Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Selfish Sewing

Although it seems nearly all of my projects fulfill a selfish desire one way or another! The point of this particular effort is to make blocks out of fabrics and colors I want to play with, not to work with scraps or in someone else's color palette. This was inspired by Carla over at Granny Maud's Girl. For this project I've been making Scrappy Trip blocks out of my yellow and pink and orange batiks, two or three a month. My general goal is 20 blocks but there may have to be more in order to create the quilt top I have in my head.

This quilt was my original inspiration. I stole the picture over a year ago but of course didn't keep a record of where it came from. My apologies to the maker.

Update: Nanette found the original post about this quilt top. Thanks for that Nanette!

The plan for my blocks was to start with a set of yellows and then blend in oranges and pinks for a colorwash effect. I suspect I'm using wider strips and therefore making bigger blocks than in this yellow quilt so it may be a challenge to blend the colors the way I'd like. We shall see.

This month I made three blocks in orange:

Some kittens snuck in out of my scrap patches.

Altogether now I have 13 blocks.

Looks like I need at least one more in lighter yellows and maybe another one or two in pink. That will only bring me up to 16 though so I guess I'm free to make as many as I want in any of the three color families! There's no particular deadline for this beyond the personal commitment to make at least two blocks a month. This time around these blocks have been a great way to ease back into patchwork after the long break I've had since finishing so many quilts early in May.

I'm not aware of others participating in Carla's selfish sewing challenge beyond Kate over at TallTalesfromChiconia and Lynn at Tialys. They are both making wonderful hat boxes per Kaffe Fasset's directions out of one of his books. Lots of delicious colors and prints!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Gone Green

Today is the last Rainbow Scrap Challenge link party for the month of May. I made a handful of blocks early in the month and thought I would surely be making more. I have plenty of green scraps after all! These are the only ones I made all month however.

Oh well, maybe I'll get back to piecing in June. In the meantime, I'm linking up with these few blocks for the RSC this one time in May.

Most of my efforts in green this month have involved digging out the buttercups and other weeds from my flower bed and planting the rose bushes I'd ordered from David Austin Roses. It took us two days to get the bed cleared and a third to move plants I wanted keep and put the roses in their new home. This will give you some idea of what we were up against:

We dug out a couple clumps of day lilies and set them aside for a friend's new flower bed. Two other clumps were simply relocated within our bed. We also moved lavender and a little low growing flower whose name I've forgotten. Whether it survives or not remains to be seen.

This is where the lavender was originally.

The bed sure looked naked once we'd cleared out the weeds! The rose bushes looked even smaller than they did in their pots too.

One of the rose bushes is in the middle of this bed, to the left of the day lily leaves.

I want to add some annuals to fill in the bare spots a bit and then mulch the bed thoroughly. Unfortunately, there's more smoke in the air than my body will tolerate. I don't know if it's drifting over from a neighbor's property (burning brush) or if folks have begun grilling outdoors prior to our holiday weekend. In either case I can't get back outside to finish the job until it rains well or we get some good breezes to clear the air around us. {sigh}

I've been making steady progress on the images I transferred to muslin a few days ago. The bluebird at the top of this section was all stitched in back stitch.

Well, except for that bit of his breast. That was mostly split stitch. I'm thinking I will put '2017' in the banner eventually.

The Virgin received gold braid (cross stitches) on her deep purple robe.

After I outlined her dress in pink I went back and did some detached buttonhole stitches in an attempt to give her a lacy collar and cuffs.

They're not very lacy but I'm content with the results. Now I'm considering options for decorating her dress a bit more.

I've had an interesting experience since picking up embroidery again. Some time ago I gave up on the stem or outline stitch when I couldn't get it to look the way I thought it ought to. So I've been doing a lot of back stitch to outline things. This week I acquired a copy of Christen Brown's book The Embroidery Book, a Visual Resource of Color & Design. It's a feast of inspiration.

More to the point, her directions for doing the stem stitch have made it possible for me to get the results I longed for in my work. I don't understand why exactly. They aren't that much different from other representations of the stitch process. Just enough so, I guess, for me to make the necessary connection or corrections. Now I can use that stitch more confidently and enjoy it more. :- )

Happy Memorial Day to my readers in the USA!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Back to the Beginning?

Having finished, or nearly finished, so many quilts of late it would appear my creative self needs a change of pace. I currently have little interest in piecing or building quilt tops out of my Parts Department. It would be scary if it weren't for the fact that I have developed an avid desire to work with a hand needle and colorful floss instead.

I began my needlework career as many others have, as a child doing simple embroidery. By the time I was twenty I had gone through latch hook rug making and settled into needlepoint in a big way. I dabbled in blackwork and cross stitch but never did much more embroidery. It would appear it's time to circle back around to the early days of my needlework career.

If you've been visiting regularly over the last several years you'll know I enjoy bead embroidery, inspired by workshops with and books by Robin Atkins. I followed Sharon B. over on her blog Pintangle for a couple of years too. I've always retained an interest in the type of embroidery done on crazy quilts although I never fell deeply into that particular pool. Sharon's long band sampler really piqued my interest however, and has stayed with me. Something of that ilk has been on my nebulous needlework bucket list. Now I find myself lusting after Nancy's hand dyed floss over at the Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe. I finished up the litter of Cocker spaniel puppies I've been stitching on a dish towel (but I'm waiting for the next stitch along post to share that). What to do next?

Almost without thinking - the best way for me to begin some projects  - I got out embroidery transfer patterns I've acquired from Sublime Stitching, selected a couple of images, and ironed them onto a strip of bleached muslin. I purposefully cut the strip 8.5" wide and from selvage to selvage. I've folded it in half to get a piece 8.5" wide by about 22" long.

I wanted a place where I could stitch without having to think about what it's going to be turned into later, where I could play with color combinations more freely and practice my embroidery skills and stitches. Something that didn't feel too precious,. That was a problem I ran into when I tried to do this with a piece of linen several years ago. There's no way this will become the lengthy sampler Sharon has created (nowhere near!) but hopefully it will be a place for me to play. That element of play, of freedom, is something I need to cultivate. I grew up in the era when the goal was to make handmade things look machine made, "perfect." And being a hyper-responsible type I've had a very hard time shaking that upbringing. Even now I'm having trouble deciding what color to make this Virgin's robes. Lime green and fuchsia? Or the more traditional red and blue? I need to just delve into my box(es) of embroidery floss and see what turns up. But oh, how I would like to try out Nancy's floss on this!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hands 2 Help 2017

This year's Hands2Help quilt drive is coming to a close. I actually had my quilt top finished early this time around. Which was a good thing because it took more time to get the binding on and stitched down than I would have expected. But the quilt was laundered and labelled and sent on its' way last week. Woohoo!

Of the three official charities in the program this year I chose to make a quilt for the International Institute of St. Louis. These folks help immigrants and their families become productive new Americans. I was grateful for an opportunity to show my support for those fleeing dangerous or poverty stricken areas of the world. Of course the first thing I did was to rummage about in my Parts Department to see what blocks jumped out at me, eager to be put to good use.

I figure everyone can use an extra chicken in their pot (or basket, as the case may be).

From there I pulled out other blocks with chicken prints or in warm tones. I began with a medallion setting in mind...

...but eventually turned it into more of a strippy set with long sashing between three primary columns.

James did simple allover quilting with loops.

After making a binding that turned out to be a poor color choice I found a better, darker tone and put that on. I'm very happy with the way this turned out, and even happier to have beat the deadline with time to spare!

You can see the other quilts that have been made for this year's H2H quilt drive over at Confessions of a Fabric Addict. If you ever need inspiration for a new project the link party will be a great place to look. :- )

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ten Years Later

About a week ago I realized I'd missed my 10 year blogiversary. I haven't been up to posting about it either. Haven't been online much at all really. Wish there was a better reason for this absence than poor health. Well, a happier reason anyway. Poor health is a pretty good reason afterall. It keeps me from doing a lot of things I'd really like to do. {sigh}

I haven't put away my embroidery projects since the last SAL check-in (see previous post).

One of the Cocker puppy transfers didn't print as darkly as I seem to need these days so I've had the original pattern out to guide my stitches. I'll show you the progress in the next SAL post on 4 June. The little fox needlepoint case will very likely be finished by then too. I have another case on order but I'm still racking my brains for something equally mindless to stitch for those occasions when my brain shuts down. I've reached the point where I'm making duplicates of cases I've already made once!

I've assembled the blue Patience Corner blocks into a flimsy.

Oh no! I think I swapped a block accidentally. I'm going to have to go back in and fix that. 

I want to find a medium to large scale floral print to use for a border. That may take a while so this has been relegated to the closet until I feel up to the shopping trip.

I made these three Scrappy Trip blocks for Scrap Happy Day but then missed the event.

They look pretty muddy to me on their own. Hopefully they will blend in well when I finally get around to setting the blocks into a quilt top.

One bright spot in the past week was the purchase and installation of a lilac in our front yard. I've always loved the flowers and for the last couple of years have threatened to steal blooms off the bushes in the neighborhood. For Mother's Day this year I decided to just buy a starter shrub for myself. James helped me get it planted. I not sure my husband has even noticed the new addition! Now we have to get the two David Austin Roses I ordered planted in the weed flower bed before the weather turns really warm. This is going to involve moving at least a couple of established plants. I haven't yet quite figured out what I'm going to do with them, which is one reason the roses are still sitting in their pots. That and the consecutive days of rain we've had. I've got to get them in the ground before the air quality around here diminishes too. Time to get up off my butt!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Stitch Along in May

I've been doing more needlework than usual lately. To begin with, I've finished the little needlepoint case that will be nearly a twin to the original. This is where I was the last time I showed it to you:

And here we have it finished!

After blocking the black floss covered the white canvas a tiny bit better. By the way, that big knot of leftover black floss I was looking for never turned up. I actually ended up buying a brand new skein of floss just for this case. Fortunately floss is not expensive. Although if you have a taste for hand dyed floss I've found a wonderful source in The Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe. I've been drooling over her latest batches and trying to figure out an easy way to put them to good use. Of course, I have plenty of iron-on transfer patterns I could use. Right now I just don't have much creative energy. I want someone to hand me the fabric with the colors and stitches already selected so I can just sit and stitch!

I've made progress on the little fox needlepoint case too. From this:

To this:

You may remember I chose to substitute a purple for the gray that was provided for the background areas. This particular purple has turned out to be a little strong for my taste but hopefully someone else will enjoy it.

I've also done a bit more on the dish towel with the litter of Cocker Spaniel puppies frolicking along the hem. It's hard to get the whole width of the towel in one shot so let me just show you where progress has been made.

This puppy has been completed since this photo was taken, as have the leaves of the plant he's inspecting.

This is the last puppy of the litter.

He may very well be completed by the next SAL on 4 June. There's a lot of excellent needlework to be seen in the rest of the SAL. Make yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and take the tour!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Blue Patience Corners

Last year I requested 12" (finished) Patience Corner blocks from my local guild members for a quilt for our women's shelter. I meant to wait a full year to set the blocks but I think I've received all that will be coming in. I had also thought to have 49 blocks to set 7 x 7 for an 84" quilt. There were 40 blocks when I counted them up the other day. A couple weren't the right size due to cutting errors and one wasn't made in prints that would blend with the rest of the group. Of the remaining blocks I fully expect one or two to be shy of the full 12.5" for easy piecing and I'll have a couple left over. It would be simple to make more blocks but I don't want to. Instead I'm going to set 36 blocks 6 x 6 and then add 6" of border all the way around. I don't have a clue yet what that border will be; I'll worry about that later. 

 Because it was so successful in the quilt I made for my granddaughter (which was inspired by the request for the blocks in blue)...

I began by laying out the blocks the same arrangement. There were quite a few blocks with yellow squares within the blue framework. So many, in fact, I was able to make a giant X to begin designing around!

This may not be the picture of the final block placements but you get the idea. Once I had them arranged to my satisfaction I couldn't help but wonder how they would look set straight, all facing the same direction.

Darn if I don't like it better this way! I was afraid that once I'd turned the blocks I'd want to rearrange them again according to the values of the blues. I did change a couple of blocks around but more for a better placement of the focal patches than for the balance of blues. Another perk of this arrangement is that seams that ought to line up but don't won't be nearly as obvious. All I have to do now is sew them together. :- ) 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hands2Help 2017

It's a good thing I got an early start on my quilt for the Hands2Help quilt drive this year! The top was begun mid-February and complete by the end of the month. Then there was the wedding quilt and a baby quilt and all sorts of other projects while it waited for it's turn to be quilted. We won't mention all the time lost to recovery from toxic exposures and other health issues (so frustrating!). It sat, folded up, for some time after it had been quilted too. I'm afraid that shows in this picture I took a couple of days ago.

65" x 88"

I have binding made for it now in a better color than I'd originally chosen (see previous post). It's very close to the dark color of the vertical sashes and border strips. I hope to get that on during the coming week. That should insure this gets shipped before the June 2 deadline!

For those who may be visiting here for the first time you can read about how this quilt was built out of my Parts Department in this post. I'm linking up with some of the other quilters participating in H2H over at Confessions of a Fabric Addict today. Guest blogger Laura has shared a nifty quickie quilt pattern too. Looks like a candidate for stash busting to me. ;- )

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Flimsies, A Finish, and More Binding

Once again life and my body got the better of me. I hadn't realized how much I'd accomplished and not put on my blog until this morning. The batik friendship blocks were put away temporarily while I worked on the blocks for the quilt I intend to send to Covered in Love. When all twenty blocks were complete I put them on the wall in my fallback arrangement:

It actually looks better on the computer than it did in person. I went for a different arrangement however.

The back's been made and it's in the queue for quilting. It will be about 60" wide and 75" long when it's done.

Remember how I put bindings on four quilts last month? The first one was the wedding quilt, which has been sent and received and appreciated. :- ) The second was my F2F2 quilt, which I showed you here. The next one I tackled was the quilt I've decided to call Precious Gems because it features hand-dyes and batiks I only had a little of or didn't want to part with entirely. Taa daa:

60" x 78" (w x h)

I've begun to stitch down the binding on my Macabre Medallion but will have to set it aside to get the binding on the quilt for the Hands2Help quilt drive this year. I had a binding made but when I went to put it on the quilt I couldn't live with the discrepancy between the color of the binding and the border print.  I don't remember now where I acquired that fabric for the binding but I know I bought it specifically for that quilt. My color sense doesn't fail me very often but it sure did this time! Now I'm going to have to hurry a bit to meet the deadline {sigh}.

Another recent accomplishment was the assembly of my Diary Quilt top, my version of the Quilty 365 projects. I had 13 columns that needed to be set together. It took a while to find the right color/print to fulfill that purpose but I'm very happy with this yellow with tiny random orange dots.

I have a back made for this too, out of a couple of random prints from my stash, and it's also in the quilting queue. This will finish at my standard size at 80" wide and 60" high.The binding has already been made out of the same yellow I used to border the strips. At least that was an easy choice!