Sunday, December 16, 2012

'Tis the Season...

To take long breaks from blogging apparently! Honestly, I've been having a particularly difficult time this winter. It's very frustrating. But on a happier note, I have been working inbetween bouts of incapacitation. I made more six inch Bow Tie blocks for the newest quilt project. Wasn't thrilled with what they were doing by themselves so I played around with other arrangements:

You may remember I am planning a horizontal row quilt. Originally I figured I would use the bow ties as two smaller rows but I quite like them as alternating 12" blocks of X's and O's!

I have also made up some new nine inch blocks. There are a few simple Shoo Fly blocks, but I also made up these two liberated stars:

I just have to be careful to keep this from becoming a full-on dog quilt!

Meanwhile, I have also sewn the binding onto Sunshine & Blue Skies and run the quilt through the washer and dryer.

I could not be happier with the way it fluffed and wrinkled up! It's a wonderfully cozy, happy quilt now.

Just what stressed out folks left homeless by Hurricane Sandy can use at the moment. I only wish I could work faster to get it to them.

I have taken to using Fast Finish Triangles for labelling my quilts. I sew them in place before stitching the binding down and then just have to secure that long loose edge. I used two on this quilt, on opposite corners. One will have the facts about the quilt (maker's name, date, etc.) and on the other I will write a message of hope and encouragement. Coming up with those words has been the hard part.

I had hoped to get this shipped so that it would arrive in time for Christmas. I'm not so sure that's going to happen now but I'm going to do the best I can. I do need to send it on its way and move on to the Christmas gifts I promised to make for family members. Time is runnning short!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Out of the Drawer

Hello Friends. I'm fighting a big headache today but I know it's been a while since my last post. And I have been sewing... ;- )

Sunshine & Blue Skies is already back from being quilted (by my son!). I have the binding ready to put on but just can't face that task yet. You may remember that I threatened to begin another quilt right away. That's because my Parts Drawer looked like this:

Full to overflowing. So I sorted through the various baggies to see what theme would rise to the surface. Turned out to be blocks with ecru and ivory backgrounds or elements. Those that I put on the wall first also put me in mind of a masculine quilt.

I was thinking of another attempt at a medallion format. The arrangement above didn't really thrill me so I replaced the smaller blocks with different small blocks.

That looked better but I would have had to make many more five inch Churn Dash blocks. I wanted something less labor intensive. I slept on the problem for a night or two and then it dawned on me to try a horizontal strip format. That allows shorter rows of many different block patterns. Yippee!

The first thing I did was to turn the rest of the 5" Churn Dash blocks I had on hand into ten inch stars.

After that I was on my way. I've been making a variety of blocks out of blues and browns and deep reds, all with the beige-y backgrounds.

The last couple of days I've been making the 10" blocks you see at the very bottom of my design wall in the photo above. Maggie Malone's book 1001 Patchwork Designs calls that block Butterfly at the Crossroads. Living in tulip country as I do, they look more like a bunch of tulips to me!

I don't have any idea what I will do between the rows of blocks yet. For that matter, I still have to figure out what to use to sash the blocks together in each row. Right now I'm just enjoying the process of making blocks. Piecing really is my most favorite part of the quilt making process. The irony is that my Parts Drawer is nearly as full as it was when I began this project! I didn't really have all that many beige-based blocks as I prefer bright saturated hues and crazy prints. These more subdued colors suit my circumstances at the moment though. I'm seriously hoping I feel better by this weekend so I can fully enjoy putting up and decorating our Christmas tree...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sunshine Flimsy

Work has continued on the quilt I'm making for a victim of Hurricane Sandy. As I stitched on the long sashing strips it occurred to me that I would have to figure out how to deal with the corners where the Hourglass blocks in the final border would come together. You may remember that this was what it looked like as I was auditioning design choices:

I finally decided to make four Diamond in a Square blocks for the corners:

You may be able to see in the picture below (double click on it to make it bigger) that I had two different blue prints coming together in this corner. It took a little bit of time to decide how to handle that!

Here's a full-on picture, as much as I could get anyway.

The quilt should finish at 65" x 85." I found this print on sale at Delta Patchwork; it's perfect for the back and binding!

I'm thinking of calling this Sunshine & Blue Skies. As it turns out I will be able to send this quilt almost directly to a couple whose home was one of those burned to the ground in Breezy Point, NY courtesy of connections my sister has through her job. And then I'll probably begin another top for someone else who needs a quilty hug. :- )

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful for Progress

Happy Thanksgiving Day to my readers in the USA. :- ) I hope you all have a holiday season that warms your heart.

Among all the other things for which I am grateful this Thanksgiving Day is the fact that I believe I have a plan for turning the collection of old yellow and blue Shoo Fly blocks into a quilt for someone affected by Hurricane Sandy. While this may not seem like an epic struggle to you, my attitude is, "finally!"

After my last post I dug around in my stash for potential sashing fabrics. There were some that would have been good choices but of course I didn't have a big enough piece. These two could have worked:

I also tried out a blue and yellow check:

I like to let things sit for a bit before making a firm decision but eventually the check won out. I put it all the way around my central square and started auditioning blocks and possibilities for the next round.

Originally this was going to be a square, full size quilt top. The more I worked with it however, the more difficult it seemed to get. Eventually I decided to try for a rectangular format for a twin size quilt. Pretty quickly that led to taking the check print off of two sides of the central square. Once I'd done that I found I still needed something to divide the central panel from the next row. (I don't have enough of the blue and yellow check to use it more than once around the top.) I made some 2.5" Hourglass units to see whether I liked that look:

Nope. I tried various prints again too. One was a bright medium blue with tiny little white circles in it, sort of like bubbles. It was too strong for a middle sash but I quite liked it closer to what will be the outer edge. That led to this arrangement:

I'm pretty sure this is the way the top will go together now. The second band of the check print at the top is a piece that came off one side of the center square. I will sash the 7.5" Shoo Fly blocks with narrow yellow strips, add the strip of blue and yellow check, then put the strong blue down the sides and finish the whole thing off with an outer border of 5" Hourglass blocks. That should turn this into what Luana Rubin ( refers to as a small twin size quilt, 65 x 85 inches. Once I come up with backing, batting, and a volunteer quilter I can then turn my attention to a project that, hopefully, will be less challenging than this one has been! Although, to be fair, probably the only reason this top has seemed so challenging to me is because I'd like to get it done as fast as possible. I've always been, and always will be, an impatient soul. ;- )

Friday, November 16, 2012

Step By Step...

I have sewn the next ring of Shoo Fly blocks around the central panel:

I'm purposely using as many values of yellows as I can because of the variety of values in the collection of blocks that started this project. In the corners where the flying geese border comes together I ended up with three light patches and one medium value patch. Those light patches really stood out, and not in a good way. I think I knew I would have to replace them but I avoided the task as long as I could.

In the end it was worth the effort even though it was a bit tedious to do.

At this point the top would finish at about 50 inches square but I'm shooting for a quilt that will fit on a double bed. The question is, what to do next?

More flying geese?

               Simple sashing?

                               Frame up the remaining 7.5" Shoo Fly blocks to make them ten inches each?

In the end I decided to make a bunch of five inch Hourglass blocks, thinking they would make a good transition from one round of Shoo Fly blocks to another.

Not so much. It's too busy. The blue triangles in the Hourglass blocks overwhelm the Shoo Fly blocks.

What happens if I turn every other block?

Not much better. Guess I need to reconsider my options...

Meanwhile, I can't believe we're halfway through November already. And Thanksgiving - for us Yanks - is next Thursday! Does that seem early to anyone else? ;- )

Monday, November 12, 2012

Growing a Quilt Top

Toward the end of my last post I made a comment to the effect that I wanted to visually separate the four blocks in what will be the center of this quilt. At the time I had four blocks that, in the photograph, appeared to have the same or very similar backgrounds. (Scroll down to the bottom of my last post and you'll see what I mean.) Taking my own comment to heart I changed out two of the blocks to create even more distinction between the Shoo Fly blocks.

Then it became a question of what to do with the rest of the blocks in this particular collection... A solid ring of Shoo Fly blocks perhaps? But then I'd lose the pattern of the individual blocks again...

Maybe grouping darker ones in the corners?

I found myself making the math harder than it needed to be in my attempt to distribute the blocks around the central bit. Turns out a simple one inch sash between the blocks was all that was required.

I did keep the darker background blocks in the corners and worked toward lighter blocks in the middle of each side. Since this picture was taken I've assembled these blocks into a top about 50 inches square. I'll show you that the next time, and maybe by then I'll know what my next step with this project will be!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Quilt Drive

I washed and pressed my lovely new fabrics (see previous post) and then put them right on the shelf when I learned that Luana Rubin was committed to organizing the collection and distribution of quilts for those in the east who have lost everything to Hurricane Sandy.

You can click here to read all about it. The upshot is that I'd already been thinking about making a quilt to donate but hadn't settled on an approach when her email newsletter came through. Then suddenly I remembered a set of Shoo Fly blocks I had from an Internet swap back in the day.

Turns out that "day" was the year 2000! I've pulled these blocks out a couple of times since receiving them but was never able to figure out how to use them. They're not a size I normally work with: 7.5 inches finished. In the picture above I'd just put them on the design wall straight out of the baggie they were stored in. The next thing I did was to take them down according to value. So I had a pile of dark golden yellow blocks and a couple of piles of medium value yellows, and a short stack of very light blocks. I started with the darker blocks...

Originally I toyed with the idea of a strippy format - at the time I was thinking a comfort quilt, slightly less than twin size. But I didn't feel I had anything that would work well for the alternate strips between columns of blocks. That's when the medallion setting came to mind and the dark blocks went up on the wall.

Shoo Fly blocks set right up against each other tend to lose their distinct pattern. I didn't want that so the next challenge was to figure out how to separate the blocks. Using lighter values would help, but what about a different block altogether?

Gotta love those liberated stars! The only math I had to do was to figure out what size background squares to cut: three inches. That gives me 2.5" finished patches for a 7.5 inch block. Now I have a 30 inch central medallion (or will have when it's all sewn together!). But how will I separate that from the next round of blocks?

This is where the math gets dicey. I like liberated, but I also like knowing where I'm going - to a certain extent. I thought about just using strips of fabric to create a frame; you would think that would be an easy solution. Once again, I couldn't find anything in my stash I liked. Then I thought of flying geese units. Since I had four 30 inch sides I made a bunch that would finish at 2.5" x 5" and put them around the center blocks (six 5" geese = 30 inches):

Simple squares will fill in the corners. But now I have a piece that will measure 35" square. That's not readily divisible by 7.5"! In other words, more of the Shoo Fly blocks will not fit evenly around what I have in place at the moment. Another compensating strip is called for. That's next on the docket, maybe after I sew these Shoo Fly and star blocks together. You may have noticed that between this picture and the last I rearranged the Shoo Fly blocks somewhat. I decided to try for a little more variation in value to help the individual blocks stand out more in the end.

Now I'm thinking that I will strive for an 80-85" quilt top. I've found that that's a good size for my double bed, and Luana is asking for bed size quilts in particular this time around. Logistical details are still being worked out but this quilt drive will be in effect for many months. The goal is to collect and distribute 5,000 quilts. And FYI, there's a huge clearance sale going on at eQuilter right now, just in case you need to add to your stash. ;- )

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How Do You Fight the Blues?

With orange of course!

It may not be obvious from these photos, but these tulips will be orange when they open up.

I suspect the adhesive the dentist used to hold my new crown in place is off-gassing in my mouth and affecting my mood and energy level. This morning I felt the need of some retail therapy. It wasn't until I was back at home that I realized I'd purchased not only orange tulips but also a preponderance of orange prints:

I have no specific plans for an orange quilt. Perhaps this is my reaction to feeling left out of the Halloween festivities this year? There's a yard and a half of the multi-color print on the bottom of the stack above. Maybe it will end up in a quilt with the batik parts I was making a while back.

I also picked up a couple more black and white prints for a project I haven't shared with y'all yet.

Just fat quarters and a half yard piece. I could easily have brought home so much more! Unfortunately, I missed all the sales in my local quilt shop and online last month. These purchases were at full retail. It doesn't take much to make a pretty big dent in the budget at those prices.

I don't know whether I will start in again on the new black and white project or whether I will go through my Parts Department to see what I can pull together for a quilt for a victim of Super Storm Sandy. Don't you wish you just go wrap them in a quilty hug right now?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Still More Sketchbook Project

There hasn't been much going on in this Magpie's Nest lately. Just one of those cyclical slumps. I've been reading instead of sewing. I'm fascinated by the way my left hand feels great one day and I can hardly bear to use it the next. All part of the healing process I'm sure.

Before the slump hit I made a couple more pages for my Sketchbook Project. This one was very simple, out of scraps from my Dr. Seuss and Reading Material quilts.

It may very well end up being the center signature of my book. I've debated whether to hide the lines of stitching on the backs of the pages but have decided to just leave them exposed. Here you can see the back of the house page you saw in the last post.

I began my sketchbook by playing exclusively with black and white prints. There's no way I could keep the color out though!

To make this composition more interesting and/or cohesive I played around with some of the decorative stitches on my sewing machines.

It was after this burst of creativity on my Sketchbook Project that I hit the wall. I kept reaching for something new or different to do on the few pages that are still blank. Nothing satisfied so that's when I turned to fiction. I think I'm just about read out for now so hopefully it won't be another ten days or two weeks before my next post!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More Fiber for The Sketchebook Project

Faithful readers may remember that I signed up for the 2013 Sketchbook Project almost as soon as the new project was announced. I've shown you my first few pages; you can see them here. I've been able to fill up some additional pages this week.

This first page is made entirely from scraps from my Crowns quilt. Just raw edge applique straight stitched right onto the paper.

Still playing with the black and white scraps...

I used red thread on previous black and white compositions; this time I picked up the pink from the dog print.

But eventually I had to have more color...

I started out simply outlining the house shape with straight stitching. Then I "drew in" the chimney with some careful machine stitching and colored it in with pastel chalk. The cotton fibers of the fabric should grab that chalk and keep it in place pretty well. You can see that I also added grass with straight line machine stitching at the bottom. Double-clicking on the photos ought to make them big enough for you to get a better look at the details.

The last page I'm going to show you in this post was created with labels from men's neckties.

The vertical strips used to be the loops you find on the back of some ties, I guess to slip the tie ends through to keep them corralled. I really like this page. :- )

The pages in this sketchbook allow me to create postcard size compositions. It's a fun way to stretch my thinking to see how many different ways I can create an image or composition. The hard part is not being able to use beads and buttons! (The completed book cannot be more than one inch thick.) There's still time to sign up for the 2013 Sketchbook Project; I encourage you to consider it as a way to open up your own creativity!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

When Life Gives You Scraps...

Some time ago one of my back molars broke. It was a tooth that had long ago been filled with artificial material. Because I am a wimp of the first order I lived with the jagged edges until a second chunk of filling fell out.

I couldn't ignore the tooth anymore. I've been to the dentist three times since my last post. Once for an assessment of what needed to be done - I came away from that visit ill from the fumes in the place. The next two visits were under the influence of a sedative. I barely remember what took place either time, although the tenderness of the inside of my mouth testifies that a lot was indeed done. I believe I have one more visit to make, to put a permanent crown in place. There will be a couple of days of ickiness while the adhesive off-gasses in my mouth. And after that no doubt my lovely young lady-dentist will have more she'll want to attend to in my mouth. {sigh}

These are some scrap blocks I've been able to get sewn up during my absence from Blogland.

Below is a batch of Broken Dishes blocks were made up from triangles cut off when I make flying geese units. I think they will finish at 4.5 inches.

I decided to try out Friendship Stars in lieu of Shoo Fly blocks with these scraps.

I find I don't like them as well as Shoo Fly blocks (they require me to think about how I'm placing those half-square-triangle patches!) but it will be nice to have some variety to play with when I eventually put them to use in a quilt.

A surprise showed up in my mailbox this week too. Look at this adorable Basset Hound print my sister found in a flea market near her!

If I can manage to stay home and keep from injuring myself further I may get to start on the quilt I've been wanting to make for weeks now... ;- )