Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Random Sampler Is a Finish!

Things always slow down in the fall, that's what I've been telling myself for months. So here we are and it still feels like we are careening from one week right into the next. I ended up in Portland this past weekend and snuck in a little visit to my youngest sister. Did I do any hand work that was prepped and sitting in my bag?
Random Sampler
Um, no. I was too busy trying to keep from shivering half to death. It's usually 10 degrees warmer in Western Oregon than what we deal with here in Eastern Washington, but that cold damp air! Brr...

Can you believe how far we are into November? I keep walking around in a fog just blown away by how close we are to Thanksgiving already! This quilt was one I was absolutely determined to get finished up this year and it's always had an expected Thanksgiving deadline--at least in my mind. Yikes! So, knowing this quilt was so crazy close to a finish, I knuckled down and finally got the binding figured out and all sewn on. Love the leftover binding tote for quilts like this--didn't have to dig into the stash at all and the work is half done already!
So good to have this one finished!
This is definitely one of my oldest unfinished quilt tops. Started sometime in 2012 from one of the first online QAL's I ever joined up with and one that almost got sidelined completely. It got bogged down sometime after most of the original blocks were finished {how to put the puzzle together and have it look good???} and then it was quite awhile before the quilt top itself was finally sewn together. The large applique basket block was an orphan block that just begged to be incorporated into the quilt and I've never regretted that. It helps give the quilt personality! Also, it's good to remember that all through the making of this particular project, I constantly referred to Gwen Marston's 'Liberated Medallion Quilts' book. It's a lovely, wonderful book to have on the shelf if you like to do your own thing.
A little bit of hand quilting on the applique basket...
I still love the calm, cozy colors in this quilt. Somehow that creamy white just helped make the quilt glow instead of  getting overwhelmed by the dark undertones in most fall fabrics. It's a trap I fall into a lot of times, loving these colors but not quite get the balance right. And I adore the use of plaids, something you'll see me gravitate to over and over again. Overall, it just feels like an inviting quilt and that feels like a win.
Love seeing then hanging off the railing....
Because it was such a busy, busy quilt, I ended up machine quilting it in simple vertical lines and then went back and hand quilted the larger basket block with perle cotton. There was one big pucker in the back of the quilt that I tried to think would be okay to ignore. I even took the colored thread off the cone and replaced it with my usual white thread. But no. It was just too bad to wink at. Couldn't leave it be! Ugghh.. Hate having to rewind the other thread and change out the bobbin again and just for a few inches of thread. The funny thing was, somehow I ended up folding another part of the quilt into the 'fix' and then had a horrible mess on my hands. No I did not take a picture because I was just too furious! lol  In the end, I had two fixes {well, actually three after fixing the place where it was caught} and it took lots of extra time that I was sure would have been better spent elsewhere.

But now I can be happy with it and thankfully it washed up beautifully. I'm always bracing myself for red dye issues these days! So glad I went ahead and pushed myself to get this one done by this fall. It's too nice to be sitting folded up in a drawer for years. And yes, I have bounced around a lot this year, from project to project and all different looks and styles. It's all about having different projects in different stages so as to always have something to work on--no matter the crazy things going on in my life. And getting things finished up. Doesn't it feel wonderful to wrap up a years-in-the-making sort of project?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Not My Normal Way of Working

This has been one of those 'what was I thinking' sort of quilts. All the time I am sewing parts together, my mind is wandering and it's so very hard to stay on track.
The largest chunk of my Straight & Narrow quilt sewn together
I can't say there is any real regret as this quilt will be very easy to give away and the time involved is not extreme. Even including the seam ripper time caused by random strips joining up in an unfortunate way! The picture below shows how it should look after the final rows are joined. As usual, the applique work needs to be finished first.
Looking at it with the next two panels
At this time, those chunky crosses are just pinned down and those last two panels aren't sewn onto the rest of the quilt. The original pattern had 12 crosses, but alas they were pieced. That just seemed like a lot more work to me and would also ruin the directional look to my background fabric. So now there are only 9 chunky crosses in which I went totally wild with and free cut with scissors. Wow. I. Am. So. Clever. Maybe I can get that stitching done this weekend though?
Free-cut crosses still need stitched down
And yes, I warned you this would be a bland quilt! Of course I couldn't handle keeping the crosses to one fabric so had to dig around and find some fabrics that would play nicely together, but more importantly add a bit of spark. Just a teeny, tiny bit of spark. This is why I don't like making quilts especially for somebody! There is just not enough freedom to properly play.....
An impulsive make
Not surprising then that last night found me pushing that quilt aside and impulsively making a little pillow. Just because I could! It will be a gift for our annual secret sister thing we do at our church. Every year the ladies {who are currently interesting in being involved} draw/exchange names and then throughout the year we give a 'thinking of you' gift--once a month. Next week is the reveal party and this will make a nice little addition to what I already have prepared.
Fun to play with fabric!
And I don't usually enjoy making things like this. Not really. But compared to working on the bland quilt? So much fun!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Little Bit of Hand Work is Better Than None

So last week really wiped me out. I didn't even pick up any sewing until later in the week and then I mostly concentrated on hand sewing or hand quilting. And not very much of that as the hand quilting felt heavy. Yeah. I was pretty run down and feeling sorry for myself.
Pineapple sewing
Started in stitching some of these pineapple blocks which have actually been prepped for a couple weeks. Yep. That happened after I had a little meltdown over the lack of hand stitch ready to go at a moments notice. Wowsers, was I ever glad to have them ready for my couch potato days recovering from the flu. Sometimes you just don't want to get anywhere near a project that takes math, decisions, or intensive rotary cutting. Yikes! My foggy brain would have caused a lot of hurt to any fabric involved!

You probably didn't know it, but I'm been dreaming about making a pineapple quilt for a very long time. I had narrowed in on a foundation pieced log-cabin pattern I drew up, but something stopped me from committing. Then somehow I stumbled on this old quilt book with a classy looking pineapple block and you know how quickly it happens--I absolutely fell in love. The picture was in black and white which tremendously helped in making the decision. So much easier to imagine my fabrics being used when the inspiration pic is in black and white! I tinkered with the pattern a bit so as to fit the size block I wanted, then plunged in. The quilt won't just have pineapple blocks--it's looking more and more like it will share design space with postage stamp style basket blocks. But maybe done in an improv. style?

This week has been better except for the time change thing. It usually doesn't bother me much gaining an hour, but this year everything seems out of whack. Mostly I just want to get more sleep and my husband keeps dragging me out of the house for one reason or another. I've sewn a few of those tan and blue strips shown in the bottom of that picture above but that's just been boring. So uninspiring. I'll try and show you what I mean the next time there's a post. For now I'm gonna link up with sew-stitch-snap-SHARE#16 and maybe head to bed. Staying up late isn't helping me adjust to the time change. Maybe going to bed earlier than usual will do the trick?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

17 in 2017 Still Moving Along

Still working on the 17-ufos-in-2017. For the Peachy Cameo Medallion, I have been working on a scalloped border. Couldn't find the right border fabric and then stumbled upon this funky print in the stash. I feel in love with it not knowing how it would end up being used and so this is a surprising choice to me.
Peachy Cameo Medallion
Overall though, the entire quilt has been surprising. It seems odd to still be incorporating more red and blue into this quilt instead of branching off into other colors like usual! Still have two border units left to go before this scallop border will be complete and also the corner blocks--not sure what's going to happen their either. For now I am contemplating a little applique addition to what I already have going on, perhaps add a bit more spice to the quilt...
Auditioning another idea for the border
The solids challenge quilt is on the list as well and finally, I went forward with a plan that's been in the works for months now. I drew this triangle sashing plan out in a rough sketch, but didn't know if I like it or not. Well, you know how that goes. Sometimes you just have to sew it together to find out! And so the first three blocks are up on my wall for all to see. Hmm... I think adding in more of those solids is probably the right choice and I am happy they won't all be the same. Still, am I making more work for myself just because I can? 
Looking at the new sashing detail
 And then there is the Eagle quilt. It's definitely in the hoop and after a very rough start {ripping out thread colors I didn't like}, we are well on our way to something positive. It's often hard to 'see' the best way forward when getting started. This one would have looked fine in many different stitching patterns, but there's always one we seem to prefer, right?
In the hoop...
As usual, we have had very busy times here--a cousin wedding last weekend with lots of family in town. So much fun but now I have been hit with the flu. Ugghh... Will hopefully be back to my normal routine very soon....

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Adhoc. Improv. #26 Progress

Thanks for all the wonderful comments on my last post! Such an interesting and lively discussion about keeping and/or gifting the quilts we make. Congrats to the winner of the magazine giveaway--Georgia! I've sent an email your way as well as announcing it here.
The Ugly Quilt is finished!
Knowing that AHIQ #26 was coming up, I was rushing to get in another good finish. This 'Ugly Quilt' was started clear back in the late fall of 2015. It was a rough start, just playing around with a couple fabrics I liked and no pattern at all. Just at the point where I thought it needed to be round-filed, the quilt finally started developing a personality. I decided to incorporate some of my tentative improv. skills for the last border and after that was sewn on, the quilt decided it was done. Finito.
Loving the stitching....

Some quilts just wanna be square! I still smile at how quickly this one turned from really ugly to starting-to-get-sorta-interesting. It has several pieces of 90's calico in it, some make-do piecing and one lovely Coxcomb applique attempt. The free-style Baptist fan stitching makes it look so wonderfully cozy and now I just want to snuggle up with it for the whole rest of Fall. I couldn't believe it had been almost two years since I started this one. Where oh where has the time gone?

I can wholehearted say that I'm much, much more confident about improv. now than when I started this quilt. And also, I noticed while stitching on this quilt, that my initial goal in joining up with the Adhoc. linkups is starting to be realized. I am slowly, slowly starting to think about ways I can use different improv. looks to use in most all my quilts, whether in block piecing, borders or just attitude. While branching out from my safe space occasionally in color and style, simply by using the fabrics I love and continually working on that timeless 'utility' look, my quilts are starting to look even more make-do'ish than ever. And I adore it. LOVE that it doesn't look so forced and cheesy now.
I'm always happy with a good medallion look!
This past week I've also tried to make time for the 'Use Your Words' quilt. I liked the simple, almost stark look when all sewn together, but thought it needed just a touch more color.
Make Beautiful Things
And so I added on a mixed green and bright pink repeating squares border. Hmm... Maybe a bit too in-your-face now? The borders are not sewn on at this point so there's plenty of time for changes. I almost want to cut the sides of the borders down--change the look from fat squares to skinny rectangles. There would be lots of waste, but it might be worth it. Oh my, life has been a little bit too busy lately for me to properly concentrate on getting the best solution figured out. Maybe next week?
Auditioning a border....
This project was a result of last quarters prompt over at Ann and Kaja's. I took their prompt, grabbed some some orphan blocks and tested myself with a challenge to learn improv. letter piecing--wallah! Somehow that quilt top above happened. {I still call it a squirrel!}. The next quarter will be a 'consolidate and review' so yay! for me. Lots of time to get this quilt top squared away and maybe even dive into another improv. idea niggling at the back of my mind. Or two. Wouldn't want things to get boring around here!

It's also that time of the month to link up to sew-stitch-snap-SHARE#15. Progress is progress is progress....

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Obvious Dilemma of a Prolific Quilter

I finally got my sewing machine back from the maintenance/repair place and wow have I been antsy to get something ready to stitch on! So yesterday saw me sandwiching and pinning two quilt tops--one for machine quilting and the other for hand quilting. Later in the day I actually started machine quilting the Random Sampler quilt and it got me thinking. Uh oh... Get ready for a long post....
Random Sampler quilt--getting ready for machine quilting!
Why do I always have to have this mental discussion with myself: Am I giving this quilt away? Should I? Who to then? Then if I decide to keep it, why is there {on occasion} this guilty little feeling of possession or even greediness? And yesterday I thought to myself, 'This stops now!'

Julie's recent post and the subsequent comments really brought all this into sharp relief. First of all, if you read her blog, you'll instantly get that Julie is a giver. Some of us give quilts away and some don't. She does. Whether she gives of {what she determines to be} her very best, shouldn't really matter because hello? She always does excellent work. So good for her, coming up with a good plan of attack for how to gift in the future.

And then I thought about another recent post that resonated greatly with me. Debbie talked about when someone determines that one of our quilts has greater value or is better than another one we've made. They can't possibly know 'what lies within' like we do. That can really smart if we have a deep fondness for the one they've ultimately declared less than. I love how she further writes in the post, '.... acknowledge that what we do and what we have is something pretty special.' 
Eagle quilt--finally about to be in the hoop....
Basically, we need to just let people see what they are going to see, but know within ourselves the gift of our own creativity. It's a great post! So back to my original point--whether we give away our quilts or not is absolutely nobodies business but ours. And circling around to Debbie's thoughts and applying them to 'gifting', whatever quilt we give should be deemed good enough and special enough without having to go through these stupid mental gymnastics. We don't do shoddy work my friends! Let's try and put this into perspective. 

I started in with my love of quilting some 20 plus years ago. My skills were extremely questionable in a myriad of ways and I positively wince at some of those efforts! That didn't stop me from lovingly creating {and gifting} anything from baby quilts to what I considered to be great lap-sized quilts--all to people who I knew would appreciate the love. Here! Have this awesome quilt I made you! And as happens with many of us, my love of the  hobby {and more emphatically, my love for the process] grew to a time when yes, I do have quilts stacking up all over my house. There are some amazing quilts and not-so-amazing quilts sitting in those stacks but all are special as they have been part of my wonderfully creative journey. I have reached that pinnacle in time when I always, always wonder if the next quilt will be given away. If it should or could be. What an incredible place to be in. But that's where I think I have recently stumbled and desperately need to reassess. 

This is my love and my hobby. It's perfectly okay if I choose to keep every single quilt made for the rest of my, hopefully, long lived life. Okay, I know--definitely not going to keep them all, because I looooooove giving quilts away. That being said, new parameters probably need to be determined so as to get rid of this creeping feeling of obligation. Prolific quilt-making does indeed have some consequences, thus the gifting. However, it never feels good to give special things to persons who won't appreciate the effort involved. Hmm... 

I'm going to start by recalling a moment when my husband walked in the house with a brand new baby quilt 23 years ago. He went out on a construction job one day, as was usual, and when the elderly woman of the house found out that he had a 1 month baby boy? She immediately went to her stacks of completed baby quilts and gave him one as a gift. She loved to make and also, she loved to give, even to the construction guy who was working at her home for maybe a total of a week. Was I arrogant enough to think that particular quilt was her very best work ever? No. Did I care? Absolutely not. Happy dance everyone! We got a new quilt!! It was an awesome moment. 

Another moment in time that settled deep into my consciousness was when the 2014 fire burned through our community. We stuffed as many quilts {and other important things} as could possibly be carried into our suburban and then drove away from our house. KNOWING that our house was going to burn down and there was nothing to be done. In a very surprising and miraculous turnabout, our house did not burn, but alas, many others did. Will anyone ever know exactly how many quilts burned just from my mom and sisters possessions burning? At one point we guessed well over 40 that they had been fully completed--they were very prolific quilters so maybe even more than that. Plus they had been peronally gifted quilts--I counted 4 quilts burnt just made by me! But the greater point was this: although my sister had gifted many of her quilts, my mom had not. Only one or two people in the entire huge family have one of her quilts!! That hurts so much.

So you see, maybe it's okay to sometimes gift quilts that perhaps we feel aren't our perfect work. Would I even care what the quilt looked like if I could just have ONE of my moms quilts? After that experience I started occasionally gifting an older, gently used quilt depending on the recipient. We give for all sorts of reasons. Why do we have this perception that only newly finished quilts are acceptable for giving? That it has to be tailor-made for someone in specific? That it has to be super-duper special or our intent is somehow suspect. 

I think it all boils down to the recipient and the reasons we're currently wanting to gift. We have to keep in mind that our creativity really is a special thing--from the least {in our minds} to the greatest of our efforts. Finding a way to share that creativity is a gift to ourselves--letting it go into the world-- as well as to the recipient of that physical thing--a  warm, cozy quilt. A close, personal friend or beloved family member is probably a better bet to gift the bazillion hours of hand work sort of quilt to, not the construction guy with the new baby. Just saying! And we all have those relatives and friends who wouldn't recognize a fantastically implemented quilt from a Thimbleberries knock-off. You know exactly who I'm talking about. That doesn't mean they won't positively adore having a quilt made by yours truly. So be it. 

From now on, the plan is this: I'm gleefully keeping all the quilts that I really don't want to get rid of just yet . Who cares exactly why they might tug on my heartstrings at the moment! That is totally beside the point. These are going to decorate my couches, snuggle with my kids while they're watching a movie, hang off my bed at nights and warm my nieces and nephews when they visit. When I finish the next ten quilts in line, which of course will be amazingly better than the ten before, then I'll slowly find the right recipient for the quilts I've grown tired of or feel less of an attachment to now the new, improved ones are currently staring me in the face. {That doesn't mean they are suddenly undesirable to everyone else, duh!! It's just part of the journey!!} And when a brand new finish wants to go live with someone else, of course I'll work with that. But it's not going to be all about someone else--all of the time. I vow to enjoy this creative outlet I've been blessed with and not wallow in guilt for when and why and how I decide to give away the results.*whew! Glad that's all settled. So exhausting to try and analyze all the quirky thought processes we go through...

If you're still reading along, thank you for your patience! I've got a simple giveaway for one lucky, but loyal reader.
A giveaway
Simply Moderne sent me two magazines by mistake this month {my last issue, boohoo!} and it's a great one. Really, Sujata Shah and Rachael Daisy both! Just leave a comment telling me your thoughts on why and how you gift quilts and/or if you even do. Maybe you plan to gift more in the future or keep them all till you die and let the kids sell them at the estate sale. Whatever! I'll randomly choose a winner sometime next week!



Friday, October 13, 2017

Always An Excuse Handy to Start a New Quilt

Although the picture is a bit deceptive, please believe me when I say this hst medallion is actually square. Every added border is definitely an experience though. Wowsers! I certainly don't have the most accurate piecing skills these days after playing with so much improv. in the last couple years...
Hst Medallion
Not sure what I think about the first blue hst border, but I'm gonna leave it be until the next couple rounds of pink and blue are added. They are going to be switching back and forth every other row so hopefully it will all make perfect sense eventually.

It was interesting to pull out the next potential quilt tops slated for sandwiching and quilting. There are a couple ones older than these {of course}, but I just couldn't bring myself to care too much. Apparently I am in the mood to work on fallish looking quilts, but maybe not drown myself in browns like the two quilt tops I am steadfastly ignoring. We shall see. For now I am just contemplating.
So many choices
I also jumped into another brand new project. This one is a little different than  what normally happens around here these days. Uh huh. I am mostly attempting to follow a pattern. Yeah, crazy stuff! It's from the Quilt Sampler Fall & Winter 2013 magazine--a very simple and straightforward pattern that should go together super fast with no major design boondoggles and hopefully just lots of mindless sewing.
Straight & Narrow, a new start
I need want a quilt to 'gift' to someone and there is nothing in my quilt stacks or even the quilt top drawers that will work. It needs to be very nice looking but honestly, perhaps a bit bland? Just not thinking the recipient would be pleased with one of my more creative adventures. I went digging around in the binders where I store quilt inspiration from magazines and found this pattern. It's a little modern looking but when it's made up in these particular fabrics, I think it will present more 'formal' than modern looking. And that's okay. Nothing wrong with that.
The cut list
As usual I had to re-write the cut-list. It really helps me to not make weird mistakes and mess up those precious bits of fabric. I'm actually really happy to be using these {mostly} older looking fabrics and look forward to how this quilt might look in the end. And too, I've already made a mental note to make changes to the long vertical strips of chunky crosses. IF, and I say 'if', they remain in the quilt, they will have to be sewn into the quilt in an applique process rather than piecing. There is a subtle, but cool looking reproduction fabric that wants to be the background for that particular strip of fabric. It won't look good with lots of seams so..., I guess I'll be making some changes and not following the pattern to a T. Did you really think that was possible with me? Oh well, I'm getting the cart before the horse because I certainly don't intend to do anything with that part of the quilt until all the rest is sewn together. Onward ho! Still scratching my head that I'm actually making a quilt for someone specific. I don't do that. Like ever.....

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