Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What If...?

With the first two rows of my Halloween quilt complete this is what I had on the design wall:

The best question I've found to ask myself when designing a quilt this way is "What if...?"

What if I arranged the bigger blocks this way instead?

That spreads the green out a bit across the surface of the quilt top. So if I leave it like that how will I fill out that upper row? I need some more big blocks...

I found several little 4-patch units in my bag of Halloween bits and blocks. Those often go in the corners of more complex blocks... Let's see, what if I do this?

Well, I'm not crazy about the lack of contrast between the candy corn rectangles and the central 4-patch unit but it'll do.

I had some charm squares from a swap in my bag too. I turned a couple of those into square-in-a-square blocks and then made a couple more out of prints from my stash. A giant spider web (that glows in the dark!) and the row was complete.

That was quite fun! At the end of that day my desgin wall looked like this:

Two more rows to go. :- )

Sunday, June 26, 2011

And Thus It Begins

I figured the tall blocks would be the best place to start with this Halloween quilt. They were from a block lottery, supposed to finish at 9" x 15," but of course these were the rejects from previous projects because they weren't regulation size.

The cat on a pumpkin block has a similar look but was shorter and wider than the other rectangular blocks. It was so cute I wanted to include it somehow.

By taking off the side strips and adding to the top and bottom it fit right in.

Setting the blocks side by side gave me almost exactly the width I was shooting for too!

Next I looked for ways to make a row out of the fussy cut panels. A lot of my Halloween prints are larger scale or are made up of scenes. It didn't take too long to find a couple that would also work as fussy cut panels, with narrow compensating strips in between to get the width I wanted.

So at the end of Day 1 I had this on my design wall:

The Tea Leaf was one of the orphan blocks and will finish at 12." The Churn Dash was 10.5" so I just added a couple of strips to bring it up to 12," and I made the Double X block specifically to balance out the Tea Leaf. Day 2 was a little more labor intensive ~ stay tuned!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Not Macabre

I've sort of been trolling for the next quilt project to focus my attention on. Apparently I'm not quite ready to commit to other ideas I've had, although one of them could be handled as a Between Seams project (basically leaders and enders). Then yesterday I found myself reorganizing and cleaning up my bookmarked online sites. In the process I learned that Margaret's Hope Chest needs child's quilts for fall give aways and the IBOL Guy is collecting packages again to distribute in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I haven't pulled anything for a Bundle of Love yet but I did pull a bunch of my cuter Halloween prints for a child's quilt.

This is the hole they left on my stash shelves. You may notice, if you look carefully, that there are still prints in Halloween colors and lots of skeleton prints I left behind. The skeletons and the pirate prints tend to run together...

The hole doesn't look that big in the picture but what you didn't see was how crowded that shelf was before I started pulling things off!

The next thing I did was to paw through my orphan blocks to see what might fit into this quilt. I found a 12" block, one that will finish at 11," some rectangular blocks from a swap that measure around 9 x 15" and some fussy cut panels.

And then I found this block all by its lonesome. It would finish at 10.5" the way it is now.

I'm currently thinking of building a horizontal strippy quilt. A couple of the pieces I pulled from the stash are wide stripe prints that I could use as sashing between rows of blocks. We're shooting for a 40" x 60" quilt. Unfortunately, the stripe prints are not quite that wide so I'll have to figure something out when I get to that point. This whole plan may fall apart or morph into something else long before then anyway! I'm just pleased I've finally found something that has me intrigued enough to begin playing. ;- )

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rules vs. Choices

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will be shocked to see a new post so soon after the last one. When I saw this post over on Julie's blog I had to get in on the discussion. What follows is my two cents worth on the topic of The Rules in Quilt Making.

I have been wielding a needle of one type or another for at least 45 years. I learned to embroider first, as a pre-teen, and the cult of Perfectionism was deeply ingrained by the experiences of my youth.

When I came to quilt making I had two toddlers and another baby on the way. I learned “the rules” from books and magazines and tried diligently to obey them. Of course I started out with less than ideal tools and materials. I quickly discovered that until I could have a rotary cutter and mat there would be few quilts made ‘by the book.’ It took too long to make templates and scissor cut everything.

Twin size quilt for my first granddaughter, which was started when her mother was a little girl.

Even as my tools and skills improved I had no real desire to duplicate the quilts I saw in books or magazines. Nor was I interested in complex or intricate blocks. Then along came Gwen and her first book on liberated quilt making. Freedom! Enlightenment! And encouragement of a kind rarely found in the other books of the era.

Wool & flannel, 17.5" x 13.5"

For me, quilt making is the art form that I’m the most comfortable with, the easiest in which to express my creative urges. It’s not about making the most quilts or the “best” quilts or exhibiting my work or selling my work (although I would not be opposed to generating a little income!). I want my quilts to be authentic expressions of ME and MY life, not whatever the current trend in the quilt world happens to be at the moment. I also want them to hold up over time, so there are elements of the construction process that I’m picky about.

I guess I have high standards when it comes to the construction process. I like consistent seams that are straight if they’re meant to be straight and wavy if they’re meant to be wavy. I press my seams because I like the way they look and behave when that’s done. I like having a design wall as much for the ease and comfort it provides my body as for the perspective it affords. I happen to prefer a rotary cutter to scissors because I like the feeling of being in control that I get with the cutter. My scissors tend to go where I don’t want them to! Of course, sometimes the cutter does too. ;- ) I rip fabric whenever I can. Have you tried that? It’s a rush for those of us who tend to get caught up in Perfectionism.

Quilted with beads & sequins, 17.5" x 16.5"

The beauty of quilt making is that there’s room for everyone. Look at all the choices we have before us: fabric types, print types, the vast range of colors available, the multitude of processes we can bring to the work, and ultimately how we choose to apply those processes in the work we do. I no longer believe in a right way or a wrong way to do things. (However, in some specific cases there are dangerous ways to do things and it would be wrong to encourage someone to ignore those rules.) I believe in learning as much as you can about what’s available, trying out the things that appeal, and then choosing what will work best for the project you currently have in mind.

Rules or not, the question we need to ask ourselves is the one posed by Ben & Jerry:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Messy Desk Monday

Changes are taking place here in the Magpie's Nest. I finally have the opportunity to set up a more permanent work station for hand work. Yippee! It's not going to happen all at once, no little organizational fairies are coming over to make the job go more quickly (darn it!) but it's going to happen. Pretty much all that means is that I'll be exchanging one mess for another here on the desk, one corner of which you can see below.

Did you notice the really tall fellow sticking up out of my bookmark cup? He just came to live with me this weekend. He was created by one of my sons.

This son has been making replica wands from the Harry Potter movies, turning them on our little wood lathe. This happens to be an original design created just for me. *VeryBigGrin*

He used wood burning to create the patterning just below the head and then various paints or stains for the rest of the coloration.

The skull was sculpted free hand out of polymer clay. I think he did a darn good job! Now I just have to learn how to use the thing... hehehe. ;- )

Friday, June 17, 2011

Another Page

Here's one of the spreads in the journal I'm making.

I wanted to narrow this page down just a bit before I started working on it but in the process I ended up tearing into the page. To make that repair I folded another used Color Catcher over the edge of the page, covering the tear, and zig-zagged all over it. Before I did the stitching I had already decided to fold the corner of the Color Catcher over to I could pin the button in place. The stitching was done with a varigated thread.

Some of the zig-zagging was done from the back, to secure my dyed ribbon in place:

The raven is the center of another of the truffle papers my son found on clearance for me.

With very little in the book so far it already seems bulky. This is a side view with the art boards I will be using for the covers just laid in place.

I found the perfect place to keep the journal and all its potential parts and pieces:

A lunch box my Darling Daughter gave me at Christmas time!

Meanwhile, I've been dealing with vertigo and migraines this week. Hoping for improvement over the next couple of days.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I found an unexpected envelope in the mailbox the other day.

The thoughtful and generous QuiltDivaJulie sent me scraps from her "Waiting for the Mail" flimsy.The envelope was hard and rigid so I didn't expect it to be fabric!

Turns out she had vacuumed packed the scraps. That did a really good job of keeping them neat and tidy.

I couldn't...
for any thing better!

Now I have ideas for a word/text quilt of my own percolating in the brainpan. I already have a title for it too. That's rare for me. Yesterday I dropped a chunk of change over at eQuilter.com to further add to this particular section of my stash. Before I go any further I need to pull the text prints I already own out of their color stacks just to make sure I don't go overboard!

In the meantime, I did manage to make that constructed stripe block bigger. I had enough to make a second, half-size, block as well.

And some more blocks out of scraps:

I'm a little embarrassed that after all this time I'm only just now figuring out that the Snowball block and the Shoo Fly block use exactly the same patches in the same number, just a different configuration. Sheesh!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I have been sewing in my journal, both by hand and by machine. Since I have to avoid glues if I want to remain viable there will be a lot of stitching in this journal!

I discovered the work of Scott Smith in an autumn issue of Art Doll Quarterly. Amazing stuff. Of course his Halloween characters are what I like the best so I bought a set of his postcards. They're not something I want to part with but I wanted to do more than leave them in the envelope they came in. This journal seems like the perfect place for at least a couple of them. :- )

So here I have hand stitched one in place. The postcards are pretty stout so I used the sewing machine with an unthreaded needle to poke holes in both the card and the journal page. That made the hand work much easier to accomplish.

There was a narrow strip of the watercolor paper leftover when I created the pages for this journal. I folded on half of that narrow strip into thirds to create the mini pages in the photos below.

The spider image is actually a mini cupcake or truffle wrapper. I flattened it out and stitched it in place using the sewing machine.

Scott included one of his business cards with the postcards so I punched holes in it and tied it to the opposite page. Not sure what will go inbetween the business card and the spider. Oh, maybe that's the place for a web!

I've had to clear away the journal making supplies so I could do some piecing. I think I need to put the journal on the back burner for a bit, let things stew a while and see what new ideas bubble up. So I've been into my precut patches to sew up Shoo Fly and Hole in the Barn Door and Broken Dishes and Flying Geese. What you see below is about one day's worth.

At the end of my day yesterday this is what I had on the design wall:

That strippy bit off to the side is the first "block" for a new quilt idea I'm playing with. Hopefully there will be more of that soon!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More of My Journal

In one of the signatures of the journal I'm making I've included this greeting card. I gather it was intended to be a birthday card of sorts. The message inside simply says "Wicked Cool." Works for me! The yellow in the card nicely echoes the yellow on my journal pages. That was a happy bit of serendipity.

What I needed however, was a way to cover up the business graphics on the back of the card. Some of it was trimmed away when I shortened the card to make it fit but I really didn't want all that other stuff showing.

My solution was to take a used Color Catcher sheet - conveniently dyed to a shade of blue that works with the blue-gray on my journal pages - and make a sort of pocket or built-in sachet out of it.

First I stamped the words onto the Color Catcher, then trapped some dried rosemary from my own garden between the folded sheet. It's all stitched down to the greeting card, and the rick rack was added last to sort of dress it up.

I've got a couple more pages I can show you after I get them photographed. I don't consider them done exactly but at least they have been embellished a bit. It may be years before this particular journal is completely filled up. ;- )

Saturday, June 4, 2011

First Steps in Making a Journal

I signed up for Carole Brungar's journal making class after I saw the journal QuiltDivaJulie made during her time in the class. While I was waiting for the right watercolor paper to arrive I brewed up some teas and tried them out on sample paper to see what colors I would get from them.

This happens to be the blueberry tea. I also brewed rose hip, peach, and China mountain green. Oddly enough, the China green tea produced a very yellow hue. I had a blast brushing and spattering it onto the paper.

It's more yellow in person than in the photo. Below is the other side of the paper dyed almost exclusively with the blueberry tea. It's sort of a brown-gray in person, partly because I used a layer of the rose hip tea in some areas.

I also soaked this bit of ribbon in the blueberry tea. It was stark white before its bath.

I've torn the big sheet of watercolor paper into strips for pages and have begun to embellish the pages. Turns out that making a journal is not like making a quilt, at least for me. I tend to start a quilt and keep working on it until I reach a solid stopping point. With this journal I've been doing a little bit at a time and then I have to leave it until the next day or so. Granted, I only have a vague idea of what I want to accomplish with it and the whole thing is a new experience for me. All the bits and pieces under consideration are taking up valuable real estate in the studio however. I've got to figure out a way to get more done or get more sewing in or something. There's altogether too much chocolate being consumed out of frustration!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Picking Up Where We Left Off

Between family visiting and getting lost in a couple of good books it's been a whole week since my last post. Sorry about that! Hope no one has been holding their breath (but I rather doubt it!).

So when my plan for Patience Corner blocks was foiled by my own mistake I had these piles of rectangles to work with.

I decided to try the obvious first.

And I actually quite liked it. Especially since I know so little about the recipient of this quilt. She's going to turn 12, she likes animals and nature and music and the color red. That's all I know besides what part of the country she lives in. So a simple quilt is probably the safest.

Of course I could only lay out half of the quilt top at a time on my design wall. And the trick was to distribute the various red prints as randomly but evenly as possible.

I pin little pieces of paper with the row number to the left-most block in each row when I'm assembling a top like this and then stick to adding new blocks to the right side until I reach the end of the row. I also like to work on at least four rows at a time so I can chain piece. In the picture above I have four rows pretty well along and had started the fifth. The "blocks" in this quilt are set 10 x 10. Since the blocks will finish at 6 x 8 inches that gives me a quilt top that measures 60 x 80 inches. At least that part worked out well!

Here you can see the music print that turned out to be sashing and a few of the red prints.

Oh, and I ran out of the original music print before I had quite enough blocks. Fortunately I had something very similar in my stash and was able to incorporate it throughout the quilt top. You may be able to find it in the picture below.

I have to say that I wasn't really thrilled with this while it was on the design wall. It did give me a chance to get to know my new sewing machine a bit but it just isn't the kind of quilt I generally like to make. Once I threw the flimsy onto a twin bed, however, I like it much better.

I'm not going to quilt it right away since it's not to be gifted until December but I can see that this will make up into a wonderfully cheerful, cozy quilt. And I'm confident the new machine will do a good job with the quilting. In the meantime, I have a journal project that is taking over the studio. I'll show you that the next time!