Saturday, August 28, 2010

Having Too Much Fun!

I’ve been having a blast today working on my practice piece for the Kaffee Quilt. I did a lot of steps today and have a lot of pictures to show for it, so get ready!

After basting the edges and down the center in both directions, I started in on the red squares. I already knew what I wanted to try on those squares, and just like taking tests, you start with what you know and the rest will come more easily.

I put on the clear free motion foot, dropped the feed dogs and off I went. I stippled around the outside of the main circle to push it into the background, outlined the circle to define the shape and then let the design on the fabric tell me where to go after that. I did two different patterns on the two squares.
I didn’t want to fill it in too densely so I didn’t trace everything; just a few things. I'm such a newbie I still get amazed at how much quilting changes the texture and feel of the quilt. It's quite a transformation.

Here’s the back of each square which shows the patterns more clearly.
I really had a fun time with it. The machine worked wonderfully and I was getting a result that matched the ideas in my head. How could I not get excited about that!?

Once the red squares were done, it was time to move to the yellow ones. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was going to sew a curve from each corner to the next. That means it was time to audition my bowls and plates to see which one would fit.
The big glass one won.

So I used it to mark the curves with my blue water soluble marker.

And then there’s nothing left to do but sew.
I put on my walking foot to keep things even, started at one corner and then sewed all the lines with a continuous path. On the quilt I'll be going in a long path from end to end, but on this one I went around each square.

After that was quilted, I had this:
Hopefully you can see what I'm trying to do: outline the red squares in big circles.  It's not so apparent on this small piece, but on a larger layout with many more squares it will work better.

And then the big question that's been holding me back on this project--what do to in the center of the yellow squares. I doodled on paper a lot. Geometric designs. Flower designs. But I wasn't getting anything that I liked that filled the space nicely.

And then while looking at remodeling magazines (for the kitchen we're working on), I came across this tile:
Do you see what I see? That fleur de lis pattern jumped out at me and I thought it would be perfect. It could be modified to fit the shape I had and I've always liked fleurs de lis. Similar to what I was saying about the pattern of the Summit shawl not being too lacy, I find fleur de lis interesting, classic and fancy without being too flowery.

So I worked on it. Drew out a full sized square, marked out my curves and the diagonal lines, and then drafted some fleurs de lis:
Once I had them good enough (I certainly wasn't striving for perfect symmetry), I traced them in marker, scanned them and printed two copies onto card stock. (One just for back up while I was at it.)

Then I cut it out very carefully:
I laid the shape onto the yellow squares and started tracing. The whole shape didn't fit exactly, so I just traced whichever quarter I liked and moved the pattern around to get it to fit. I didn't worry about being too's not like I was going to be sewing it exactly anyway!

I put the free motion foot back on and went to town. After it was sewn, I soaked it to remove the markings and dried it on the line. That gave me this:

Here's the back if you want to see the quilting pattern more clearly:

I was about to sew this up into a pillow cover (yes, I was that excited) when I stopped myself. I wasn't sure that the pattern on the yellow squares was apparent enough. I mean, yes, you could tell there was quilting there, but certainly not what it was.

I was a little nervous about trying more, but told myself that this was my practice piece so I had better practice! There was no sense in doing the whole quilt wondering if I should have tried something else.

I decided I needed to fill in the "background" space between the fleur de lis and the curve. I rejected generic stippling because a lot of the spaces were just too narrow. Then I remembered a pebble fill that I've seen a couple time. It's pretty thread-hungry and time consuming (what isn't?) but it also continues the circle theme. So I gave it a try:
I did one square and am debating about the second square before I dive in. Try something else, or repeat the pebbles? I'm pretty happy with the pebbles.

Again, here's the back. The new yellow square is on the lower left:

And just to confirm my thoughts, why don't you help me out again by offering your opinion?

Do you prefer the plain original (left) or the pebbled (right)?

Thanks again!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Piecing and Layering

I feel like I've been making so much progress on my Kaffe Quilt that the blog isn't keeping up! Let me then give you two blog posts in one:

Part One
Things were far enough along that I felt like I could shop for binding fabric and batting this past weekend! With the new job, this has to be done on weekends now so even though I wasn't quite done piecing I went back to my favourite LQS on Saturday. (Besides, fabric shopping is just fun!)

I tried a number of fabrics. I found a great red that would have followed traditional ideas of having the border pull out main colours from the middle of the quilt. But it didn't do much for me. I tried some bright teals and turquoises because there's quite a bit of that in the red fabric. But they didn't do much either.

Then I tried some dark navies with a little purple, and that started things clicking. The one you see above was the best and I felt like it really made the dark blue in the red squares pop and did its job as a binding to visually hold everything together. Anchor it or frame it. However you want to think of it, I thought it did it.

Once I had the binding, I thought of the backing. I was pretty sure I was going to stripe the back according to the pieces I'm quilting. (I'm quilting this in sections a la Marti Michell--have I mentioned that?) I settled on using two fabrics and using the same one for the top and bottom stripe and a contrasting one for the middle.

Since the binding fabric was so different than the quilt body, I thought the back may as well match the binding, not the front. And so I ended up with:
Although the top picture didn't have quite enough purple in the blue,
this one definitely has too much purple.

The one on the left is just darling, and I bought lots of it! With these fabrics on the back, the quilt will be quite reversible and I dare say there will be people who prefer this side than the one I consider the "front"!

Then it was "work before play" as I washed, dried and ironed the fabrics before I could use them.

Part Two

I finished piecing!! I got over (that is, corrected) all of my piecing errors which I bemoaned last time. And then laid the sections over the couch to make double sure I had all the squares in the right place.
(Since last time, I've "lost" my studio as the dining room is now housing the kitchen as the kitchen is being demolished. Yes, I know, what a great time to start a quilt!!)

I have split up the quilt for piecing into three sections: the top and bottom are made up of four horizontal rows and the middle section is three rows. I thought this nice easy linear quilt pattern would make a nice test run on some of Marti's ideas of quilting in sections. If I were quilting all in straight lines, this would be no problem to run through at full size, but I'm not. And I wanted to try sections, just to see how I like it. If I do, I think it would really help to make quilting a whole quilt into more manageable chunks for me.

Once the piecing was done, it was time to lay it out and pin. I used our "new" [make shift] counter in the dining room cum kitchen. Backing on the bottom, then the batting (which I pre-shrunk as well--I'm really going all out on this quilt!), and then the top.

And then a lot of pins:
I actually ran out on the last section, but I got enough in to hold it together until I finish with the other sections.

Now it's time for some practice runs. I bought thread while I was at the quilt shop. Red for the red squares. Dark yellow for the yellow squares and a single colour for the bobbin that matches the colours of back fabrics. I hope to piece a square or two of leftovers to practise on and maybe they can turn into a pillow. Or maybe they'll just be practice.

I have to remind myself that to get good at something, you have to use a lot of paint. Or fabric. Or ink. Or wood. Or whatever medium you use for your craft. Doodling is not wasted if it's practice for art. And that's what I'll be doing on my fabric: doodling.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

New Cast On

Meet my latest obsession:
Isn't that the most interest texture and pattern? I've known I was going to make this one since I first saw the pattern in knitty. I was just waiting for the right yarn.

I settled on this Blue Face Leicester 2/8 from Fleece Artist in a lovely brown / grey-blue colourway. Remember my last BFL project? It was the cables sweater I finished for Troy earlier this year. The one I couldn't stop going on and on about how much I LOVED the yarn. This BFL is from a different company, but it's just as true. It feels so soft and silky going through my fingers. Just lovely lovely. Mmm. (Here I am going on and on again!)

Once I had the yarn, I was waiting for the time. This summer was out, but realizing I may have a little time to knit during the Belinda class, I got it started last week. (I can knit during class, but I can't spare the concentration to actually start a project and get it set up.)

Once it was started, there was no stopping it. This pattern fits many of the requirements for an obsession. It's pretty. It's interesting. It's done with a colour-changing yarn. It's done in small units. Every unit leads into the next unit. It just goes on and on, and so do I!

It's comprised of columns, but instead of knitting all the way across the row, you knit across columns 1 and 2 for a while, then columns 2 and 3, then 3 and 4 etc. Sort of like a crab walk. (Sort of like Entrelac knitting for those of you that know what that means.) This has worked out well for the colour changes as well. The short rows let the short colour sections "pile up" on themselves and make a blotchy look instead of a spread out stripey look. I like it.
I think the colours are truer in the top picture, but this picture
shows you how the yarn has changed: the first half is pale with
subtler changes while the second half is much darker with more
dramatic colour changes.

I'm hoping this shawl will fill the need I have for a shawl to wear in church. I'm always freezing and need something neutral enough and dressy enough to wear with almost anything. I really like how this has a lacy look without being a floral, leaf, or other traditional lace pattern. Don't get me wrong, there's a place for that type of lace but I wanted to be really sure I wasn't wearing anything "granny-ish."

I think this pattern is architectural in form. I love the negative space between the columns and how you can't help but see circles even though only one half of it is actually round. I can't wait to see how it will block out.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Quilt Like A Champion Today

That's how I felt this week, anyway. Like Super Quilter. Not that I sewed a whole quilt in "single leap," but I kept at it very steadily. I even found 30 minutes before work most mornings to start sewing the squares into strips. I could get almost two done in 30 minutes.

I found a system to piece together the blocks into pairs, and then into bigger chunks until I had a strip. I only had to take out a few seams because I put things in the wrong order, on the second one (where you stop watching as closely as you did the first one) and on the last one (where you get too cocky). But not bad.

With my steady progress, by the end of the week I had all the squares sewn into strips:
Even as I took this picture, I thought I should probably look at it closely because you tend to see things in pictures you miss in person. But I didn't listen to my gut. More on that in a minute...

Meanwhile, when I started sewing strips together, I decided to give up my quarter-foot with the guide on the right:
And went with my regular foot so that I could drive closer to pins (but never over).
To get the quarter inch seam, you just move the needle over to the right until it is the right distance from the edge of the foot. This way the whole foot can drive over the fabric and give you more control, and you can just match the edge of the fabric with the edge of the foot which gives you more accuracy. That's how I go, anyway.

I skipped the pins while I was sewing the blocks together, but I put them to use for the longer seams where I have to match seams.

And while we're talking about seams, let me say for the record that, yes, I am pressing all the seams open. I know that's not the traditional quilting way. (Neither is machine sewing if you want to use that argument.) I come from a sewing background where most seams are pressed open. It makes a nice flat seam that is less bulky.

Then I had people tell me that in quilting you press all seams to one side. I tried it for a while. And it is true that it helps you to match seams because you can nest a seam pressed one way against a seam pressed the other way. You can match the seams by touch, and it's very reliable. However, the seams "lean" in different directions and still don't make a straight line even when they match.

On top of that, the open seams have fewer big jumps in thickness which helps while you're quilting. So I'm sticking with open seams and no longer apologizing for it.

Now, back to my quilting. Last night I started sewing the strips together. I did pretty well with  matching the seams and got some nice matching points like this:

I also got one craptastic looking one:

So I dutifully ripped it out and fixed it:
That looks better, doesn't it?

Then I sewed one more set of strips together. When I ironed them I found four or five points that had to be redone. So I put it down and went to bed.

Tonight I ripped out the offending ones and resewed them. They all came out matching the second time. (More pins is better.)

That's when I hung it all back up on the design wall and actually took a look. The two strips I had just sewn together were sewn together along the wrong edges. No matter which way I tried to rotate them in my mind, it just didn't work. Dang it!!

I ripped out the whole seam (yes, the one I had just fixed for betting looking points) and put both strips up on the design wall to make sure I put them together right. But something still wasn't right.

I didn't walk away for a bottle of Mike's Margarita until I saw that I did the same thing with the first set of strips!!! (It helped to wash down the humble pie.)

When I actually looked at the picture I took (shown above), I finally saw that I had put the bottom three strips on the design wall upside down and didn't notice. Argh!!

Once again, it's important to remind myself that this is not brain surgery...if I do it wrong the first (and second) time, I can take it out and do it right and no one will ever know the difference.

Also, if I like to quilt, why shouldn't I like to do a whole quilt twice? (That one sounds a little less convincing to me too.)

Until next time, then, listen to your gut and double check your work!! (And I will too.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August Quilt Day: Let There be Colour!

I worked very hard on Saturday to clear up everything I could possibly hope to accomplish this weekend. And I got it done. So when Troy came home Saturday I said I was done for the weekend and that nothing more should be expected of me all weekend. I was going to quilt.

So after church, lunch, etc, I was at it by 3:00. I cut out fabric for about two hours. That is very tiring work!! I was standing the whole time for one thing.

The yellow was easy. I just cut crosswise strips of 7.5 inches and then cross cut them. The red was more trouble. But I did have my brand new tool: a 7.5 inch cutting square. I discovered that I can cut in any direction as I hold the square in place over a circle.
The square came with some non-slip pads on the back and they worked wonderfully. I have trouble with my regular cutting ruler slipping as I cut along it, but I didn't have trouble with a single cut with this one. Love it.

Now once I had enough squares cut out, I thought I would try the whole "design wall" thing. I have laid quilts out on the floor, but you don't get a very good perspective, and it kind of gets in the way of the rest of your life.

So I found my flannel sheet and pinned it to a curtain (figuring that was the easiest way to hang it). I knew, intellectually, that cotton sticks to flannel and it was the thing to use for a design board. But to see it in action was like a miracle. Even my old worn sheet: just get the cotton sort of close, let go, and it sticks!!
I'm telling you: a miracle!! And awfully handy.

So I put up all the yellow squares because they didn't need any special arranging:
And then put the red ones up in between. I tried a couple arrangements of the red circles. I rejected Barn Raising which is probably my favourite (co-centric rings around the center) because it didn't work with the number of squares I had of each design. (There are three different circle patterns.)
So I worked the numbers and settled on a Fields and Furrows layout (diagonal lines). I'm pretty happy with it, but I have it hanging up right now and am living with it before I start sewing.

But I'm pretty sure, so after this blogging and popcorn break, I may start sewing. I'm really anxious to do some actual sewing.

A look at my "studio" in case you were curious:
It's my dining room. All cleared of stuff. (Honestly. All that crap piled up on the right is technically in the pantry. Yes, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

To top off a great quilting day, I now have football on the TV (my new 42" TV!). Even if it is "fake" game, it's good to have it back. I watched the Replacements this afternoon to get myself ready. There's nothing like a movie you've seen a hundred times to go with your quilting.

Gotta go, it's time to sew!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Those Who Can't Do...Shop!

"...but when the store owner saw them
she said they were the ugliest fabrics she'd ever seen."

Yes, yes, all summer I've been bemoaning my lack of knitting progress. Sorry, not trying to bore you with more...

But just before the weekend, I found one partial solution to the problem: my sister and I went fabric shopping. And we went to my favourite quilt store (with apologies to the rest of the LQS, but this place really is great). We went to the Goshen area's Calico Point (24856 CR 40 at the intersection with CR 119, 574-862-4065). My sister had never been there and I had promised her a trip. So we packed up the kids and off we went.

Still love that store. Their racks for displaying fabric are neat and uncluttered. They have a lot in any colour you might want. And the prices are great. Plus they're way out in the country so space is not an issue. You know they actually have an empty table out in the store for you to lay your fabrics out on, so you can actually look at what you're getting. Very important when you're trying to buy several fabrics for the same quilt and you want to see how they work together. In any other store, you have to lay them out over bolts of other fabrics and it can be very distracting (and crowded).

Did I mention I love this store?

One more reason I love this store (as if I needed another) is that they are now carrying Kaffe Fassett fabrics: be still, my beating heart! Fassett is a textile artist whose name I have been bumping into everywhere. I've read about his knitting designs, his yarns, and especially his fabrics. He is a man who can't get enough colour. And, hmmm, so am I. (Well, I'm not a man, but you know what I mean.)

And now that I loaded his website, I see that he does rugs too. Oh boy, more to fall in love with!

Anyway, back to my real life, after drooling over the few bright and colourful Fassett fabrics they had, I couldn't leave without this circling red:
I immediately thought that I would have to cut out those circles in big 8 or 10 inch squares and just alternate them with another (plainer) coloured fabric.

But what to use? Red would blend too much; the turquoise would clang too much; and the navy would be too dark. That left me with yellow. And the ever-obliging Fassett had this to offer:
The yellow's a lot brighter in real life. Like edible sunshine.

And so I took it. I can't wait to dive into this quilt. I'm thinking very simple alternating blocks and no borders. When it's done, I'll just have to find a binding fabric. (I like to buy these things as I go so I can get a feel for the quilt, rather than buying everything up front and then assembling it like a kit.) But I'm thinking either navy to "hold it all together" or maybe the turquoise. Of course it'll all depend on what I find at the time.

And now this brings me back to time...when am I going to get this cut out? The good news is, it shouldn't take long at all!

As I was having my fabric cut (3 yds of the yellow, 5 yds of the red), I made sure to make a comment about the Fassett prints so they would remember that people are buying them and liking them. (And then they will hopefully continue to carry them.)

The girl laughed and said she liked them too, but when the store owner saw them she said they were the ugliest fabrics she'd ever seen. But she listened to the opinions of others and said she would carry a few designs to see how they went.

Lucky me because a few yards went with me!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How to Dye Without Spilling a Drop

I haven't been knitting much lately, but tonight I did make some progress on my summer project. The one where I've been knitting cotton squares and am planning to hit them with some bleach.

Then when we were camping I noticed the patterns on my sleeping bag caused by the sun when it was stored in my car all winter. The sleeping bag cover was gathered up at the ends, and so the fabric was only faded on the exposed parts making an interesting radial pattern. I wasn't happy my sleeping bag was so obviously faded, but the pattern was quite pretty. Then the light bulb went off and I realized I could do this with my cotton squares.

I decided to try it with the red square. It's a different size than the rest, so I figure it's a good one to try a unique method that I may not try on the rest.

I thought I could cover parts of the square to keep it from fading and let the rest fade. But what to use? Painter's tape came to mind, especially for the borders. But I was afraid what a long time in the sun would do to the adhesive. Might cook it right onto the cotton and never come off. (Yuck.)

And then I remembered freezer paper which we have a lot of! That should work perfectly!

First, print the clipart I had used as a pattern onto cardstock and cut it out:

2. Trace it onto freezer paper (making sure the waxy side is down)

3. Cut out the shape and four strips for the border

4. Pin the square to shape (not that mine turned out square) and hit it with a steaming iron

5. Place freezer paper where you want it (waxy side down) and hit with a slightly cooler iron

6. The square looked way too flat to me so I decided to throw in some pins to pucker up the background

7. Now we just throw it in the back of the car and let the sun do all the work
And I can keep track of what colour it changes to as we go. Just bring inside when it looks good enough.

I will also be hoping the freezer paper holds up. There is a good possibility the heat from the sun will undo what the heat from the iron did. It may loosen the freezer paper, or let it slide around. Who knows?!

It's all a crap shoot really. The whole project is. I kind of like art where I am not in control. I don't trust myself. And with methods like this, I don't really have to. I just spin the wheel, and then decide if I like the ending when I get there. Where it stops, nobody knows!

May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...