Sunday, February 7, 2016

Labels and sleeves

No new glorious finishes to post this week, as of yet, although Wonky Baskets is about 2/3 quilted right now.  The only thing I can say about that is that "Spiral-Mania" continues.  In fact, I'm thinking it's going to be my new go-to quilting design.  A friend with FABULOUS color sense (Carol) is definitely a piecer.  Pulling fabrics and piecing is her favorite part, the very best of fun.  She always quilts her quilts herself, and has no time or desire to spend a lot of time improving her free-motion skills.  So she keeps it simple, sometimes using lines, grid or whatever, but her go-to is a meander.  Similar to a stipple but larger, soft and meandering.  And her quilts are magnificent!

To me, the hardest part of finishing is deciding HOW to quilt it.  The last two or three quilts I've quilted, I was most fortunate to know EXACTLY how I was going to quilt them before the backings were even pieced.  Which makes it sooooo easy to finish!

Otherwise, I have to get out my quilting books and my binders (2 large ones) of quilting designs, and sit on the floor of my quilting room, flipping thru, waiting for inspiration to strike.  A "Go-To" quilting design would make it easier.  So maybe I know have one!  Or I'm doing a "SERIES".  Which quilters do sometimes.

I made labels this week for several completed quilts.  You label yours, don't you???  How?  I type them on the computer, including info about it, who it's for (if gifting) when and where I made it and the batting in it.  If a gift, washing instructions.  I add strips on all four sides from my bin of ! 1/2" strips, turn the edges, press, and then stitch down by hand, always in the lower right-hand corner of the back of the quilt.   I do NOT want quilts I gift you to sit on a shelf!!!  They are to be used----cuddled with, hung on a wall, whatever, but USED.  Hopefully......loved.

Also made & stiched down a sleeve, and mailed a quilty gift to a niece on the east coast.

Record-keeping is important, so I designed something for ME that I think will work very well.  I think that deserves its own blog entry, so more on that later.

GLHQ had their annual Mystery Quilt Day, which I always enjoy.  It used to be just "Quilt Day", but a mystery quilt pattern was always involved.  Somewhere along the line, that part of it became larger than life and Quilt Day is always known now as Mystery Quilt Day.  I don't always do the mystery.  Mystery patterns are difficult.  It's easy to get poor results.  Depends a lot on the pattern and the fabric instructions given, how well that is communicated.  This year's committee did a great job, and there were beautiful quilts in progress by the end of the day.

There's a baby quilt I needed to make, so I used a Moda Charm pack for, added 12 more 5" squares from my stash and some wonderful scrappy backgrounds.  Pattern is X's and O's, which was featured in Block Magazine by Missouri Start Quilt Company recently.

Until this is finished, all you get is this tantalizing glimpse.  Sorry for the lack of pictures today!  I promise, next week will be better!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sprial Quilting

The quilt with the giant spiral on it was all finished last weekend, and binding added.  I LOVE it, and am thinking I will now do a "SERIES".  A bunch of quilts, all SPIRAL QUILTED.  Cuz I am that much in love with it!  In fact, I'm gonna marry it! (Thank you, Pee Wee Herman!)

Binding on, clipped, ready for hand-stitching
The center---gorgeous swirl, right?

I owe my beautiful center swirl to Kerry, she has a great PDF file for the center.  As I said last blog, I print it on lightweight paper (onionskin), pin to where I want my spiral to start, and stitch thru the paper, with short stiches.  After that, I followed my walking foot at half-inch-ish.  A technical term, indicating it's free-form, and not always a half-inch.  And yes, I'm good with that.

And last Sunday when it was finished, Mother Nature gave me a beautiful sunny day (while the Eastern United States was drowning in snow!) and I was able to take the quilt outside for a photo. My second quilt finish of 2016!   It's 48" X 60" & destined for my living room wall (alternating with others).

Remember the wonky baskets from last week?  Well those were all pieced together!  They are now a top, ready for basting.  I pieced together the backing, so all I need to do is go spray-baste on the extra design wall in the basement.  There was a brief period of time where I though I'd push to get it done by tomorrow, January 31st, but it was not to be.  The week ahead doesn't look too crazy, so I should be working on quilting it.

I did some more fussy cutting, after putting a new blade in my rotary cutter---isn't that always an awesome experience???  and you can't figure out why you didn't do it sooner!!

I also spent quite a number of hours cleaning out stuff in the basement.  I'm trying to de-clutter.  You know they say you spend the first half of your life collecting things, and 2nd half getting rid of them? Well, I'm in the 2nd half.  Made some great progress, but still lots more work ahead.

Oh!  And before I sign off for now, did I mention I was featured on January 25th (Monday) on The Name Game? 

I was so excited when I saw that Live a Colorful Life (Cindy) had issued the call for bloggers to tell the story of their names.  She did a lovely job and I thank her so much for featuring me & the story of Chasing Squirrels!   I feel so honored to be among that incredible list of names, found here.

Since I told the story of Chasing Squirrels, I think it's only fitting to finish with this.  And have a great week---get into the studio, friends--SEW!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Selvage and Beyond

Last week I had to prepare for a demo at guild.  We were having a Whistle Stop where the group is divided into four smaller groups (probably thirty people in each) and they travel to four different demos going on simultaneously, moving station to station.

My demo was on using selvages in quilts or other projects.  I had a two-page hand-out, put together waaaay ahead of time, cuz you know how things creep up!  I had samples in various stages and some finished items.  I made 4 prizes & drew a name from each group.  They were so darn cute, I almost had trouble giving them away.  Can you believe I FORGOT to get pictures?  Two pincushions, 4x6, with a selvage pocket on the front to tuck in your scissors, filled with crushed walnut shells, and two wide open pouches by Noodlehead that I improvised with a pieced outer shell & some selvage strips.

The Sunday after the demo, the perfect can finally made itself available after breakfast (thank you, imported Irish Steel Cut Oats!) , so out came the selvage strips & the modge podge!

The perfect tool can, now sitting on my cutting table!

Very simple and quick, the Modge Podge both attaches the fabric to the can, and then adds a shiny protective coat when done!

While that was drying, I got out some yarn to see if I remembered how to cast on.  Miracle of miracles, it all came back to me!  Before I knew it, I was knitting some socks that will be gifted.

Then, I wanted to make myself an insulated fabric lunch bag that I had seen posted.  The Crafty Gemini's video  was terrific.  Some friends had recommended her & use her tutorials all the time.  She has many on You Tube.  Maybe I'll try some others too!  This project uses two fabrics, one for the outside, one for the lining.  three one-inch pieces of velcro, some Insul Bright, and you are good to go. If you haven't used it before, it's what you want to put in hot pads, oven mitts or something like this, where you want to retain temperature OR protect yourself from it.  Here it is:

If you'd like to make one, follow the link above or google Crafty Gemini.  Here's my lunch bag---much better than taking paper to a quilty event, and at least 5 or 6 times a year, I am packing a lunch to take along with me.  Not fancy, but I  now pack with a little more style.  Oh--and since I was all SELVAGE, I added some selvage strips to the front and back of the bag.

So far, I'm doing pretty good with sticking to my FINISH UFO'S resolution for the year, but as it is only the 22nd of January, guess I can't brag just yet.  But when you are always CHASING SQUIRRELS, it can be difficult to put the blinders on to new quilts!

Next up was this top, maybe completed in late 2014, possibly early 2015, I'm not really sure.  More on this later, but for now, just wanted to share my machine quilting efforts on it.  I just started quilting it last night, it's probably 2/3 quilted. 

The top is 48" by 60".  I had long wanted (but not yet dared) to do one huge spiral on a top, and decided this would be the ONE.  I started with the most perfect spiral tracing on thin paper, pin that to where I want to start (in this case, off center) and reduce my stitch length for the center area.  You are doing tight turning at first, so having those stitches smaller makes it easier, and your curves more smooth.

The top was packaged up, into a compact square, for easy turning.   Stitch length first at 1.5, start stitching, slowly, with those tiny stitches, following the traced design, which is about 4" square.  Once out of that first 4" area, gradually increase stitch length, up to 2.0.  Once I am outside of the paper tracing, I am ESTIMATING the width of my spacing, using my foot as a guide.   My lines are approximately a half inch apart, probably a tad more. (Very scientific!).  By the time my spiral got about 12" square, I went ahead and lengthened my stitch to about 2.75 or 3.0, because I like the way that looks.

This is what I have so far.  I am loving it, even if not perfect.  Because FINISHED is better than perfect!  The cloudy morning shows the stitching pretty nicely.  Once the quilt is done, I will post pictures of it.  For now, that's where I'm at!

Once that quilt is done, I have blocks that date back to maybe 2008 that must be joined and quilted by the end of February, in a mutual challenge with Mary Elizabeth Kinch.  When I dug these out in December, she saw my Instagram post & said she also had some.  We had each taken workshops with Gwen Marston to make these wonky baskets.   Mary Elizabeth thought we should get those done, and I agree!

For now, all you get is a tantalizing glimpse of a few blocks.  There are 42 altogether.  Sorry---the morning light is a little pale today, so not the best quality picture.  Some blocks were not quite the needed size, so rather than cutting the rest down, those had fabric added and are mixed in.  I am ready to sew the top together, and will have it completed by the end of February.  Thank God it's Leap Year, right?  One extra day!

Friday, January 15, 2016


For at least the first quarter of 2016, I am committed to finishing previously started projects.  Personally, I don't think they should be called UFO's until they are one year old, at MINIMUM.  Therefore, this is a finish.

Started at Great Lakes Heritage Quilters (GLHQ) Mystery Quilt Day in February 2015, this was our mystery quilt.  My color choices were navy and pink, with 'low volume' white background prints.  I absolutely LOVE every piece of fabric in this quilt!  The top was done not too long after quilt day ended, but then the top sat a little while.  For a brief period of time, I hoped it would be quilted and in the mail for a Christmas 2015 gift, but in the last frantic days prior to Christmas, that was not to happen.

BUT.  I knew exactly how it would be quilted.  Swirls.  After I saw this video of Melanie Ham doing some beautiful swirls for Alex Anderson & Ricky Tim's 'The Quilt Show', I knew that was what I wanted.  Alas, my swirls weren't as pretty as hers.  But they're mine.

I used Winline's 100% Bamboo Batting in it, and I absolutely love it.  From the first time you wash it, it gets very soft & drapeable , a truly beautiful batting.  This quilt is definitely meant to be a soft, cuddly lap quilt.  I washed it as soon as it was quilted, but before adding the binding.

For the pieced backing, I used some fabric left from the front and some beautiful Tula Pink Elizabeth, specifially, "16th Century Selfie", and how funny is that!

This weather, and a full design wall, are really cramping my photograph style!  I keep using my living room chair instead, oh well---quilts look pretty draped, right?

Finally, wrapped up pretty, ready to go.  Except it needs a label.  Which I don't want anyone to see just yet, as the quilt is a surprise.

A few days after my first finish of the year was done, we toasted our son's birthday.  He lives more than 2,000 miles away, so we had to toast him in absentia.  We had martinis using gin we purchased  when he & his sisters were home for Christmas, and we all went together to tour Two James Spirits in Corktown, Detroit.  Delicious.  Ahhhhh!  Happy Birthday, Eric!  Love you!

Friday, January 8, 2016

English Paper Piecing

Have you tried it?  I think it's really fun!  And I have to have hand work now, all the time! 

What I WANT to do, am lured to, hear the siren call of, is La Passacaglia, an incredible, beautiful piece, with interlocking cogs, absolutely amazing!  Here is a picture from Sharon at Lilabelle Lane Creations.  I follow her on Instagram and LOVE everything she does!

You can go to Pinterest and see lots of photos of  La Passacaglia (pronounced lah passa cahl ya).  But if you look at it closely, there are many tinier pieces, like those little connecting diamonds.  So far I have resisted it's siren call.  Even when Massdrop persists in occasionally listing a kit of the papers & templates to make it!

But wanting to do something similar, I found a pattern by Sue Daley called Fruit Tingles.  I found Sue's kit for it, which includes the pattern, all the paper pieces required & acrylic templates, for cutting out your fabric.   I think this will satisfy the urge to have an EPP pattern, and what I thought would be great about is that it doesn't interlock like La Passacaglia, each unit is appliqued onto it's own block.  The quilt has 16.  But if I want to stop sooner, I could. I'd have that option whereas with La Passacaglia you couldn't really stop til the entire top was done.

Here's what I have so far:

Here they all are, just hanging out together in the snow
It's very fun to take the time to fussy cut them, although that does take a little while.  I usually do two at a time, so far.   They are great TV work, or I take them out with me when I have a chance to sit and stitch.

The pattern shows one background fabric, but I am thinking about using two, in alternating blocks.  I'm a bit antsy to pick those out soon, but it may take a bit of time to decide what I want.  I'd love to start seeing these stitched onto their background!

Oh!  So in my 'look there's a squirrel' kind of way---it just occurred to me---both Sharon and Sue are Australians, as are many other talented quilters I follow on Instagram.  Jen Kingwell, for example.  Sarah Filke.  I've wondered if there's something in the water there?  Just a thought.....  But if so, I want some of that water!!  The work coming out of Australia is amazing--the patterns, the colors, the fabrics!

Friday, January 1, 2016

UFO Challenge

Happy New Year!  I'm not even going to start by making any promises of keeping this blog up better than I have, let's be realistic here.  So my first resolution is more of an anti-resolution, that of not making a promise about the blog.   BUT.  I am jumping on board with the project below, and had actually started to do this with dedication in November.

All People Quilt has started a 2016 UFO Challenge on Instagram, and the link on their name will take you to that  page.  I'm jumping on board!

My traditional guild, Great Lakes Heritage Quilters,  had UFO's as a theme at their Holiday Bazaar and auction this year, and I went through some of my boxes to see what I had.  Now, I do check on these each year to see what's there.  But it did shock me this year to see some of the amazing things I had in the works that were stalled out.  NONE went to the auction, as I liked all of them.  I thought, wow, there's some beautiful stuff here that I'd really like to finish.

One, started in the fall of 2012, I got out in this November, finished the hand applique on the two borders, machine quilted it, put on a sleeve, and hung it up for Christmas!  It's the Sue Spargo "Crimson Tweed", and it was a Block of the Month kit at Mabelena's Quilt Shop in Ortonville. 

Then, I completed two projects started within the past year.  I sort of feel that's not really OLD enough to be called a UFO.  But.  They were unfinished & sitting there.  This one was started around February or March, machine quilting and some hand-quilting on it began around August, then it too, languished.  The machine quilting not being always my favorite part.  Once you get into 'machine quilting mode' it's not too bad, and sometimes best to just keep on going and quilt some other tops too!

Actually, this was a lot of fun to quilt, as I had a variety of designs all over it, and handquilting with perle cotton in the middle sections.  It also has a sleeve and is ready to hang on the wall.  In fact, Crimson Tweed is coming down today, and Aerial Grove is going up!
 Pattern is by Carolyn Friedlander, and those 'squircles' are hand appliqued, needle-turn.

Next up, a good friend was celebrating the same big birthday I had occasion to celebrate in October, and I got a quilt from my friends The Chickens, that greatly eased that pain, so I thought Deb should have one too.  This was started in August at a workshop with Mary Elizabeth Kinch at AQS Grand Rapids.  String piecing is so addicting and fun, and I just couldn't stop.  The top was completed around October, and then it sat, waiting for the machine quilting.  Deb's birthday is Dec.29.  So by Dec. 20, 2015, it was quilted, binding and label on, and given to her on her birthday.  Deb is not a quilter herself, but she totally gets it, and loves them, and she was so moved and appreciative.  I think it really did ease the pain of one of those decade-numbers!

So, off to a good start, I think!

Friday, July 31, 2015

More Blocks this Week #chucknoharaqal

One of my favorite on-going projects right now is my Chuck Nohara Quilt Along, which I have written about before.  I'm especially finding myself drawn to the applique blocks, and am sure my balance of pieced blocks and appliqued blocks so far isn't very even, but oh well.  I really enjoy having the hand applique to work on when I sit.  Never used to enjoy it, but now actually really liking handwork.  Cuz I want to be quilting ALL THE TIME.

I started with the blocks by using needle turn applique.  After working on Carolyn Friedlander's Aerial Grove, I thought wow, needle turn is so easy and so fun!  NOT.  Sure, those 'squircle' shapes are soft and easy, not quite a circle, so of course they are fun and easy! When I tried doing some needle turn on my Chuck Nohara blocks, I found I wasn't actually too skilled at it.  Need some lessons with my friends Joyce and Diane, who ARE.

Shortly after I started #chucknoharaqal,  I took a one-day class with David Taylor, (a refresher, after having had a 3-day with him a few years ago) who uses freezer paper and starch to turn edges.  You trace the shape (reversed), onto freezer paper, cut it out on the lines, iron to your fabric, cut out the shape adding just a hair less than 1/4" inch seam allowance. Then paint some diluted liquid starch onto the seam allowance,  and using the nice finger-tip stiletto David prefers and the tip of your iron, press down the seam allowance onto the back of the freezer paper, holding it for 8 seconds. Keep it smooth and slow, no tucks, tiny bit by tiny bit.   Flip it over, press again, let it cool & pull out the freezer paper.  Voila!  I really like this method, am not too bad at it and very pleased with the results.

You say, so???   Well, so I started doing my pieces for Chuck Nohara with this technique! Works great for me!

Anyway, I got going this week on prepping some blocks.  Agonized over fabric selections, did the applique, and had blocks ready for stitching while sitting this week.  The first one, I had already done, but ending up taking it apart and re-doing it, cuz I just wasn't happy with it.  Now?  Happy!  I won't even bother posting the 'before' because I'm pretty sure you will say "Huh? You tore it out WHY?".  The important thing here is that I am happy.

block #1610

 And then I also made these:

LOVE this cherry! #606



 In between the 'chuck blocks', I made about a half dozen blocks requested by a fellow DAMQG member and Instagrammer that she will make into a quilt for  a friend of hers recently diagnosed with cancer.   The block is very cute and easy improv-style.  Color scheme green and grey, cut a piece of fabric 9" high, cut it in half, add a strip (width of your choosing) to the middle, cut in half the other way and do it again.  Then square up the block to 9" high,  ANY width you choose).  (I made one more, really skinny and tall, after the photo was taken). Very fun!

Then remembered I wanted to make a couple of charity blocks for DAMQG, #thatdamquiltalong.  Cuz in our guild, everything is some 'DAM' thing.  Rebekah C picks a pattern and palette each
 month, passes out this great flyer to us, and we bring the blocks the next month.  Someone then offers to assemble it, and the quilting and binding also shared by the group, whoever wants to take the next part.

 I also got 2 quilts spray-basted, one a charity quilt, not too big, and the other my Aerial Grove.  But that's a story for next time.....