Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Where Have all the Elephants Gone?

I went looking for some information about my blue and white elephant quilt on this blog, and you know what I found? No final post! Well, I can tell you it is finished. You probably knew that.

But just to wrap things up, let me give you the whirlwind tour.

The quilt started as these chicken scratches.
Scratch that. The quilt started as a shower curtain! A gift from my sister--a nice fabric shower curtain with four bold rows of plodding elephants and mandala-type designs.

As soon as I saw it, I knew I would make a quilt from it one day! :) When I saw a call for blue and white quilts for an exhibition by Quilts, Inc, I thought I'd give it a try.

I drafted a 100% scale drawing of the center, interpreting elements from the mandala designs.
I used it to make paper parts for all of the rings. The center was pieced with English paper piecing and then I used reverse applique to apply the outer white ring.
I made the next ring with foundation paper piecing
and again used reverse applique to attach it to the center.

Next was some more foundation paper piecing to make a ring of triangles.
I wanted interlocking triangles with some pointing in and some pointing out. I couldn't do it with only foundation paper piecing, so once this step was done, I appliqued the remaining triangles on top.
Then, you guessed it, used reverse applique to apply this ring to the center.
Next up, a ring of hourglass shapes. I made this ring with English paper piecing because the curves were easier to handle that way.
 Since all the edges were set up for hand piecing already, that is how I attached it to the center.
Next was a lot of foundation paper piecing to make a ring of even narrower strips.
This is where I discovered that my printer did not default to 100% scale when copying. My ring ended up too large, but I was able to use what I had by removing a small section. More hand stitching to attach it to the center.

Then I reverse appliqued the center circle to a square of dark blue and bordered that with a narrow white strip.
So that was the center 20"x20" (or so) section of the quilt done!

The next round was more foundation paper piecing. First I did it wrong:
Then I fixed it:
After I added that to the center square I adding some white triangles to all four sides so that it was now "on point" and finally was able to add the rows of elephants that started it all!
It hung like that in my bedroom for a long time while I decided what to do with the corners. I drew several full-size designs--colored them even--to audition and finally settled on this:
I was hoping it would look like layered squares behind the center, but I'm not sure that came through.

You may have noticed the corners weren't big enough...you are right. They needed a border sewn to the outside:
with white cornerstones. One of the mandalas from the shower curtain was reverse appliqued in the middle. You can see how the center design was taken from this.
Sew the corners onto the center, and I was getting really close to a quilt top!
But one more border was called for. I cut and pieced lots and lots of blue and white rectangles. Then I organized them from lightest to darkest.
(I really can't help myself! But seriously, you can see that the rows of elephants are not the same: there are four different shades of the blue. So I made the outer border reflect the transition from light to dark.)

I bordered the strips with white on each side and sewed them on.
The corners were curved and I sewed the striped part with foundation paper piecing.

So a quilt top done.

Then the quilting. The entire quilt was done with free motion quilting on my domestic machine.

From the center:
I outlined the center cross and circle, the wedges, and the triangles and filled in open areas with free-form circles.

I outlined the curved wedges and the narrow strips and filled in the blue corners with an echoed teardrop shape.
I filled in between the larger triangles with more circles.
And I drew a detailed rising sun design in the blank white areas. Here's a closer view:
Again, I took elements from the center--like triangles and wedges--for the quilting design. A few areas are very dense, but in general I kept the quilting pretty loose so that the quilt would not become stiff.

I was really unsure how to quilt around the elephants and ended up outlining the elephants and doing an echoing squiggle around them. I outlined a little of the shape inside the elephant like the ears, eye, and shape of the back leg.
I did another rising sun in the center part of the triangle area. I does not show up well against the different fabric colours.
The center section was done in a double wishbone and I  put dot-to-dot quilting in the outside row.
I decided to go with quilted stripes in the blue border, with circles that echo the circle in the cornerstones.
The first time I did the cornerstones, I repeated a three-petal shape also featured in the center of the rising suns.
But I didn't like it. So I took it out, and did it again,
making it continuous with what was going on in the blue border:
I put the binding on next before I quilted the last border. This made it much easier to quilt right up to the binding, or at least not go under the binding area. I outlined the blue shapes and filled the white with more circles.
Instead of sewing full circles (which forces you to sew half of each circle twice to move to the next circle), I sewed one pass with a scallop pointing up, and then a second pass of scallops pointing down. When the "points" of the scallops meet, you get a circle! (You could also do two sine waves, one starting with an up curve and the other with a down curve, but I was worried I would flatten the curve too much.)

Once that was done, I could sew the binding down on the back.
And here it is!
The deadline for the exhibition really forced the completion of this one. I did get the application submitted on time, but the quilt was not accepted.

Last week I saw that the Holland Tulip Festival quilt show had open applications that were due that week. I quick got an application together and mailed it--the only way you could submit--only to find out that the festival is cancelled. (Naturally; but remember last week it wasn't so obvious as it is this week.) You may recall that I did enter it in the county fair last year and it won "People's Choice"! :)
Of course, it doesn't really matter because I really love this quilt. Even if it is on the spare bed because I am scared to use it in case I spoil all that pristine white!!

What an adventure that was. A lot of creative energy expended on figuring out what I wanted and then figuring out how to get it. And then figuring out quilting designs and figuring out how to do that too! My free-motion quilting is not great, but I am happy to have achieved this. If only I remembered while I was sewing that slowing down is going to get a better result every time!

Project Summary
Started: July 22, 2018
Finished: February 2019
Size: 92"x92"
Wool batting.
Free-motion quilted on my domestic machine.
All blog posts about this quilt: link

May 2020, shared on:
Show Me Something Blue linkup

Monday, March 23, 2020

Prayer Flags Wall Hanging

Here is the story of a wall hanging with a slow start and a fast finish.

Last May, I finished the top of this quilt:
and had lots of left over blocks. At some point I thought I had enough to do a second quilt, but it wasn't quite that many. I don't remember deciding to make that many extra, but in any case, it made easier to pull colours that I wanted for the rainbow ombre effect.

But then I had all these extra blocks:
Some were pieced in pairs (left) and some in fours (right). I rejected the idea to make the same pattern, so I knew I would have to take these apart at some point.

In October, I sat down and did it. Separated all the units from each other
and then trimmed them all to a uniform size. They were supposed to be 5" squares, but I knew a lot of them were small. Not wanting to work to make things fit, I trimmed them all to 4.75".

Then they sat in the box for a while.

I mentioned in my post about the family crafting retreat in February (remember when you could travel and meet in groups??) that I brought the blocks and laid out two different designs:

I gave up on the idea of making a full-sized quilt because there weren't enough blocks to make a top and I wasn't interested in figuring out what to add to make it big enough. So I thought I could use these for a couple smaller pieces. They are a good size for baby blankets, actually, but I don't know of many who want a black quilt for their baby. So wall hangings it was!

At the retreat, I sewed together the top of the first design (no pictures). I had had an idea of where I might be able to use this wall hanging so I was motivated to get it done. Less than a week after getting home, I had made a back from more of these black scraps by piecing 7x14" rectangles into squares and piecing them together. (Same thing I did for the big quilt.)
Once the back was ready, I could layer it with some scrap batting and baste it.

But all my safety pins were in the quilt I basted at the retreat. Like all of them.

So I pinned it with straight pins!
It was a small quilt and I was going to be stitching it right away in a simple design so it worked out. I quilted wavy vertical lines in black thread. First I did lines between the pins. Then I could take the pins out and do the lines where the pins were.

Then I kept adding lines evenly across the quilt until I thought it was enough. Then I loaded some rainbow thread (same thread I used for the elephant quilt I finished recently) and made some rainbow lines.
I was worried about how it was going to look, so I only sewed about six lines across the quilt. I decided it could use more, so I sewed another six lines spread out over the quilt. I did that a few more times, and every time I added another set of lines I worried it would be too much! But in the end, I think I stopped before it was.

I don't even really remember this, but apparently at the time it was a big enough deal to take a picture. This is what we call winning at bobbin chicken:
See that half inch tail of thread? That's all that was left after the seam was done. Perfect!

I bound the quilt in more of the black fabric and added a hanging sleeve on the back.
Looks like I need to add some pockets on the bottom and put in a dowel to keep the edge straight!

Here's a close up of the quilting while it is hanging:
I do really like the pops of colour.

And here it is hanging in the room I was thinking of:
I had been revamping our prayer room at church. It was four walls of painted cinder blocks and nothing else. The shelves only held books and a lot of tarnished and wax-covered brass candle holders. So I cleaned all the candle holders, made some storage on the left (behind the bit of curtain you can see), and lined the one wall with fabric (behind the shelves) to warm up the room.

Then I filled the shelves with more inspirational pieces, including a cross specially made for this room by a friend at church, and a couple of (fake) plants which make a big difference too. (They must look good because I've had more than one person ask me how they're going to survive in a room with no light!)

And I knew it needed some quilts on the walls to soften the space.

I worried this quilt was too "black" and dark for a prayer room, but my sister and cousin at the retreat reassured me that it would work.

After it was up, a friend said that all the coloured bits arranged like they were reminded her of the Tibetan prayer flags that are hung on a line and blow in the wind. And that's where the wall hanging got its name.

Project Summary: Prayer Flags Wall Hanging
Started: February 14, 2020
Finished: February 22, 2020 (or so)
Size: 34"x38"
Made from parts leftover from another quilt.
Cotton batting.
Quilted with wavy vertical lines done with a walking foot on my domestic machine.
Binding is hand stitched.
Last week I submitted this quilt to the Holland Tulip Festival quilt show, rushing to mail my application at the last minute. Only to be informed that the show had been cancelled. Of course. She is keeping the applications for next year, so no rushing in 2021--I am a year early!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

1, 2, 3 Quilted Postcards

As promised, here is a post about some quilted postcards I made recently.

Last August, shortly after seeing a video about quilted postcards, I contacted my quilting cousins/sister to see if they wanted to do an exchange at our retreat in February. They liked the idea, so it was set.

Then I forgot about it! At Christmas my sister asked me a question about the project and had to remind of it. (What a terrible exchange host I am!)

Less than a week after getting home from that Christmas visit, I started my first card.
I took a piece of white cotton and laid some strips on it, covering the entire surface--one overlapping the next, raw edges showing. Once I had it covered how I wanted, I sewed along any raw edge that was showing. I just used black thread for all of it, but you could make it more complicated and match thread if you wanted.

Then I had the idea to lay some tulle over it. (I just happen to have a roll of it.)
I cut the tulle a little larger than needed, spread it out over the surface, and sewed it down around the edges.

But, before I sewed down the last side,
I threw in some tiny fabric pieces I had cut up. I wanted them trapped under the tulle but loose and free to move around.
Next I added a few more strips on top of the tulle. First I put on some very thin strips, so thin they just needed one line of stitching and I could bend and curve them as I went. You can see a little bit of the centre blue one and the black on the right, and a tiny bit of the yellow on the bottom.
That step turned out not to have a big impact, because most of it was covered up when I decided to put some big "trees" in the foreground. To do that I added the strips of brown and sewed a wood grain pattern on it.

I finished it by attaching strips of black for the border (also raw edge) and appliquing a couple fussy cut flowers. The edges were finished with two rounds of zig zag stitch.
The last step was to add the paper card to the back. I used a 4x6 index card and sewed it on the machine from the front along the inside edge of the zig zag edging.
(The little gap you see is where I didn't sew over the pink flower.)

So that was a fun little project I finished in a day. I pinned it up on my board with plenty of time to finish the other two.

At the end of the month, my sister came to visit and, of course, I showed her the card. (I'm a big believer in show and tell on both sides of the interaction!)

She loved it. Maybe she was being polite the first time, but about the third time she picked it up again and said how much she loved it, I was taking note.

It so happens her birthday was the following week, so after she left, I mailed it to her as a birthday card! We had debated how well a quilted postcard would make it through the mail, and I put it to the test. It did just fine. She was very pleased:
Now it would seem I was down one postcard, but one cousin dropped out of the exchange. Not the best outcome, but convenient for me nonetheless! So there were still two to go.

One of the piles of fabric and stuff lying on my sewing machine table was various extra honeycombs I had cut for my Lucy Boston quilt, but not used. Most of them were from the gradient block I did. I went through all my fabric at the time and instead of pulling some out and having to put it all away again, I just cut a honeycomb from any fabric that might work. This gave me lots to choose from.

[too long; didn't read: I had lots of extra honeycombs.]

I decided to put them together in a random but pleasing sort of way to cover the surface of the card. I hand stitched them together and then decided to hand quilt as well.
I used the same color floss for all of them. Unlike the last postcard, I actually did use some batting in this one. I used a solid white for the backing.

Once it was stitched and quilted, I trimmed the edges straight. This little quilt did not want a zig zag edge, but called for a hand-stitched blanket stitch.
So that is what I did.
And now the final card. Like a third child, this poor postcard has no in-progress pictures! So here is the final result:
I did the letters with the improve method in Tonya Ricucci's book Word Play Quilts. I chose to make all of the letters from red fabric, but the word is subtle enough you have to look for it. I added the strip of people across the top because, well first because they're cute, but also to make the proportions work better.

I put batting in this one too and did straight line quilting mostly along the vertical lines of the letters and then some in between to even out the spacing. I didn't quilt over any part of the letters.

Neither of these fit the index cards I had, so I cut a back for each of them from a piece of white card stock. I sewed the paper onto the Hello card with no problem--once again using a straight stitch on the inside edge of the zig zag edging.

I did the same thing with the honeycomb card and it didn't not come out at all. That was the end of the day and I left it. By that time it was getting close to retreat time and didn't have a chance to do more than pull out the bad stitches.

With some embarrassment but hoping for some understanding, I gave the card to my cousin with promises to finish it before the weekend was done.

I was a little flummoxed as to what to do. I didn't trust just running it through the sewing machine again. The paper was perforated around the edge from the first stitching and sewing over it again may just separate the paper along the stitching line. I also didn't like how the perforations looked but I didn't want to use a new piece because I had done a little lettering design on it.

I finally hit on the idea of trimming the paper a little smaller, which would cut off most of the perforated part, and then sewing it by hand. I made holes with a needle along the edge of a ruler every quarter inch and then used the holes for some more blanket stitch.
Here is a peak at the lettering:
I did it on the other card as well, but no picture, because, you know, third child.

Here are all the cards we made and exchanged:
The ones gifted to me are the ones on the bottom of each "column". Lucky me!!

May I suggest?

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