Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Block 18: Butter Churn

Here is this week's block, called the Butter Churn:
It's not a block that I am familiar with and I'm guessing the author designed it for this book since nothing came up in a cursory Google search. I like it more now that I've made it than when I was looking at it on the page.

You can see I went with the bold red in the centre pinwheel. I can't have everything low contrast! I used the chicken wire background again and managed to get it all lined up in the same direction. I also lined up the stripes in the border around the pinwheel.

Here's the back:
The outer part of the two vertical seams were ironed open and I think I'm going to do the same to the horizontal seams. You can see the difference from the front and it's an easy change to make with a hot iron.

I sewed this block by machine the same day that I did the county fair block.

Here is a mock layout of all the blocks so far:
I decided I had to make a template big enough for all of the blocks (at least, I think it is) so I would no longer have to expand it every few weeks. Next week's block is a 12" block so I had to make room for that as well.

As you can see, I am thinking of having four 12" blocks and anchoring the quilt with them in the corners. For the rest, I am randomly throwing the blocks into the layout. Kim and I plan to get together over Christmas to try out layouts and offer opinions on each other's quilts. Certainly nothing will be final before that.
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Here is Kim's block:
Aren't the colours lovely? She picked buttery tones for her Butter Churn block. (So clever of her!)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Quilting Trees

I don't think I've ever mentioned that I sometimes participate in a quilt-along on Ravelry. I'm a member of the Quilters Knitting group and each quarter they have a "UFO" club. (That's UnFinished Object.) You have to have at least five UFOs, you list them at the beginning of the quarter, and then share progress and (hopefully) (sometimes) finished projects.

They always offer two groups--one where you send a fat quarter of fabric to anyone who finishes a project and one where you do not. I signed up for the "send group" this quarter, but no one else did so I was moved over to the no-send group. (You can imagine that members of this quilt-along are frequent repeaters and I'm guessing they didn't want to keep up with the postage and sending. And many are not interested in accumulating more fabric anyway.)

All this is to give context for progress I made on the Mt. Robson quilt. It's amazing how knowing that a few people are expecting to see progress and/or will celebrate when you make some is motivation to get stuff done! (I think they call that accountability...)

After a week of vacation in which almost every day I told myself I would work on this quilt, I did not put it under the sewing machine needle until Saturday. I did a little sewing and didn't enjoy it that much. The quilt is very stiff because of the multiple layers of fabric and adhesive and the machine doesn't sew perfectly smoothly in free-motion mode.

The machine skips stitches. I think I figured out that if I go a lot slower, it doesn't happen nearly as much. It has more trouble sewing in some directions than others so I have to be aware of that too. (Apparently this is common among sewing machines.)

But then there are other times the top thread gets caught up below the quilt, makes knots, and prevents the quilt from moving around. There are a couple blobs of thread in this section:
 And here's the worst one:
It's frustrating. I'm sewing with a Husqvarna. They make chainsaws. (Troy has one.) So I think it should be able to handle it, but I guess it still needs to be handled carefully.

Sometimes I can pull a little harder to get past the snaggle spot and continue sewing, but for the one above I had to stop sewing and remove it all. In the other areas, I noticed the top thread was cut so I trimmed off the loose ends. I'm not too worried about the thread ends coming loose because of the adhesive.

Here is a view of some of the trees that I did:
The top two sections of green slopes have not been quilted yet.

Here's the back, if you want to see the pattern a little better:
I changed it a little from the drawing on glass I did. On the glass, it was drawn like scallops, but I decided to stitch it more pointy to look like abstract tree-top shapes.

Here's the back after the top two sections of trees are done as well:
You can also see that the top thread is showing more on the new sections. (The little green dots.) I never did figure out why that was. I didn't change the tension but obviously something was sewing differently. It may have been connected to increased trouble with the machine, but I couldn't tell for sure.

Here is the other side of the quilt:
 I enjoyed sewing the dark trees in the foreground.
At first I just outlined the bright green area in the back, but that left the background puffy while the foreground trees were tacked down. That makes the background project more prominently than the foreground and that won't do.

So I went back in and quilted some vaguely tree-like angles to press it down:
The second day of quilting was more enjoyable despite the hangups of the  machine. I did have to push myself a bit (telling myself "do just one more section"), but I got all of the green areas done using the same green thread for all of the fabrics. I couldn't quite push myself to do the next colour, but I'm going to consider this a successful session! :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Block 17: Apron Strings

This week's block from the Farm Girl Vintage quilt is Apron Strings. Or that's what this designer calls it to fit into the theme. She designed each quarter to have the same size stripes and arranged them so they make a concentric squares pattern.
I misread (or didn't read) the instructions and ended up with four completely different quadrants. I did think out the layout and you can see that I have the reds and dark blues opposite each other, etc. I didn't fussy cut the bicycle--it happily just happened to work out just right.

This is a block that I've seen most often done with scraps of fabrics and various leftovers. Most people stitch up the quadrants separately (so squares with all of the strips in one direction) with whatever width of fabric they have. Then you cut out a square from what you've sewn together. Often each square will be the same colour, or all lights or all darks and then you can arrange them in many, many ways. Click here for a Google images search for some "string quilts", as they're called. They can be quite stunning.

Here is the back--nothing too fancy this week, but I don't have a lot to take a picture of! :)
Here are all the blocks so far in a mock layout:
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Here is Kim's block:
You can see in hers how the colours are mirrored in diagonal blocks. (Like the blue and paisley fabrics in the top left and bottom right squares, and the brown and purple flower fabrics in the top right and bottom left squares.)

When Kim first showed it to me on Skype, she wasn't very happy with it even though she liked many of the fabric combinations. After we talked it through, we decided she just needed to change the outer triangles so that the two lights were opposite each other. This was a relatively easy fix so she tried it and we agree the final look is better.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

2016 County Fair Block: Corn and Beans

Thank you to those of you who completed the poll of designs for the county fair block. If you would like to see the results, you can click here. Here is a recap of the options:
and this is my summary/interpretation of the results:

-A majority chose design 2 as first place (6 out of 8)
-If you combine the two diagonal designs, they were picked first place twice but six people picked them for second place.
-Design 1 was chosen last place four times, the most of any one design. I think I did it a disservice by showing it without a border. I actually think in a quilt, it would work the best (assuming the white is a common or main background color of most blocks), especially with sashing between the blocks.

Given that the diagonal designs seemed the most popular and I felt it was an interesting option, I chose Design 4, the better of the two diagonals, in my opinion.

And without any further drama, here is my block!
I received the green bean fabric on Friday and had time on Saturday to do some quilting.

I thought about doing a trial block with other fabrics first as I have done in the past, but I just couldn't make myself do it. Or, rather, I was too excited to make the block with the actual fabrics to stop myself.

I oversized all of the half-square triangle pieces and the triangles and then cut them down to the exact size needed after they were sewn together. I was determined to get a full 12.5" block this year!! You can't use this trick with every pattern, but it's great for half-square triangles. (HSTs are the squares that are made up of two identical triangles sewn together from point to opposite point of the square.)

I will tell you, I still undid quite a number of seams while putting the pieces together. After each quarter was assembled, I checked the measurements again. One was off enough that I had to make adjustments to the seam. It gets a little skinny in one section, but it will hold. And even when it was all done, I had a little gap on one side and I decided the black triangle was sewn on with a crooked seam. So I took half of that seam out and resewed it too. That fixed the problem and I have an honest 12.5" square now. Hurray!

The theme was Farmers Market and the block is called "Corn and Beans". Obviously the corn fabric and bean fabric emphasize the name of the block. I am happy with it. I'm sure they are looking for appliqued scenes, but piecing is what I like to do and I stuck with it again this year.

The block has been washed, starched and ironed. I'm going to cut the loose strings off the back of the block, but otherwise it is done and ready for the fair in August! Can I get a "woo hoo" for no last minute sewing this year!??

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Block 16: Spring Star and New Fabric (Small Wonders and Elephants)

When my sister and I chose to make this block about this time, we thought it would be seasonally appropriate. Little did we know that we would still be getting snow and freezing temperatures! But sitting cosy beside my woodstove making this block was very enjoyable, so I won't be complaining.

The block is made up of four of these units:
I think that would make a perfect little tulip on its own. Hmmm...maybe that's why the designer called this a spring star!

Here is the back:
Lots of decisions about how to press. I alternated the seams from the "flippy corners" that form the green and blue points so that they wouldn't overlap in the seam. I find it curious that the centre point where I furled the seam is twisting. Obviously I got something a little off there. But it looks ok from the front, so besides trying to hit it an extra time with the iron, I did not worry about it.

Here are all the blocks together:
I spent some time recently cutting fabric for more upcoming blocks. A couple of 12" blocks are coming so I am looking forward to them just for the variety.

I also ordered some fabric that I still plan to incorporate into this quilt. Mary Fons designed a fabric line called Small Wonders focusing on small scale prints. I thought that would be perfect for this quilt. And better yet, she organized the line around various countries/regions in the world, including the Netherlands (my "motherland") and India (elephants!).

I looked for it at quilt shops but couldn't find it. I finally broke down and did a web search and ended up getting it at fabricdepot.com. It really is adorable but the one thing I think she dropped the ball on was not using wooden shoes for the Netherlands. That would be the perfect small-scale fabric motif.

The fabrics I got were: (top row) the llamas (South America), elephants and elephants with man (India); (bottom row) windmill and man, tulips and windmills, and windmills (all from the Netherlands collection--see? she really could have used some wooden shoes instead of all windmills. And bikes.) You can see the entire collection here if you're interested.

And then another piece of fabric I got "while I was at it" was this slice of elephant wonder:
I don't expect to use it in this quilt, but isn't that gorgeous!? It was on clearance and they only had one yard left. I was too busy feeling lucky to get one to feel bad about not getting more. Who knows what I'll do with it but I will love it for sure.
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Here is Kim's Spring Star block:
I love the punch of red and blue. Her son thought it looked like an American flag, but I reminded her that the Dutch flag is made up of red, white and blue stripes so she could claim that if she wanted. In any case, we all agreed it will be a nice punch of colour in her quilt!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Keeping Twitchy Fingers Occupied

I have been so eager to work on the quilt blocks for the Farm Girl Vintage quilt that I have to admit that I have worked a week (or two) ahead. Not so bad, but I am getting ahead of Kim who was sick this week, and that's no fun.

So I put my mind to other projects that I could work on that would involve the same work. And I thought of the Cass County Fair raffle quilt block. As you may recall, the theme is Farmers Market and the fabrics I get to use are these:
(I can add up to two additional fabrics if I want.)

A while ago I decided that I wasn't going to attempt an applique scene and did some research on some pieced blocks I could do. Since I have corn fabric, I concentrated on blocks with corn in the name and found this great "Corn and Beans" block from Patchwork Square. (There are a lot of nice patterns there for free.)
I have a bit of a conundrum about how to place the fabrics though. It looks great in the three colours shown here, but I have to use all of the fabrics in the kit. So I have to use at least five. How to place them?

I also like to keep in mind that most blocks that are appliqued will have the cream fabric as the background and likely it will appear in a lot of the blocks. I also thought that I have to add a bean fabric (most likely green) to complete the block name.

So I did a couple of rough mock ups in Excel to experiment with different colour additions and placements. (I know these samples only have four colours--I figure I can fussy cut green from the seed packet fabric to work with the bean fabric and will use the corn and solid yellow in the yellow triangles.) Take a look and tell me what you think. Have any preferences or thoughts?

1. Black in White

2. White in Black

3. Diagonal 1 (dark on dark; light on light)

4. Diagonal 2 (dark on light; light on dark)
I would love it if you would take a second to rank them in this poll:
Create your own user feedback survey

and love it even more if you left a comment with your reaction or reasoning. Thanks!

Meanwhile, I have ordered some green bean fabric online (surprisingly hard to find!) and will wait for it to arrive before I start deciding--or cutting--anything.

So meanwhile meanwhile, I will have to think of some other project to keep my fingers from sewing too far ahead on the Farm Girl Vintage quilt!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Moving Mountains

So I've been thinking about my Mt Robson quilt lately. You know, how you think of unfinished projects: oh, I should work on that some time... and recently I actually did.

I've been stalled at sandwiching it (finding batting, finding a backing) and by not knowing how to quilt it. At some point, though, you realize that no quilting is the ugliest kind of all so you should just try something. And I had an idea of how I could make this a little less scary.

I asked Troy out of the blue if he had a piece of clear plastic or material about this big (holding out my hands to indicate a rough rectangle). Not 30 minutes later he came back with a pane from an old window that we had around somewhere.

I had to cut off some of the glazing and some caulk (and clean it), but then I did this:
Yes, the edges are wrapped in elephant duct tape.
My sister found it for me and promptly
bought me four rolls so I would have enough
that I could feel free to use some! :)
I set the glass over the quilt and guess what I can do now...
Draw all over that glass with Vis-a-Vis (dry erase) markers! When I didn't like something I could wipe it away and I could experiment with different patterns. I expect the sewing will not be exactly like this, but I wanted something so I would at least know what I was aiming for.

Here is a close up where you can see more of the red, which I used for the trees.
It looks a little funky because you can see
the line and its shadow.
Feeling like I had at least taken steps toward a solution to my creative block, I decided I could also find the energy to sandwich the quilt. I pulled out all my batting scraps and found a piece that will work. I pulled out my cotton fabrics and found a piece for the back. I ironed them all nice and smooth.

And then I remembered this little uncovered spot on the landscape:
Right in the center of the picture are some white spots where the fabric of one group of trees didn't quite meet the fabric of the neighbouring group of trees. I know your first thought is going to be "That doesn't look bad." or "You are too picky, Christina." but seriously, you can see it on the quilt and it was time to fix it.

I had been thinking that I would just touch it with a black or green marker, but that never works as well as you think it will. Since it's on a very dark green, I thought that it would be hardly noticed if I just patched a piece on top.

So I got out the double sided adhesive, stuck it to a piece of fabric and cut out some more trees:
I tried it on the quilt and realized that flat bottom edge was not going to work, so I cut some "tree shapes" in the bottom as well:
Here it is lying loose in place (with the paper backing still on, which is why you see some white outlines):
And here it is stuck on:
I really don't think anyone is going to notice now!

With that done, I got out the spray adhesive and stuck the backing, batting and front together. You're right, I don't like using spray adhesive, but I really couldn't see putting this together with pins or basting it. The double sided adhesive used to stick on the pieces makes the fabric quite stiff, and it doesn't "heal" from pin marks very well. (Which brings up another nightmare: I do not want to contemplate having to unpick any quilting!)

I bought different coloured threads a few weeks or months ago for this quilt so I am about ready to sew this! And once I settle on the design, I can take it with me to the sewing machine for reference by carrying along my glass pane.
The quilting is not overly dense so once I get sewing, it probably won't take that long. (Assuming nothing goes wrong.) :knocking on wood:

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Block 15: Mama Hen

I'm not sure what makes this a "mama" hen since there aren't any chicks around, but I guess the designer would know better than I. :)

I went with a rather "fanciful" hen since you don't find many green hens with red spots. I remember having a hard time finding fabrics I liked together and I'm not sure this is entirely successful.
But I have to say the background is perfect in how it's reminiscent of chicken wire.

After the block was done and I hadn't used a piece of red fabric that was in the bag, I realized that it was a fabric I got from my MIL after I had cut fabric for this block. I wasn't entirely happy with the red fabric for the comb and thought this would do better.
But by the time I sewed the block, I had forgotten! So I kept expecting to use this red rectangle somewhere and never did. I should have cut new pieces for the comb from it. Once again, a reminder to make notes!!

Here is the back of the block.
I did a lot more open seams on this one. One nice (easy) thing about this block was that there were no seams that had to meet and match!

Here are all the blocks so far:
And having reached block 15, we are one third of the way done the blocks from the book!
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Kim and I caught up with each other on Friday night, showing our blocks via Skype. Here is her hen:
I love her brown sunflower fabric for the body.

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