Friday, March 30, 2012

Wrestling with Dr. Seuss

Remember I said I had a lot of yellow in the studio?

The tiny star block in my American Hero Quilt (last post) gave me the idea to try stars on either side of my reader in this child's quilt. Pulling the yellow down from the top row seemed like a good idea too. Using that same dotted print turned out to be too much so I tried another yellow, but with white spots this time. Still a bit much. Maybe red instead?

That's when I decided that maybe four stars were also too much. I removed two and centered two, thinking I would create a checkerboard above and below them to fill in the space. The question then became what to use for the checkerboard. And as much as I wanted to include images other than the ones drawn by Dr. Seuss I just couldn't get them to play nicely together.

I have been tinkering with this project, off and on, for what seems like a long time now. It hasn't really been all that long, I've just been frustrated that I couldn't find what I considered acceptable solutions to the problems I was facing. I also had several days of not feeling well enough to tackle anything this demanding. Consequently I've been reading a lot of fiction the last few days.

Finally I came across a Kaffe Fassett print in my LQS that looked like it could be the answer to my problems. I cut some 3.5" squares, fussy cut some more images from the Dr. Seuss prints, and this is what I now have laid out on the design wall:

It looks a bit busier in person. The KF print is from his paperweight line; it's more dots. Things aren't lined up quite right on the design wall either. I think I'm going to have to live with this for a bit to see if I really like it before I sew it all together. I want to encourage children to read, not scare them away from it!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hearts & Flowers

When I met with my friends this past week I was able to get a full shot of the Patriotic Heart top that will eventually become an American Hero Quilt.

C~ will hand it over along with the binding I made and someone else in our local quilt group will do the quilting. One more wounded soldier will have something to warm and comfort them during recovery.

I happened to notice this darling little star block while we were refolding it:

It's all of four inches square. It's got me thinking...

Also that day I was given a couple of branches of forsythia to brighten my studio. On the way home I stopped at one of the bulb farms near here and bought some daffodils to put with the forsythia. For whatever reason, the daffs were half price so I bought two bunches. :- )

All of a sudden there's a lot of yellow in my studio! The flowers and Mr. Bingley are the same color. It just so happens that it's the same yellow that's showing up in the Dr. Seuss quilt.

I have been playing with this, off and on, since I first showed the pieces to you. The top row has been sewn together. Since this picture was taken I have also sewn the stacked books border around the reader panel. The bottom and the sides have yet to be resolved. They are being much more problematic than I anticipated. It doesn't help that I've had a couple days of migraine headaches (which is also why I haven't been back sooner to keep you up to date on things here in The Magpie's Nest). I believe you will see the influence of the daffodils and the little star block when next you see this top however. ;- )

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Resurrected UFO

My local quilt guild has been involved in making quilts for American Hero Quilts, an effort that was begun by a woman who lives about as west as you can get in the state of Washington. We received a plea for more quilt tops this weekend as they are getting more requests for quilts than they can fill. This reminded me of a UFO that has been in the back corner of my closet for years. Time to get it out and put it to good use!

This began as a round robin project with about 8 other guild members back in 1997. I think each participant was encouraged to make a 12" block and some four inch filler blocks or units. I do remember the challenge of setting those blocks and parts into a cohesive whole. There were several arrangements before this heart shape showed up.

The problem was that I didn't know what to do with it after that. It's a horizontal orientation, 63" wide by 57" tall. I had less studio space back then than I do now, and no-one in my family had any strong desire for a patriotic quilt. So it went into a box.

There were some extra blocks in the box when I opened it up today. I suspect I must have made a couple of them well after the top had been put together but I never pursued incorporating them into the quilt.

Actually, the four patch blocks and the sailboats were separate little blocks (4") that I set together today into a 12" block. I still have plenty of the navy blue print that I used to finish up the top originally. With the experience I now have under my belt it didn't take long for me to see that I could make a couple of columns of blocks to add to either end of the existing top and bring the whole thing up to the required minimum size of 63" x 87."

These columns have now been added and a bit of the navy blue sewn all around for a final frame. It's as big as it needs to be now but it's too big for me to get a decent picture of it by myself. The plan is to get together with a couple of my friends later this week; maybe I'll be able to get a good picture then. And one of them can turn it in for me so it can be quilted and bound and sent to a soldier in need. :- )

Friday, March 16, 2012

An Ending & A Beginning

The community has spoken: when Heather gets back from all her travels I'll take my Reading Material quilt to her for quilting. :- )

In the meantime, I finally put ties in the lap quilt All to Pieces. Then I bound it with a binding made from the scraps of four previous bindings. All that remains is to ship it off to the Alzheimer's Disease Co-operative Study.

There's still a goodly amount of text prints left over from Reading Material. I thought I might make a second, smaller, version but things have taken a slightly different direction. I fell victim to the cheerful "Cat in the Hat" collection of Dr. Seuss prints recently. I was thrilled to see them when they first appeared but hadn't a clue how I would use them. I also had pieces of a panel put out by Block Party Studios. I auditioned a few of the prints from Reading Material with the Dr. Seuss prints and then started fussy cutting images.

Before too long I had the Block Party Studios pieces framed up and some of the Dr. Seuss patches made into four and nine patch blocks. Then I dug around in my stash for other patches I'd fussy cut out of scraps to see what else I might include. I want to see if I could tone down Dr. Seuss a bit.

The idea is to make a child's quilt that I will donate to our local public library. Every summer they sponsor a summer reading program for K-12 children. In the past there have been prizes given away at the end of the summer, I assume based on the number of books a child has read or some similar criteria. I called to explain the quilt I'm making and to offer it to them for this year's program.

They were thrilled to learn of my offer, which did my heart good. Apparently there are a couple of ways they could put the quilt to use in conjunction with the reading program and that hasn't been firmly decided yet. In the meantime, this is what my design wall looks like at the moment. Kind of a mess! I'm just continuing to pull and cut potential prints for now. This quilt will have a white undertone, whereas my Reading Material quilt has a more beige undertone, so I don't think there will be much cross-over between the two quilts after all. Of course, there's always the back!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ready for Quilting!

Picking up the story from last week...

Once I had the seven columns of my text quilt in place I had to decide what to use for sashing strips between them. The first print I considered was the "Hellbucket" black on white.

I also had a black with quilt related words printed in a light silvery gray.

Neither one really made my heart sing. I looked deeper in my stash and was delighted to find this light blue that looks like the marbled end papers you find inside the covers of good books.


Then I had to decide whether to use the blue marble between the last columns and the outer border. In the end I went with the Hellbucket print as an inner frame.

It seemed like no time at all and the top was complete!

The very next day I made a back. This print has been in my stash for several years. I was never able to figure out how to put it to good use. Seemed like a good place to start a back for Reading Material. ;- )

The black word print worked perfectly to add length to the single yard of the comic book...

and the hearts seemed appropriate to get the width I needed.

Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to get this quilted. In the very beginning I planned to do it myself. Then I thought I might tie it. The ties could reference bookmarks. I haven't entirely ruled out having my long arm quilter do the job for me though. That would get me out of having to do the basting!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Decisions, Decisions...

You saw my piles of string blocks in the last post (toward the bottom of the post). Probably the hardest step to take in any creative process is the first one. In this case that was choosing which block to put on the design wall first!

In addition to the string blocks I fussy-cut these images of birds to include in my "reading material" quilt. They look to me like pages out of a book on natural science. But, there were only three different images. Since I was planning wide four columns in my quilt I needed a fourth image. Along the selvage edges of the bird print was a gilt border of birds. I cut and pieced them together to create a fourth block.

That made it easier to know where to start with the string blocks. Once I had the birds roughly where I wanted them to be in the quilt I started adding string blocks above and below them. This was a slow process. After I had fleshed out the four columns I started fine tuning them. The pieced bird block just wasn't sitting well with me. Back in the stash I found another piece of yardage featuring big images of birds and butterflies and things. I was able to fussy-cut a block from that print to make it fit in with what I had going on in this quilt.

You'll see it as the nest and eggs in the second column from the left.

When I had the four major columns pretty well settled I started thinking about what to do between them. There were plenty of string blocks left over but I didn't really want the more traditional format where all the columns are the same width across the quilt top. The concept for this quilt originally came together when I purchased this print of stacks of books:

I knew I wanted to use it for the outer border, but what about using it between the string blocks? A single stack of books from this print would fit nicely, with a narrow sashing strip separating the books and the strings.

Or I could cut my remaining string blocks down so they would finish at three inches and then use a narrow separating strip between them and the larger string blocks. That option more closely mimicked the inspiration for this quilt, the quilt on the cover of Karla Alexander's book New Cuts for New Quilts.

I eyeballed the book print with the wide string blocks and decided to go with option number 2.

It's been as much of a challenge to place the trimmed-down blocks between their big sisters as it was to place the big blocks originally. In fact, it got harder as I went along because I was running out of choices in my blocks. Some of the blocks I'd made just didn't work at all, big or small. I have extended more than one block by adding a string to it before joining it to the next one in the column. I've also removed and replaced a few strings. At this point the narrow columns are just blocks on the wall still, not sewn together yet. I'm letting it rest for a day or so before I tackle the job of making them long enough. Who Let the Dogs Out?! is back from the quilter so I'm putting the binding on that in the interim. When the string blocks are finally all sewn together I'll have to decide on what to use for the narrow sashing strips...!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


These are the blocks I made between finishing the Who Let the Dogs Out?! flimsy and cutting the fabrics for my text quilt.

I have the string blocks pieced now and needed to clear the wall so I could put them up. I got out the baggies I use to keep my parts blocks sorted. Most of them are simply sorted by size. All these nine inch liberated stars, for example, went into the bag with the nine inch Shoo Fly blocks I'd pieced some time ago. But I have so many six inch blocks now that I've got three separate bags for them. One has only liberated log cabins, one has only Shoo Fly blocks, and the third holds everything else. I was shocked to see how may Shoo Fly blocks had accumulated:

That's a stack of 70 blocks! Obviously it will be time to make a new puzzle quilt one day soon. :- )

The next surprise wasn't quite as pleasant. It wasn't horrible either though. Phoebe has an early warning system built in that lets me know wa-a-a-y ahead of time when the bobbin is running low. If only she also had a system to let me know when the actual spool of thread is about empty!

The only reason I caught this before it became a problem was because the bobbin did indeed run out and I had to wind a new one. Good timing eh?

I haven't used up all the pieces of fabric I cut for my string quilt but when I had over 80 blocks ready I decided it was time to see how they looked together. In order to make laying the quilt out easier I created four piles of blocks. I had one pile with a dark strip at the top and and another dark at the bottom (oddly enough, the shortest pile), one with a dark strip at the top and a light or medium at the bottom, a pile with light or medium at both the top and the bottom (the tallest stack), and a pile with light at the top and dark at the bottom.

There's been a real debate raging in my head over the eventual layout of this quilt. You'll get to see at least some of the options I'm considering in my next post. :- )