Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Missing Baskets

One of my "design wall" areas (using masking tape to hold blocks in place!) is in a room at the end of a long hall.  The door opens to a view of this wall above my computer where my Baskets of Plenty have been hanging, a new one added each month through August.  I've grown accustomed to seeing those baskets with their big flowers hanging there.  They were an invitation to come in as I walked down the hall.  They brightened my mornings when I walked into the room.  They entertained me as I pressed fabric and blocks.  They had a benevolent cheerfulness about them.  And now they're gone.

There is a blank wall opposite the door and above the computer.  I didn't realize how much I enjoyed the baskets till they weren't there and I saw an empty wall as I walked down the hall.

Now they lie on the floor with possible sashings around them, patiently awaiting play time.

Before I can move forward I want to consider and then decide on several things, listed below in no particular order.  I think most of these considerations will resolve themselves as I play and try out ideas.
  • Layout.  Tall ones in a row, short ones in a row, or some other arrangement?
  • Sashing colors/fabrics.  Which colors/tints/shades will look best with these blocks?  I think black is too strong but perhaps the others are too bland.
  • Will I make them look more "primitive" by adding walnut dye (similar to but more permanent than Cheri Payne's tea/coffee dye)?  I think most of the backgrounds are very light, maybe too light.  And if I turn them "primitive,"  will the black still be too dark or just right?
  • Do I need to make another basket block or can I fill in with pieced blocks?  I don't really want to make another basket but it's more about what the quilt needs than whether I want to make another basket.
  • Width of sashing.  I want a quilt that's large enough to nap under.  Seven of these blocks are 10½" x 13½" (with one horizontal), and one is 7½" x 10½".  That's a lot of sashing to make the quilt larger.  Of course, the other option is to make more blocks.  Or add a border or two....
  • And does that horizontal block with the dark background and the coral/peach/salmon blocks look too out of place?

There are so many considerations when creating a scrappy quilt.  These baskets and fabrics have only been on the floor since Saturday and I gave them no attention until late last night.  I'm just beginning to play with layout, sashing, etc.

That large white section at the very top is a paper angel I think I will use.  Cheri created it to go with a different sew-along but I really like her and think she could be perfect at the top of this quilt.  I enlarged the original pattern 200% which makes her about 20" wide.

My family will be coming into town next Wednesday so I either need to hurry and decide or take lots of photographs and keep the fabrics together.  I think this happened last year when I had to take up the medallion quilt.  Sometimes I bemoan my slowness.... 

I'm linking this post to
> Moving it Forward at Em's Scrapbag
> Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
> Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts
> Linky Tuesday at Freemotion by the River
> Finished or Not Friday at Busy Hands Quilts
Thanks for hosting, ladies!


Friday, November 10, 2017

A Scrappy Finish

How I wish my photos did justice to this quilt.  No light seems quite right.  Indoors with a flash the colors look just a tad warmer than they really are.

Outdoors the colors wash to white or grey.

You'll have to trust me that its true colors are lights, naturals, warms, and creams with hints of coral/peach/pink and just a few scraps of light yellow and a few whites/off-whites here and there.

This quilt began as scraps cut from behind applique pieces on another quilt.  The pieces were too large to throw away but the largest measured only 4".  There weren't enough by themselves to make a quilt but I had lots of small, light/neutral scraps to sew together.  (But not quite enough.  Susan from DesertSky Quilting sent some to help me finish.) 

For a while they became my leaders and enders and sometimes my purposeful sewing, leading and ending each other until I had a nice stack.  I put them together into blocks with coral/peach sashing and red centers.  Once sewn together I added the circles where four blocks met, but only in alternate squares.

The top measured 61½" x 77½".  The back is scrappy but with only several large pieces of fabric.  The batting is Soft 'n' Crafty 80/20 (cotton/poly).

As much as I loved the top I wasn't sure how I could hand quilt through all the seams.  Some 4" blocks have as many 10 pieces of fabric.  One of my readers, Martha of Q is for Quilt, suggested circles and sent a diagram of her idea which I adapted and altered, then created my own templates.  (I used Prismacolor pencils to mark the circles.  I'll post about that a little later.)

I knew I lacked the skill to make fine, small stitches but I also knew I didn't want do "big stitch" quilting with embroidery floss or pearl cotton.  I finally chose Americana brand quilt thread in a color called buttercream, which was a delight to use, and managed about five stitches/inch.  Big stitch with quilting thread, I guess.  The seams were a challenge.

After quilting it measured 61" X 76".  After washing and drying it measured 58¼" x 72".  I was surprised at how crinkly and puckered it became.  It's easy to imagine how the air caught between the layers will add warmth to someone sleeping under the quilt.  In the photo above you can see the crinkles and also the quilted circles and lines that connect them, creating a diamond box around the red cornerstone.  I used masking tape as a guide for the straight lines.

Out in the sunshine.

And on the floor inside ... because I'm not ready to fold it and put it away yet.  It is just such an inviting quilt. 

I loved the process of creating this quilt, from sewing scraps to sewing binding.  And I love the finished quilt, perhaps more than any other I've made.  My only regrets are that it's not larger and that I wasn't able to/didn't try to take smaller stitches.  Even so, I love it.

I'm linking this post to
> finish it up Friday at crazy mom quilts
> Finished or Not Friday at Busy Hands Quilts
> Can I get a Whoop Whoop? at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
> TGIFF at Celtic Thistle Stitches
> ScrapHappy at Tall Tales from Chiconia
Thanks for hosting, ladies.

I'll also link this post to the finish party for the November One Monthly Goal at Elm Street Quilts when she opens the link-up.  It's surprising to have my goal finished so early in the month.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Not Quick and Simple

I wanted a quick, simple back for this quilt.  Nothing fancy because, after all, it is a scrap quilt.

I had a piece of fabric that was wide enough for the quilt itself but didn't have four extra inches on the sides.  I added a strip of fabric to make it wider, layered it, and pin basted it.  Then I started to quilt it.  Ugh.  The fabric looked like it should be easy to quilt but it wasn't.  This style of plaid/homespun has been around for a good while and I've always loved it but I'll never try it for quilting again.

Back to the drawing board, but I knew it would not be a simple, easy, quick back.  I didn't want to shop for fabric or buy fabric (time, money) and I didn't have any other red piece large enough.  So I pulled some fabrics I thought would work together.   

Yes, pieces of shirts.  In retrospect it would have taken less time to go buy fabric if I could have found fabric I thought would work for the quilt.

After a few hours I came up with this.

Now the quilt will be scrappy, both front and back.  I layered and pin basted it today and have already started quilting it.

It's hard to describe how satisfying it is to sit and hand quilt for a while each day, and how unsatisfying it is not to have a quilt ready after finishing one.  I rarely have a next one ready but I think it should become one of my goals for next year.

We visited our somewhat local historical farm, Slate Run, last week.  They had this quilt in the frame.  I thought it an interesting pattern.

All of those blue/grey squares are set in, not sewn as triangles.  I was in awe.

The farm is set in the 1890s and they try to keep thing accurate to that time period.  I don't know if they succeeded with these fabrics but even if they didn't, this will be a great quilt.

Happy sewing, quilting, or whatever you're doing.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Preparing a Binding + One Monthly Goal

Today I cut binding strips for this quilt (which still doesn't have a name).  It's one of those quilts that doesn't photograph very well.  It's creamier than in the photo.

My One Monthly Goal for November is to get this quilt bound, washed, dried, and finished.  It shouldn't take a month to sew binding strips, sew the binding around the quilt, then stitch it in place but November is shaping up to be a busy month.  And the binding on this quilt isn't the only stitching I hope to do this month.

I finally figured out an easy way to align the edges to make seams on binding strips.  I've tried several different ways but I like this one best.

I laid the strips of fabric along the lines of my cutting mat so the ends went at least 1/4" beyond the 45-degree diagonal line. 

Then I carefully put the 1/4" mark of my acrylic ruler on the 45-degree line on the mat...

... and cut with my rotary cutter.  I carefully removed the ruler...

...and pinned the ends together. 

It worked like a charm.  I cut and pinned until I had the whole binding ready, then took the length of fabric to the machine to sew.  This was a quick and easy way to make sure the pieces were lined up for a 1/4" seam.  If you decide to try this method and you're using plain fabric be sure all the seams are on the same side of the fabric.  I had to unstitch two because they were on the wrong side.   You'll not have a problem with printed fabric.

How do you stitch binding strips together?  Maybe you have an even easier way to do it?

I'm linking this post to
> Moving It Forward Monday at Em's Scrapbag
> Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

> One Monthly Goal at Elm Street Quilts

Thanks for hosting, ladies.


Friday, October 27, 2017

First Medallion Quilt Top Finished

For a first medallion I think this quilt top is passable.  Not perfect by any means, but good enough.  (The photograph makes it look crooked.)  I think it could have had more interesting second and third borders but I think these work.  If/when I make another medallion quilt I'll consider the width of the borders more carefully and, perhaps, plan the sizes if there will be any borders with pieced blocks.

I was eager to photograph this top while we had some sun on Thursday.  But where to photograph?  The shade trees around our house cast strong shadows when their limbs and branches are leafless.  I finally hit upon the idea of hanging it against a brick wall in our breezeway.  I pulled a long, narrow strip of wood from the garage and tacked the quilt to it, then hung it on the wall balanced on one nail (with the help of my husband holding it steady).  Then I stepped back to take a photo.  VoilĂ !  Oops,  I'd hung the quilt sideways.  If you look closely you can see in the photo above that the hanging bar is on the side.

Despite how it looks in both photos, the quilt top really has square corners and straight edges.  It measures 69¾" x 75½", perfect for a nap or as a floor quilt for a baby to play.

Here's another view.  All of these photos were taken without a flash, so it's interesting to see the variation in colors because of the natural light.

Last year Lori of Humble Quilts and several other quilters decided to make Gwen Marston-inspired medallion quilts and invited anyone who wanted to sew along.  The center was to be a basket of flowers.  Since I'd already stitched the basket of flowers with no next step in mind, I decided to participate.  The others have long ago finished their quilts but I was slow to decide on the last border.  But here it is now.

I'm just about finished with my current quilt in the hoop.  Maybe this will be the next to be layered and quilted -- if I can come up with or piece a backing that goes with the front. 

Finishing this was my One Monthly Goal for October so I'm linking this post to the October Finish Link-Up at Elm Street Quilts.

I'm linking this post to
> Finished or Not Friday at Busy Hands Quilts
> finish it up Friday at crazy mom quilts
> Can I Get a Whoop Whoop? at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
> Thank Goodness It's Finished Friday (TGIFF) at Anja Quilts
Thanks for hosting, ladies.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Many thanks to all you wonderful readers who left comments on my recent post, Wrestling.  I appreciate your observations, insights, suggestions, and encouragement.  I often tell myself that quilting's not rocket science or brain surgery--no harm done if it's not perfect--and that I can make another quilt if I don't like the first but sometimes I don't listen to myself (or forget to remind myself).  I'm finding that perfection and creativity are not good bedfellows... uh, quilting friends.

A few days after that post and after deciding on a layout for my Gwenny medallion quilt, I began industriously appliqueing

and yesterday and today cut out the backs of those appliques

to create this (in part).

Today I finished and pressed the quilt top with its days' worth of creases and crumples.  I'll photograph when the rain leaves and we have sun.

I cut away behind applique shapes so I don't have to hand quilt through an extra layer.  (And so I can't change my mind and unstitch them.  Ha.) 

To those of you who do the same, what do you do with those shapes?  Do you save them for another bit future of applique or do you toss them?  Or maybe just cut them into squares to use in a patchwork block?  I pitched the leaf shapes but have a stack of star shapes like these.  I'm not sure I'd ready to applique more star shapes, at least not for a while.

I'm linking this post to
> WOW at Esther's Blog
> Sew, Stitch, Snap, Share at Koka Quilts
> Moving it Forward Monday at Em's Scrapbag
> Linky Tuesday at Freemotion by the River
Thanks for hosting, ladies.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Stitch by Stitch - Slow Sunday Stitching

Having finished quilting the circles (except the ones that are appliqued in the center of some blocks) I've moved on to quilting the connecting lines between the circles on this scrappy quilt.

I haven't been hurrying to finish this quilt but sometimes hand quilting seems to take forever.  I also have not been working too hard to make tiny stitches.  Utility stitches for a utility quilt seems about right.

The color's a little too creamy in this photo. It was grey and rainy today and I snapped this photo under the light of an Ikea lamp, which doesn't capture the true, natural colors.

I will be happy to finish this quilt, not because I'm tired of it, but because it means I will be able to use it!

I'm linking this post to Slow Sunday Stitching at Kathy's Quilts.  Thanks for hosting, Kathy.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017


This is a long post.  If you want to see my work in progress, scroll down till you get to the photos.

I rarely take the easy, sure way to a finished quilt.  Sometimes I see a quilt pattern that looks wonderful but imagine just one or two little tweaks that I think will make it better, make it my own.  Or maybe I want a similar quilt but just a little smaller.  Or larger.  Or with the first border narrower and the second wider wider, or a pieced border.  I make things harder for myself when I try to change up patterns and especially when I choose to create without a pattern -- the times when I dream up a quilt in my mind:  imagine, draw, choose fabric, cut, sew, alter, sew some more.

Why do I do this?  Elizabeth Healey, author of Stitch, Fabric & Thread:  An Inspirational Guide for Creative Stitches, offered these thoughts which mirror my own.
There is great comfort in following a design created by someone else, be it a shop-bought kit, an article in a magazine, a book or even an online tutorial, since much of the planning and thinking is done for you.  All you have to do is follow the instructions and you should get a replica of what's on the packet.  Coming up with your own design is far more daunting and can be filled with frustrating moments as you strive to realise your vision.  But when you get it right, it is infinitely more satisfying than anything bought off the shelf.

Creating from scratch can be difficult, daunting, challenging, and can call a maker's creativity into question causing self-doubt and uncertainty.  But when one succeeds -- what joy!

Without doubt, the most challenging quilt to make is/has been the Gwenny-style basket of flowers medallion I began last year.  It was part of a sew-along hosted by Lori of Humble Quilts.  I'd already made the center when the sew-along began; the border themes were suggested by others but the creative interpretations and decisions were mine.

The first border theme was childhood.

The next border was log cabins.

So far so good with all of the above.  The next border was stars.  And that was the border where I started to question the way this quilt was going.  By now it measured about 58" x 64".  I wondered about the widths of the borders -- were they too similar, not similar enough, etc.  And the colors?  Not much variety in colors in the borders.  But I continued on.

The last border was "something fishy."  With such a large quilt and only a month to make a border, I chose what I called fish tails.  I should have realized, but didn't, that a 3½" final border (4" on the bottom) for a quilt this size wouldn't work -- would be disproportionately narrow compared to the other borders.

By the time that border was stitched in place I knew the quilt was in trouble.  I auditioned a few additional pieces of fabric around it with the idea of adding one more border but it seemed to me that nothing worked.  (Can you imagine me wrestling?  I'm not suggesting that I disliked the process, just that the choices didn't come easily.)  It was nearing the holidays and I needed the floor space so I folded the top away to work on later.

Later came last week.  I laid the quilt out on the floor again and within a day decided to remove the fish border, make the star border narrower, and add a wide blue border with the idea of adding applique.  (Blue water is definitely fishy.)  This is where the quilt is today.  (I'm beginning to think this style of quilt--Gwen Marston/liberated-- is beyond my current abilities.)

I've thought about omitting the vines and adding only flowers and leaves, as though they're floating on top of water.  I've thought about vines and leaves only.  I've thought about circles/bubbles; clam shells; waves in some form or other; etc.  If I had found a printed fabric that would have worked for a broder, I would have used it.  To some extent I'm probably stuck on too literal an interpretation of "something fishy" but at this point it doesn't really matter whether this border has anything fishy about it because the sew-along is over.

I could just stitch those vines, flowers, and leaves down and call it done.  Gwenny style?  I'm not so sure.  Good enough?  Yes, probably.  That border is not unlike many I've seen around the internet when I search google or pinterest.  It works well enough.  But could it be better?  Could it be more original?  Could there be a border that adds to the quilt more than this one does?  I think the answer is probably yes to those last three questions. 

So I'm wondering, dear readers, when you create an original quilt of your own design, do you keep working on it, playing with it, wrestling with it until it's perfect?  At what point do you decide it's perfect?  Do you ever settle for good enough, call it a learning experience, and move on?

By the end of October I want to have made a decision about the border on this quilt and have begun (and maybe finished) it -- for One Monthly Goal at Elm Street Quilts.

I'm linking this post to
> WOW at Esther's Blog
> Let's Bee Social #197 at Sew Fresh Quilts
> wip link-up at Silly Mama quilts
> Midweek Makers #92 at Quilt Fabrication
> UFO Progress at Jo's Country Junction
> One Monthly Goal at Elm Street Quilts
> Finished or Not Friday at Busy Hands Quilts 
Thank you, ladies, for hosting.

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