Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sweet Jelly Beans

My sister Anne has been working on this lovely little quilt lately and I want to share it with you. She first saw the pattern in the window of a shop on Yonge Street in Toronto as she was driving by - not sure which one, possibly Au Lit - so one day she went and sketched out the pattern. The original had been made in India with lovely thin stripes and ginghams but she soon discovered that is was impossible to find fabric like that here. Over time she did find some ginghams but had a really hard time finding them in 100% cotton. Anway, she has been collecting fabrics for close to a decade and a while back I gave her a jellyroll of bright batiks that happened to match the ginghams nicely so around Christmas she had some time on her hands and started cutting.

I had shared with her the technique of sewing quick HSTs (half square triangles) so that she didn't having to deal with the bias seam stretching the squares all wonky - you cut squares and then sew 1/4" on either side of the diagonal line that cuts the block in two...

and soon she was off to the races, trimming corners as she went.

The finished block size is 2.5".

Then it was time to start adding in the white sashing between the blocks.

And here's an idea of what the quilt will look like. She has called it Jelly Beans, which I think is perfect. Isn't it lovely? A beautiful summer quilt. She's continuing to plug away and trying to figure out the final size based on the fabric that she has so I'll give you an update as things progress....M

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pretty In Pink

More progress on the Candied Hexagon front, and interestingly, the latest batch seems to have a focus on pink - more by chance than by design, but pretty none the less.

Remember how much I loved the pink border print in my Goose Tracks quilt? Well, when I really like a fabric I like to sprinkle it through a few quilts when I can so from the scraps I was able to eek out a hexagon for this one.

A bit of fussy cutting for the outer ring of diamonds...

Lovin' the way the paisley print creates a design reminscent of the hard candies that this quilt is named after. The fussy cuts are called fussy for a reason - depending on the print it can seem to take forever just to get 6 diamonds cut, which tends to slow things down a bit - but they are spectacular done up and will provide lots of interest.

The yellow on this one is the same as the binding that I used on my Kaffe Fasset Frothy...

I love the colour of this mauve print...thank you Fig Tree.

It's interesting to me to see how many times I will match two fabrics together for a star and then at the last minute switch one of the prints up, either for a new colour or print combo. Just trying to stay out of a rut.

We're at 54 hexies and counting....M

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Workin' It!

There's a lovely pile of works-in-progress (WIP) that continues to build on a chair in my sewing room that I'm intent on dealing with this year - you'll recognize it from my Profile photo - and happily now one more is moved along.

Single Irish Chain

This Single Irish Chain has been in the works for a bit and has been set to quilt since the summer but I have been waiting for the quilters to be ready for it. Since mom passed away a few years ago I've been on the hunt for someplace to get my tops quilted, not  realizing until some time last winter that there is a group of ladies at our church who quilt as a fundraiser. Bingo! Needless to say, I got myself onto their waiting list as soon as I could and now they seem to be raring to go.

Single Irish Chain
So last weekend I bundled everything that they need, including the batting and the thread, and left it in their trusty hands. Once they have the schedule worked out I'd like to sit in and help them quilt it, but I am so painfully slow at quilting that if it is to be finished in this lifetime it needs to be done by someone else. Besides, I already have a quilt on the frame that I have spent a lot of time ignoring. More about both of these later.

By the way, the photo of the WIP chair shows only a fraction of the projects to be finished - I've added to it since that shot was taken - but if I can work my way through it this year I'd be one happy camper. That's my goal, because I keep seeing new projects that I want to start and need to get some of these finished off before I go too far down that path. With two off the list I'm feeling pretty good about my chances...M

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beautiful, Bright Batik

We're enjoying the bright, white, sunny aftermath of a winter storm here today so it seems like a good day to show off some colour.

Today's inspiration is from my friend Ann in Ottawa who was busy this fall whipping up a few special Christmas prezzies. We're not quite sure what the name of the pattern is but she originally saw it done up in a quilt shop and figured out the pattern from a photo that she had taken. Her quilting friend Jane says she saw a similar one in Jelly Roll Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott and they called it Sparkling Gemstones, which seems appropriate, so we'll go with that.

She used a lovely selection of rich and bright batiks framed in a beautiful blue & teal that really seem to reflect the name of the pattern.

And, while it's not reflected in this shot, she ended up quilting it by machine on the diagonal, similar to what I did on Grandma Mary's Five Patch, and she was really pleased with.

Sparkling Gemstones
I think the look on her daughter Jessica's face when it was opened Christmas morning just about says it all!

She was also busy cross stitching stockings for the girls' boyfriends, both of whom are comic book guys, so she was tickled when she found a pattern for a Superhero Alphabet Sampler on Etsy and went to work.
Ian got Iron Man, Aquaman, and Nightcrawler...
And Neal got Nightcrawler, Elektra, Aquaman, and Logan.

I have no photos to prove it but I do understand that there were a few squeals of delight when they were opened as well (if young men squeal with delight!). Thanks for sharing Ann!...M

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Making Tracks

Part of the reason that I started my blog was to spur me to finish off a few of the projects that I have on the go; it seems to be much easier to start something new than to wrap up projects that have been started. Today I have my biggest success yet to share with you. You will recall a while back that I goofed and stitched part of the picot border onto this quilt backwards. Well, the ripping and re-sewing is now done and this week I got down to the business of applying the final borders to finish the top. Yup, after more than 14 years in the works, it's done!

Why this one took so long is a bit of a mystery but it is the first quilt that I hand stitched and it has followed me through our first years of marriage and a few years ago a move to our new house, every now and then popping its head up to remind me that I had some unfinished business to attend to. This summer I decided to bite the bullet and finish up the last two blocks and then figure out what I was going to do about the borders.

This is the one that I credit with changing how I look at and construct quilts. The pattern is called Goose Tracks but I like to call it my Sigrid quilt after a close friend of ours who provided the inspiration for my new approach. Sigrid was a great friend of my sister Betty and a prolific quilter. She loved to stitch by hand and was seemingly constantly stitching, using wonderful colours and patterns to create spectacular, rich projects; she also did beautiful cross stitch. I remember her loving Jinny Byer (take an online tour of Jinny's home). Sadly Sigrid passed away quite suddenly several years ago and we still miss her dearly. Betty inherited her wonderful quilt frame which had been made by Sigrid's husband Bill, and she constantly puts it to good use.

Shortly after Sigrid's death I started this quilt. Up to that point my quilts were relatively standard - all the blocks were identical and the fabric choice fairly straighforward. For this one I loosened things up, incorporating more flexibility into the palette, piecing the 'solid' alternating blocks using 4 different cream prints, using a selection of prints for the pieced blocks rather than making them all the same, and taking the same cream prints and randomly incorporating them into the picot border.
Don't get me wrong, I still love two-colour quilts and a certain format/structure to my quilts, but now I find myself drawn to using tones of colours rather than restricting the layout to a limited number of prints - your eye is constantly moving around the design exploring the mixing and matching.

Goose Tracks
So here it is. I found the pink outside border fabric this summer not really knowing what I would use it for but I think that it is ideal and absolutely LUV how it looks! I'll back it with more of the same. It's also the first time that I have tried making a picot border and it was lots of fun to do. The whole thing harkens back to my Grandma's aprons - I just find it totally old fashioned, soft and welcoming and the blend of fabrics reminiscent of how quilts were once made with whatever was at hand.

Goose Tracks

I'm not sure how to quilt it yet but I am thrilled that it is now a complete top and one huge step closer to being on a bed!...M

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Joyeux Nouvel An!

Our good friend Mireille grew up in France and is now a translator in Toronto. She is always showering us with generous and decadent food gifts and just this week introduced us to a wonderful French tradition. She sent us a beautiful Epiphany Cake made of puff pastry and filled with an almond paste - delicious!

But the cake also came with a few seasonal surprises. Baked into the almond paste is a tiny procelain figurine. Tradition has it that whoever finds the figurine in their piece gets to wear a crown - Queen for a day. How great is that?!

Lucky me, I found this little guy when I was cutting my way into it so out came the crown (if the crown fits...!). It's a bit tough to make out from my photo but it's a little chef who has fallen flat on his face into a layer cake with icing on his hat and is not looking too happy about it. Thobors Boulangerie Patisserie Café is the fabulous bake shop where she bought the cake and they are running a contest with 3 great prizes for those who bring their figurines back - dinner for two, Champagne, and $75 in merchandise from the bakery - so I've shipped the little guy back to Mireille in the hopes that she's a winner.

Thanks for introducing us to this tasty new tradition, Mireille!...M

Monday, January 09, 2012

Eye Candy

I love keeping my Christmas tree up as long as possible but it had to come down some time, and yesterday was the day. The house always feels so empty in those first couple of days without the lights and the scent of the tree to keep me company so once things were put away I picked up the pieces for my Candied Hexagon quilt and headed to the study to do some hand stitching and watch a little college football and golf from Hawaii.

By the end of the day I had 3.5 blocks added to my pile to join the two that I had made last week (please ignore my ratty ironing board cover).

Sewing these by hand is a real treat. The centre star comes together quite quickly and then filling in the outer ring a little longer, but it's always neat to see the final piece emerge, especially when the pieces have been fussy cut. Here's what the back of a block looks like:

When teaching me needlepoint my Aunt Helen used to say that the back should look almost as good as the front and I've carried that over into my quilting. To get the centre to lie flat you just work your finger into the middle of the rosette that's created by the 6 diamonds coming together and finger press it before you iron it. I also like to iron the centre star seams before adding the outer border so that the joins are accurate. For this block I've ironed the seams all in the same direction.
Kim Mclean's Candied Hexagons

I first came across this pattern last winter on Cathy's blog when she posted about a dinner party with Kaffe Fassett. It was stitched by Kim Mclean who is a prolific quilter from Australia that does incredible applique. This photo is a bit dark - it is much warmer and softer in the image that Cathy posted. There's another shot on flikr that you might want to check out as well.

Candied Hexagons
The pattern had been in an Australian magazine called Complete Craft and had been done in red, yellow and blue prints. I much preferred the scrappiness and warm tones of Kim's with so many different prints working together. So, after a bit of digging I found the pattern online and downloaded them (batch 1 and batch 2, if you are interested in trying your hand at it).

In the spring I started hunting for fabrics in a creamy brown/pink/yellow/blue palette and have and to date I have about 50 blocks done. If you look at the templates there are number of variations to the types of blocks that you can use but I'm just doing all stars (template C) with the occasional large floral print block thrown in (thanks Jane for letting me use a few from your stash!). I'll need to use template G around the edges. I'm not quite sure how many I need so I'm just plugging along until it looks like I have a good number and then will lay them out to assess the size; I'll let you see what that looks like when the time comes. The hexagons will be 9" across when they are finished. It looks like there are about 180 in Kim's version (14 x 17) but somehow her blocks look smaller, so I'll get a better sense when it is laid out...M

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A New Year of Inspiration

Happy New Year everyone! I hope that it has started out well for you and that it continues to be filled with new adventures, perspectives and memorable moments. We have been blessed with many, many kindnesses through the past year and my hope is that this year will be filled with the same for each of you.

I'm not much of a resolution maker but I do like this time of year for assessing where we've been and what the potential might be. It always amazes me that one day of the year can inspire so much thought and focus. In any case, I do love the fresh start that the January brings and throughout the holidays I received a few  books that are proving to be inspirational. The first is on the cookie front. Stephanie was down to Niagara in November and brought me back this great cookie cookbook. Its a compilation of Gourmet magazine's single best cookie recipe from each year between 1941 and 2009. How's that for a treasure trove?

I love how the index is laid out (almost quilt-like, don't you think?) and have spent many hours pouring over my options.

I had seen this book a few years ago and remember liking it, particularly the entry for December 2009, but had completely forgotten about it (just recently I found a scrap on my bulletin board where I had written down the name of this cookie and did a Google search, to no avail). Much to my delight I now have it in my possession and me thinks that the Grand Marnier Glazed Pain d'Epice will need to be tested sooner rather than later. The tiny flecks near the candied orange are edible gold lustre dust, which I'm thinking might be a challenge to put my hands on here in town, but I suspect that the cookies could survive being made without that little embellishment.

My second source of inspiration has come in my Christmas gift from Jane C. It's Little Bits Quilting Bee (pretty appropriate, given my blog name) by Kathreen Ricketson, founder of WhipUp, and it is chock full of patterns, great information, machine quilting (which I think I want to try a bit more of) and inspirational quilts using precuts. The patterns are probably more contemporary than I would normally have chosen but that's the beauty of a gift - it takes you out of your rut(s) and in completely new directions.

Prismatic has caught my eye...I'm thinking that I would play with the overall layout but I like the half square triangles and how they create a square.

So, without leaving the house I have two new toys to play with and great creative inspiration to start the coming year. Not a bad start, I must say....M