Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day Three

First of all, let me show you the finished flimsy for Debra's Smokin' Hot Quilt Challenge (see previous post):

The photo's a tad off kilter. Trust me, it was the photographer, not the quilt! There's a straight picture in my husband's camera. ;- ) Hopefully when you double click on the photo you'll get a bigger image. I'm pretty happy with the end product, especially given that I had to design it in quarters. I really like the fact that the Scrappy Trip section will fill the top of the bed and the borders will fall on either side.

There are no other major quilt projects on the docket at the moment so the next day I took the opportunity to make our kitchen a couple of new potholders:

Over the years I've made seasonal pairs. For some time I've felt I needed something cheerful to follow the Christmas potholders. The next holiday set I have are Easter themed, and then I have some I put up for the summer months. Now I feel like I have the whole year covered - although I'll probably always make at least one new pair every year, just because.

Now to backtrack a little, I began work on my January bead journal project a few weeks ago. I'm not going to share that story at this time. Suffice to say that I was thinking about using some yarn I have to make a tassel for my BJP. It was a skein I no doubt bought from a clearance bin at some point. I might have cut a bit off to use in another project but essentially the ball was untouched. However, it had been bounced around in my yarn drawer for some time. When I pulled it out it had become more of a tangle than a ball of yarn. I've spent the last three days untangling that mess and winding the strands onto cards to keep them from becoming such a mess again.

Imagine the rat's nest in the middle of the picture above as three times larger than it appears. That might be an accurate reflection of the job I faced. I tried very hard not to break or have to cut the thread but inevitably it had to be done. Oddly enough, when I did cut it I ended up with three loose ends not two or four! It wasn't until late yesterday that I found the other end of one of those strands and was able to connect two of the four.

This is what that one skein of yarn turned into:

And I'm not even sure I'm going to use it for the tassel after all. Although after all this I almost have to just because it has become so much a part of my experience of this January!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Parts and Pieces

I've been making Scrappy Trip blocks out of the 2.5" strips that had accumulated here in the Magpie's Nest. My goal was to make 24 blocks to create a panel 36" x 96" for the quilt I'm making for Debra's Smokin' Hot Quilt Challenge. About half way through I had them on the wall like this:

Then it occurred to me that since this was going to be a vertically oriented design I might be better off making my 'waves' vertical rather than horizontal....

And then of course there was much rearranging of blocks to distribute prints and values as evenly as possible. This central panel had to be created in two sections, the upper half and the lower half, due to the size constraints of my design wall.

I have no idea which of these pictures is which at this point!

The next step was to use the string blocks I showed you in my last post to create columns to go on either side of this central panel. Originally I thought there would be four columns, 6" wide each, separated by a narrow sash. I really wasn't excited by the prospect of dealing with that narrow sash however. That's when I had the bright idea to mash four blocks together in a four patch arrangement like this (it's fuzzy because it's a re-crop of a cropped photo):

So the upper left column now looks like this:

And the upper right column like this:

I think.

I have the lower halves of the columns sewn up too. Hopefully these are the pictures I want; I'm getting confused!

I have some new yardage to use between these three columns (strings - scrappy trips - strings) and as outer borders. It looks to me like a reproduction of a Civil War era print, a nice dark blue that I think will help to calm the chaos of all these older prints. My goal today is to get these sections assembled and at least cut the strips for the sashing and borders. Once that's done I'll have to get help to get a picture of the finished product for you. And I'll be ready for a SMALL project by then!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

As The Saying Goes...

I'm a day late and a dollar short again! I've been sewing up a storm this past week, with a Scrappy Saturday post as my goal, but got knocked down before I could get the post created. Oh well. Better late than never, as another saying goes. ;- )

There were some black remnants leftover from the Amish style blocks I showed in the previous post. I decided to stack them with other remnants to make quick string blocks. I cut them about 7 x 9 inches, stacked five layers, cut through them all, shuffled the pieces and reassembled the blocks.

Before pressing and trimming:

And after:

They were all trimmed to 6.5" square. Here's a sampling of those blocks:

I made up 65 blocks in a matter of a couple of days using this method!

Then I turned my attention to the 2.5" strips that had been accumulating. Scrappy Trips was a fairly straightforward choice. My intention was to leave the blocks truly scrappy but almost without thinking I found myself organizing the patches so that the darkest value in each set ran diagonally through the middle of the block. Here are the first eight:

Yesterday I made nine more blocks:

My current plan calls for 24 of these 12" blocks somehow alternating with the string blocks for a vertically oriented strip quilt. There are a few more Scrappy Trips to make and then I can start playing around with the overall layout. This will have to be one of those quilts that gets created by halves or quarters since the whole thing will not fit on my design wall at one time. That will make achieving balance between the prints more challenging but it's the challenge that makes the project fun. :- )

Monday, January 13, 2014

An Ending and A Potential Beginning

This is the reason I didn't commit to full participation in Scrappy Saturdays: I cut patches from scraps in the days leading up to Saturday and then Saturday I ended up finishing the binding on the latest set of placemats for my daughter instead of sewing scraps!

Here are the placemats:

Everything from peppermints and candy canes to Valentine's Day hearts and ribbons. :- )  I used the sewing machine to apply and sew down the bindings. On the very first placemat I forgot to work from the back to the front (the one right above) which, of course, was the one placemat with decidedly red or white strips at the perimeters. No matter what color thread I used it was going to show. Oh well. Finished is better than perfect. That was the mantra that got me through to the end of this project.

Leading up to Scrappy Saturday I cut patches and strips from some of the remnants laying around. These two stacks represent patches for 25 six inch blocks:

I've been using binder clips to keep my strips organized. The strips had outgrown the number of clips I had available however. A trip to Office Depot remedied that, although not without consequences to my well being.

I now have each strip width designated by a different color binder clip. The strips are also sorted by length, and in some cases also by value. There are so many 2.5" strips I ended up using two values of clips as well, light and dark blue! (The lighter clips hold shorter strips.)

I have several ideas percolating to get these strips used up. In the meantime, while I was recovering from my shopping trip I sewed up many of those scrap-patch blocks:

This morning I had an idea for incorporating these Amish style blocks into a top for Debra Spinic's new Smokin' Hot Quilt Challenge. We'll have to wait and see how that idea pans out... ;- )

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Finishing Christmas

Well, getting closer anyway!

I had just enough of a headache the other day to make it possible to do work I find tedious but not mentally challenging. That means I put the sashing strips between the Churn Dash blocks for the side borders of the Christmas flimsy I've had on the design wall for weeks.

I thought I would be using a white with gold speckles around the Churn Dash blocks but there wasn't enough of it as it turned out. So I ran a narrow strip of that white vertically down the sides of the central part of the flimsy and then used a new beige paisley print with several values in it between the Churn Dash blocks and down the outside edges. The 12" sampler blocks were then sewn together to create top and bottom borders.

The paisley print worked very well to transition between the white parts of the quilt and those that are ecru based. I was very worried about a ripple in the lower half of the flimsy. Careful measuring made it possible to corral that, much to my delight. I am surprised - more accurately, thrilled - with  how well this turned out in the end!

The other bit of Christmas that I need to finish up is the set of six placemats for my daughter's table. I've finally framed up all the focal bits with the polar bears:

Here are all six tops:

Now it's time to do the quilting and get them bound. This is what I've chosen for the binding:

The quilting will be simple stitch in the ditch for the most part. Someone else could no doubt do something wonderful with free motion quilting - snowflakes come to mind - but I'm sticking with what I know so the mats will get finished sooner rather than later!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Thoughts on Blogging

I have been writing Morning Pages nearly everyday of my life since I first learned of the process in Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way. This morning I happened on the topic of how and why I blog. It seems appropriate to share some of my thoughts with my readers at the beginning of a new year. Heaven knows I won't think of it when my blogiversary rolls around!

I began blogging in an effort to become part of a new community because much of my old community was taken away from me when my chemical sensitivities were diagnosed. I thought also to share what knowledge and experience I have with others. There has been less of that than I expected, partly because I'm not willing to learn the computer and Internet skills necessary to be effective in that way but also because there are plenty of other folks out there doing a perfectly good job of it. I will  continue to share what wisdom and knowledge I have when opportunities arise.

The biggest reason I began blogging, I think, was as a motivational tool for myself. In general I have no schedule imposed on me by a job or other outside commitments. I thought blogging would be a way to hold myself accountable for the work I did or did not accomplish here in my isolation. Overall it has been reasonably effective in that regard. However, I have to remember to take pictures of what I'm doing so I have something visual to share with my readers! When I fail to do that I also fail to blog about my projects. The work I do is all about color and design. At the root of it all I am a visual artist; pictures are necessary to any discussion of what I'm involved in.

I'm not blogging just for the sake of being a blogger. Or to practice the craft of writing or to make money or to build a following. I blog to keep myself on task with my creative endeavors, to keep me moving forward, and hopefully to occasionally inspire or motivate others. I blog as the spirit moves me and my health allows. I'm tempted - very tempted - to try to post on a schedule. In my gut I know that won't be successful. I suspect I would quit blogging altogether if I kept that up for very long. I just can't be that regimented, not any more. If for no other reason, my body won't co-operate!

This blog is a tool. It's a personal tool that happens to also be public. That's something I need to keep in mind. I appreciate my readers deeply (especially those who comment!) but in the end I do this for myself, not for anyone else.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year, New Project!

So with the enthusiasm that a new year inspires I am suddenly suffering from Multiple Project Disorder. ;- )

The Christmas flimsy (previous post) is still on the design wall - or was, until I took it down to take these photographs. I haven't yet made those side borders with the Churn Dash blocks. Once I get them sashed it will be a pretty straightforward matter to put the borders on, sides first and then the top and bottom, and that quilt top will be done as far as I'm concerned. I just have to resurrect my Christmas spirit long enough to make that happen.

And I had to resort to giving my daughter an incomplete project for Christmas this year (last year now!). She asked for more place mats for their family of six. I'd made up a set from some batik orphan blocks but I also had plans to make up a set featuring winter prints. The batik set was presented finished, but the winter set had barely been started by the time Christmas Eve rolled around.

I'm using strips to build up the fussy-cut polar bears. So far all I have are parts.

Unfortunately my enthusiasm for this project has gone MIA too.

In an effort to locate my missing motivation I did some blog browsing. I looked into the Rainbow Scrap Challenge over at So Scrappy. It didn't take long to realize that the challenge itself wouldn't suit me but I was intrigued with the concept. I developed a plan to make Scrappy Trip blocks, each in a monochromatic palette, for a quilt that will probably be called Grandma's Box of Crayons. Or some variation thereof.

I started by pulling out my favorite pinks: 

Very soon I also had a stack of coral-pink prints:

And then the next day I had four blocks made up!

The block on the lower left is made of what I consider true blues or cobalt blues. The block on the lower right features prints closer to a robin's egg blue. These are 15" blocks, made from 3" strips.

Just making these four blocks has made it possible for me to get out the polar bears again and prepare more strips for them. With luck DD will have her winter place mats before much more of January has passed. I'm less concerned with finishing the Christmas quilt right away.

In addition to these three projects I have the Tea Towel Challenge and the Bead Journal Project to begin. It's good to have options! :- )