Saturday, July 30, 2016

County Fair Entries in 2016

Today was the day the fair entries were turn in for the open class home arts divisions. I reported at 8 am (!) to receive and organize all the canning entries. That went as well as ever and I think I even improved my system again this year. The judges exclaim how organized I am every year. I can't help but wonder how else you would do it. The entries fit into categories and that's how they're judged. What could not be organized about that? I suspect I don't want to know the answer to that.

Anyway, there is always some slack time sitting at the table so I brought along my nine patches to work on. Usually I bring knitting (naturally) and the other ladies always comment on it. Always a little surprising to me since I would assume the ladies helping in "home arts" actually do home arts and shouldn't be surprised by someone knitting, but whatever. I was able to get three squares done so that felt good. (What doesn't feel good are the tips of my fingers! The left one that guides the needle from the back and is essentially continually pricked and the right one that got pierced by the back of the needle too many times before I started using the thimble. Still waiting for my quilting callouses to develop.)

Here is what I rounded up to enter this year:

1. Knitting-Vest, Adult
This was digging deep, considering that I finished it in 2013. But I had never entered it, so I thought "Why not?"

2. Knitting-Socks
This is a new category at our fair. I finally convinced them that they should drop the "knitted blouse" category and add socks which have been super popular for about 10 years now. I didn't see how many entries they had, but I hope I was proven right! (I think having three pair of socks in the miscellaneous category already did that a year or two ago, but I wouldn't mind being proven again.)

These socks are the ones I started in February and just finished working in the ends during our recent trip. I haven't even had a chance to take a proper photo shoot and get a good picture. Once I get them back from the fair I will feel freer to actually put them on my feet.:)

3. Knitting-Hat and Scarf Set
This is also digging a little deep--back to the 2014 Olympic Games. But I think it's the only set that I still own (i.e. didn't give away as a gift) that hasn't already been entered.

4. Knitting-Any Other Article
I have never written about this project before! (I don't even have a picture of the finished scarf.)

I loved the pattern by Olga Buraya-Kefelian and was fascinated with how she achieved the 3D texture. I just couldn't imagine how it was done.

So I bought the pattern and knit it in a sock yarn I had. Like many things, once I saw how she did it, it became the obvious answer. But I still would never have come up with it on my own.

It was an obsessive knit for me so I finished it rather quickly (which is part of why it didn't even get written about). But after I blocked it, I discovered that I chose the wrong yarn--it's too limp and won't hold the shape. Maybe it's superwash; I don't remember noticing.

Anyway, I have worn it a little as a sleeve wrap by tying together the points at the lower edge on each side. That forms the sleeves and the open part in the middle wraps around your back. But the flat, limp texture always displeased me and I planned to ravel it and try the pattern with a different yarn. But I can enter it in the fair in the meantime.

5. Quilting-Wall Hanging, Appliqued (less than 45")
The landscape quilt I just finished. With the longest side about 20", this is a little smaller than most entries in this category, but I already had a quilt in the "mini" category (see below).

Wait til you hear what the judges had to say about this one....

6. Quilting-Mini Quilts (less than 24")
This is another one that I haven't shown on the blog, except maybe in little bits. I've been posting some of it on Instagram, but I just finished the whole piece.

Last weekend I got it in my head to make a fourth improv nine-patch and put them together into a little quilt.

I used some fabric from a scrap bag I purchased on our UP trip and did "big stitch" quilting on it, which I really enjoyed.

I like experimenting with more improvisational piecing and the big stitch quilting. I hope to do more of it.

7. Quilting-Raffle Quilt Block
It's hard to believe I got this one done with so little drama this year!

There were more pieced blocks entered than I thought there would be so there were many "playmates" for my block.

8. Folk Arts Miscellaneous-Recycling
I entered this purse one year in a knitting category. It did not do well.

I decided it was much better suited to the recycling category and decided it was worth re-entering it (which is allowed).

9. Photography-Seascape, color
This is a sunset shot I took in the UP during my first experiments with my new wide angle lens.

I made the mistake of waiting too long and had to print it on my home printer. It did not come out too well--much too dark and orange (in a bad way).

10. Photography-Landscape, black and white.
This was taken at Fernwood Gardens when I went with my mom and niece on mother's day. I converted it to black and white in Photoshop. I think I need some tutoring in conversion techniques. I'm never very happy with the results and the youtube videos I've tried so far haven't helped.

11. Canning-Green Beans
Troy planted a new variety of "skinny" green beans this year and I knew I would have to try to can them at full length in a pint jar.

I got them packed in tight (very important) and they looked good and even, but they came out a little brown. Or the water looked brown and the cut ends all turned brown. Your food has to look appealing to win at the fair, so we'll see.

12. Canning-Tomato Juice
I made up a special jar of juice while canning last year and put it aside so we wouldn't eat it. I choose a pretty jar and make sure the juice is as strained as I can get it, and the jar is as full as I can get it.

13. Canning-Honey
Since we had pint jars of honey, I decided to enter one. There's one person who always enters honey (sometimes in both categories of "strained" and "with comb") and I thought it would be fun to at least challenge. Well, they didn't enter any this year! So it was just me. Wait until you hear how the results of that one turned out!

So those are all my entries. I'll find out all the results on Monday when I supervise the home arts building. I'll share them with you as soon as I get a chance!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mt Robson Landscape Quilt

I did it! I finished my Mt Robson landscape quilt:
The final size is 20" x 13.5". Large enough to hang on a wall but not so large as to dominate. (If you compare it to standard picture sizes, it's roughly the same as a 20x16, if that helps.)

Making this quilt pushed me in a few new directions. Strictly following a pattern, for one. Not something I do a lot of in quilting. Although I did have to pick my own fabrics since the store was out of kits. I followed the suggestions of the pattern but the lower line of dark green trees coming from the left blends right into the hill of dark green behind it. If I had noticed that, I would have gotten an additional green fabric. But otherwise, I'm pretty happy with the tones and textures of the batiks.

Another thing I've done some of, but not a lot, is free motion quilting--especially on a realistic design. Here is a close up of some of the quilting:
The pattern instructed you to outline each piece with monofilament (or "invisible" thread), but obviously I went my own way. I made rough branch shapes in the trees, the ground is covered in round "pebbles", the water is rippling, the winds in the sky are swirling and in the mountains, I tried to imagine which way the layers of rock were oriented. And I think it was artistic license to imagine the center patch of steele blue was a giant glacier coming down so I quilted it in "flowing" shapes following the design of the fabric.

Here is a picture of the back were you can see all the different quilting lines:
(The triangles at the top corners are for hanging the quilt--you insert a
dowel into each pocket and you're good to go. So it looks like there is
no quilting, but there is.)
You may recall I had a lot of trouble with my machine on this many-layered quilt. It couldn't free motion quilt at regular speeds. So after doing the trees, I did the rest at super slow "clunky" speed. (That's the sound the machine makes when you go that slow, as opposed to a good steady hum.)

It was a new experience to work with the fusible for the applique. Being a bit of a purist, I'm not partial to raw edge applique, but it was certainly the way to go for this quilt. Next time I will definitely look for something much more lightweight. For most of the quilt, you have multiple layers as the scene builds and it is stiff and hard to work with. Being rigid will make it hang nicely, but I think having a quilt that's easy to work with and then layering it with one stiff layer at the end would be a better option.

The pattern called for a border that looked like a traditional frame. I debated different options but decided in the end to just put on a narrow binding. I didn't really want it to be much bigger and didn't think I would be happy with a faux wood frame around the outside. I looked through the stash and found a brown I was happy with for the binding.

I have no idea where the idea came from, but when I went to stitch down the back of the binding I thought of a way to do it so that the stitches are even less visible. I'm going to apologize for not having pictures, but if you've sewn binding I trust this will make sense.

The Evolution of Sewing Down Binding
1. You use a whip stitch and just keep the stitches neat and uniform. This will show a small diagonal thread for each stitch.

2. You modify the whip stitch so that your needle enters the quilt back directly under the spot where the needle came through the binding. This will show a small vertical thread for each stitch. But sometimes the diagonal thread leading to the next stitch shows a little too.

3. This is what I started using on the landscape quilt: a modified hem stitch. You bring the needle from the back of the binding to the front close to the folded edge. * The needle enters the back of the quilt just below the spot on the binding where it came out, moves inside the quilt (between the layers) to the next stitch location and comes out the back of the quilt, just below the binding. The needle picks up a small piece of the binding from the back to the front. Repeat from *.

In this case, the only visible thread is the small piece over the edge of the binding. The rest of the stitch is hidden inside the quilt. It also includes only "straight" stitches--nothing diagonal--so it will not shift or distort.

It's noticeably slower because you can only make one part of the stitch at a time and you can't load multiple stitches onto the needle, but I found it was worth it.

I'm sure I'm not the first to invent or use this stitch, so if it has a name, please let me know!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Block 30: Pie Cherries Block

You saw a preview of this block when I wrote about projects I took on our trip to the UP. I finished it on the drive home.

Here is a clearer view:
Although I didn't cut the background fabric to avoid any of the elephants, I did sew the pieces so that most of them got cut off. But you can see one lone elephant managed to get included. Pretty cute how it's peeping just above the seam.

Here are all the blocks done so far:
The blue is steadily being eaten away and that catches us up to the week that ended July 23.
Here is Kim's block:
The colour tone is a little off in the pictures, but they are the perfect tones for her quilt. Really lovely in person!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Block 29: Farm Fresh Flower Block

After the Baby Chick block comes the Farm Fresh Flower:
Not much to say about this one! (You may notice that I haven't soaked out the blue marking lines yet.)

This block was started and finished at the cottage. I'm not sure it looks too much like a flower, but it certainly looks fresh in these fabrics! It's also kind of fun that the plaid lines almost match up from one piece to the next.

Here are all the blocks done so far:
Here is Kim's block:
We thought it was interesting that we used green and yellow in the same places. I was thinking all of the colour pieces were supposed to be the flower, but maybe the green corners are the leaves coming from behind the petals. If that is the case, good thing we made them green!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Block 28: Baby Chick Block

I gave you a sneak peek at the Baby Chick Block showing some of the embroidery the block required.

Here is the entire block:
Isn't that little heart on the side so cute?

I don't know it's noticeable, but the red of the background fabric bled! Horror! I've started marking all of the seam lines with the blue water-soluable marker and so I give the block a soaking before I start and iron it.

When I went to iron this one, I noticed little red blobs all over the background. I tried washing the area and then I soaked it in diluted vinegar for a while. (I've read vinegar will set colors.) The marks were much better, but I can still see a few.

I used this background fabric in quite a few blocks so I'm going to have to go back and treat and test them before I put them into the quilt. Wouldn't want to wash the whole quilt for the first time and have red spots all over.

Here are all the blocks in a mock layout:
Here is Kim's block:
She cleverly made her chick fabrics match the fabrics of her mama hen block!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

There and Back Again

I don't know if I mentioned that we were going away, but we spent a lovely week on the shore of Lake Superior in Michigan's UP. About 15 of my family was there and we were able to stay in three cottages (and a couple tents) on the same property. My sister was firmly informed by the border guard (coming in from Canada) that they call them cabins up here. Ok, then...

Troy and I had about six hours of driving time and I was looking forward to some prime making time! Now that we have the GPS unit, I am off navigating duties and I can sew, knit and whatever to my heart's delight. Or til my hands give out.

First up was to finish these socks that have been neglected for far too long:
All I had to do was work in the ends. Done. Just last night I gave them a bath and they are now drying on my sock blockers. I made them smaller than usual because I'm tired of having my hand-knit socks be too loose. Of course, then I was worried they would be too tight and scrunch my toes. But they fit the sock blockers (which are just my size) very easily and I am relieved.

I then pulled out the Farm Girl Vintage block for the week and finished up some embroidery that the block needed:
I won't show you the whole block yet. Since I was getting together with Kim, we skipped Skype and revealed them to each other in person. We covered three weeks while we were there so I'll be posting those separately when I can get to it.

And then I also sewed on the binding of my Mt Robson landscape quilt.
Oh, did I not tell you that I finished all the quilting before we left? Yes, I did. And it felt great to get it done. I'm even pretty pleased with the results. I pushed myself so I could then sew on the binding with the machine and have it ready for the hand sewing when I knew I would have all this time available to do it. I also "unvented" a way to sew the binding that's even more invisible, but I'll get to that when I show you the whole quilt.

While I was at the cottage cabin, I continued to work on the Mt Robson quilt. I finished sewing the binding and I worked on burying all the ends.
There were a lot of them! I saw a great method for how to bury them without having to rethread the needle all the time on some quilting show or online video and was glad to put it to use! I couldn't find the original source, but this video on youtube shows the same thing, if you'd like to see. It works just as well on really short ends, which I needed because sometimes I didn't cut long tails as I moved from section to section.

Even with a really great method, it was still a lot of ends to work in! I didn't finish at the Lake but have since finished that task at home. Pushing through those multiple layers of the heavy double adhesive backing used for the applique was not a joy.

When I wanted more fun at the cottage, I worked on some of my red nine patches. Here are a couple sewn and one in progress:
I did not want to do a random layout so I matched nine squares together (sometimes all the same fabric, sometimes not) and then safety pinned them together. Now I have lots and lots and lots of blocks that I can sew together.

I did the math and I need 288 blocks--that's 2,592 individual squares to cut! I have pieces cut and matched up for about half that many blocks.

On the way home, I worked on one of my Farm Girl Vintage blocks. I had finished one more at the cottage and this was the last one I had with me to do.

That accounts for the block that was due the day before we got there, the day after we got back and today. So I'm on schedule and will start the next block next week if I can tear myself away from the nine patches!
Although I had less to stitch on the way home, I made up for it by stopping at three different quilt shops!

I'm intrigued by the Row by Row program that started a few years ago and takes place each summer. Participating quilt shops have a free pattern and a kit you can purchase for a row that is 36" long. The idea is that you can pick them up while you're traveling and assemble them into a quilt because of the uniform length. (They also have very active Facebook groups for each state/province and it's fun to see everyone's quilts.)

Suffice it to say, I mapped each quilt shop on the way and warned Troy to allow for extra time! :) I had planned to catch a few on the way up, but all of them were closed on Sunday. So the way home was it. I was happy to hit three and by then we were bumping up to closing time for most of them. I discovered new quilt shops and a very nice one (pictured above) is right on the route we take. Easy to hit next time!

I have a few Row by Row patterns now and I'm still not sure I'm going to do anything with them. There are a lot of applique designs and I'm not sure I'm up for it. But it was a fun way to collect some souvenirs of the trip.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

New Project: Nine Patch in Reds

I've been reading more quilting blogs that use scraps and taking note of the way they organize their scraps and keep them ready to use.

One thing a lot of people do is cut them to set sizes. That way your pieces are ready to use and manageable and basically you make yourself some precuts.

Recently, I took a bunch of my scraps that weren't in big enough chunks to use for much else and cut them into 1.5", 2" and 2.5" strips. There are lots of patterns to show how to use strips to make all sorts of quilt designs.

And smaller pieces, I cut into 2.5" squares. Here a few leftover from the Nocturne Star quilt (which was made from a lot of leftovers itself):
I've also picked up a few mini charm packs (also known as "candy"):
Mini charms (or "candy") are 2.5" squares.
Charm packs are 5" squares, hence the mini-charm.
They are hard to resist at only $4-$5 each. (I bought the first one (top right) because I thought it might be helpful in my Farm Girl Vintage quilt but I never ended up using it. But once I had one, others were quick to follow.) They give a good variety of fabric, but all from one fabric line so they will coordinate.

In reading some quilting blogs I saw a nine-patch design that piqued my interest. I can't find it now but it was mostly nine-patches with a larger feature block in the top middle of the quilt. The main point is that it got my mind going and I decided finally to do a "red" quilt.

I have been collecting red fabrics (fat quarters and half yard pieces) since I've been buying quilting fabric. It always catches my eye and I find it hard to resist. I've always had in mind to combine it with other colours and either do some type of wash from light to dark or hold the red constant while running the other colours through the rainbow. Anyway, obviously just a general idea right now.

But I decided to start. So I took out my box of red fabrics and went through them all and cut mini-charms from almost all of them:
They are roughly sorted into light, light-medium, medium-dark, and dark piles. I got seven squares from most of the fabrics. Some I cut double that amount depending how much I liked the fabric or if it was a tone that I thought I needed more of. But there are also true scraps in there where I only had enough fabric for one square. I'm still deciding if I will keep matching fabric together as much as possible or if I will mix them all up.

I will be bringing all of these mini-charm squares with me on a trip and we will see how I start to put them together. That will be all hand sewing since I'll be on the road. But I'm sure I'll sew some of them on the machine as well. (It would make a good "leader and ender" project. That's where you sew pieces for a project like this at the beginning and end of your chain piecing of another project.)

My mind is always churning with these ideas. It's nice to try some of them out!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Nocturne Star

I mentioned at the end of May that I had found a fabric line, fallen in love, and started a new quilt.

You can see samplings of the fabric to the right. I saw a couple of the fabrics at my local quilt store and was curious enough about them that I looked at the name of the line on the bolt and actually remembered it.

A few days later I was still thinking about it and Googled the line to see what I could find out. I found out the following:

1. I loved it.
I loved the designs, I loved them as a group, I loved them individually. I loved the colours, the warm grey/cool tan tone and the blues. I loved the limited palette. And I really loved the names. The fabric designs are Moon Phases, Data, Cassiopeia, Orbit, Constellation, Atmosphere, and Galaxy, with colour names (from light to dark) Milky Way, Stellar, Hubble, Armstrong, and Eclipse. (I've always been attracted to space things--the natural things I mean. Not rockets.)

Yes, I was so obsessed, I tracked down all the names from different websites that had various pieces in stock.


2. It was discontinued.
It was hard to find yardage of all of the fabrics but there were still precut packages available. I have been watching all of Jenny Doan's videos (from Missouri Star Quilt Company) and she uses pre-cuts almost exclusively. So although I have never been attracted to a precut package before, I have been getting used to the idea and it was the perfect solution in this case. I found a "layer cake" (10" squares) from a seller on etsy and I had my own pieces of all of the fabrics.

I was over the moon when the package arrived! :)

If you want to see the fabrics a little better and have any curiosity about how a fabric line is developed, I really encourage you to take a minute (or 6, which is how long it is) to watch this video of the designer introducing the line.

I spent some time admiring the fabric but not a lot because I was so eager to start sewing with it. I had an idea to combine the squares with scrappy strip-pieces squares in the same palette to make a bunch of half-square triangles.

With a little more planning and considering, I decided to organize the half square triangles into a big carpenter square star, and that is what I did:
I think it took me less than two weeks to sew together all the strips and then sew them into the half square triangles! I was obsessed.

I put them up on my design wall the first weekend of June. I played with the arrangement and settled on the one above. Since I made two half-square triangle blocks from each pair of plain square and strippy square, I had matching pairs to work with. For each block, you can find its mate "diagonally" across from it.

Some of the fabrics blur the line between what is light, medium and dark, so I converted the picture to black and white to test the values.
Not perfect, but pretty good I decided.

The quilt isn't quite big enough without a border so I started to think about that right away. The first choice was to put an extra ring of "light" blocks around the outside but I didn't have enough light fabric. So I cut strips of all the fabrics I had left (2.5" by 10-12") and will be piecing them end to end. I will sew them on one long strip at a time (staggering the corners), working my way from the light colours next to the quilt to the darkest colours on the outside.

I went from thinking I wouldn't have enough, to getting just enough by dismantling some strippy blocks I made but didn't end up using to buying more that I couldn't resist at the fabric store. It's really hard to get a quilt out of your head--even when you have enough fabric, your eye is still looking for more. So I'll have a little more variety in the borders and may use some on the back. I think I found a fabric for the binding too. I really liked the colours but the pattern didn't work well in the quilt. For a small thin line like the border, it will work perfectly.

Since taking the blocks off the design wall (before they all blew down like before) and cutting all of the border strips, I have put everything away to work on things with deadlines. I'm looking forward to fishing it out again though!

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Shipshewana Quilt Festival

I mentioned that I had a quilt accepted to the Shipshewana Quilt Festival. Troy and I went to the awards ceremony the Tuesday evening before the show started. I wasn't sure what it was, but as an entrant I was admitted for free and I wanted to do the whole shebang since it was my first time.

Turns out they served a little bit of food (fruit, cheese, crackers) and then we sat as they announced the winners. Then we could walk around and see all of the quilts hanging in the show. (That's what I was really hoping for.)

Here I am standing proudly beside my quilt!
 Here is the grand champion quilt:
"On This Winter Day" by Nancy Prince (Orlando FL)
quilted by Linda French
The background cloth was painted and then the details were added with thread painting (see below)
and the buildings looked like they were printed on fabric and then appliqued on in one piece. It was an incredible quilt.

The show had a special exhibit of antique quilts owned by Eleanor Burns (one of the show speakers/teachers). The show took place in a car museum and the antique quilts were displayed on the cars. They complemented each other well.

 Here's a good one for today, being July 4:
I'm glad those setting up the display noticed the sticker on the car and picked an appropriate quilt to go with it.

Following are some of the other quilts in the show. There were so many more that would be worth showing to you, but we did not have time to see everything properly and I didn't have a chance to go back to the show another time.
"It Takes the Case" by Karlyn Bue Lohrenz (Billings MT)

"A Letter Bit of Baaltimore"* by Janet Stone (Overland Park KS)
*Not a typo--she likes sheep.

"Weather the Storm" by Elizabeth Bauman (Lakewood OH)

"Joyous Hope" by Mary Woltjer (Byron Center MI)
quilted by Terri Watson

"A Long Way from Home" by Amy Pabst (Le Roy WV)

"Best Buds" by Darla Parks (Grand Haven MI)

"Icing on the Cake" by Jennifer Rose (Hugo MN)
 This orange one was hanging next to mine:
"Weeping Sun" by Kathy Koch (Middlebury IN)
quilted by Doris Goins
It was a design from a sweater she had knit a couple times and she wanted to see what it would look like as a quilt. So each stitch of the knitting pattern became a small square!
"Bohemian II: Ferris Wheels and Kites" by Sandra Peterson (Muncie IN)

"Family Nucleus" by Dawn Cavanaugh

"Nantuckety Day" by Wendy Coffin (Rye NH)
quilted by Margaret Solomon Gunn

"A Dying Breed" by Patricia Kennedy-Zafred (Murrysville PA)
a tribute to the American family farmer.

"Perseverance" by Linda Neal (McKinney TX)
quilted by Jackie Brown
 Here is a detail of the above quilt:
Those hexies are barely bigger than my thumb nail!
"Crazy for Log Cabins" by Kathy Boxell (Marion IN)

"Red December" by Gail Smith (Barrington IL)
quilted by Angela McCorkle

"Hibiscus" by Pat Sims (Howe IN)

"Jasper and Emerson" by Karen Penrod (Parma MI)
quilted by Doris Goins
It was an interesting experience to enter a show and have my quilt accepted. I'm disappointed that I didn't get to attend to the show and "bask" in it a little more. On the other hand, I've heard it's a very bad idea to hang around your quilt and hear what people say. I'm not sure I could have resisted, so maybe it's a good thing I didn't return!

Mine definitely had one of the simplest constructions and simplest quilting so in that way isn't impressive. (Not made with 10,500+ pieces or 2,000+ hours like some of the winners!) But it sort of fits into the modern movement with its chevron pattern and limited colour palette and sort of with Amish quilts (Shipshe is big Amish territory) with its abstract design. So I thought it might be the right quilt for this time.

I'll close with something Troy and I overhead when we were at the awards night. We walked past two ladies and the one (who I think won a ribbon this year) said to the other, "This show (the Shipshe show) was the very first show I ever entered a quilt in, years ago. I didn't know any better." By then they walked off and we didn't hear anymore but we independently inferred from the remark and how it was said that it was ambitious (or fool-hardy) to start with this show because it's hard to get into. I guess one day I'll be saying that because that is exactly what I did! And no, I didn't know any better either.

May I suggest?

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