Thursday, September 9, 2021

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

In July it seemed that I would finally be able to travel across the border to see my family in Canada and my good friend (and cousin) welcomed her first grandbaby to the family! Well, that made me think a quilt was in order. But could I get it done on time?

It seemed to me the quickest way to get a quilt done was to finish one that was already started. Remember all these fishies?
I saw the Shoal Sewalong on Instagram and had to join in. I made a bunch of blocks and then put them away. I had my doubts because these fish blocks didn't exactly scream "baby quilt" but decided to go with it.
All along I had hoped to do a sort of colour shift or ombre arrangement in the background. I didn't have the variety of blocks I would have liked, but I worked with what I had. I stitched fish together with spacer pieces; stitched rows to rows; and added some spacer rows when the angle of the fish from one corner didn't match the angle from the opposite corner. Everything was joined with improv curves.
When it became apparent that the center portion was not going to be big enough, I looked around for a border fabric and found this perfect blue/green. It's a good sort of "sea" colour and I thought it softened up all the greys and bright colours of the fish. It was already in long strips because it was trimmings from the back of another quilt. (And I had a piece of the coordinating fabric from the back of the same quilt that was exactly big enough to be the back of this quilt. Love it when it works out.)

I didn't get the fish all lined up properly to be able to cut straight lines around the center section, so I did improv curves to add the borders as well. You can see how that led to a friendly quilt--that is, wavy borders. I was going to just "quilt it out" and live with what I got, but I decided to sew small tucks (or really narrow darts) to take out some of the extra. I think I did two on the sides and one on the top. It didn't take much, but it worked pretty well.

I started to think maybe I could get this done!

I got the quilt layers basted together and then it was time for quilting. I pulled out every blue and grey I thought might work.
I ended up picking one for the top and a slightly different blue for the bobbin that matched the backing fabric. I tried to do some lines in a metallic blue for some extra shimmer, but the thread would not cooperate and I gave up on that pretty quickly.

I first did some anchor quilting by free motion stitching around each fish.
Then I marked some waves with my hera marker, put on my walking foot and stitched across the quilt.
I spaced the lines fairly wide apart across the whole quilt and then kept adding more in between until I felt like there was enough.
Then I had the tricky business of trying to trim it square with no straight lines to go off of! But I got it done.
And all that was left was a label and the binding.
I had a sweet blue check that matched the border and backing fabrices.
I stitched it on by machine. Not something I do often, but I talked myself into it because even though I don't enjoy it as much, it is faster. (And some would say more durable for a quilt that is likely to get washed more often.) And I am getting better at it. My efforts on early quilts were not pretty but I'm learning.
So it was done on time! My only remaining worry was that it still wasn't a design that screamed "baby quilt" and it certainly wasn't what a lot of people would pick for their little girl. I hoped they would like it. My fears were put to rest when, before even looking at it, my friend said that the parents hadn't gone for anything overly "gendered". Phew!

I was lucky to get these pictures after they received the quilt.
I think she likes it. :)

Monday, August 2, 2021

Fair Results 2021

The first day of the fair was today and I went to find out how my entries did. And lucky for those who are impatient, it looks like I'll manage to post them the same day!

In the same order I showed them in the last post:


Pullover: Second place

There were two entries in this category. The other is shown below and you can see it was chosen for grand champion as well.

Vest or Shell: First place

There was at least one other entry in this category, if you're wondering.
Socks: Second place

They were right beside each other, so I showed the first place entry in the same picture. I'm guessing the strips put it on top.
Any other-cowl: no place

Apparently the judges were not impressed with the double knitting. I did not take the time to try and figure out what else was in this category. It can be a real hodge podge!

Pullover: First place

Not to rain on my own parade, but pretty sure this was the only entry; but at least it was appreciated enough to get a ribbon. (A ribbon does not have to be awarded even if there is only one entry.)

Full/Queen/King-machine quilted-pieced: Second place

I didn't get to see this being judged and I didn't confirm which quilt was first, but I think it was the one that was chosen grand champion, which is a killer quilt (I'll post it later with pictures of the other quilts), and just my bad luck to enter the same year.

I think at least one of the judges agreed because I saw this note on my card. They don't normally leave notes or feedback so this was a deliberate choice.

Meanwhile, my sister and I can keep up the joke from how my lace coat did, summing up something's worth with a facetious: "good enough for second place at the fair." :)
Twin-pieced: no place

There were at least five in this category. I saw the tail end of the judging, but not specific comments on this quilt. There aren't a lot of scrap quilt entries so I'm not sure they are appreciated. Even so, I'm not trying to imply that the ones that were awarded ribbons didn't deserve them.
Wall hanging (180 inch perimeter and smaller)-Pieced: First place

This was an honest win: there are usually quite a number of wall hangings. Again, I didn't search out its direct competition so I can't show any for comparison. (The ones it's hanging with here are table runners--different category.)
Mini quilts (96 inch perimeter and smaller): Third place

Mine is the blue and yellow on the left. The red and white one beside it would have been in the same category.
Any other quilted article not listed: First place

I don't know what it was up against, but I'm happy with that!! :)

Color: abstract: First place

Pretty sure there were only two pictures in this category, so not much competition.

I could not find this picture when they were put out for display after judging. Looked and looked. When Troy went with me today, I had him look. When I met the superintendent and mentioned it was missing, she looked and looked. I suggested it might be behind another picture because they put double layers on the shelves to hold them all before judging. She really didn't think that could be it, but she looked and found it...behind another picture. So now it's out and my mind can stop dwelling on it.

Black & White: head or figure: Second place

A lot more competition in this category. (There always is. People like taking pictures of people! :)

I wasn't happy with how it was printed; I think the dark side is too dark. But maybe changing that would have blown out the light side, so maybe it needs some touch up work done.

So there you go: 12 entries, 10 ribbons, 1 comment from the judge, and a lost picture found.

Friday, July 30, 2021

The County Fair is Back

Like many other things cancelled last year, the county fair is returning this year. Tomorrow morning I will be taking care of the canning entries and be turning in my own projects for judging and display.

You would think I would have lots more things to enter after two years, but this is not the case. I used my time for some other creative pursuits and I spent a lot of time recovering from surgeries, etc., which meant I wasn't doing much of anything. (Watching videos of other people making stuff doesn't give me anything to show for it! :)

When I started to think about what to enter this year, I remembered that I would still need to make a quilt block for the raffle quilt. That meant I would need to find the fabric kit that must be used. Long story short, I searched high and low (twice) and can't find it. I've decided to believe that I didn't buy a kit. (Never mind that I bookmarked a post on Instagram just a few months after the fair and tagged it "Fair block ideas".) They didn't have any more kits available so there was nothing to be done about it.

So what did I find to enter?


1. Cardigan, coat, pullover or sweater – adult
The Telja sweater. I finished it in 2018 and could have entered it in the last fair, but I had another sweater (this striped blouse with collar) to enter and you're only allowed one.

It's been worn but when I pulled it out of the hope chest it looked like I had cleaned and blocked it before putting it away. I pulled off some fuzz balls and called it good.

2. Vest or shell – adult
The Boxy T. This was finished in September, 2019, just after the last fair. This also had some evidence of wear and I had to re-work in some ends on the twisted edging. (There are four strands to bury and nothing to put them in!)
3. Socks
These socks were made in 2016. They were supposed to have a pattern woven on the side as you knit. I took them on a trip without the pattern and knit too far. Not wanting to rip it back, I figured I'd add some embroidery later. Now, five years later, I worked in the ends on the second sock and pulled out the experiment embroidery I had started at some point.

I didn't have time for a full blocking so I put them on the sock blockers, made them damp by spraying them with water, and hung them under a ceiling fan.

4. Any other knitted article not listed
The True Hope Cowl. I knit this in 2018. I hope the judge appreciates that it's double knit, which means it looks like the "good" side on both sides with the colors in reverse.

Sidenote: I have to admit looking at these pictures is making me a little nostalgic for this hair!


5. Cardigan, coat, pullover or sweater – adult
The Summer Dreams top, made last year. This might be my first crochet entry. I don't know if they're going to consider this a "pullover" but it has long sleeves and does pull over your head, so I didn't know where else it would fit. I provided a hanger for hanging so they could see a little better how it would fit.

6. Full, Queen, King size – machine quilted: Pieced
The Nocturne Star quilt! Just finished today and ready for its debut! I put a note on it that it was quilted on a home machine (not a long arm) because I have heard them make that mistake on my quilts in the past. Credit where credit's due.
7. Twin size: Pieced
The Plaidish quilt. Finished last year and I almost forgot about it!

8. Wall hanging (180 inch perimeter and smaller): Pieced
"Prayer Flags" I took this from where it was hanging at church, leaving a naked rod. I hope no one thinks it was stolen. :)

9. Mini quilts (96 inch perimeter and smaller)
The Yellow Star on Blue wall hanging. This one is only 18" square. I submitted the sister wall hanging (Crossed Canoes on a Starry Night) in 2010 and it won a blue ribbon. Fingers crossed!

10. Any other quilted article not listed
The mug rug I made for Troy's desk. It was pretty dirty but a hand wash and a soak in Oxyclean has it looking bright and fresh again. I hit the binding with an iron and it's all set.

11. Color: abstract
This is a picture I captured last summer of Lake Superior waves breaking on some rocks. I wasn't sure what class to put it in--seascape? still life? I went with abstract just because it's cropped close enough that it's a little hard to see what you're looking at at first.
12. Black & White: head or figure

Self-Portrait. Is it weird that I keep submitting pictures of myself? I don't know. I don't have anyone else to take pictures of so self-portraits it is. (I convince myself it's ok because of the long tradition of artists painting self-portraits. I'm guessing they had the same problem I do!)

There you have it. All the fair hopefuls I'll be turning in. I'll let you know the results as soon as I have a chance.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Finally Quilting!

There are a lot of things I could update here, but let's take on the biggest project making the most progress: my Nocturne Star quilt:
I started the blocks in May, 2016 and had them finished by July. I assembled them into the star and added the border in November and December. I pieced the backing and basted the quilt in June, 2020.

I couldn't start quilting until I had something that would hold the cones of thread I bought for this quilt. I sent a link to Troy for one as a suggestion for my birthday, and he, like any self-respecting maker would do, decided he could make one far better than what was offered for sale.

By February, his creation was ready to use:

It's very pretty and has a very solid (read: heavy) base.
It's working great.

So I could being to quilt. I started by thinking about the center star. It works better to start quilting in the middle of the quilt and it's also the hardest to do so it's nice to get it done first. The first part of the design I settled on was doing ribbon candy inside a diamond frame down the middle of each arm of the star.
I auditioned designs (and practiced the motion of making them) on a piece of glass and a dry erase marker. Then I tried some options to fill in the outside.
And settled on the wave like lines (upper design in the picture below).
Having that settled, I started stitching. In preparation, I had ordered a new foot for my machine that is designed to ride along the edge of a special ruler. (They're both sized so you can't slip and slam your needle into the ruler. Don't try to use just any ruler you have.)
In some ways, it's a little rough. I'm a beginner and the ruler is shorter than the distance to be travelled, so I have to keep moving it while maintaining the straight line. And the stitching is 1/4" from the edge of the ruler so that takes some learning. In some ways, I found it very straight forward and had no qualms about doing my very first ruler work on this special quilt.
Progress was made.
They say consistency of texture is more important that having perfectly placed and symmetrical lines, and I am choosing to believe them. :)

I am very happy that the center lies perfectly flat:
For breaks from that quilting, I sometimes worked on the light squares.
I added borders 1/4" from the edge and filled in an area with various designs based on circles or half-circles.

In general I would have liked to have kept the density of the quilting mostly the same, but in fact the designs do vary quite a bit.
I tried various ways of marking the gaps, including just relying on the markings on the ruler, water soluble pen, and a hera marker. They've all got their pluses and minuses (and I could use more practice with all of them!)
When I couldn't take doing more of the light squares, I started on the outer dark diamond shapes (the "wheel" in the Carpenter Wheel pattern). I auditioned patterns and practiced them on glass again, and ended up with a feather variation.
Something I thought I would never quilt because I wasn't that crazy about feather quilting, and it is deemed "hard". And to be honest, my earlier efforts where pretty bad! I think "modern" feathers are more forgiving and I've learned to go a lot slower and to look ahead. It's helped.
I recently gave a push and finished all of that quilting.

The center area of the light squares was left to do. I was dithering about what to do there. I wanted simple and something fairly dense to make the gaps between the borders pop. I wanted it consistently dense so nothing pictorial. I had settled on traditional crosshatching when a video about the spiraling square came up on my feed.
I decided that was it. It's back to ruler work after a lot of free-motion quilting but this is a little easier since the ruler can span the length of each line.

I've finished it on four of the twelve small squares. I'm not sure I'm going to do the same thing in the larger squares but I have a little time to think about it.

If by some heroic effort and the miracle of nothing going wrong, I have this done in two weeks, I'll be able to enter it in the county fair. If that doesn't happen, my next deadline is mid-August when I'll be traveling to see family. The quilt is destined for my sister and she has been waiting a long time (like since 2016--she had no idea it would be this long!) and I'd like to finally deliver.

May I suggest?

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