Friday, January 18, 2019

Quiltville Good Fortune Mystery - That's A Lot Of Pieces

Every year when I am in the throws of gift making for the holiday season, I get this urge to make something for me. This year, I satisfied that urge by participating in Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt. I have participated in mysteries before, as a shop owner, when I knew the end result throughout the process. This is the first time it was truly a mystery from start to finish. I loved it.

The first step is the announcement of a color palette and estimated yardage. These colors made me think they were pulled straight from a basic crayon box. I thought about changing them up a bit but decided as a rookie I should stick with the instructions, and, these are not my go to colors when working on my own so it's great to use up this stash.

Each Friday starting in late November a new clue was issued. I liked going with the flow. All of the steps were straightforward and easy to complete. There may have been a few times where I thought, "You want me to make how many?!?!" The number of units for some of the steps was quite large but with a little Dori inspiration (just keep sewing sewing sewing), I persevered.

Each week's clue was saved in a bag. I loved the Instagram posts of participants trying to guess the end result. I did not do any of that. I completely gave myself over to the process and enjoyed every step. It was a surprise every single week.

When the big reveal finally came in mid-January, I wasn't quite ready for it. I was enjoying the drawn out pace of making this quilt top.

It took a couple of weeks to put it all together, but here it is. When the center blocks were assembled, I wasn't sure if I liked it. The outer border really pulled it all together for me. I absolutely love it now.

The thing that impresses me the most about this quilt is the sheer number of pieces. Since I went with strip sewing rather than string sewing for the orange in the blocks and the neutral borders, I was able to calculate the number of pieces in this quilt.

Bonnie does not allow counts and quantities to be published about her mystery quilts since they are converted into patterns for sale once the mystery is over. However, I don't think this number gives anything away. There are 2,936 pieces of fabric in my quilt top. Had the mystery been introduced as... join us in making a quilt with more than 2,900 pieces... I never would have joined in. A little bit every day made this happen. And even better, every single piece of fabric in this quilt came from scraps that I already had on hand.

It will be a while before this top is quilted, as there are a few ahead of it in line. One funny thing is that I hadn't been able to really see the finished top until I took these pictures. I have found two pieces turned the wrong way so far. Maybe I'll fix them before quilting and maybe I'll leave them for character. I have plenty of time to think about that.

I will definitely be joining in again next year. Thank you, Bonnie, for a fun initiation into the mystery quilt world.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Making Stockings for a Growing Family

For the first time in three years, all of my children will be together. That is the best gift I could ever receive. It was time to add to the stocking collection so that everyone would be included.

There was a point in time when I thought I would make everyone a cross-stitch stocking, but quickly realized that was going to take more time than I had available. I still have the beginnings of those somewhere and add a few stitches every now and then. Instead, we went with inexpensive, crafty stockings that could uniquely represent each family member. This is where we started in the mid-1990s. Erica was old enough to hand stitch the face on to her flower.

These are all constructed using inexpensive craft felt. Once I decide what should be represented on a stocking, I search for free clip art or photographs to mimic. Typically, I enlarge and print the picture, then use tracing paper to draw and cut all the pieces. For the original stockings I zig zag stitched around each piece, but now I use a simple straight stitch around the edges to hold the pieces in place. The edges of the stocking are both straight stitched and zigzag stitched for strength to hold all the goodies that will be placed inside for Christmas. Beads and sequins are hand stitched down depending on the level of bling desired. These are easy to make and fun to include family members in the process.

In 2000 and 2003, two more children joined us. We've enjoyed our six stockings for many years.

Erica has her own family now. This will be their first Christmas at our house. Zack and Amelia needed a stocking. Amelia turned two last September. We haven't had little kid excitement at Christmas for quite a while around here!

Evan got engaged just a month ago. They live on the beach and Gabi loves her birds.

My mom recently mentioned that she did not have a stocking so I made a pair for her and her dog to hang at her house, too.

It's going to be fun to watch our family continue to grow over the years. This project is the last of my "must finish before Christmas" sewing. Now, I can slow the pace and enjoy time with family, time by the fire, and the peace and joy of the season.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Inspired by a Painting - A Quilt Gift

Sometimes a quilt takes time to evolve. This is one of those. Last year, we went to visit my son and his girlfriend. This was the first time I had met her. She is an artist and had a painting on the wall in their living room that I was really drawn to.

This was from a college class where the assignment was to paint something using only circles. I wanted to use the colors in this painting to make a quilt for them. The mixture of colors in the painting made me think about batik fabrics first, so a stash busting I went. In my head, I was going to do a literal translation with the color placement.

I did not have enough in my stash for that to work out and for some reason, I was sticking closely to the darkest of colors in the painting.

The next iteration had a few more medium tones added in and then came the experiment with pops of color. I had to look at this one a few days and finally figured out that it was because there were too many short scraps and no continuity of color anywhere. This was just too chaotic.

Then I finally got around to adding some lighter colors (honestly, the critique of my family is what it took to convince me to add the lighter colors), took out anything that was too floral or leafy, and continued to debate about whether or not to add the pops of color. There were other sewing projects mixed in to this process, but I bet this had been on the design wall for a month or more at this point. We went out of town for a few days.

This is what I came home to. I think our cat had a little bit of fun while we were away. It was time to start sewing or else this project was never going to be finished.

It wasn't until I started looking at this quilt vertically rather than horizontally that I thought maybe it was going to turn out okay. Maybe I would like it a little. To help it along even more, I decided to back it with a plush minky in navy. This was a first for me so I was nervous about quilting with a thick fuzzy backing.

I did a bit of reading for tips and learned that extra basting and using a larger size needle were essential to successful quilting. I use 505 basting spray for layering quilts and I was extra generous for this project. Both tips were very helpful. I kept the quilt design simple, using a large meander and then a rough outline of each triangle.

I knew there was no way I could accurately stitch around the outside of each triangle so intentionally went wonky with them. You can see a tiny bit of fuzz coming through on the lightest of the fabrics. That all but disappeared after the quilt was washed.

Here's another peak at the quilting.

The quilting shows up nicely on the back, too. I love the plush coziness of that backing.

The binding is machine stitched and is a lovely midnight blue batik. The girlfriend of a year ago is now a soon to be daughter-in-law. They were engaged last month and are planning a small spring wedding. I love my growing family.

The weather has been dreadfully wet and gray so I never got any great pictures of this quilt. It is now all wrapped up under the tree for them to open when they pass through on their way to visit other family this holiday season.

While this quilt is not at all what I pictured in my head when I first started making it, it evolved into a warm and cozy gift that will always remind me of the first time I met my soon to be daughter-in-law.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Two Memory Quilts - Simple and Special

I've been on a bit of a sewing break, focusing more on time with my family and taking care of my health. But when this project came my way, I was ready to get back to it. Many months ago, a coworker had asked if I would be willing to make a quilt from her brother's shirts. I told her I would be happy to, but had pretty much forgotten until she showed up with shirts in October.

Eight shirts, four cool color, four warm color, all in excellent condition. We looked at quilts on Pinterest and she determined quickly what she did and did not want. She wanted simple throw quilts. Two, similar but different. She really liked meandering for the quilting. I like all those squiggly lines is how she put it.

I made this one first. Thirty simple blocks that are 6 1/2" x 10 1/2" shirt squares with a 2 1/2" x 10 1/2" strip of background fabric stitched on each long side. The resulting 10 1/2" block is rotated in the layout of 30 blocks. It took a little bit of finagling to get a layout where the color and pattern was nicely distributed, and I love the result. There is a 2 1/2" border of background to frame out the quilt.

For the second quilt, the blocks are the same style but smaller. Three borders, all cut 2", finish this version. I love the checkerboard border.

This picture makes it easier to see the difference in block size between the two quilts.

Here's a closer look at the meander quilting before the quilts were washed. This free motion quilting design goes super fast.

Sometimes a little too fast. Can you see the light colored thread poking through the back? That is what happens when I go too fast. I had to really pay attention to my speed to limit this result. Slow and steady wins the race, right? The good news is that this picture is before washing. After washing there is just enough crinkle going on to hide the light thread on the back.

The backing fabric is the same for both quilts, a navy flannel. I prewashed the flannel since I knew it was likely to shrink more than the other fabrics. The labels are two pictures. She did not want any words. I used binding scraps to frame out each one. They are hand stitched in place, although in this picture they are just pinned in place.

The binding is scrappy, and includes all of the shirts.

These quilts are being delivered today. One of my favorite parts is seeing the reaction of the quilt owners when they get a first look at the quilts. Some want to see progress photos all along but others, like this customer, want to see the quilts for the first time in person when they were completely finished.

One of the quilts will be gifted to the mother and the other will go to the wife of the man who wore these shirts. There are so many reasons to love quilting, but bringing joy and comfort to others is right up there at the top.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Charity Quilt with Mom

A while back my mom cleaned out her hobby room and several of her quilt tops came home with me to finish. I'm slowly working through them. This was a quick fat quarter pattern that made a nice scrappy lap quilt.

I used a pink thread on both the front and back for the quilting and did an all over free motion flower design.

The backing is a solid pink Kona from my stash. I don't know the official color name for this one. This picture shows the color a bit stronger than it really is. This next picture is closer to the real thing.

It was not quite wide enough for the quilt so I added a row of teal squares down the center.

The finished quilt is about fifty inches square.

You can see the quilting motif a little better here as well as the solid blue binding.

Here is another attempt to capture the quilting design. All of the pictures were taken after the quilt was washed. I like the cozy, crinkly result but you really lose the distinctness of the quilting after washing for this quilt.

I left this quilt with mom last night. She is thinking about what she will do with it. It may end up in her church nursery, and she might keep it home for a while to cover up with while she is reading. I'm thankful for the quilting practice when she passes on quilt tops for me to finish. It's nice to have projects with no deadline, no rules, and no pressure, even though all of my quilts are really that way. Any deadlines, rules, or pressure are self imposed. Perhaps there is a lesson for me to learn here!

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