Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two Down, Two To Go

I have two of the quadrants of my scrappy Trip Around the World sewn together at this point. If I remember correctly they will comprise the left side of the quilt top.

It's amazing how much work this has been. I mean, sewing blocks together is not something I normally consider hard or challenging, especiallly since there's nothing fancy or out of the ordinary to deal with in this quilt top. Oh, maybe the occasional seam that ends up virtually on top of another seam. Some of my outer strips on the liberated log cabin blocks are pretty narrow. But for whatever reason, this project seems to be sapping all my energy. I confess to spending time out in the yard, trying to do a bit of gardening. That has probably had something to do with how tired I am at the end of the day. The time outside is also one of the reasons I've had quite the series of headaches lately, I'm sure, and they always leave me feeling like a rag doll.

I really appreciate the positive feedback y'all have given me on this project. I've felt compelled to make this top but at the same time I don't have the confidence in it that I generally have with my work. I don't know why that is. Maybe it will come later, when I have it all together.

Today I'm off to see all my darling granddaughters briefly. No doubt I'll come home with yet another headache. (Daughter has just painted one of the bathrooms in her house. I won't go into the house but the fumes they carry with them on their clothing will be enough to set off my hypersensitive system.) In this case it will be worth it! :- )

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

Even though I'm not going to reuse the old blanket out of my decrepit flannel quilt for batting in my new scrappy utility quilt I did use it to determine the dimensions for the new quilt. For a strippy quilt that size I figured I would need three columns of blocks, 3 blocks wide by 13 blocks long. I started putting blocks on the wall randomly, alternating the liberated log cabins with the Shoo Fly and Churn Dash blocks. This is what fit comfortably on my design wall:

Too bad it didn't make me happy.

I turned my attention to other things and let it sit overnight. As I was getting ready for bed I had an idea for a different setting. The next morning I took the blocks off the wall, keeping them sorted by block type, and started laying out a Trip Around the World (sometimes also known as Sunshine and Shadow) design.

This seemed to be much easier for me to lay out. It was just organized enough for me to relax and have fun with the process.

At this point you can see I've run out of design wall. This setting needs to be 11 blocks wide by 13 blocks long (my blocks will finish at six inches each). Time to break it up into quadrants and work on one section at a time...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Just Do It

I have some more liberated log cabin blocks to share with you:

I think I might be ready to quit making blocks and start trying to put them together somehow. I suspect this means I'll be putting them up on the wall one by one rather than in sets of four or nine. Although I have to say that part of me wants to create these giant 9-Patch units and not necessarily have them all the same in terms of block placement. For example, I mentioned that I liked the look of the log cabins inbetween Shoo Fly and Churn Dash blocks. But what if I were to do a block of just these log cabins like you see above? And then another 9-Patch unit that had some Shoo Fly and/or Churn Dash blocks in it? I guess I'm wondering how much trouble I would get myself into if I were to be so bold as to create a bunch of giant 9-Patch units that were not identical. Could I then create a quilt top that would be cohesive? Or would it just be a big mess?

Most likely this cannot be answered with the application of rational thought. This is something that has to be sorted out under the influence of the creative spirit. I'll just have to begin by putting an assortment of blocks on the design wall and see where I end up. What's that quote about the journey being more significant than the destination? That needs to be my mantra as I set out on this particular journey...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Giving In

In spite of deadlines and commitments I've just gone ahead and played in my scraps some more. I left these picture files bigger so you can click on them for a better look if you like.

This was one really good day of sewing:

This is more like what I turn out in any given day:

And this was yesterday:

Yesterday's batch turned out rather dark for some reason.

You may have noticed that I put liberated log cabin blocks inbetween the Shoo Fly and Churn Dash blocks in the last two pictures. I like that look better than having the Shoo Fly and Churn Dash blocks slap up against each other. What I'm trying to decide now is how to approach designing the quilt top. Set four blocks together as a four patch before composing the quilt top? Or go even bigger and make 18" nine patch blocks out of the scrappy blocks? Or just wing it and start throwing blocks on the wall?

I have some whimsical yardage I bought on sale last year (or was it the year before that?) that might be fun to incorporate in a strippy set or to use as borders. I'm pretty sure there's enough for a quilt back but I like the print so well I'd like to have at least some of it on the front.

I suppose all this will fall into place once I finally quit making blocks. The trick is to find a good stopping point... ;- )

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Maybe Not

I took apart my old flannel four patch quilt I told you about in the last post. The acrylic blanket that I'd used for batting had not held up as well as I expected. It looks as though there was enough stress put on the ties at various times to cause new holes to be created. The blanket is now destined for our local animal shelter where they can use it for bedding.

The sheet I'd used to back the quilt also now has good sized holes in it where the ties used to be. They may close up again with some effort on my part but it's more faded than I realized too. I will postpone any decisions about whether to use it or not until I'm much closer to needing a back for a new utility quilt.

I'd like to salvage at least part of the top. I haven't yet looked at it closely enough to determine whether that will be possible. I may be able to take bits apart and put them back together with other bits. I'd be happy just to get a pillow top out of it as a token of its previous existence. We'll see. I'm not ready to tackle that just yet.

In the meantime I have continued to make blocks out of scraps.

Which increases the possibility that other projects with deadlines won't be completed on time. Technically I'm already behind with the Bead Journal Project. On the other hand, I made two ornaments for each of the first two months of the current Project so you could say I'm ahead of the game. If I didn't have such clear ideas for what I want to do for March and April I might be able to use that loophole without reservation. As it is, I feel like I'm falling behind. But I keep making scrappy orphan blocks! Right now that seems to be what my muse wants to do. At this point I just want to keep her happy.

Ooo! The sun just came out! There's actually blue sky between the white clouds! I may have to use this opportunity to run out and do what I can to clean up the yard. I popped out the other morning before the rain started and cut a couple of tulips from my flower bed.

They do me more good in a vase in the house than in the yard. ;-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010


The first quilt of any size that I made was this one, a simple sashed Four Patch:

This was back when my children were all toddlers and we were living in Texas. Like most young families we didn't have a lot of money so I collected men's flannel shirts from the one thrift shop in town and picked up remnants of new flannels at good ole Wallyworld.

For batting I used an acrylic blanket that was already at least 10 years old at the time. I used a poly-cotton blend sheet I'd acquired in a box lot at an auction for the back and the binding. The layers were tied with cotton crochet thread.

I signed but apparently did not date this quilt. (I wonder why I didn't date it. That seems out of character for me.) I'm guessing it was completed in the late 1980's or early '90's. It has been used a lot. Even though it was one of my first quilts it was never precious to me. In every conceivable way it has always been a utility quilt.

The flannels I bought as remnants have held up well over the life of this quilt. The flannel shirts, not so much. Some were better quality than others, some had been worn and washed several times before I ever got my hands on them. Patches started disintegrating a few years ago. At first I toyed with the idea of simply replacing the weakest ones. The last time I brought the quilt out of the dryer, however, I realized the situation was more dire.

This quilt has been in the back of my mind as I've been sewing my liberated log cabin blocks. Last night I got it out to have a good look at it and came to the conclusion that while the top is no longer salvageable (not by me anyway) I should be able to use the blanket as batting again, and maybe the sheet as well. It feels very appropriate to use the orphan blocks I've been making out of scraps to make a new utility quilt out of this old one. That would just about be the ultimate in recycling!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Quilter's Prayer Flags?

I've been sewing scraps together after all. I have 42 liberated log cabin blocks in the works. Of course I'm chain piecing, just feeding one block in after another. As the blocks grow bigger the pile in back of the sewing machine gets larger faster and I'm forced to cut some free before I get to the bottom of my stack of blocks. This is what I had on one such occasion:

It reminded me of Tibetan prayer flags. To quote the Wikipedia entry,
"Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to 'gods,' a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all."

Not such a bad idea really. Don't we quilters send our quilts out into the world full of good wishes for the recipients?

This is a stack of the 38 blocks I have trimmed to 6.5" to make them interchangable with my other 6" orphan blocks. I have two blocks I think I'm going to build up to 8.5" just because I don't want to lose the imagery in the blocks. Now I'm trying to decide whether to put the blocks and the strips away when I've finished with this set or whether to start another set. This has been a fun diversion from the projects on my To Do list but it's not getting those other projects done!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Risky Business

Happy new week dear readers. We had a lovely Easter Sunday here in the Magpie's Nest. The sun even came out from behind the clouds much of the day. It is now a cold gray Monday so I'm making every effort to keep the sunshine in my thoughts.

Over the weekend I made quite a bit of progress with my scrap sorting. Here are the four piles I created: long strings, short strings, chunks, and smaller bits.

It looks like I had emptied about four color bags when that picture was taken. I started with the smallest bags and worked my way up to the big bags of blues, blacks, and neutrals. As you can see below I had to find containers for a couple of the piles because they were getting out of control.

Long strings and shorter strips.

Chunks on the left and, in the popcorn tin from Christmas, bits.

This is where things stand now:

I still have a bag of whites to go through. And we won't even mention the scraps that I'm going to find in old project bags that are hiding in the bottom of my closet. This will do for the time being.

Part of me wants to spend some time whittling that pile of chunks down by cutting patches where possible and by using some of the odd shapes to begin liberated log cabin blocks. The problem with that is that I have three... no, four other projects I've already committed to that are either in the way or need to be continued somehow. I wonder what the chances are that I could play in the scraps for a while and then still have energy enough to follow up on one of those other projects... Not good, but I may risk it. Who knows, maybe I'll get bored with the scraps pretty quickly and be ready to move on to something with a higher priority. One can only hope. ;- )