Saturday, April 24, 2010

Musical Chairs Blocks

Today was the fifth and final day of my at-home retreat.  Continuing on with the book Quilters Playtime, I worked on Musical Chairs blocks.

Left:  Main fabrics + wild card (orange)         Right:  Alternates
All fabrics are from stash

The main fabrics and wild card were stacked and cut into nine pieces, kind of a wonky nine-patch, then each stack, minus the wild card, was laid out on the design wall in the prescribed way, similar to Karla Alexander's Stack the Deck.

Main fabrics - original order

At this point you have the option of swapping out some pieces for wild card pieces or from the alternate fabrics.  I brought in some wild card and some black.

With some pieces swapped out

First Musical Chairs block assembled

Nine Musical Chairs blocks sewn

I think the blocks look very much like stained glass, and I've decided to put the blocks together in an Attic Windows setting.  I've been wanting to do an Attic Windows, so this is a great time to do it.  I'm thinking of using some black trim along the seam lines of the blocks to imitate leading.  Another possibility for leading is 1/4" black bias tape, which I believe is self-adhesive.  I'm not sure about window frame color yet.  I may think of something good later.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cinco de Mayo Wallhanging Finished!

Cinco de Mayo  17" x 29"
Improvisational wallhanging, all fabric from stash.
Based on Pin the Tail on the Donkey techniques from the book Quilters Playtime

I still find it hard to believe that I made this wallhanging in just two days.  Yesterday morning I chose fabric and today the quilt is up on my wall!  This project was improvisational, starting from scratch with no pattern in mind.  Below are lots of pictures and comments so you can follow along with the project, if you like.

The lime green fabric with chili peppers, sombreros, maracas and pinatas was inspiration for this quilt.  I found a couple more chili pepper fabrics in my stash, along with the bright geometric on the left.

Fabric with black background cut and pieced to make it wider (vertical seam).

Trying out a couple of fabrics to act as dividers/spacers between chili fabrics.

Vertical seam bothering me. Trying out a couple of fabrics to cover up, also different spacer.

Yet another cover up, and trying to get the turquoise spacers to work.

I'm liking this arrangement a lot.

Now that the arrangement feels good, I make several "tails": Red on the green chili; big purple over the red chili, with green and red tails over it; orange cover up counts as another for total of 5 (Cinco de Mayo is May 5...5th day of 5th month).

Here's the same layout, with a narrow black strip on the purple divider.

Sketch of the wallhanging.  Decided to keep dimensions the same as the roughly folded fabric on the wall, later noted on sketch.

Cover up quilted with zigzag, sewed to the chili fabric just at top and bottom.  You can see by the chopstick that the cover up is not sewn down all the way--a design decision.  With both ends of the tail enclosed in a seam, Quilter's Playtime calls this an Inserted Tail.

Purple divider attached

The red tail (a Dangling Tail) has been sewn onto the green fabric across the top, just to secure it.  Also, I decided to use the narrow black between the purple and the green. It's just a 1.5" wide strip folded in half. I'm letting the fold hang loose into the green area.

You can see by the chopstick that it's open under the black, not stitched down.

It's open behind the tail, as well.

Here are the black and green chili sections sewn together.

Stripe has been sewn to the green.  I've had this fabric for years.  The selvage said Masai, which is African, but I think it works quite well in this Mexican-inspired piece.

This is the largest tail.  It will provide a background for two smaller ones.  I quilted the basket shape with a cross-hatch sort of pattern.  The seams are finished, except across the top, where it will be sewn into the stripe/red chili seam.

Red chili and purple basket not sewn to stripe yet.

I decided it was time to trim the piece.  To my amazement, when it was trimmed up, the quilt looked done!  Are you kidding?  What about the red chili?  Can I still add the purple basket?  I can do without the red chili, but I really want the purple.

Okay, that looks good.  Then I had a problem.  How in the world am I going to finish this thing off with binding?  The basket is already finished on three sides, and is really thick.  I played with possibilities in my head, not coming up with a solution.  It was late, so I decided to call it a night and figure it out in the morning.

Morning came and I looked on the internet for prairie points.  After all, my basket was like a prairie point.  But it really wasn't much help, because the example's prairie points went all the way around the quilt.  I found a tutorial on facing a quilt, but I wasn't convinced.  Next I tried Quilting Arts, not your average quilts.  Surely I could find help there, and I did.  I found an article on 12 unconventional ways to finish a quilt.  I decided to do the pillowcase technique.  I've done it a million times with quilts.  This time I could build an escape hatch, an opening in the backing to turn the quilt inside out.  That could work!  Woo-hoo!

Decided to use red chili fabric as backing.  Laid over the quilt top to check for size.  (Basket still not attached.)

Cut a couple of strips, trying them out for size.  I'm not worried about the basket being covered.  It will hang freely below the body of the quilt.

I made a vertical cut in the backing a little off-center, then sewed the vertical purple strip between the two backing pieces.  Then I made a horizontal cut in the backing, also off-center, and sewed in the horizontal purple strip--leaving several inches unsewn on one edge.  This would be the "escape hatch" for turning the quilt right side out later on.

I thought it would be interesting to let the green and red tails hang a little below the purple basket.  I had to trim about an inch off the top of the basket so that the tops of the tails would be even with the top of the basket.  I sewed the tails to the basket to secure them.

It was time to do some quilting.  One of the tips that I picked up at Quilting Arts about the pillowcase technique is that quilting can be done with the top and batting alone; fabric for the back (not the actual backing) is optional for quilting.  I decided to give it a try.  I usually use a low-loft polyester batting from Joann's.  It's quite fluffy, and can get caught on the presser foot, etc.  I didn't want to deal with all that mess, so I found some fleece batting I had bought umpteen years ago.  No fluff, no problem.

I sprayed some 505 (love that stuff!)  on the batting and pressed the quilt top into place.  Time to quilt.  I found a design in the book Mindful Meandering that had curvy triangles that looked like tortilla chips, one chip per block.  I didn't have blocks, but I decided to try to adapt.  I started in the black chili area, got lost during the second row, tried to recover and was totally dizzy by row three.  So I gave it up, and just did some free-motion curvy lines with triangles now and then for the last row.  That felt better, more like the loop-de-loops I've done several times.  I jumped over the orange cover up and finished quilting the black chili area.  I skipped the purple divider, and did more of the same quilting in the green chili area.  I left the stripe section alone.  I'm not big on embellishments, but I may try to find some beads, jewelry, etc. to dress up some of the unquilted areas.  We'll see.

Now it was time to join the backing to the quilted top.  I laid the purple basket and tails face down on the stripe and sewed to secure.  I taped shut the escape hatch on the backing so it wouldn't stretch on me.  I made some triangles (5" squares folded on the diagonal and pressed) for hanging.  I laid the quilted top on the backing, right sides together, placing a triangle in each corner, and sewed all the way around the edge of the quilt top.  Part way around I worried that I might not be able to open the escape hatch.  I had to was only scotch tape.  I'm stronger than it is, for Pete's sake.

Quilted top and backing sewn together, all around the edges.

I trimmed around the quilt top, cut out the corners just to the stitching line, removed the scotch tape from the escape hatch and turned the quilt right side out.  I used Mr. Chopstick to push out the corners and pressed the quilt to make the edges flat.

All done!


I taped the escape hatch shut again, so I could hang the quilt right away.  I will do a permanent closing another day.

That was fun!  You never know what you're going to end up with when you do improvisational quilts.  As you can see, the quilt changed directions many times.  I'm happy with the results, and I'm glad I have the wallhanging done and on the wall before May 5th!  It's weird to call this a WIP since it was so short-lived, but I can count it in the Stashbuster WIP and WHIMM contest.  So, proudly, another WIP finished!

I'm going to continue my retreat for one more day, Saturday.  I'll go as far as I can in Quilter's Playtime.  I'm going out of town on Sunday, but I may continue in the book even after my official retreat is over.  I'm not sure what my schedule will hold, with the imminent birth of my new granddaughter Piper.  I may be going back to work on Monday, but not if Piper arrives this weekend.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cinco de Mayo Wallhanging Progress

As I had hoped, I got a lot of sewing done today, Day 3 of my at-home retreat.  Today I worked on a wallhanging for Cinco de Mayo, using the Pin the Tail on the Donkey techniques from the book Quilter's Playtime.

I still can't believe it, but I'm nearly done with the quilt top.  It's small, but I didn't think I could get this far in just one day.  I have most of the elements sewn together, and I have just the bottom portion to go--3 very short seams.  However, I've hit a little snag in construction so I'm calling it a day while I think about different options.  Probably tomorrow with fresh eyes the answer will come to me pretty quickly.

I'll post pictures and details about the wallhanging soon.

At-Home Retreat Days 1 and 2

I began my at-home retreat on Tuesday.  On Day 1 I finished Papillons de Paris and did my Stash Report.  Yesterday (Wednesday/Day 2) I didn't get a lot of quilting done.  I had lunch with my friend Kim S., after which I went fabric shopping for Piper's Polka Dots, a quilt for my soon-to-be-born granddaughter Piper, who will be here in less than a week.  Piper's bedroom is painted lime green.  Over that green there are big circles in dark pink.  I bought about a dozen lime green fat quarters and one-third yard pieces, which will make up the background of scrappy squares. I will echo the dark pink circles on the quilt, and I will pick up the pink fabric later.

Yesterday evening I watched my granddaughter Reghan, who will soon become a big sister, while my daughter-in-law Laurie (mom-to-be) and my son Robbie got some shopping done.  Reghan and I had a great time together, and after they all went home I sorted through a couple of bags of fabric.  Some of the fabric I kept for charity quilts, some will go to Project Linus, and some will be donated to a garage sale to benefit MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), a church group that Laurie belongs to.  Their sale is at the end of this month, and I have household items to donate, as well.  During the past couple of sales, Laurie has been a very active participant, but she's going to be just a little bit busy this year--with a newborn.

I did manage to get some sewing done last night.  I picked up where I left off during last year's retreat with the book Quilter's Playtime by Dianne S. Hire.  I had already completed three blocks, and had another pinned together--which I finished last night.

Tic Tac Toe Block - Finished Wednesday night

Quilter's Playtime Blocks so far
Left:  Hopscotch     Right:  Tic Tac Toe

So, today is Day 3.  I expect to get a lot of sewing done.  Next in the book is Pin the Tail on the Donkey.  I like to do seasonal wallhangings, and I've been wanting to do one for Cinco de Mayo (May 5).  I'd might as well do two things at once so Pin the Tail on the Donkey will be a Cinco de Mayo wallhanging.  I have a hot chili pepper fabric in my stash, which would be a great jumping off point for the project.  I probably have other related fabrics that could work as well.  We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

State of the Stash Report April 2010

Members of Stashbuster are expected to give a stash report during their birthday month.  So here goes mine.

Most of my fabric stash is made up of smaller sizes, fat quarter to 1 yard.  I keep them in gallon zip bags by color family.  Total:  39 bags

Many of the larger pieces, up to 2.5 yards, are in 4 huge zip bags.  Consolidated, they would fit into 2 of the bags easily.  About half of this fabric is likely to be made into charity quilts.  There is a full "paper" box of fabric set aside for charity.

Scraps 1" to 13" wide of various lengths, organized by width and cool/warm colors:  Six 12" x 12" drawers plus 1 small lunch bag--all very full.  I do not keep all of my scraps.  I have a grocery bag near my sewing machine where I deposit the scraps that no longer interest me.  When the bag gets full, I donate the scraps to Project Linus.  I figure someone will enjoy making beautiful quilts out of my castoffs.

PIGs (Projects in Grocery Bags):  10, with about half of those set aside for charity

UFOs (UnFinished Objects):  I tend to do my projects start to finish, so I have just 6 items that sit unfinished.  Of those, one can be finished as a wallhanging for 4th of July.  Two can be finished and given to charity.  The remaining three projects I am quite proud of and would like to be quilted professionally with the intent of displaying in a quilt show someday.

WIPs (Works in Progress):  Cathy's Southwest, which is actually two quilts.  Quilter's Playtime, which I am working on this week during my at-home retreat. Chantelle de la Mer, project from Ricky Tims Caveman Quilting.

I weighed all of the above to have something to compare to this time next year.  All told, my stash weighs 133 pounds, of which 27 pounds is designated for charity.  Not too bad, I think.  We'll see where I am a year from now.

Papillons de Paris Finished!

Papillons de Paris (Butterflies of Paris)   51" x 71"
Features Paris themed fabric, with Souvenir and Quatrefoils blocks.
Original design.  About half of fabric is from stash.

I just finished Papillons de Paris (Butterflies of Paris).  I had gone back and forth about an outer border, had decided to use the mottled pink, and bought a couple of yards.  But when I held up a sample next to the narrow chocolate brown border, the pink seemed like an afterthought and didn't add anything to the quilt but size.  The quilt was perfectly happy ending with the dark brown border, so I went along with it.

Close-up of quilt front

The Paris themed print in the center of the quilt was bought at Poppy Fabrics in Oakland, CA about 6 years ago.  Sadly the store is no longer in business.  On the same visit to Poppy I picked up another Paris themed print--completely different with 50's fashion ladies in blues and pinks.  That fabric will become a quilt someday, but I have no design or starting time in mind yet.

Stylized Eiffel Tower, image found on Internet.
Incorporated rough outline of Eiffel Tower among Loop-de-Loop free-motion quilting.

One of 16 Eiffel Tower motifs in the center section of the quilt

I searched for easy designs of the Eiffel Tower and found one I liked and that was easy to sew.  I printed 16 of them on freezer paper and scattered them around the center section of the quilt, ironing them to the quilt top, then pinning in place.  This was my first experience with freezer paper.  I'm not too sure of the success.  The free-motion foot kept moving the motifs out of place, and I'd have to bring them back to finish outlining them.  I'm not giving up on the freezer paper yet, but I might try something else to keep the motifs in place better next time.  I decided not to use the motifs in the side sections of the quilt, and did loop-de-loops only.

Quilt back -- Same butterfly fabric as in the Souvenir Blocks on the quilt front

When I was shopping at Beverly Fabrics for backing fabric recently, I auditioned several possibilities, none of which thrilled me.  All of a sudden it dawned on me that I could use the butterly fabric.  I love the fabric, it works with the color scheme, and it was the same price as fabric I almost settled for.  And, hello...the title in English is Butterflies of Paris.

I'm so glad the quilt is finished.  It's going on my bed so I can sleep under it tonight.  Another WIP finished.

At-Home Retreat Begins

Today begins my at-home quilting retreat, a substitute for my annual quilting-by-the-sea trip to Pacifica.  To maximize my quilting time and limit my distractions I've laid out a couple of rules for myself:  No TV during quilting time; music channels are okay.  Computer time is limited during the day to post updates; no websurfing.  Once quilting is ended for the day, computer is okay.

I have a few projects planned:  Finish Papillons de Paris, do stash report, pick up where I left off with Quilter's Playtime from last year's retreat.  We'll see where we go from there.

Tomorrow I'm having lunch with a friend, and while I'm out I'll hit a few shops for fabric for Piper's Polka Dots, a baby quilt for Piper, my new granddaughter who will be born within a few weeks.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Papillons de Paris Quilted

I finished quilting Papillons de Paris tonight.  Tomorrow I'll attach the binding, and it will be finis!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Papillons de Paris Update

Here's an update on the progress of Papillons de Paris.
Theme fabric not yet trimmed to size

I sewed together the blocks on the sides, as well as the top and bottom--leaving the corner blocks alone.  Then I meausred the blocks strips.  The side pieces were 50" long, and the top and bottom pieces were 30" wide.  That gave me the dimensions to cut the theme fabric for the center.

Theme fabric folded in quarters and laid on the cutting mat.

The first cut is along the right (quilt bottom) at 25", half of the needed length.  The next cut is across the top (quilt side) at 15", half of the needed width.

Theme fabric fits into the center area.

Narrow border added in dark chocolate brown.

My original design called for another border in the medium brown print.  Earlier tonight I decided I liked the idea of the mottled pink better.  However, the narrow chocolate brown seems to finish off the quilt just fine.  The quilt will not be as wide as I usually like, but it will be fine.

By the way, I went shopping for backing last week and after trying out several possibilities, decided to go with the butterfly fabric that I know I love.

I'm off work this next week, and have no travel plans, so I have time to sew during the day.  Tomorrow I will do the quilting, and I should have a finished product by tomorrow night.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Birthday and Quilting Retreat Plans

Today is my birthday!  I'm headed to Pacifica (a little south of San Francisco) just for the day.  This year I'm passing on my annual three-day quilting trip by the sea in Pacifica, applying the money I would have spent toward an October vacation to the East Coast with my sister Cass.  If those plans fall through, I can do my quilting trip at that time, so it's win-win for me.

I'm off work for the next week, and I'm planning a staycation at home.  I plan some little excursions close by.  Also, I'm going to do an in-home quilting retreat, as if I were at the ocean.  I need to set some rules for myself, such as no TV or computer during quilting time--just like when I'm in Pacifica.  Without the distractions of TV and computer, I am able to focus on sewing.

I haven't nailed down which quilting projects I'm going to tackle during my retreat yet.  Perhaps I can figure that out as I travel on BART today.

Pacific ocean, here I come!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Papillons de Paris Blocks are Done!

I finished the Quatrefoils blocks tonight.  Below you can see the Quatrefoils blocks (dark points and yellow center) laid out on the design wall with the Souvenir blocks (light center).

Pieced blocks

The Paris theme print will form the center of the quilt, surrounded by the pieced blocks. Around the outside of the pieced blocks I'm planning to add a very narrow border in the deep chocolate brown, then a substantial final border in the medium dark print seen in the Souvenir blocks.

I'm getting close to finishing!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Quatrefoils Blocks in Progress

I finished 2 Quatrefoils blocks tonight, for a total of 3.  They look really good.  There are 7 more of the blocks in the quilt design, and I should have most if not all of the rest of the blocks done tomorrow night.