Saturday, January 30, 2016

Out On A Limb

My layout for the winter improv trees is slowly being put together. Because the blocks are not set in a traditional grid it's meant that a little problem solving is in order to figure out the best approach to assembling everything. It's a lot like making a puzzle and I find it easier to do a few seams at a time, walk away and then come back to it.

I'm building out each of the tree blocks with random strips and most of these units are now ready to be sewn together.

There's one little spot where I still have some work to. It's best if you can get straight runs of seams rather than working around little squares like this so I still have some thinking to do.

It helps to make the sashing strips a bit wider than you think you need so that you have extra to play with if you need it.

This little strip will mix thing up a bit so that all of the sashings aren't just long straight strips.

I've really tried to incorporate as many different creams and whites as I had and I like the effect....M

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Snow White

Soooo much thinking has been going on around the next step for my improv trees. I've pinned and pinned and pinned again. I really like this one but had a simpler snowy notion rolling around in my head.

There's also been lots of sketching.

Just when I think I've settled on a plan another idea comes along. And then, in the most unlikely of places, I settle on the nugget of how to proceed. This. It has the winter feel that I want this little grove to rest in - the trees surrounded by two plain, wide borders very similar in colour and then quilted in random lines across the quilt to suggest the idea of a snowy field (at least that's how I see it!).

Surprisingly, this little quilt is in the Modern Medallion Workbook. I want to try my hand at a medallion one of these days but never imagined finding my inspiration for a snowing quilt here amid all the bright colours and pieced borders. Never assume.

So, I've laid everything out on a large design wall and have been cutting strips/pieces in whites and creams to fit between the trees and stars. I only made one more star since my last post about this quilt because I don't think it needs any more than that.

The variety of tones will add just enough interest - luv those large white polka dots. Once it's all together I'll see if it needs anything incorporated into to the borders but right now I think not. Sometimes you just have to start laying things out and cutting....M

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Return To Spring

I was travelling for work this week, which meant little or no time to play with the design wall and my little grove of improv trees, so I've turned my attention to hand piecing. I picked Danuta's Garden up again over the holidays when I was looking for something that I didn't need to prep or cut and finished off the last dozen or so nine patch blocks and the few remaining Ohio Stars.

All in all there are 72 blocks, which was a pleasant surprise, because sometimes you can feel like little or no progress is being made.

I also finished a third of seven of the long sashing strips and have put together more of the shorter three-block sashing units. I mix it up with making the tiny four patches.

Now I'm back into the rhythm of it. There are still four long strips of sashing to be made and about 24 of the shorter units so it's not like this will be finished any time soon, but it does feel like it might get done this year....M

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sticks & Stars

Remember these improv trees that I was playing with in the fall after Jane and I experimented with them? Well, while she was off to the races and whipping up autumn wall hangings with hers I'm still trying to figure out how mine will come together. While I ponder the possibilities they enjoy the small design wall all to themselves.

All that I have resolved so far is that I want a winter forest feel and I want to include some wonky stars, maybe some subtle HSTs. I suspect that the background with be a scrappy collection of prints, but I don't want that to take away from the trees. And I don't think I want to add more trees, so this could be a small quilt but I'll lay it out on a larger design wall soon and see if that changes.

So, while I ponder, I play. I've been testing out wonky star options - teenie tiny fun! I made the first one with 2 1/2" blocks, which finish up at 6" but I think it's too large for all of them given the size of the trees...

so I changed to 1 1/2" blocks to end up with a 3" star and I like that much better. I think it still needs another size added to the mix so I'll try one or two with  2" blocks so there's lots of variety.

They are in yellows and golds and creams with a little blue, aqua and pink tossed in.

One of the lamps in the sewing room is on the fritz so it's darker in one corner than usual, which means that I've been trying to get a read as to whether they are a good fit in really poor lighting. Today I brought the board upstairs into better light and I think that the next couple of stars also need to be a little stronger. So, I inch along with this one. I guess the next step is to try to figure out the background....M

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Looking For A Place To Land

Without those self-imposed Christmas quilt deadlines I'm at a bit of a loss as to which project to land on now - and it's not for a lack of options - so, I'm floating from place to place playing with different projects as the feeling moves me. Red and white HSTs were the first to catch my eye.

There's been a pile of HST trimmings sitting at the far end of my ironing board since I sewed the stars for Nantucket. Originally they were going to be for potholders for the Holly Bazaar but I didn't want to make up too many of the same thing so on the ironing board they sat.

I played with layouts for a bit and had enough to come up with this, along with a scrap of pretty black floral and maybe a touch of gingham. Nice.

They all got trimmed but I kept think that more HSTs would be nice. I also had this nagging feeling that there should be more of them. What to do? A modified dumpster dive, of course!

At the bottom of a pile on the cutting table I came up with about eight more.

And then another pile surfaced in another corner. They were like rabbits!

So now I have this. The black fabric strip is folded so I have almost twice the length that you see, so this could go bigger if I was so inclined. Still pondering. Maybe it's a pillow, maybe it's the centre of a medallion.

I'm lovin' that floral with all the sharp HST corners. Something tells me it was a klepto quilting find while rummaging through Jane's scraps at the cottage.

This is what my design wall looks like and you can see that it's only one little corner, so I've got a few other things that I can turn my attention to while I decide. More about that the next time...M

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Springtime Scraps

A rather listless attempt at cleaning up my cutting table and almost any other horizontal surface in my sewing room kept leading me to little piles of scraps that hadn't made it to the scrap bins yet. I was tempted to sort them by colour and put them away, I really was, but there were a few pieces that I picked up that I really liked and knew that this was the very last that I had of them, so I decided to make something with them instead.

My pot holders get a good workout and a couple of mine were starting to look more than a little ratty, so scrappy potholders it would be.

I did quilt-as-you-go piecing with randomly spaced rows of quilting, stitching directly onto a batting. To join the front and back I just added a few more rows of stitching, so from the back the rows are not as dense as they are on the front. Don't you just love that Martha Negley pink/coral daisy print? I think it's my very last little bit of it.

A little pick-me-up-pink for the binding...

and WA-LA! A set of happy little potholders.

One is backed in mauve...

and the second in a green (it seemed in keeping with all the scrappiness that the backs be pseudo scrappy too).

And, they have already been pressed into action in the kitchen, so I am enjoying my little scraps every day....M

Saturday, January 09, 2016


It can be very hard to surprise me with Christmas gifts - I tend to pick up on the slightest little hint - but this year Betty did it, and did it in spades. She made me this gorgeous, gorgeous little quilt in an whole array of yellows.

The ironic part of this gift, is that I made the blocks! Several years ago - I'm thinking probably five or six - I started playing with my yellow scraps. Little hits of pink, coral, mauve and blue found their way into the mix. I didn't know what I was going to do with them but I think I ended up with between 30 an 40.

As luck would have it, my niece Julia, who was taking graphic design at the time, made a quilt top for one of her courses based on the Golden Rectangle, so I gave them to her to use in a border. She hasn't added the border yet but it sounds like she and Betty have been chatting about doing just that.

Long story short, Betty was inspired to use some of the blocks and make a quilt for me - sort of like klepto quilting, but I'm thinking more like mucho value-added klepto quilting :). I. Love. It!

The blocks float beautifully on the sashing fabric - it's interesting enough to create some contrast but subtle enough to let the blocks shine. It would have taken me ages to figure out that this was the sashing to use (BTW, the yellow sashing print came from my stash too!). Random free flowing lines of stitching in perle cotton soften it.

Tiny little scraps hold such a strong appeal for me. I totally love sewing them together and I love seeking them out in finished quilts. The tinier the shard, the better. Sometimes I wonder that I buy yardage at all because I gravitate to the itty bitty scraps.

The blocks finish off at 3.5" and it is 30" square, so it gives you a sense of what size the pieces are that make up the blocks. Thank you Betty, this was a truly wonderful surprise and it will be cherished....M

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

It Only Takes Two

One thing I had on my wish list for Christmas and that Anne kindly gifted me was the wonderful book from Infinite Variety, the spectacular quilt exhibition of red and white quilts from the collection of Mrs. Rose that the American Folk Art Museum presented at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City in 2011. What a gift!

I had no idea how big the book is - 350 pages of pure, unadulterated inspiration. It's amazing to see how the patterns stand the test of time.

Besides being a testament to the creative energies of the hundreds of quilters whose creations are profiled it is an equally strong editorial on the power of two. Just two colours of fabrics were all that was needed to create this spectacular and infinite variety.

Many, many happy hours have been spent poring through the pages (and maybe drooling a little bit) already, playing a game to see if I could make only ONE, which one would it be. I think I've narrowed it down to 20, maybe to 30...

What is it about cutting and connecting tiny pieces of fabric that fascinates us and keeps so many of us across the world eager to pick up a needle and thread and find new ways to create our own interpretations?

The exhibition was an 80th birthday gift to Mrs. Rose from her obviously devoted husband. Eighty is still a ways off for me, but I still don't think I would be anywhere close to having over 600 quilts that I could share with the world by then - probably a huge relief as it lets the Official Cookie Tester off the hook for bankrolling it!

Not seeing this exhibition is one of my regrets in life - and I don't have many - but I was thrilled to read that the museum has kept as much of the  furniture and hanging devices as possible in storage so that it could be re-created elsewhere. As they note in the book, 'a tantalizing possibility'! I live in hope that it happens in my lifetime....M

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Baylea's Bonanza

Dori wasn't the only one doing Christmas sewing this year. About a week before the big day Anne saw an idea for a Christmas stocking and just knew that she had to make it. And it's not your regular Christmas stocking. It was for our little four-legged friend Baylea that lives with Betty, so of course it needed to reflect the owner.

Isn't it great? You could almost say it is 'paw'-fect.

No detail was overlooked. She started with a fun holiday fabric...

cross stitched Baylea's name across the cuff and sewed on the dog paw pads...

quilted it with a great little bone pattern, and bound it all in a cheery stripe, all ready to be opened Christmas morning.

Needless to say, it was a big hit, especially since she had stuffed it with lots of little goodies....M