in happy sunshine colors

Three musketeers
My grandson, Diego, at 6 weeks old, in his first Halloween costume.  (Just checking if you were paying attention).

A tea cozy that I brought back from England in 1983

One of many towels

Sentry chicken

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

English Paper Piecing

A couple of weeks ago I took a class in English paper piecing.  I didn't know what it was when I signed up,  but I'm always game for something new.

The "course materials" consisted of a small plastic bag filled with diamond shapes made of stiff paper and some instructions.  There were about 28 paper pieces, 24 to use for a large pincushion, plus a few extras (almost all of us ended up using at least one!)

We used two fabrics of our choice -- scraps work fine, as long as the two colors are sufficiently different in value.  We cut 12 diamonds out of each color, cutting around the paper pieces 1/4" from the edge.  We then used a special glue stick to tack the seam allowances to the paper.

I found the glue unreliable -- the fabric kept coming unstuck, and trying to keep things together with my fingers caused the paper to soften.  I finally ended up basting the seam allowances down with thread, which is the way this was traditionally done anyway.  The paper can't be reused if you baste through it, not exactly a huge loss.

We hand-sewed six pieces of one color together, then sewed the remaining six pieces around the outside to make one side of the pincushion.  Repeated to make the other side.

At this point I added a button in the center of each side.  The directions say to do this after the pincushion itself is done, but I thought it would be easier to work with the flat fabric pieces.

 Sew the two sides, right sides together, until there's only a small opening remaining.  Remove the paper, stuff with crushed walnuts or fiber fill, and slip stitch closed.

Some people use this technique with 1/4" hexagons to make very elaborate wall quilts.  I don't think I'll use it again, though.  I enjoyed more the chicken pincushion that I made in my very first quilting class.  I'll post those pics tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An Interesting Development

An interesting development on the Farmer's Wife project.  Apparently the author of The Farmer's Wife (the book) threatened legal action against the blogger who initiated the project, claiming [potential] infringement of copyright.  The good news is that the project will continue under another name, The Barrister's Sow-a-Long (still with "sow" instead of "sew").  And Randy, the blogger, will be joined in "authorship" by one of my favorite quilting bloggers, Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville.  I'm sure the project will be amazing, and I can't wait to find out the next three blocks, due out tomorrow!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Otsego Lake

The quilt is designed around this print.
March is National Quilting Month, and I'm getting ready.  I spent the last week cutting the pieces for a pair of quilts for my family's cabin in northern Michigan.  Last summer I made curtains for one of the bedrooms -- an off-white/beige with an 8" strip of a forest print just above the hem.  I liked the print a lot, so I decided to make quilts for the beds using the same fabric.  Just before the end of the season, I ran into town and bought a couple of yards of both fabrics, no particular plan in mind.  Now the project begins, and I'm realizing how many difficulties I'll be facing, due to my lack of experience.  I'll get the quilts made (not by summer, though).  But it'll be a challenge.

Designing the Quilt

I've played from time to time over the winter with different blocks and quilt patterns.  I wanted to some pieces big enough to feature the forest print, but didn't have much luck.  I finally found a block that I liked in a free quilt pattern on the web, but it didn't have directions.  I scanned the forest print fabric, added it to Quilt-Pro and re-created the block.  A little more toying with the software and I could print out the yardage requirements and head out to the quilt shop for the rest of the fabric.
 The large square-within-a square is the forest print or the off-white/beige from the curtains.  I wish I'd made the blocks larger.  The print would show up better and there would be fewer seams. 

The two outer borders haven't been determined yet -- this picture just uses some fabrics in Quilt-Pro.  But I kind of like them.  We'll see what's available after the blocks are completed.

Patches for two twin-bed quilts.

What Was I Thinking?!?!

 It took almost a week to cut all the patches, and they aren't done yet.  For two quilts:

80 patches of forest print
80 patches of off-white
320 patches of small floral
320 patches of red
320 patches of dark green print*
640 patches of beige paisley*
8 red strips for inner border

* These are just the squares -- 960 of them -- that still have to be cut into triangles!  What was I thinking??

 Should Have Known Better!

This was a HUGE mistake.  I should NEVER have cut the squares in the first place.  I should have cut the triangles directly from the strips -- I have Easy Angle and Flying Geese rulers that would have saved me hours of cutting time.

This is simply a matter of inexperience and maybe hubris.  I looked at the cutting diagram in Quilt-Pro and saw squares subdivided into triangles, so that's what I did.  And I should never have dived into a quilt for which I had no directions!

I'm really tempted to start over again on these two fabrics.  It would take just as much cutting as it would to use these squares, but it would be much easier.  Now I have either cut the squares one at a time or line 2-4 squares very carefully before cutting.   I could just pile these things into my stash; I'm sure I could use them within the next 30 or 40 years (potholders, anyone?).  Or maybe I could get rid of them at one of Bonnie Hunter's "Quiltsville Yard Sales".  (Check this out if you're looking for fun quilting stuff -- fabric, books, notions).