Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hand Quilting

Having no knitting on the go, but wanting something that was "easy on the brain" after a long, intense day at work, I have pulled out the Kentucky quilt I was hand quilting. (But you know, hadn't work on in so long it was more like I was not hand quilting it.)

I got stuck when I timed it and realized it takes me two hours to do one flower. That means it's unlikely I could ever do more than one in an evening. That is a lot of time before this is done. But not wanting to just chuck it, I kept it around. And now I am working on it again. Everything has a season.

Because even if something takes a long time to finish, if you keep at it you at least have a chance of finishing it. If you never work on it, you're right--it's never going to get finished.

I had been trying to get away without pinning the layers because they are already basted by the buttons I had applied to the quilt in its previous life as a duvet cover. But I was starting to run into problems with the backing shifting around. So now I pin around each flower as I get to it. Safety pins so I won't stab myself repeatedly.
I put a pin in around each outside edge and then pin inside each petal of the flower from the backside so my thread won't got caught on the pins all the time. Seems to be working.

Another thing I've learned is to start the block next to an unquilted block so I don't have to cut my thread in between and can quilt continuously from one to the next.
You can start at any point where the two blocks touch; in the case above, I've started where the arrow is pointing. It only works for two blocks in a row, but that is still more than just doing one block at a time.

In previous stints of working on this quilt, I have avoided the blocks that needed to be repaired. A couple of the fabrics are quite thin and didn't stand up to the use. In this block you can see that I stitched up both horizontal seams in the pictures:
They were fraying horribly, but I just resewed the seam overlapping one fabric with the other. It's not exactly an invisible repair, but I think as you get a little further away, you will agree that it's not noticeable:
As soon as I repaired it, I quilted the block so that the fabric would have the support that it needs. I hope it will last for a while now.

There are still other blocks that I think I will have to replace the fabric. This one is frayed so badly in so many spots that I don't think I can save it:
I added the pins for support while I'm working on the rest of the quilt. But whole seams have frayed away:
and I don't think there's enough left for me to put it back together. I have some fabric someone gave me that they had had for years and I'm thinking some of that might match the "vintage" of these fabrics.

But there are others like this one:
that just need a little TLC and then I think they'll be fine.

I've been working from one corner of the quilt. I didn't want to jump around the quilt, and this helps me stay focused. (And prevents missing a block, which would be easy to do!) I'm in the middle of block #14. My recollection says there are 64 flowers. I don't want to recount now because whatever the exact number is, I still have a long way to go. But 14 is a lot better than the 5(?) or so that I had before I started stitching again. And don't remind me that once the flowers are done, I'll have to stitch all the connecting triangles and then the border blocks. I'll face that when I get there!

I've been enjoying the stitching. I enjoy many of the fabrics in the flowers so that makes it a pleasure to work on them. Many of them are not so lovely (and some are thick and hard to stitch through on top of that) but I am motivated to get those done too so I can move on to one I like more. It's all good.

And with this snap of cooler weather that's come upon us, I'm happy to have a quilt over my lap as I work!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Star Light, Diamonds Bright

My quilting mojo has been in overdrive lately. I'm not sure which came first--the mojo or finishing my orange and grey zig zag quilt in such a short time frame, but I'm sure they're related.

Since then, I have also sorted through and organized all my fabrics. I donated a full (tall kitchen-sized) garbage bag of fabrics I would be happy not to see again. (Perfectly fine, but I am "done" with them.) A lot of them were garment fabrics which I am just not sewing these days (or years).

I now have the fabrics sorted in boxes. (I use paper boxes from work. They're free, have lids, and come in a uniform size.) One for just my reds. One day I'll do a scrappy red quilt. One for upholstery-type fabrics. One for quilting cottons and one for scraps. I just roughly sorted them in "fat quarter" sized or smaller sized. The smaller pieces I put into ziplock bags to keep them from falling all over. One day (maybe soon) I'll do a quilt from the scraps too.

Anyway, I didn't have as much as I thought I might and it felt great to sort through it, organize it (a lot of new acquisitions had been loose on the shelves waiting for a box to go into) and put it away.

But part of the same movement was to consider some projects I had in the planning stages. You may recall that a couple years ago I went crazy buying bright bright batiks and other fabrics when I visited my mother-in-law. I had a a project in mind from the start, based on this great quilt from Wanda at Exuberant Color. It's a Kaffe Fassett pattern from his book Simple Shapes: Spectacular Quilts.

Bolstered by my success in finishing the zig zag quilt, and maybe reacting to my long work hours, I pulled out the fabrics and got started.

First I sorted them into eight "darks" and eight "lights":
There are a couple that could fit into either category depending on what you paired it with, but I put them in one pile or the other anyway. I was emboldened to break some quilting rules by Kaffe's comment in his book, "Although the border strips on this quilt are either lighter or darker than the diamonds inside them, the contrast of lightness and darkness is not very great. Likewise, there are alternate rows of lighter diamonds and darker diamonds, but the feel of richness is achieved by keeping the tones fairly close together."

I have more contrast in my fabrics than he did, but I was buoyed by a general feeling of "it's all good". Likewise, Kaffe's quilt does not use the same fabrics for the diamonds and diamond borders, but I didn't have enough variety to follow suit. So I cut diamonds from each of the fabrics and then cut strips for the borders from the same fabrics.

It looked like one selvage-to-selvage strips was meant to border one diamond, but it wasn't explicitly stated so I did one trial block:
I got the block bordered and had a couple inches left over. That let me know that I had enough. I didn't have to "squeeze" out as much as I could from the strip, but there wasn't a lot of room for error.

I assembled all the dark diamond/light border blocks first. I did them all by "chain piecing" one block after another.
First I put the first border side on all of them. Ironed and trimmed. Then proceeded to the next side, and so on.
It was the perfect sort of sewing for the end of the day when my brain was pretty fried. In no time, I had all the dark diamonds done and then the light diamonds not long after.

This morning I hung a flannel sheet on the new drywall in our bedroom and started placing blocks.
Here is a close up of some of the fabric combinations.
And here is a full view. I have not spent any time rearranging. I like it, but it doesn't knock my socks off. Maybe I have too much contrast? I don't know, but on the other hand it is exactly what I had wanted from the beginning and I do like it.
I changed one photo to black and white so I could judge contrast better.
I'm not sure if I'll move blocks around to spread out the "dark" spots. One thing I notice is a lot of "grey" areas and I'm happy about that. I think it means I got enough of the tones fairly close together, following Kaffe's original design.

The flannel wasn't super sticky, so I'm a little concerned that there will be a lot of pieces on the floor when I go back upstairs, but I haven't invested a lot of time in the arrangement so I think I can handle it.

This will be another exercise in diagonal rows when I piece the blocks together. I managed the zig zag quilt by laying it out on the bed at regular intervals. I'm sure I'll have to do the same with this one.

ETA: What greeted me when I walked up the stairs an hour later:

Two good things to remember: I took a picture, and I wasn't overly invested in what was there. But I am sad that my design wall solution isn't going to be an actual "solution".

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Cass County Fair Quilts 2015

Here is a parade of the quilts that were entered in the county fair. There were fewer than most years but I think the average quality was higher. It also meant none of them had to be folded over racks; they could all be hung and seen in their entirety. That's a pretty big silver lining!

Let me take you for a virtual walk around the building...(PS If you click on any picture, you should get a larger version you can look at more closely.)

I believe this is a Farmers Wife Sampler quilt (read more here). One hundred and eleven 6" blocks!
I'm not too crazy about the colours, but I love the look of the 6" sampler blocks. You know that was a crazy lot of work.

In the following quilt, the darker fabrics in the blocks were wildlife scenes (deer and such) fussy cut to fit the squares. I thought this layout was a nice way to use a "feature fabric".
 A sunbonnet Sue:
I really like the skating one (top left). I know she's cutesy, but I'm coming to like Sue, and especially in these quilts where she's doing different things on each block.

Beach theme--a lot of applique here.
A clever turtle. From overhearing people walk by, I believe this was done by a boy (maybe up to teenaged).
Nice colours in this one:
I always like those arrangements that use straight edges but trick your eye into seeing a circle.

A lovely arrangement of leaf blocks. I really appreciate the added time taken to make a "piano key" border.

The following was a lovely quilt to look at. The colours were fresh and bright (30's prints) and the work was exquisite. I'm assuming it got second to the grand champion because I don't know how else it could be second!
Some wall hangings:
The leaf bouquet in the lower left was really nice.

On point checkerboard:
At first I wasn't crazy about this one, but as I stared at it across the room on Monday night, it grew on me.
The individual piece size may be a little large for the size of the final piece, but I think from further away, that is neutralized. It was something that had to be appreciated with a wider view. (So if you don't like it, sit further back from your computer and see if that helps!)
I missed the one that was displayed on the bed. It was a nice one, too, so I'm sorry.

I hope you have enjoyed this little quilt tour. Quite a talented county that takes their quilting pretty seriously! :)

Friday, August 7, 2015

2015 County Fair Raffle Quilt

The 2015 theme for the raffle quilt was "Up North". There was a wide variety of blocks this year:
The largest majority fell into the broad range of camping or "woodsy" (think bears and moose) and then there were a couple snow or ski blocks and a couple based on actual places in northern Michigan.

Here are the top six:
The bridge block (top right with red ribbon) was close to what I was first imagining doing. But I knew I couldn't pull it off without more time and effort than I was willing to give. But I'm glad someone did it! (And I'm not sure it would have been good to have two.) For those not in Michigan, it is the Macinac bridge in northern Michigan.

A lot of people were surprised the bridge block didn't win. Apparently the judges didn't like that the trees on the right of the block were too large in proportion to the bridge and the rest of the scene. I guess that's true once it's pointed out, but considering the first place block is a collection of scenes and not all of the items there are proportional to each other, it seems a little unfair.

Apparently we had new quilting judges this year. One of them in particular came very highly recommended for her quilting knowledge and a local expert quilter who was helping the judges (like I do in canning) said she learned a lot from just hearing her talk about the quilts. Now I'm hoping that if she returns next year, I'll be able to stick around and just listen in.

Here (again) are the six pillows, sort of a group of "also rans":
Mine is on the bottom left. I put the superintendent on the spot and asked if she remembered a specific reason mine wasn't on the quilt, but she couldn't remember. Some of these didn't use all of the right fabrics or their borders were unequal. Stuff like that.

My only serious question about the judging this year is how the square in the bottom right of the quilt made it into the quilt. It is a nice enough pattern (maple leaves) and done well enough, but the two additional fabrics they chose are the dominant colours and don't blend well with the main colours. (I don't know if you can see it in the picture above, but they are quite a jarring orange/brown and light/bright green.) But whatever...

There were three blocks that didn't make it into the quilt or pillows.
That was me last year. I know one of them didn't use all of the fabrics. I think one was sewn onto a stiff backing (strictly against the instructions). The one on the left was done from a picture of Tahquamenon falls (in the UP). It was well done from the picture, but I think the general feeling was that without the source picture, it was hard to know what it was. We don't think of falling water as brown.

Here is a picture of the completed quilt from last year's blocks (based on the underground railroad quilt):
The raffle winner gets to choose the colours for the sashing and borders. Every year it is great to see the transformation from loose blocks to assembled quilt.

And for next year? The theme is "Farmers Market" and here is a shot of the fabrics:

I'm very happy to see some brighter tones in there. (They got the message that we have had dark tones for far too many years.) And they chose four different fruit or vegetable fabrics in different dominant colours. So whereas I got a yellow corn fabric, other kits included a blueberry, a red (strawberry or cherry--I'm not sure) and a green (beans?). I think this will add a great variety to the blocks. Not only dominant colours differences but also different design ideas since you may not display cherries the same as corn, for instance.

The raffle winner for this year's quilt is pulled on Saturday night and I'll let you know if I win! :)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Fair Results 2015

Without further ado, here are the results:

1. Sweater (adult): 3rd place
Out of three sweaters. The other two were nice though so no cause for insult there.

2. Vest (adult): 1st place
It beat out the yellow shell sitting right beside it. I thought the shell was pretty so I guess I win some, I lose some.

3. Pullover sweater (child): 1st place
Pictured above. It was the only child's pullover, (There was one child's cardigan, so I guess we both picked right.)

4. Hat and mitten set: 1st place
It beat out a hat and short cowl and an exquisite lace scarf that was paired with a garter. (Being in the wrong category, it didn't get any ribbon. Too bad really.)

5. Item from handspun: 1st place
Picture above. I'm sure it was the only item in the category as well, but they don't have to award ribbons...

6. Any other knitted item: 3rd place
Socks got first in this category this year. I never did find what got second. There was an arm-knit blanket though. I was wondering if any would make it into the fair this year. No ribbons for that one. (BTW, I think I have suggested it enough that the powers that be are considering my idea of adding a sock category and getting rid of the knitted blouse category. When I made her think about it, she couldn't even really imagine what a knitted blouse would be. Time for that category to go.)

7. Quilt-twin size-machine pieced-machine quilted: 1st place!
I'll put an exclamation point after that one. There were at  least three in this category. When I first walked into the building, I looked around the top of all the walls to survey the quilts hanging up--mine wasn't there. :disappoinment: But then I saw it hanging behind the afghans. Yeah!

8. Raffle quilt block: not on the quilt (top 20) but made into a pillow. (#4, so I think that means I placed 24th)
Mine is the bottom left
But not on the "reject wall" so that is better than last year.

If you want to put in a bid, let me know and I'll see if I can submit it for you. (The pillows are sold on a silent auction basis. The money all supports the Home Arts building and projects.)

9. Canning-tomato juice: 1st place!
My jar is on the third shelf just right of centre, if you care to look for it. I thought this way you could get an idea of how the canning is displayed.

I was so busy managing the jars and helping the judges that I didn't notice I got first until I recorded the results in the book!! They did notice the seeds I was worried about, but there were problems with the other jars too.

10. Photograph b/w-animal: no place
Once again my picture was turned sideways, but I straightened her out later in the night. I think a picture of a butterfly won this category. Is a butterfly an "animal"? Of course third place looks to be a picture of a bird, and there is a separate bird category. Sloppy.

10. Photograph colour-animal: no place
It looks like my picture got grand champion, but actually it got nothing. I think it also lost to a butterfly. :shrugs:

I left the fair grounds on Saturday a little dejected because I could already tell that my quilt block wasn't on the quilt. But writing up a summary like this, it's starting to feel like I did pretty well. I remember last year a good percentage of my ribbons were in photography and not craft. It looks like I turned that on its head this year. :)

And now it's time for bed. I managed to stay awake to write this (I knew you were waiting to find out) but now I've got to sleep...

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fair Entries 2015

Once again, I got myself to the fair grounds by 8 (am) and managed the canning entries. I check them in, organize them for the judges and then record the results.

Then I turn all the tags over and attach the ribbons so they are ready for display. I left a little after 3 this year.

I also managed to enter a few things myself.

Here is the list of what I am submitting for judgment:

1. Pullover sweater (adult): Ombre Yarneater
This sweater was looking quite worn (since I wore it) so I decided to shave off the pills. I had the thought that I should be able to use hair clippers to cut the pills off. So I tried it. Well, it's very effective. But if you catch the threads, you can easily cut them...or four of them. It was worst where the yarn got really thin in the "thick and thin" sections.

So I cut the yarn in one sleeve in four places. I decided not to have a meltdown because the sweater is made up of so many different yarns already. I pulled out the bag that had leftover yarns from this project and was pleasantly surprised to see that I still had extra of the yarn that was cut. It still wouldn't match exactly because the yarn colour and thickness changes so much, there would be no way to find a piece that was the same as the section that was cut. But again, since everything varied all the time, you didn't notice.

I essentially duplicate stitched from a few stitches to the right of the cut, past the cut and then a few stitches to the left. After I block the whole sweater again, I couldn't even find the spots unless I looked for the ends on the back side. So hopefully it will not catch the judge's attention. :)

2. Vest (adult)

I knit this for Troy either back in our engagement or early marriage days. I think it was always a little small on him. He liked it but did not wear it often.

When I pulled it out of "deep storage" to wash and block it for the fair I noticed that it biased terribly. Even though the fabric is knit straight, it wants to distort diagonally. So one bottom corner of the back, for instance, was way lower than the other. I believe this can sometimes happen with yarn that is unbalanced. (You can read more about it here on TECHknitter's great blog.)
Includes fake pockets and everything! :)
For now, I blocked it to try and get it to straighten out. I think the long term solution will be to ravel the garment and reuse the yarn.
3. Pullover sweater (child): Wool-Aid Sweater

4. Hat and mitten set: Dwindling cables set
Of course, they really are the same colour.
Ok, I spent about two hours Friday night looking for these mittens. They were not with the hat and they were no where to be found. I had convinced myself that they fell off of the shelf and into the garbage can that sits below and had been thrown out. I was devastated and bummed. Not only did it take me about two years to finish them but I hadn't even gotten to wear them yet! No, actually the worst part was that I finished them for the fair and now I couldn't enter them.

But I kept looking. In ridiculous places. In the same places. And eventually I found them in a plastic bag with something completely unrelated. I think I did that when we blew insulation in the attic. So the mittens were dust-free, but almost lost "forever."

5. Any item from handspun yarn: Etoile Hat
6. Any other knitted article: Pennant Skirt
Obviously a picture from before it was finished. After blocking it hangs just how I was hoping...looking like nice regular pleats. I finished the knitting in late June but just put in the elastic and closed up the casing this week. (Once again the fair deadline gets things done!)

7. Quilt--twin size, machine quilted: Orange and Grey Zig Zag Quilt
8. Raffle quilt block: Bear Paws with a surprise
 Ok, I did promise you a surprise on my quilt block.
I had the idea to applique a bear onto the block. My first idea was to use the dark brown (a little more suitable for a black bear) and put it right in the centre, but the dark colour wouldn't show up against the blue and green. So after trying out other browns in my stash, I came back to the golden tan colour already in the quilt. Troy convinced me that having it off-centre would be good and I came to agree with him.
I found a bear silhouette that I liked online, printed it the size I wanted, and then traced it onto the fabric. I sewed it on with traditional needle turn applique. All done with very little drama this year!

Oh, and I used a lot of starch on this piece both before cutting and piecing and after it was finished, and it feels great. Let's hope the judges agree.

9. Tomato Juice
No picture here, but I did one nice bottle of tomato juice last summer and saved it for the fair. But there are a few seeds so I think they will mark me down for that. It will depend what the competition is. (I have at least been shaking it so it's not separated.)

10. Photograph - black and white: animal
11. Photograph - colour: animal
They changed the rule this year and you can only enter one picture into each section (black and white or colour) instead of each class (subdivisions of sections). So that will be a lot fewer entries this year. If I were worried about ribbons, I would enter in the classes that get a lot fewer entries ("abstract" or "digitally manipulated") but I decided to go with my favourite pictures instead.

And that's everything this year. I'll let you know next week how I did!!

May I suggest?

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