Sunday, April 23, 2017

Another April SAL

Our Stitch Along schedule has given us two check-in opportunities this month! It seems I'm done with embroidery for the time being. My handwork of choice lately has been needlepoint.

I showed you the beginning of this coin purse earlier in the  month.

I've made quite a bit of progress since then!

The idea was to use up the leftover floss from previous Stitch and Zip kits. Somewhere around here there's a sizable knot of black floss that I thought I'd use for this project. Do you think I can find it? Of course not. It's not in my embroidery basket or the tote with my stash of other embroidery threads. It doesn't seem to be in any of the logical places I would expect to find it in. I think I'm reduced to looking in the illogical places. I've made a start on the background anyway but the floss I began with was substandard. I had to go back over my stitches to get better coverage of the white canvas and even then it's peeking through more than I'd like. I hope I can unearth that knot of floss pretty soon so the rest of the background area will be more fun to stitch!

I also succumbed to the enticement of a new project, another coin or card case. Who could resist this face?

I'm not a fan of gray so I'm toying with the idea of a purple in the gray areas of the background.

I think it'll work just as well with the turquoise, aqua, and lime green as the gray - maybe better!

There's quite a group of us in this stitch along now, from Europe to Australia. You can see the wonderful array of work by clicking on their names below. I have a hard time, sometimes, getting around to see them all but I assure you it's worth the effort!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Finish and a Stumblingblock

I have completed the binding on my F2F2 quilt (Footsquare Freestyle round two).

The blocks were made by quilters around the world - thank you ladies! This is a regulation twin size quilt, 65" x 88."  I had James quilt it in an allover leaf design. I love it!

He was able to use a variegated thread my sister bought for me some years ago. The allover leaf is one of my favorites of his quilting patterns. It was an easy decision to use that design given the leaves in the batik sashing and border. :- )

Meanwhile, I've swapped out one of the short sashing strips between my batik friendship blocks.


Do you see the difference? In the second column from the left, about halfway down. The first strip was too dark. I'm happier with this other print. However, I discovered I didn't have as much yardage as I needed for the long vertical sashing strips. I went out to look for more and found an acceptable print in the yellow I was planning to use. But when I got home, affected by the fumes from the outing, I suddenly wasn't sure about my original plan. I still want to make this a strippy quilt (vertical columns separated by single fabric strips - much like the F2F2 quilt) but I'm no longer as confident of the yellow I was planning to use. The good people at eQuilter had a turquoise batik in their clearance department that looked like it might be a good fit with this project. So until my order arrives this quilt has been put on hold. I'm making up the rest of the purple, green, and caramel scrappy trip blocks that will go into the comfort quilt for Covered in Love. It's an ideal project for this period of time while my brain is not fully functional.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Totally Scrappy

Today is both Scrap Happy Day hosted by Kate and Gun and the weekly link party for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge hosted by Angela. I only have these three blocks officially for the RSC so far:

I'm not even sure the sawtooth star with the birds in the middle counts! The challenge this month (and it's really a challenge!) is to use our multi-color scraps, those that aren't predominantly one color or another. I'm surprised at how few of those scraps I have and how difficult I'm finding it to figure out how to use them in a block. I have plenty of prints that would qualify, they just haven't been used to the point where I have scraps yet. This year may not be a very productive one for me in terms of the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. It would appear I need to make some quilts to create more scraps!

For Scrap Happy Day each month I've been making what I consider to be Truly Scrappy scrappy trip blocks. This is to reduce the number of 3" strips in my stash. It's being very effective. I made these three blocks for April:

And then added them to the other blocks I've made.

Technically I have enough blocks already for a comfort quilt top. However, the bright white spots bother me. And the strips I haven't used yet are in bright, clear colors as opposed to these darker, grayer prints. So I've cut more strips and will continue making blocks until I can create a top I'm happy with. Probably I'll end up with two: one in brighter colors and the other more subdued. Whatever works! :- )

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Friends in Batik

I've learned that I'm going to have to pace myself when it comes to getting all those bindings sewn down (see previous post). After the marathon sessions with the wedding quilt (pictures to come later) my wrist and hands weren't very happy. I also wanted something other than the purple, green, and gold scrappy trip blocks to work on so I dug out my cheerful batik friendship blocks. These blocks were made for me by members of my local quilt guild back in 2014-15. This is the way I laid them out the first time I put them on the design wall.

My original thinking was to make stacked string blocks to tie them together. Then I considered alternate blocks. I couldn't find a block that would easily move the colors across the quilt that I was willing to make in that quantity. So the blocks were put away for a while.

When I got them out the next time I rearranged them into five columns with the blocks directly over each other.

With 2" sashes between the blocks and about 3" between the columns I could turn these into a personal size quilt which, after all, is what this was meant to be! I have a wonderful batik in pink and orange and yellow that might make a good border too. There was still the matter of sashing the blocks however. That was going to involve a lot of auditioning of colors and prints. Other projects took precedence, as they will, and the blocks were put away once again.

To keep myself from hand stitching another binding I got the friendship blocks out and began the auditioning process.

Two days later I think I have what I want. Or the best I can do with what's available. The trick will be to get them sewn into place before I need the design wall for something else!

Friday, April 7, 2017


I had an exceptionally good day yesterday. I pruned two quilts, made binding for three, and applied binding to four out of the five that were in the queue.

I already had binding made for this one:

This is the one I made out of a selection of favorite batiks and hand dyed fabrics. I'm calling it Precious Gems. It will finish at about 60" x 76."

I had to make binding for my Macabre Medallion and F2F2 quilts. I used a solid black on my F2F2 quilt.

This one is slightly larger than Precious Gems, about 66" x 88."

The wedding quilt and Macabre Medallion required a trip to my Local Quilt Shop. I found a leaf print for the wedding quilt:

That lighter print makes a nice contrast to the dark border print. Up in the left corner you can see a bit of the backing print. This one is 60" x 80."

I thought I was going to use a black tone on tone for the Macabre Medallion. Instead I found the perfect faded plum!

This is quilt about the same size as the others. Can you see the spiderweb James quilted into it for me?

Obviously the first one I'm going to focus on getting stitched down will be the wedding quilt. I mentioned five quilts; the fifth one has been pruned but I couldn't find anything in my stash that worked for binding. Back to the LQS! In another rare turn of events, I'm planning to keep three of these five quilts for my own use and enjoyment. There's a first time for everything!

Linking up with Confessions of a Fabric Addict and others celebrating their accomplishments this week. :- )

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Batik Trips

After putting so much mental effort into the wedding quilt I wanted something easy and relatively mindless to work on next. Last year I learned about Covered in Love during the annual Hands2Help quilt drive. I only sent one quilt to them but have wanted to do more ever since. So I went through my stash and found some batiks that would work together in Scrappy Trip blocks.

Some quilters get hooked on log cabin blocks because of the ease of construction and variety of designs that can be achieved with them. Those are the very reasons I keep making scrappy trip blocks!

I tend to use the trip-around-the-world setting most often, at least when I'm making the blocks and putting them up on the design wall. ;- ) 

When I have more blocks made I'll try other setting options. I don't have quite enough of any one of these batiks for all 20 blocks so it will be a challenge to distribute prints evenly or at least in a pleasing arrangement. I confess to going out today to try to find more greens and golds to blend in with what I've already used. I wasn't as successful as I'd have liked but I think I have enough to be getting on with now. And James has just brought in the wedding quilt, ready to be bound. That will be a job for tomorrow (or maybe the next day!). 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Stitch Along in April

Late last month I was busy finishing up the Moonlight Love embroidery that I thought was going to be part of our niece's wedding quilt. As it turned out, the embroidery was too dark to include in the quilt so I get to hang onto it and enjoy it in our home. :- )

Even in a rush it was fun to do. Then I was busy building the quilt top so not a lot of stitching took place. In the last few days I've started to almost replicate one of the needlepoint coin purses I've made in the past.

I bought a blank canvas purse one time when I also purchased a kit. At the time I didn't have a clue what I would do with it. Such a quantity of leftover floss had accumulated from all the kits that I knew I wanted a design that would at least make a dent - never mind all the other floss I have in my stash! These hearts are simple and straightforward. They and the border can be counted out the same way counted cross stitch designs are done. It's a bit more demanding mentally than just stitching by color but once I get the hearts in place I'll have the background to fill in mindlessly. ;- )

There's quite a gang of us in this stitch along now, all over the world. Many are doing cross stitch projects (some quite ambitious) but there's a variety of needlework being done. If you'd like the motivation that a deadline provides contact Avis, our group's administrator. Oh, and welcome to Mary Margaret and Timothy, our newest members!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Bee, Myself and I in March

As usual, I found myself at something of a loss upon completion of the wedding quilt top and back. I'm generally unable to move directly from one major project to another. It's times like this when friendship blocks or other random blocks to make come in handy. Fortunately I have my Bee, Myself and I blocks to make!

You may or may not recall that I've been making Scrappy Trip blocks in my favorite colors in batiks. This is what I had last month:

I made three new blocks, one yellow and two orange.

Then I decided I wanted another yellow block. So this is what I have now:

After I took this picture I moved that darkest pink block over to the right. I think I also rotated it 90 degrees. It looked better there but I didn't bother to take a new picture. My end goal is 20 blocks. That puts me at the halfway point but I fully expect to make more than I need, just so I have design options.

Kate and Tialys have been making lovely hat boxes each month for their selfish sewing projects. Poor Kate in Australia has been preoccupied with preparing for, enduring, and now cleaning up after Cyclone Debbie's unwanted visit so she doesn't have new blocks to show this month. Tialys is in France and added three boxes to her collection. If you're a fan of Kaffe Fasset's quilts you might want to pop over and have a look at the growing collection of pretty boxes (too bad there are no hats to go in them!).

Monday, March 27, 2017

I Hope You Appreciate This!

I went to a lot of trouble this morning to rig up a way to photograph my larger quilt tops. Mostly because I want you to be able to see more completely what I've created. So in the end it was an entirely selfish move. ;- )

I had a set of four wooden clip sort-of things for a long time that were made specifically  to display quilts. I finally decided to try to put them to good use. That entailed taking down some of my elegant (cough cough) decor over the design wall. Whether it gets returned to place remains to be seen. I've hung the flimsy mostly over a door in order to move it from behind the cabinet that I use as a cutting table. There were some other bits of debris that had to be moved out of the way as well. It's a case of making things worse in order to make them better. I'm not a fan of that process. I've got the quilt top hung but now I have to find new places for all the stuff I moved out of the way - at least I do if I want to hang another flimsy more easily in the future!

But enough whining. Ta-daa, the wedding quilt!

Okay, so ignore the ruler I didn't realize would be in the picture. This will finish at about 60"' x 80," my favorite size for a couch or comfort quilt. The vertical orientation might not be the best for a cuddle quilt but it'll have to do. (Do I have an attitude this morning or what?!) At least the backing print will run horizontally. I think I found the perfect print for this couple who love forests.

The embroidery I worked on so diligently did not make it into the final composition. It was just too black. Everything else that was dark was in tones of blue and brown. Fortunately I found a bit of an old fabric I'd been given probably 20 years ago that was an almost perfect substitution in terms of color and theme.

Just another example of why I refer to my studio as the Magpie's Nest: I collect and hang onto everything that has potential! (Sounds better than the Pack Rat's Hole doesn't it?)

I was able to spell out the surname of the newlyweds from a panel of decorative letters. That was sheer providence.

The letters are very pale. I'm trusting James to successfully highlight them with his quilting. By the way, he's running a discount on his services from now until Easter. You can reach him through his Facebook page or send me an email (suebrown360(at)comcast(dot)net). Our eldest granddaughter will be receiving her new quilt today, built my me and quilted by her uncle.

One of those pinks had the nerve to bleed. I generally throw in a dye catcher when I first launder my new quilts (plus I've pre-washed all my fabric) but I wonder if I neglected that this time around. I avoid using them as often as I can because they are yet another item that sets off my chemical sensitivities. {sigh} I'm prepared for reds and maybe purples to bleed but pink?

I might also be cranky because I have this pile of quilts that need to be bound:

I don't mind sewing the bindings down but I do not enjoy wrangling the quilts to get the binding applied. I only have binding prepared for the one on top, which happens to be the smallest. Before I even try to find appropriate fabric to bind the others I think I'm going to have to go do something fun!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Time Out for Red

So while I've been working on the wedding quilt for my niece and her fiance I've also been sewing my red scrap patches into various blocks as part of the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. This is what I've accomplished on that front this month:

Even I am surprised at how many there are. More surprising (or maybe not) is how many red patches I still have to play with!

You can't see depth very well in this shot but trust me, there's plenty there!

I've made significant progress on the wedding quilt but don't have pictures ready yet. I want to get the final borders on and the back made today so James can quilt it next week. Stay tuned! Oh, and hop on over to So Scrappy to see what others have done with their red scraps. :- )

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Head Down, Nose to the Grindstone

I haven't dropped out of Blogland altogether. I'm just using my healthy times and energies to move the wedding quilt along. Progress has been made but I don't think I'm going to have it finished in time for the day of the wedding. That has been a fantasy from the beginning because the wedding day is so close to the time I learned of the engagement. Now I'm being forced to admit probable defeat. Oh well. It will get there when it gets there and hopefully the newlyweds will enjoy my efforts. It's going to be a one-of-a-kind quilt, that much is certain. A Magpie Sue Original without question!

I began by making stars to go around the top half of a digital print:

This is by no means where the stars will end up. I'm just turning fussy-cut 4" patches into 8" sawtooth stars and sticking them on the design wall.

Then there will be this embroidery:

I haven't quite figured out how to incorporate it. There's a whole section through the middle of the quilt that hasn't been resolved in my mind yet.

I have a bottom row nearly complete but there's no point trying to show it because it's in such light tones I don't think I can do it justice in a photograph.

Most recently I've been making these log cabin blocks around smaller fussy-cut patches.

The idea was to balance the castle panel with the log cabin blocks. I didn't realize how much I had to build up the panel to make it fit. I'm going to have to come up with multiple framing strips or something instead of simply bordering the panel with one or two prints as I originally thought.

All of the fussy cut patches are intended to reflect the various interests or experiences of the bride and groom. Part of the fun has been in collecting appropriate prints. When I saw the discrepancy between the log cabin blocks and the castle panel (meant to represent Hogwarts, the school for wizards from the Harry Potter novels) I sort of got stuck. The best remedy for that kind of obstacle? More fabric of course!

Hopefully these will help me figure out how to proceed. Once I get the individual sections assembled building the quilt top should be a piece of cake. Just don't expect to see me anywhere else in Blogland for a while!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Scrap Happy in March

First of all, I haven't had a chance to get around to see all the needlework that's been taking place over the last three weeks (previous post). I trust the artists will forgive me. Aside from the embroidery I've been doing there hasn't been a lot of activity here in The Magpie's Nest. I spent about four solid days in the world of fiction (The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and a couple of Puzzle Lady mysteries by Parnell Hall). That's about as close to a vacation as I get these days. Consequently I've only made three Scrap Happy blocks, and those only in the last 24 hours! That's okay though, there's no rush for these blocks.

The sailboats and bear's paw were bonus blocks assembled between seams (i.e. leaders and enders). Not just while I sewed up the scrappy trip blocks; I have also begun to make blocks for the wedding quilt (finally!). I won't show you those yet, but this is what has been on the design wall:

The scrappy trip blocks are what I'm making for the monthly ScrapHappyDay link up with Kate in Australia and Gun in Sweden and whoever else wants to play along. There will no doubt be lots of fun scrappy projects to see, I invite you to pop over and have a look. :- )

Saturday, March 11, 2017

SAL in March

So apparently after that burst of productivity at the end of February I needed a break! There hasn't been a lot of piecing yet but I have made significant progress on the Loving Moonlight embroidery.

Of course you always have to begin at the beginning.

This design is composed of nearly all straight stitches. At this stage you can see I put in a few French knots, probably because I had enough thread in the needle to do the job at the time. ;- )

Eventually I got all the leaves on the trees and the couple sitting on the bench.

Now all that remains are some flower stems and heads and a handful of additional stars. I might have to add a bit more to that smaller tree on the left hand side since I'm planning to use this as a 6" square in the wedding quilt and not frame it in an embroidery hoop as shown on the pattern package. It might look odd left the way it is. I think I can leave the trunk implied, not completed, on the right hand side.

This is just about all I've worked on since the last SAL post. Literally. I hope to get to work on the blocks for the wedding quilt very soon. Time is running out if I want to get the quilt to the bridal couple for the wedding reception!

To see what everyone else has been working on for the last three weeks you should be able to simply click on their names below. We'll be back again on 2 April. :- )

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ad Hoc Invitational

On a recent explore in Blogland I came across Fret Not Yourself and the invitation to link up our utility or improv quilts. The focus for the first quarter of 2017 is a quilt design traditionally known as Chinese Coins. This quilt I made for my FIL is a pretty good representation of that type of quilt.

You'll notice the body of the quilt is composed of columns of short strips of various prints separated by narrow vertical sashing. In this case I interrupted the stacks of coins with pre-printed panels that relate to his areas of interest. That would be the improv part of this particular quilt. ;- )

The quilt I've been working on lately is another version of Chinese Coins. It began as a potential medallion style quilt but after visiting Ann's blog I was inspired to make it a vertical strippy quilt. You can read about the beginning of the process in this post. The central column of the quilt top was built in more of a row-by-row style.

But that could be considered really large Chinese coins! The side columns more closely resemble the Chinese coins concept in that the blocks are stacked on top of each other directly. There are a couple of compensating strips inserted over the length of the columns but they aren't technically sashing like you would find in a traditional grid style quilt.

I have since added the vertical strips to separate my three columns in this quilt top.

I've used the same text print for outer borders too. You may notice that the inner sashes are wider than the outside borders. That's the opposite of what I thought I would do as I considered the layout of this quilt top. But when I realized that the central column would fit squarely on top of a twin mattress with about 1.5" of sashing showing on either side I decided to treat the two side columns (and their sashing) as the drop down the sides of the quilt on the bed. By putting 3.5" between the central column and the side columns there will be 2" of the text print showing on either side of the side columns when the quilt is on the bed. That makes me happy. :- )

Here's the completed top, turned horizontally. All I have to do now is make a back!

I'm linking this effort up with the other improv and utility quilters over on Ann's blog. I still want to make at least one more version of an improv Chinese coins quilt top but I doubt that will come to pass during this first quarter of the year. I have too many other irons in the fire for the next couple of months!