An Unexpected Finish

As I stitched on various projects in the evening, I started to realize that I was close to finishing one quilt. So I started to concentrate on stitching on that one. Maybe I could finish one more project before surgery!

And sure enough, on Friday evening, I took the last stitch. I don’t usually quilt on Saturday, but I couldn’t resist applying the binding in the morning, and then when I returned from the gym in the afternoon, I set to work hand stitching the binding down. I rarely hand stitch binding any more, but I figured with all the handwork on this quilt, it deserved it. And besides, I really enjoyed working on this quilt, and it just extended the joy for one more day.

Which quilt is it? Its the second Kantha blanket. On this one, because of all the different blocks and seams, I decided to stitch each block, in the hopes of avoiding most of the seams. The pattern is so busy that I don’t think the different stitching makes a  big difference in the  overall appearance of the quilt.

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I used DMC Coton Floche for the stitching, and it was wonderful to stitch with, but a bit more frail than perle cotton, and also I noticed that it pulled more easily when, ahem, little doggies’ toenails got caught in the thread….  I used a nice thin cotton batting, and muslin for the backing, so again, it was extremely pleasant to stitch. I am sure I will do another one of these, perhaps with a less busy pattern, and maybe I can do more variation with the direction of the stitching.

Some close-ups so you can see the different direction of the stitching.

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And this will probably be my last post for a while. I have four project boxes all ready for my post-op period! Hopefully I’ll have plenty to share with you by the time I feel up to blogging again!

Something Old, Something New

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Something old: I washed an older quilt and put it on my bed to fold it up, and thought I would share it with you. I call this quilt “I Live in Pine Grove.” I do live in Pine Grove, and at the time I made this quilt there was a lot of different fabric with pine trees and pine branches and pine needles on it. I had so much fun collecting all the different pine fabrics. I had just a few fabrics with birds on them, and I made all the blocks and then had fun fitting them together. I hand quilted it. And it is still a quilt that I like very much.

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A new finish: After agonizing over each area–should I add more stitching here? What about this area? How should I do the background? I finally just took the plunge, and finished all the stitching on this quilt. My BF was here for a one day visit, and she asked if I had considered turning it sideways. I hadn’t, but the more I looked at it that way, the more I thought that was the way it should be!

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I wanted to wash it before I blocked it and finished the edge, so I zigzagged around the edge and washed it very gently. And then blocked it on my design wall. I thought about how I wanted to finish the edge, and I decided that I want to do a hand-finished edge. I will do a satin stitch with perle cotton all around the edge. I am going to use the ecru thread that I used for the background. It is busy enough–no need to add any more color to it.

After I cut the edges to their final size, I stitched very carefully around the edge, just to keep it nice and neat while I hand stitch the edge.

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I did enjoy using chain stitch to color in some of the solid areas. Close-up of stitching:

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Something new: And then I wanted to play and make another small quilt to embroider. I LOVE the piece that I used for the What They Said series:

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And so I chose some new fabrics, and made the same block, only larger. Starting with one background fabric, you cut and insert strips and then a circle and then more strips, etc. Very fun to do. I want to explore this more!

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Of course now that I’ve got it done and the sandwich made and basted and all, its like I get all shy, and I don’t know how I want to stitch it! But I’ll just think about it for a bit. That’s part of the fun, isn’t it?

 

 

 

Projects and Project Boxes

I am a multiple project type of gal. I like having multiple projects to work on. But sometimes I get carried away and the projects multiply faster than I can work on them. And that can be overwhelming. That’s when the project boxes come in handy. I can put some of the projects neatly away for a bit. They are all ready for when the mood strikes, but they are not laying around making me feel guilty for the way I choose to work.

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Recently I saw a tiny picture somewhere. It was just a simple quilt, a kind of a square in a square, and I thought, that would be a neat way to use my kantha stitching. It seemed to be a scrappy quilt, and the main square was large with the outer square being more of a frame (where I would embellish with kantha stitching.) Here, like this:

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So I went out and went through my stash, and had great fun cutting out hunks of all my favorite fabrics, and then carefully cutting them into 6 inch squares. I have enough to make each block a different fabric!

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As I cut the squares, I had great fun re-visiting old and new favorite fabrics. It occurred to me that this is a great idea for a memory quilt. So many memories are attached to my fabric–where I was when I bought it, who I was with, and sometimes even the quilts that I have made with the fabric.

Here are some of the other projects I am working on presently. And even more are in project boxes…

Here is the piece that I showed you bits of previously. I have to take long breaks with this one to figure out what I want to do next. So far, each time it seems like “adding more” is the best solution…

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I got out the ten little pieces that I intended for the “Characteristics of God” series. I am making them into sandwiches and embroidering the words on them.

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And in the evenings, this one seems to have taken preeminence, because it is so enjoyable to stitch on with that DMC Coton Floche thread. I choose one block to work on, and then choose the threads that I want to use. It usually takes an evening to stitch one block.

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And in the Evening…

At some point mid-day, I am usually done in the studio. Either I’ve started early in the morning, and I’m ready for my afternoon coffee break, or I stop what I’m doing and go to the gym.

After that, its time to sit in my chair and indulge in some mindless stitching. Back in July, I told you about my “obsession” with making a kantha blanket. Most of the time I stitched on this, I was thinking about how it wasn’t a very good composition, and why was I spending so much time stitching on something that I wouldn’t even like when it was done. But my BF encouraged me, saying that the stitching would pull it all together.

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When I could see that an end was in sight, I stitched more consistently. It was very relaxing and enjoyable to work on. I used a very light weight cotton gauze for the “batting” and plain muslin for the backing. This made it very easy to stitch through all three layers.

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You can probably see–I had one main color of thread (I ordered five spools of the #8 perle cotton in that color) and then I added bits of other colors in the turquoise range, and some oranges, and one lime green. Whatever color I chose, I carried it all the way across the blanket.

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Here is the only place I changed the stitching direction, just for a bit of fun.

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You can see I used mostly prints, but I made a few of my cross cut squares, and a few with circles to add to the interest.

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Pretty much the whole time I worked on this, I was mad at myself for choosing muslin as the backing. How boring! But now that it is done, I like it the muslin back. I can see the stitching, I can see the “mistakes,” and I like that.

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When all the stitching was done, I chose one of the multi-color fabrics to use as a binding. I sewed the binding to the back, and hand-stitched it down to the front. And then the part I like the best–I washed it! After washing it (on delicate cycle, because I wasn’t sure about those long stitches,) it is so soft and cozy. I laid it out on my bed, to see it as a whole piece, and my BF was right–the stitching pulls all those colors and prints together. I really like it. Its nice to like a project when you have spent so much time on it 🙂

Momentum

A few weeks ago, I made a little “in the meantime” piece because I had “nothing” to work on in the evenings–no handwork.

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Since then I have embraced the kantha blanket, and have begun the long journey of repetitive stitching that I had planned for it.

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And then, I finally bit the bullet and started a new project that I had been mulling over since last December.

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Can you guess what it is? I am doing a quilt of “The Hallelujah Chorus.” It has long been one of my favorite pieces of music. When I lived in Texas, our church choir sang it, and we were required to memorize it. The words are magnificent, and have so much meaning to me. I had the idea when I went last December to a beautiful cathedral in downtown Sacramento for a performance of The Messiah. My little idea was that the quilt had to be extremely beautiful, mostly white, with perfect extensive quilting, and of course, the words would be preeminent, and of course beautiful calligraphy. Hmmm. See why I was afraid to start it?

A little thought came along–why don’t you do what you know you can do well? So I decided to use my own handwriting, and to make my circles with embroidery. I bought some silk-type fabric at Joann’s to practice on, and it turned out that I really liked this fabric, so I stuck with it.

I wanted the piece to be a bit larger than most of my embroidered works, so I came up with the idea of doing the circles and the words in separate panels, and then after all of them are embroidered, I will join them into one quilt top and add more quilting.

All I can say is, you just have to try. It very well could have been that these things would not have worked. Heck, they still might not work. But by trying, even if I fail, I have learned something new.

And now, I must leave you. I have a bit of stitching to do 🙂

The Journey

Recently I had lunch with an old friend (who creates AMAZING Pysanky eggs) and she told me about her recent trip to Spain, where she and her husband walked the 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago!! The Camino has been walked by thousands of Christian pilgrims for the past thousand years. Nowadays it is still walked by pilgrims from many faiths, and many times for reasons other than a faith journey. Whatever the reason, it is something that fascinates me. Committing to walking 500 miles, and then following through with that–well that is the kind of thing that inspires me.

My friend recommended two movies–Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, a very well done documentary, and The Way, another excellent movie about the same thing. I watched both movies this past week, and was very moved by the stories of the people walking, and how they continued on in spite of pain and other difficulties. And how each person found special meaning through their walk and the camaraderie that they found along the way.

As I watched (and stitched) it reminded me of the quilting journey I am on. Many times it is a spiritual journey (nothing excites me more than stitching the beautiful words of scripture into a quilt.) Sometimes the journey I have chosen seems endless, and I wonder, “what was I thinking?” as I stitch. But like the pilgrims on their way to Santiago, I learn that the journey is what is important. I will learn many things as I stitch. Sometimes I learn that what I chose to do didn’t work so well. Sometimes there is a turn in the road, and I discover something completely new and unrelated to the current work. Always, there is value in putting hand to cloth and striving to create something beautiful.

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In the Meantime…

While I was working on making my kantha blanket top, I was without a hand stitching project. I found this little sketch in my notebook and thought it would be a fun embroidery project.

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I found an interesting dark fabric to use as the top, and made a sandwich. I decided to “draw” the outline with black perle cotton. In the past I have machine stitched outlines. Once I got into it, I enjoyed this process. If you’ll look close, you will see the outline I drew and the outline I embroidered are not exactly the same. I wasn’t embroidering to scale, and I ran out of room somewhere in the middle. No biggie.

My favorite part–choosing the embroidery threads! And, I found a little case I had gotten at the thrift store, and it is perfect for the threads and the entire project will fit in there.

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I chose a fairly limited palette of colors to work with, and am challenging myself to stick with just these colors.

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Stitching so far:

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Obsession

I don’t know where it came from, this obsession to make a “kantha blanket.” I have a little niggling thought that it might be because of answering the question so many times “what is kantha stitching?” and always being careful to explain that my stitching is “kantha inspired.”If I did a blanket, I would have something more “authentic” to show people.

So after my failure at the last scrappy quilt top, I set about making a more organized, partially planned, scrap quilt for the kantha blanket. Like I do for most projects, I chose a large variety of fabrics that I like, and then narrowed them down to fabrics that might work together. And set a few parameters for the piecing–Longish rectangles, 4 inches wide by about 7 or 10 inches long. I would insert a few squares with my “crosses” and my circles. And I went to town working on this quilt top.

In just a few days I finished it, and with the finish came a deep sense of despair. This “planned scrappy” quilt top was not much better than my really really scrappy top. What is wrong with me? I can’t even plan a simple scrappy quilt. Which then devolved into Nothing I’ve ever done is really any good at all. Oh, it was bad.

Fortunately for her, my best friend was not available for conversation that day. By the next day I had decided to follow my own advice, and “continue on.” She concurred. I’m not sure if covering this entire piece with stitching lines 1/4 inch apart will help. But it will be in the spirit of kantha–using what I have and making something useful of it.

In the meantime, I mentioned to my mom what I was doing, and she started asking a ton of questions about kantha. So I got out my big book of Kantha, and what do you know–what I am doing now is still not very kantha-like in the traditional sense. We’ll just call it a modern take on kantha 🙂

The sandwich is made, and I am happily stitching away on my kantha blanket.

I decided to not show you the entire piece. Any hint of sympathy or disapproval might send me into a downward spiral from which I might never recover :)

I decided to not show you the entire piece. Any hint of sympathy or disapproval might send me into a downward spiral from which I might never recover 🙂

Blocked!

Usually on Monday I am raring to get into the studio and start working. I had lots of things I could work on, and new ideas that were begging to get started. I just could not make myself start on any of them. Maybe its because I was feeling extra stiff–yes, we’ll blame it on that. I went to the gym and spent a good long time on the bike and in the pool.

Monday night I FINALLY finished stitching on this little piece–inspired by the cover art on the latest issue of Quilting Arts magazine and my planned trip to rug hooking camp. Stitching on wool seemed like the perfect travel project. But filling every square inch of this little piece with stitches took FOREVER. And what the heck was I going to do with it?

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Well….C., the same new friend from my SLO workshops who suggested the fabric to frame my little embroidered piece, took this wool embroidery and folded it and suggested making a needle-keeper (is that what they’re called?)

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So that’s what I did. Tuesday morning I had a plan. I decided to line it with a really pretty piece of dyed wool, and stitch those two pieces together with blanket stitch.

I didn’t want to sew the sides up, because I wanted to be able to lay it flat to see the design as a whole. Then I realized I wanted a pocket for my thimble, so there was the perfect scrap of fabric just laying on the cutting table, waiting for me.

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This was just the little jump start I needed. I spent the rest of the day in the studio, working on a project that I was quite enthused about… I’ll tell you more about that next time 🙂

The Trouble with Teaching

The trouble with teaching is that it takes a lot of brain power to prepare for it. At least that’s how it is for me. I can’t really think about starting a NEW. IMPORTANT. PROJECT. when I am thinking about teaching. All I can think about is “oh, I could share this,” or “wouldn’t that be great to have a sample of that to share.” And you can see, those are not bad thoughts. I just won’t be starting one of the big projects I have in my mind until after this teaching gig is done.

In the meantime, I wanted to have as many examples as possible to share with the class. I had a LOT of unfinished samples…ahem…have I mentioned I don’t like binding quilts?

In fact, I had five small pieces that needed to be finished. So one by one, I set out to get that done. I also didn’t have any handwork for my evenings, so finishing these substituted for that for a few days.

This is the “header” for the “what they said” series. It has a facing instead of a binding. This is my favorite method to face quilts now. 

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You’ve seen this before. Its not finished (I’m planning to bead it) but I wanted to take it to share with the class. So now it has a binding on it.

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And a binding on this little wonky piece, just to keep it contained. Oh, you’ll notice that I hand-stitched the binding to the front. Usually I machine sew my binding down. But I always say I think its weird that quilters do all of that beautiful hand-work on a binding, and hide it on the back.

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And this piece has been hanging around FOREVER, with unfinished edges. That was partly because I just didn’t know what to do with it. It was stitched almost to the very edge, and I didn’t want to cover up any stitching with a stupid old binding. I thought about zig-zagging the edge. And then it came to me–just do that by hand! It took quite a while. But I think it is the perfect edge for this little piece.

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Close-up. Hint: if you do this, it goes a lot quicker with #5 perle cotton 🙂

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And then I had this hexagon piece. I just didn’t know WHAT to do with it. I thought about mounting it on a board. I thought about putting it on top of another quilt (which is what I did.) But how to finish all those dang edges… I just didn’t want to fool with binding it. I was pretty sure it would not be my best work, trying to turn all those corners. So because I had “zig-zagged” the previous piece by hand, I thought, hey, that might work! I literally took 5 stitches, and said, no way am I going to go around this whole piece by hand. So then I decided to try zig-zagging by machine. I auditioned several green fabrics, and in the end, this beautiful piece won out. I placed the hexagon, which was already a complete quilt sandwich, on top of the piece, got it just where I wanted it, and pinned it carefully in place, on a flat surface. First, I straight stitched about 1/8″ from the edge, all around the piece. I thought zig zagging might distort it. Then I started zig-zagging. Three colors of thread, and three rounds of small zig zag later, it was firmly in place. Then I could cut out the back of the foundation fabric. Made a sandwich, and quilted it simply. It came out just the way I envisioned. Oh, and side-note. I thought I would just quilt it on my Janome, since I had a big quilt under the Juki. I had to stop three times in the first five minutes for stupid things, so I switched over to the Juki. Ahhhhh… much better 🙂

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Close-up:

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As I mentioned, I didn’t have any piece to work on in the evening. This was driving me nuts. I also have seen quite a few things lately that have little tiny pieces of fabric sewn together. I got this book. Her work fascinates me. So finally, after all these little quilts were finished, I decided one night to just make a sandwich out of some leftover muslin and batting that was laying around in the studio.I brought the sandwich, my bag of Cherrywood little scraps, and four or five “neutral” fabrics out to my comfy chair. I was somehow going to sew patches on top of this. As soon as I sat down, I knew I didn’t want to have muslin showing through on the front. So I set about hand piecing little bits of fabric together. Yesterday I got tired of hand-piecing, so I put the rest of it together by machine. And now I have a fun little piece to stitch on in the evening.

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So you can see, there are more good than bad things about teaching! I am looking forward to this assignment.