A View of My Quilt Life

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Light the Fuse!!

While I've done some fused quilts over the years, I've never been entirely happy with the results.  So imagine how happy I was to discover Melody Johnson's blog Fibermania. As one of the founding member of the Chicago School of Fusing, her blog is packed with information on making successful fused quilts, as well as knitting, gardening, cooking and life in Tennessee.  Check it out - it's AMAZING!!

And how does that affect me - since I have a few pieced quilts incubating in the design stage, I am going to play with some small fused art quilts.  Starting at the very beginning and following Melody's process step by step - not deviating, not thinking I know better (cause I DON'T) and not trying to reinvent the wheel.  It starts with hand dyed fabric. Hmmm, I have Cherrywood FQs and oh yeah, I almost forgot about the 6" squares of HD fabric that I bought back in September at the Northwest Suburban Quilters Guild show.  For the life of me, I can't remember the gal I bought these from but as soon as it comes to me, I'll share. I'll start with these.
Great bright colors that will go well with the Cherrywoods I have in mind - Blue Lagoon group.
Fusible on back
 To begin, all the squares are fused to regular Wonder Under 805.  I got mine at Wal-Mart, 3 yards @ $1.66/yd. = $4.98.  I'll do some of the Blue Lagoon fabrics later today. This will be an exercise in letting go of control and playing with color, so stay tuned.

Also on today's agenda is the baking of SCONES!! I'm getting ready for another Road Trip...


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Back to the Sewing Machine - at last!!!

I can breathe and the coughing has mostly subsided.  More importantly, my sewing machine is back all better!!  A few weeks ago, after having been cleaned & tuned up, my workhorse Singer was all wacky - right before a free motion quilting class.  I've been avoiding the issue since then and had dual perfect excuses of having a nasty head cold and the Summer Stripe quilt layout blocking me. 
I sat down with just the orange blocks, rethreaded the machine, took a deep breath and started.
After several attempts of joining blocks, adjusting the bobbin tension, un-sewing blocks, and repeating the process, I got it done!   The machine is up, running and the stitch is where is belongs - in the middle of the fabric. And this is what I have to show for it.
Summer Sunset center 22.5" x 22.5"
Since the orange was distracting me in the Summer Stripes layout by not playing nice with the other colors, I separated it from the others. It needs borders of some sort and is destined to be a free motion quilting practice quilt. 
As Martha pointed out in her comment to the last post that maybe these blocks need to go in the closet to percolate for a bit, that may very well where they end up.  In the meantime, I have a few other things to focus on designing while the silks hang out waiting for me.
Coco-Berry charms and background

Teal braid
The bottom group is destined for a donation quilt - I'm thinking a French Braid style quilt in a large lap size. Seeing the picture I think it needs another deep dark to make it pop, cause right now it's a little blah. Hmmm - back to the stash and this is what came out.
Teal braid with 2 darks added
Time to swatch them, assign colored pencils and hit the graph paper.  And I need to practice some more free motion quilting to get the DWR quilting finished.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Playing with stripes

Using a printout of my computer aided layout, I scrambled around on the floor until I had this.
ICK!!!  Some of the darks are mediums and some of the mediums are light and the oranges are really strong even in their light blocks so now what??
I picked everything up off the floor, sat back, took a deep breath and tried to figure all this out, by making a pro/con list.
What I didn't like was easy: Not enough true darks and lights. Too many mediums in this.  I was going for scrappy and this is more crappy. The list goes on and on.
For the harder part - what I liked.  I liked the interplay within a given color. HMMMM.... Maybe I was going about this all wrong. Maybe the small blocks needed to be bigger blocks of the same color and then I could figure out a layout of the bigger blocks of color - more like the original inspiration quilt., which I decided I could do 'better'.  Apparently not.  So, I started playing within the colors, laying out 9 patches.
I'm liking these better.  Let's see where this leads.  It better lead somewhere quick cause I'm ready to see this come together.  Maybe a narrow black sashing between the blocks to pop the color.  Time to sit down and sew and stop thinking so much and let the fabric lead me.
On another front, I have the silk color matched to color pencils so I can start sketching. Not sure if I want traditional or contemporary on this one.  We'll have to ponder that a bit.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Computer Layout Help

My knees are thanking PowerPoint! Rather than crawling all over the floor yesterday, endlessly rearranging 200+ blocks, I was able to sit back on my comfy couch lounger and let my fingers do all the work.
And its a good thing too, because the layout I thought would work really well is crap - disjointed on the ends and muddled in the middle, especially since some of the 'darks' are actually light-ish and the mediums are somewhat arbitrary.  
 And then I thought I'd try the reverse of the partial layout on the floor last week - Not doing it for me.
 Looks like this one is the winner!  Especially since I can adjust some of the lighter 'darks', focus on value and not be totally distracted by color - hopefully. We'll see.
But then there's the matter of those pesky setting triangles. Whatever am I going to do about them??  It's a SURPRISE...mostly to me. HA!  Do I do dark setting triangles on the dark side and light triangles on the light side?  Am I adding a narrow black border after that? And then a piano key border outside that? And how are the piano keys arranged - darks on the dark side, lights on the light side?  More questions than answers!
The plan is to start sewing the blocks into rows for now.  Right after I get back down on the floor and arrange the blocks into the actual real life setting and organize the rows of blocks into piles. I'm sure since I'm not quite up to snuff, I'll have lots of four footed help.
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall - the Sequel

FALL has moved indoors.

Love the colors in the gourds, most of them picked by DH. He has a really good eye for color - very helpful to a quilter wife!  Not pictured is the inside carving pumpkin which will be carved into an as of yet unknown design for Halloween.
The car has officially been cleared of the Fall decorating material & I have recovered my beloved Atlas from the DH's car! 
It is back where it belongs - in it's zipper bag, hanging on the back of the passenger seat in the Flying Toaster (Honda Element). So I am ready for my next Road Trip!!
 Yes - that's the designated truck quilt. 
It's called "Flying Over Hawaii", a pineapple variation done in Cherrywood Fabrics, paper foundation pieced and machine quilted.

 Living in the north part of Illinois, one learns to be prepared for Winter travel and why not do it with a little quilt style.
Still feeling like a limp dishrag, Still working on the Summer Stripes layout...

Monday, October 21, 2013

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Quilt Blog...

To Bring You:                                               FALL
Yesterday was the second annual Pumpkin Hunting Adventure with our dear friends Pam & Tony.  This year the weather was better - chilly and damp not cold & sleety like last year.  We headed to a local family farm - not the local Mega Mart. We were too busy reveling in the selection of the many varieties of pumpkins, gourds & squashes to remember to take pictures - DUH!  The farm also has produce & fresh eggs.  We wandered into the barn this year to see the new kittens and discovered the young turkeys being raised for Thanksgiving dinners.  Tony, a chef, just about exploded with glee and quickly added his name to the list.  DH & I will now shamelessly try to wrangle an invitation to turkey.

By the time we packed the car with pumpkins, stopped at the greenhouse for a mum & stalks, decided on dinner so we could shop for ingredients, wandered into World Market on the continued search for a narrow table for the hall, realized that it was the Fall book sale at our library and stopped to fill a bag a books, it was WAY too late to begin the artistic arrangement of Fall.  That and I was fighting off some Evil Germ that is trying my patience (I'm currently losing the fight) and dinner was a multi pot/pan/all burners & the oven too adventure.
DH is in full Fall mode and is requesting hearty meals. Sausage and Peppers. That should be easy right? No. It evolved into Sausage (two kinds) and Peppers (green, red, orange, and Italian Frying), with a fresh squished tomato (4 kinds) sauce over Farfalle pasta, with garlic cheese bread.  You would think with all the garlic I used the Evil Germ would have been struck down. NOT.
I, however, being a Summer born baby, am rebelling against the Season by insisting on finishing the Summer Stripes quilt.  Which I will work on the layout today, all day, on my laptop, on my end of the couch, under a quilt, warmed by two dogs, visited by a purring cat or two, drinking many cups of tea laced with lemon & honey.  That will hopefully make a dent in the Evil Germ and the ward off the reality of Winter's inevitable approach for just a little longer. We'll see.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

It's BAAAACCCKKK - well kinda, sorta, maybe, we'll see...

I'm a bit stuck and it's all because of the Summer Strip quilt. 
I had to pull he blocks off the design wall and move the wall cause I was feeling creatively blocked and claustrophobic in the sewing area.  The design wall is portable and helpful and black - which cuts into the natural light in the room. Which has been next to nothing lately as the weather is grey, grey,  and more grey. YUCK!!  But they're still just blocks and they need to be a quilt top and soon.  I refuse to put them away. I have a good amount of time invested in them and before the blocks get wonky, the project needs to move forward. And hopefully, unblock the creative flow.
Since the design wall was too small to lay out all 224 blocks, I moved to the living room floor. Here are the IN blocks laid out.
Amazingly, the animals could tell this was NOT the time to bother the Mom and her fabric bits.

As of today,  I have not sewn two blocks together nor decided on a layout, I have identified the roadblocks as I see them.
1. The general layout I have on paper is for 221 blocks. I have 224 blocks made so that shouldn't be an issue right? WRONG.  There are 2 types of blocks - ins and outs.  I need 121 of one kind and 100 of the other.  I have 112 of each type. So...
2. I either need to make 9 more of one kind or
3. I need to figure out a layout using 112 ins and 112 outs. And...
4. I need to get over the 'total control' issue I seem to have manufactured over the color progression and think scrappy, using value as my guide.

It's back to the drawing board, or more accurately, the graph paper for me. I gathered up all the blocks and sorted my type (in or out), by color and by value and noted the quantity of each.  This will enable me to plan the new layout.  I'm thinking of doing it on the computer so I can move the blocks around without crawling on my hands and knees.

I'm hoping the time spent on Summer Stripes will allow the quilting for the DWR to magically plan itself in my subconscious.  I have high hopes...we'll see.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Well, Where Have I Been?

I'm sure given my recent posts, you might come to the conclusion that I was on yet another Road Trip.
This week has been full of job hunting adventures.  Not the most exciting activity to blog about so I won't bore you all with the details.  Let's just say - I'm still looking. 
And I haven't spent much time quilting.  I did manage to fit in a quick trip to Michigan for yard work and took both dogs with me. And a sewing project.
After almost 45 years, my Dad's Czech Kroj shirt was in bad shape and a wee bit too small. I was drafted asked to make him a new one.  Of course, there was no pattern so I had to draft one from another shirt.  All of the blackwork and the lace portion of the sleeves were salvaged from the old shirt.  Mom told me the lace work was made by my great-grandmother and it's in pretty good shape.  The blackwork is showing it's age, as the front placket was originally done on a plain thin cotton.  I lifted it all from the old shirt and appliqued it down to the new shirt in the hope of the extra layer giving it a little longer life. It's hard to see but the black work has a row of open loops along two of the edges which I hand stitched down individually to retain their shape. I used Kona cotton for the body & upper sleeve.
If you all remember, I had just had my workhorse Singer cleaned & tuned up just last month. This was in anticipation of a machine quilting class on October 12th, at Pieceful Gathering (a LQS), taught by Terry Johnson, (check out her Blog here) which was great!   The class size - 6 students was perfect for individual instruction, questions, variety, etc. 
Since the class was in the afternoon, I thought I'd start the day doing some quilting on the DWR quilt.  I threaded up & stitched around all the arcs to stabilize it. And then hung it up on the wall until I can figure out the rest of the quilting I want to do on it.  Then I figured I better get myself together for the class so I wanted to run through the walking foot (which I never use) and the free motion foot (which I have used) and that's when the wheels came flying off the bus!!! 
All of the sudden, I had skipped stitches and tension wackiness and some general machine weirdness!! ACK!!!!!!!   Some really creative words issued forth and after some unsuccessful machine wrestling, I threw in the towel. My DH gently broached the topic of what I was going to do given I had a machine quilting class in less than 2 hours and apparently a non-functioning machine.  Brave man!
I calmly explained that this is *exactly* why I have more than 1 sewing machine.  I made lunch, jumped in the shower, dressed, wound a few bobbins and gathered my supplies. And off I went to class ... with my Featherweight!! So there!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Iowa Trip Part 3

The trip took a day and a half but it's taken me 10 days to get the highlights posted!
When we were together last it was Thursday morning and I was headed out of Kalona, Iowa on my way back home. By rights since I had driven over an hour east of Des Moines the evening before, if I was leaving in the morning I should have made it home by noon. HA HA HA!!! Look I made a funny! No quilter worth her weight in fat quarters never, ever travels in a straight line when there are shopping opportunities along the way, or along a short detour from the way. 
You know, like down a gravel road, which was off a gravel road,over the creek, turn at the big barn, heading for the location circled in purple highlighter by the nice lady at the hotel.  Turns out there it is - JK Creative Wood Gifts.
They made FABULOUS wood items including custom laser engraving, along with selling local artists work including hand quilted quilts!  I found this great wooden trivet in the clearance area but I won't be putting anything hot on it. It may even be a future quilt inspiration but in the meantime it decorates the shelf in the sewing area.
Back on Interstate 80 heading east, I stopped at a rest area decorated in Quilt Blocks!! Actually the rest stop commemorates Cedar County's history in the Underground Railroad and the role quilts played in communication along the way.  Here's the outside.
They even have blocks laid into the floor inside the building.

And the Women's Restroom entrance wall.
A little further down the rode I spied a billboard advertising a Quilt Shop. Oh no way am I missing that.  I pulled off to fill up the gas tank and googled the shop. Oh - how convenient! Expressions in Threads was right off I-80 on the west bank of the Mississippi in LeClaire, Iowa. Since I was planning on stopping in LeClaire for an entirely different reason (more on the down below), this was fate!
Really nice quilt shop, with a friendly & helpful staff.  I bought a few batiks and some solids and then strolled around the corner & up the hill a half block to... Antique Archaeology.  
 For those of you who watch American Pickers on the History Channel, you'll recognize this as the home base of picker Mike Wolfe. I stopped and picked the pickers!  Who, by the way, are adding a new building to their property.
As you can see by this picture, the rain was moving in so it was time for me to be moving on toward home.  Only stopping again when necessary - food, gas, restroom - I made it home about 4:30 pm Central Time - 37 hours after I started this road trip! Thanks for riding along.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Iowa Trip Part 2

In the previous post, I was in Des Moines for the AQS QuiltWeek but alas, I had to head back home at some point. So rather than try to do the whole trip in one day, I decided to spend a night in Iowa to see some other sights.  But where, oh where would that be. 
Research mode kicked in & I decided it would be best to head back part of the way on Wednesday evening rather than facing the whole drive Thursday morning.  So, I ended up in

 Kalona, Iowa - the largest Amish settlement area west of the Mississippi.  I stayed at the local motel - clean & friendly.
 I arrived pretty much just in time to see this sunset over the corn field across the highway from the motel.
Kalona is a nice little town with a couple of quilt shops, which I unfortunately didn't have time to stay until they opened Thursday morning.  But the whole town celebrates their quilt heritage.
They have a quilt block walking tour around the whole town, showcasing 42 different quilt blocks done in brick on the sidewalks, measuring 6 feet square
 One of my favorites - Blue Dahlia.
Double Wedding Ring 
 This one is called Kalona Star

Log Cabin

And around the countryside, there are barn quilts of course. I found this one right on Highway 22, heading into nearby Riverside, Iowa.
Riverside, Iowa has an interesting claim to fame.  Any Trek fans out there?
And finally, on my way out of town, I did a double take, drove around the block & had to stop and get a picture of this.
I mean just how often do you see a 600 lb. cast aluminum chicken?