Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Puzzle Quilt Continued

This is where we left my puzzle quilt the last time I posted:

To refresh your memory, this is a quilt I'm building to send to Japan for one of the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami. I'm using parts of UFO's, orphan blocks, and the six inch blocks I've been making out of scraps. So once this section felt complete it was back to the closet to see what else I could use...

The Log Cabin and Contrary Wife blocks were both from a block swap very early in my quilting career. They measure 15". Someone gave me the birdhouse, also years ago. I thought that was very generous of her. It was about nine inches wide and twelve inches high. Now, what to put between the Log Cabin and the birdhouse?

How about a stack of flying geese units? Each one is six inches wide and three inches tall. That just left me with a 3" gap under the birdhouse to fill in. I decided to take the easy road and use a whole cloth strip. Who doesn't like a flower bed beneath a birdhouse? From that point on I started working on a vertical section to the left of the birdhouse and Shoo Fly blocks. I made a 12" liberated star, mostly just to have something to piece between seams but it worked well as an anchor for that new section. I pieced some six inch hearts and found other flying geese units based on the 3x6" formula. I used them on their sides this time.

A few more of my scrap blocks brought the composition roughly to the same length I had going on in the first section. When I put the blocks on the design wall I'm mostly eyeballing them to see how they'll look. Before I sew anything into place I do the math to make sure they will fit together the way I intend. It helps a lot that I'm working with blocks that are nearly all divisible by three. Whenever I come up short I simply frame up a block or add a strip to one side to get the size I need. The odd compensating strips help to throw off the eye when everything is sewn together, disguising the seam lines that hold sections together. That will be more obvious when you see the final product.

I'm much farther along than is evident in this post. In fact, it's possible that I could have the top finished today (cross your fingers!). I started out thinking I would whip up a 45 x 60 inch quilt and quilt it myself. Now I'm looking at one that will be around 65 x 85" and I've had to recruit my long arm quilter friend to do the quilting for me. That's added pressure to get this done because she needs to fit this in between other work she has scheduled and we still have to get the quilt shipped to the collection point by the end of April. No dawdling allowed!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Puzzle Quilt - First Steps

Because I can't do anything easy or simple (as evidenced by the dry spell I had to go through after making the easy, simple quilt for our dear son-in-law) I decided to make a quilt to send to Japan out of my collection of scrappy and orphan blocks. The Bow Tie blocks were first up:

Meh. Maybe if I start with a different block?

That covered more territory but I still wasn't completely happy with it. All those blocks came off the wall and I started over for a third time.

I have a couple of bins of UFO's and experimental starts that I hadn't looked through in a long time. When I got into them this week I realized it's time to go through them again and redistribute things. Projects that I expected to finish someday have now become fodder for orphan block quilts. One of those was intended to be a wall hanging for the fall season. I know now that that will not happen. But it was a fun addition to the odd Shoo Fly block!

After that blocks with pointy bits became the focus of my design.

At this stage it measured roughly 30" x 39." The finished quilt needs to be a minimum of 45" wide and 60" long. Time to audition more blocks.

I like this strip of blocks but I'll tell you right now they didn't make it into the quilt top. At least, not yet. Stay tuned!

The new studio canary is still nameless. I want to give my daughter a shot at naming him because she seems to have a gift for that sort of thing. I expect her and all the granddaughters over later today. Have to say I'm excited to introduce the older grandgirls to him (he will not be leaving the cage however; canaries are not that sort of pet). After living with him for a week I admit to seriously thinking of calling him something like Loudmouth or Pretty Piggy. It's gratifying that he's comfortable enough to sing so often and so loudly. I'm surprised at how much interest he seems to take in what's going on outside the cage. And boy, does he love his mirror with the bell on the bottom! Who knew canaries could be so entertaining?!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Addition

A lot of quilters (and doll makers) want to add a Singer Featherweight sewing machine to their arsenal of tools. They are lovely to look at and wonderful to take to classes and retreats.

photo courtesy of Tami Levin

I've never really felt the need to acquire one, and now that I'm home bound it seems even less necessary. I have, however, hungered after another type of featherweight. Call it a Featherweight Singer...

My version is an American Singer canary. I ended up with a bigger cage than I was planning on but at the price being asked I couldn't pass it up. I'm happy to provide the bird with plenty of room; I just had to clear more space than anticipated and not all of my treasures have found a new home yet.

So far my little singer is nameless. I have something in mind but I'm still open to suggestions. I just love his intense yellow. Now I can have sunshine on the dreariest of days. :- )

I have been plugging away at my scrappy blocks too.

I think it's about time I quit making blocks and start putting them together into a quilt top. Between the orphan blocks already in my possession and these newest ones I certainly ought to have enough for at least one quilt.

I've learned that there is an effort to get comfort/utility quilts to Japan via Quilters Newsletter magazine as well as eQuilter. The details are here. Either way, it's easier to ship a quilt or quilts to Ohio (eQuilter and Mission of Love) or Colorado (Quilters Newsletter and Patchwork Tsushin) than to have to fill out a customs form for overseas shipments. My goal is to put together something cheerful and back it with flannel for extra warmth. So I guess I'd better get off the computer and get busy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Quilterly March Madness

Finally! Signs of spring in the studio:

And I'm back at the sewing machine - yippee! :- ) Yesterday I was inspired to get out a couple of shamrock prints to make a few blocks in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

The day before that I spent time tidying up around the cutting table. I have more of the bigger scraps to deal with now, leftover from my most recent quilts, than I've ever had in the past. I've never been as productive as I have been these last couple of years. Being home bound has its silver lining - at least on the days when I feel up to taking advantage of it.

For the most part I just folded up the remnants and set them aside in their own pile. I'm going to have to figure out a way to deal with them soon. I really don't have room for any more piles! I did cut some patches and sewed up more of my six inch scrappy blocks:

After the shamrock blocks yesterday I kept going and ended up with this on my design wall:

That's a nine inch liberated star on the left and five inch Churn Dash or Monkey Wrench blocks on the right.

I'm seriously thinking of trying to put together at least one puzzle quilt out of all this madness. I know Luana Rubin at eQuilter.com is talking with Kathleen over at Mission of Love about collecting quilts to be shipped to Japan for the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami. I would love to have one ready for that effort. When I say "puzzle quilt" I'm referring to a quilt top made from orphan blocks and scrappy blocks and whatever bits and pieces are necessary to make them all fit together. I find I really enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to make a bunch of mismatched blocks play together nicely. Hopefully the results aren't too chaotic to be enjoyed by someone under extreme stress.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Evolution of a Quilt Top

Back in January (was it January?!) Janet sent me this block that she had put together intuitively. My challenge was to add to it, also intuitively.

I trimmed off the bits she left loose, added a sawtooth border and a few other strips I had laying around. Then I got stuck.

I made some experimental blocks and tried them around this original piece but nothing really clicked. It sat on the design wall for a couple of weeks while I read various works of fiction to try to clear my mind. Finally one day I asked myself what was the most dramatic thing I could think of to do to Janet's poor neglected block. Then answer was to quarter it. Slice it into four smaller pieces.

Well, that was just a bit too drastic for my nerves but I did take the rotary cutter to it.

That seemed to get the ball rolling again. I made more experimental blocks and played with them around the starter panel.

I quite like the wavy line that would have been created by the stick blocks but the light blue was too overwhelming in my eyes. There was just too much of it.

Eventually I came up with a selection of blocks I was happy with.

Inbetween the blocks I'd been piecing together leftover strips and bits. In a bit of serendipity there was just enough to make a great border for the top of the piece!

This humble effort and a selection of the unused blocks will be winging their way back to Janet as soon as I can get someone to go to the post office for me. :- )

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Up From the Depths

At least I hope so! I'm finally beginning to feel more like myself. (Hope I didn't just jinx it.) I think I'm ready to pull my nose out of the tissue box and get started sewing again. I certainly need to start sewing again. I promised Janet I would return her Intuition Swap in another week or so and I don't feel like I have it anywhere near ready for her. I haven't finished my bead journal project for February either and here it is March. Not that that's a big deal, but I know it's there in the background, waiting for my attention.

The postcard above and the ATC below are pieces I made sometime in the last nine months but never talked about here for one reason or another. The postcard was made just for the fun of it. I must have pieced the foundation two or three years ago. The fish was part of a pair of earrings I found at the thrift shop. I would be very nervous about mailing this particular postcard because the fish's body is gentle convex curve. I can just see it snapping in two when a heavier package was dropped on it in the mailing process. It would have to go in a box rather than as is or in a bubble envelope.

I remember this ATC but I don't remember the occasion for which I made it. I'm pretty sure it was sent to someone, somewhere, for a specific reason. The foundation fabric was a tiny bit of silk tie with those colored pencils woven into it. I surrounded it with a bit of quilter's cotton in the floral print, then added the sequins and beads to disguise the seam lines.

It may not have shown up on my blog because it was a surprise for someone and I didn't want them to see it before receiving it. Hopefully they're enjoying it! I do remember that I had fun making it. :- )

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

If It Ain't One Thing...

It's another. Those cute little petrie dishes that visited about 10 days ago left a present for me: a cold. It hasn't been too bad, but it's been enough to keep me laying low. I haven't done any sewing either. Fortunately, I have pictures of a quilt my friend C~ found in a thrift shop a few months ago that I can share with you.

A lovely hand quilted Shoo Fly. Delightfully scrappy of course!

The border is unusual too. Leftover half-square triangles, I'm guessing, set in a liberated way.

I'm sorry, I don't remember what the quilting pattern was. I tried to adjust the photo to show it up better but it's still hard to see. Still, it's a happy scrappy quilt and has a good home now. :- )