Two Finishes

Still working through that box of unfinished quilt tops! Who remembers French Braid quilts?! That was the next top I pulled out. I remember when my friend and I worked on our French Braid quilts together. In my opinion, it is a difficult pattern to follow. I did not enjoy that part of it, but I did enjoy choosing all the beautiful fabrics and arranging them just so. My BF really loved making the French Braid quilt, and she went on to innovate and make a Christmas Tree skirt out of the French Braid pattern–it was included in the second French Braid book!!

I had carefully folded some extra fabric with this top. The top was long and narrow, and I think I had a plan to make side borders. This probably wasn’t my original plan, but it got the job done. After looking at quilting ideas online, I decided that stitch in the ditch was the very best for this quilt–it didn’t detract from the beautiful prints. That made the quilting go very quickly.

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The next was a little 48″ square improv piece that I made to use up a lot of light and dark strips that I had pre-cut for some other project. You can see I used some of my two inch squares, and I also chose a “feature fabric”–that blue with green print. It will make a nice lap or wheelchair quilt for someone. I decided to stitch about 1/4 inch from the edge of each strip. This was also fun and easy to quilt.

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A word about backing choices: for the french braid quilt, I chose three different solid greens to make the back. Many times I will piece a back out of different fabrics, so that doesn’t bother me. But using those solid color fabrics, when my thread was an off-white? Not so much–all my little wobbles and back stitching show up very well. In contrast, I chose a taupe print for the improv piece. It was a very good quality fabric, but not one I particularly liked. And it is a PERFECT backing fabric! Goes well with the neutrals on the front, and the print is just enough that the quilting is not distracting on the back.

Lots of handwork continues in the in-between times. I’ll have more to share next week.

The Never Ending Box of Little Squares

It all started with one of those watercolor quilts. I signed up for a workshop, and dutifully cut a LOT of two inch squares from my stash. That was FUN! (My BF says I just like cutting up fabric. I think its because I like working with color so much.)

I made that watercolor quilt. I like what I made, but I didn’t particularly enjoy the process of creating the watercolor quilt. The technique for that quilt involved fusing, and I am not particularly a fan of fusing.

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Hmmm, what to do, what to do, with all these little squares?

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I did a color block quilt that turned out to look like an empty grave to me. I named it “He Is Not Here.”  You can see more of that quilt here.

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I used those little squares to make the prototype for the double wedding ring quilt. You can see that quilt here.

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All the while, the never ending box of little squares never seemed to get any smaller. (Could it be because I just kept adding to it?)

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Right before I started the Housetop Quilt Project I experimented with sewing those squares together crooked. Here’s the result. I really like this quilt. I had almost forgotten about it. When I got it put together it had a very crooked edge. Instead of cutting away so much of that work, I decided to use my trusty zig zag stitch to stitch it just the way it was to a background fabric.

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Close-up, showing the zig zag edge:

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I had almost forgotten about my box of little squares, until Melody started her “Quilt Along With Melody” this month. She is doing a scrappy Trip Around the World quilt. I didn’t want to cut strips for the project, so I got out my box and started making the blocks for the Trip Around the World quilt. It takes me about 10 minutes to make one of these blocks. Its very fun to look through my little squares and put them together just so. They are a little addicting!

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I thoroughly recommend you starting a box of squares for yourself. You just never know when you might need a little square or two.

A Mystery

On Sunday I doodled this in my journal:

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Do all of you have a box of two inch squares? I love my box, and it has come in handy so many times. Truth is, I have so many two inch squares, I now have two boxes of them. Whenever I get to the end of a project and there are good scraps left, I cut them into two inch squares. When I cut the excess backing fabric off of a finished quilt, more two inch squares.

Okay, so choosing the path of least resistance (pre-cut pieces, and sitting in my easy chair) I chose to try doing this by hand stitching with the box of two inch squares. Each cross takes 5 two inch squares. I found quickly that the easiest way to keep from being confused was to stitch the crosses, and THEN join them.

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When I have done single motif hand stitched quilts in the past (hexagons and diamonds) I have always joined a certain amount and then started another piece, simply because it was easier to handle smaller pieces of fabric. So that’s what I did here.

And I found that there is NO WAY to join these pieces without leaving one or two block empty spots. There’s got to be some mathematical reason for this…

Now you can see in my doodles, that I actually drew the crosses with spaces in between them. I also took some graph paper last night and tried to figure out what the problem is. It is actually hard to DRAW the crosses without leaving empty spaces between them. It is not hard to sew them together without empty spaces.

For now, it is an experiment (albeit an experiment that I have spent a good part of the week on.) I could choose to leave spaces on purpose (that I could easily fill in with more two inch squares.) Or I can just work on joining them together into one continuous quilt. I do like them joined the way I have them now. If any of you want to try this, I can tell you that it seems that to be joined without “spaces,” you either need to join 3 or 6 sides, if that makes sense.

 

2015 Year in Review

Here are the quilts I completed in 2015. There were a number of quilt tops that I finished, and techniques that I explored, but in the end I decided that I would only include completely finished projects.

In February of 2015 I exhibited a number of my quilts at Oak Hills Church gallery–quilts from the two series “The Signature of Jesus,” and “The Psalsm.” I made several of these small crosses at the beginning of the year.

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And this was also a last minute finish for the exhibition:

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I made this small piece for special friends who were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.

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I really like this next quilt–made using my “zig zag technique.” I’m using it on the foot of my bed right now.

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Another in The Psalms series, finished after the above mentioned exhibition. This is one of the few quilts where I have done the kantha style stitching across the complete background of the quilt. It is very time consuming, but effective, I think.

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The nine patch quilt. I worked a long time on this one, and finally finished it last year. But I don’t actually like it that much–its a little too jarring for me.

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I started a series called “What They Said,” and only got as far as finishing these next two pieces. There are another 15 just waiting to be finished! Hoping to get to that soon.

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A little experimental stitching:

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And I finished the Kandinski inspired quilt that I had started the previous fall with Rosalie Dace.

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I was inspired to try a new method of using the kantha stitching.

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“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature.”

 

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“Every good thing given comes down to us from God our Father who created all the lights in the heavens.”

And I finished a little lap quilt that is one of my all time favorites!

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I couldn’t help myself. I made several of these rag rugs.

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I found and finished this little project.

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“Be Filled with Joy.” Another experiment with stitching on a quilt.DSCN3337

Finished a quilt top for my gardener’s new granddaughter.

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And the Fire Quilt. Inspired by a worship service at our church held while the Butte Fire was still burning in our community.

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“A Closer Look.” Just fun fun fun. Using my little box of two inch squares, my zig zag technique, my baggie of Cherrywood fabrics, and a lot of perle cotton embroidery thread!

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“His Kingdom Will Never End.” The last quilt I finished, and probably the one I think is my best composition.

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I finished the year as I do many times. Quietly hand quilting on an older quilt top. Dreaming of all the new projects and techniques that I want to try in the coming year. Wishing all the best for you and your families in 2016!

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Never Ending Nine Patch

**I wrote this last August, and just discovered that I never hit “publish.” Its the prequel to tomorrow’s post, so I needed to publish it today 🙂 **

Do you remember my love for my box of little two inch squares? That box always stays full. If it starts to get a little low on two inch squares, I just cut a few strips of favorite fabrics and fill it back up. If I come to the end of a project, and there are just a few scraps of fabric left, I cut that into two inch squares.

Once a month I meet with my sewing ladies. For the past couple of years I’ve just taken my box of two inch squares and made nine patches out of them. Eventually I planned to make an entire bed sized quilt out of these nine patch blocks.

This is how I do it: I just lay out 5 blocks of one color and 4 blocks of another, and construct each block one at a time.

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By the end of sewing day, I usually have a pile of 10-15 blocks.

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Eventually I started sewing the nine patch blocks into sixteen patch blocks (which made an 18″ square block.)

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Here I am auditioning them on the design wall. You can see I have one focus fabric, a lovely Lonni Rossi print, that I am using as a focus fabric.

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Sigh. I still need a LOT of those nine patch blocks.

Where I’ve Been and What I’ve Been Doing

The big rug hooking convention is coming up in a week. So being the very organized procrastinating artist that I am, I have had to work non-stop to try to finish the rug (that I started over a year ago) for the exhibit at the convention.

I finished the interior of the rug, and then started to figure out how to do the border and put the words onto the quilt. I consulted all my friends and a few professionals. The teacher that got me started on the rug suggested a red border with yellow lettering. What the wha??? I couldn’t figure out where she came up with that idea. But after trying out a number of different color combinations, I saw that she was right. A red coral was a more acceptable color to me, and so that started me on a 3 day adventure of trying to dye just the right color of red coral, and a little yellow for the lettering. I used to do a lot of dying, but I’m a little rusty now.

Anyway, after a few stops and starts, and a little dye spill on my new stove, I was very pleased with the color I got. I dyed over a number of different neutral wools, so I got a little variety in the final results, which I think adds to the interest when you are hooking.

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When I am very busy doing things other than quilting, I revert to my little box of two inch squares to satisfy my need to put pieces of fabric together.

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I had the idea to start with one square and just built a quilt from that, doing a color drift kind of idea. This is VERY fun to do. But it does take longer and longer to add a side on to it.

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I also managed to sneak out of town for a workshop with Sherry Lynn Wood. She is a fascinating artist who taught us to do curved improvisational piecing in one day. Here are a couple of examples of her work:

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She encouraged us to use lots of colors. Here’s a view of our work stations!

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And, back to the rug! I used Gene Shepherd’s method of putting the lettering on without drawing it in first. I planned to put two lines of writing above the rug, and two lines below. I was almost all the way through the first line of writing when I realized that I had hooked the wrong line next to the rug!

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Plan B: I would hook the words all the way around the rug, and hope against hope they would fit. I got to the last line, and realized I was running out of room. I looked at the verse again, and only had to leave one word out, and have it still make sense. Whew. Disaster averted.

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Today I will be filling in the coral red background around the lettering, and then I will still have a bit of work to do, blocking, whipping the edge, and binding the rug. But I am fairly confident I will finish by the time I have to leave next Tuesday! I’ll be back in a week or two with more quilting news and views!!

 

 

Cleaning and Restarting

One morning I woke up and knew this was the day! The day that I would clean out my fabric stash cubbies. I got sidetracked by a couple of unexpected chores, but I finally went out there and got it done! It feels so good to go through your fabric, weed out a few old things (or in my case, little bits and pieces) and know what you have and where it is. I have a LOT of commercial solids, and unfortunately, I stopped working with them a while ago, in favor of the hand dyes. But I might come back to them, knowing what is available.

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I actually didn’t straighten out the two cubbies with my hand dyes and my 1800’s reproduction fabrics. I know what’s in there already.

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Next, I decided that I liked the idea of using 36 of my stars (made from my box of 2 inch squares) as the center for a medallion, so I sewed those together, and then auditioned a few fabrics for the next few rows of the medallion. Because I had straightened out my fabrics, I found this birdhouse fabric that I had bought recently and really liked. I might use it in the medallion quilt with that gray fabric as a background. Before I put everything away, I decided to use the pink “log” fabric as the next border, and cut that and sewed it to the stars, about a 3″ width.

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The reason for doing all this was to clear the design wall. I wanted to get back to the small compositions I had made for my “characteristics of God” series. I am anxious to get back to work on these. I have 3 or 4 more fabrics out to make into compositions.

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And lastly, for your inspiration, here is a great little saying that perfectly describes the creative process.

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Quilting, Piecing, Embroidery, and Rug Hooking

I mentioned to a friend recently that I had been quilting, piecing, embroidering, and rug hooking, and loving all of it. I kept thinking about this, and I realized that part of the reason was because I had “stations” set up for each activity, so that it was very easy to go from one activity to another. I never understood before why people felt the need to keep more than one sewing machine set up, but now I do. I am much more likely to work on a quilt when the machine is all set up and ready to go. (And I do know that having a big new “toy” is a good motivator.) When I started working on that big rug in January, I rearranged my living room so that I could keep the rug frame up all the time. If the rug frame is not up, rug hooking just doesn’t get done–sometimes for months. And of course, my Janome sewing machine is always up, and I am more likely to go and sew together a few pieces when I don’t have to move a big quilt out of the way. My “embroidery station” is the same as always–my big comfy chair where I sit every evening with a dog on my lap, watching TV shows on my computer, and working on whatever embroidery project is at hand.

It has been so fun to look through my UFO’s and find quilt tops I had completely forgotten about, and others that were within a few stitches of being completed!

I really like this quilt. I was influenced by a little postcard of a magnificent Japanese quilt. Mine is not magnificent, but it was very fun to piece, and I enjoyed practicing “straight enough” line quilting on the new machine.

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This was part of a series of quilts I did for a “Pay it Forward” challenge SIX YEARS ago! I had so much fun making those little quilts for three of my good blog friends. This fourth one was for me, but I used a beautiful upholstery weight fabric on the back, and it was not fun to hand quilt through, so 7/8th’s of the way through, I just stopped. Except for the border it was almost completely quilted. I decided to try hand quilting again. Took two stitches (literally) and knew I wouldn’t finish. So to the machine it went. I am as pleased as can be with the result. I’m thinking about keeping it, just because so many good memories are attached to that challenge project.

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This quilt was completely finished except for the central chicken block. I got a little obsessed about that, even wrote a blog about changing it out, and then it got put away and forgotten about. I finished quilting around the motifs in the central block, and it was finished. Several of these quilts have had enough backing fabric that I was able to do the binding by just bringing the backing around to the front. VERY convenient!

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Piecing. I think I showed you this one  before. I just about used all of the strips in that box, and so it is done. Since the strips were cut with a ruler, I’m not sure why it has ended up a bit wonky, except that I didn’t use my 1/4″ foot all the time. Anyway, I think I will put a wide border around it to finish it off and to square it up a bit.

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These stars are mostly my project for Sewing Day with my ladies. So fun to do, but a bit time consuming. All done with 2″ cut squares from my box of little two inch squares.

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I had the idea to make these simple blocks to offset the star blocks, which are so busy, but I didn’t like the way that looked. So they might become their own little project…

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Rug hooking! I LOVE love love working on this rug. There is even more of it done now, but this is the most recent picture. Like I said, I have a place all set up in the living room, so it is very easy to just sit and do a little bit of hooking, if that’s all I have time for.

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Close-up:

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And embroidery. I have almost finished the embroidered words on all 17 of the quilts in the “what they said” series. I loved working on these, and trying to convey the thoughts and feelings behind the words through the way I embroidered the words. Now to quilt and finish them. I will show them all to you at one time, as that is the way I think they will have the most impact. Here is the one I chose to use as the “header.” Just the straight line kantha stitching over the whole piece.

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And that is how life is going in the studio right now. I wake up every morning excited about what I am going to work on that day.

Interruption

In case any of you reading this blog do not read my other blog or follow me on Facebook, my nice calm life was interrupted a week ago by the Butte Fire! It was fairly close to my home, but then the wind took it in a different direction. Me and the doggies evacuated for a few days. But now the fire is under control, and all is returning to normal, at least in my little life.

I don’t think I ever showed you the finished quilt P.I.N.K. I do love it, and will use it as my favorite lap quilt this winter.

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I quilted each block a bit differently. That probably kept me going on it.

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I love how a quilt crinkles after you wash it!

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Last week, B.F. (before fire) I was determined to get back to my rug. I finished the hummingbird and these trumpet flowers. And that’s as far as I got. Hopefully, more rug hooking will be on slate for Monday.

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To get back into the studio, I did a little fun, no-meaning playing around. These star blocks are all done with my box of little two inch squares. Very fun to first piece some four patches, and then to choose two more colors to make these stars. I actually like this method of making the star points (or flying goose blocks.) There is a seam in the middle, but it seems to be a very accurate way of making those   blocks. I just take the two inch squares, and draw a line right down the middle diagonal and then stitch on the line.

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B.F. I had started hand stitching on this piece. There are 150 two inch squares, so lots of places to do a little doodling. This was the hand project that I grabbed to take with me when we evacuated.

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Speaking of evacuating, I did not take much with me when I left. How do you decide what to take and what to leave? I did not take any of my finished quilts. I took my Singer Featherweight, and I took my rug hooking wool stripper tool, as it was near the back door, and I am quite fond of this tool 🙂 I just took one handwork project, and one knitting project. Three changes of clothes (just right!) and the best thing I took was the doggie bed. It kept the girls calm in a new environment 🙂

In church last Sunday (in the midst of the Butte Fire) we had such a special service. There were several couples there that had lost their homes to the fire. I did have a little inspiration for a quilt about the fire, and I am working on that this week. I will share that with you next time.

In the meantime, be safe and be thankful!

New Directions

I hardly ever work so continuously on one project. But I really enjoyed this one. Yesterday I put a facing on it, and TaDa! It is finished! The title is “Seeing God.” I love the verse that inspired it: For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. 

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In between stitching, I spent a bit of time in the studio piecing two more tops that I want to do a lot of embroidery/hand stitching on. Here is the “pink” one. The verse inspiration for this one is: Every good thing given comes down to us from God our Father who created all the lights in the heavens. 

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I took a picture of this top with the pink threads next to it, so you can see it will be a little more dynamic once the thread work is added.

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And here is one where I used my box of little two inch squares and my bags of Cherrywood hand dyed fabrics. I love those bags! They sell pieces of a large cross section of their hand dyed colors cut into about 8X10 inch pieces. There are lots of things you can do with an 8X10 piece of fabric!

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Anyway, I got this far, and I can’t decide whether I want to put more 2 inch squares on the outer border. I love the brighter colors and the glow that they achieve.

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Any opinions out there?