Monday, December 30, 2013

Struggling with Design....How to Finish a Top that Didn't Quite Live up to Expectations....

I've been back in my sewing room, continuing my work with "found blocks."  This morning, I decided to concentrate on this:

These blocks were started last you can see from the photo above, I was struggling with whether or not to sash them and what color to use.  The pinks, all of which actually look OK together when you just stack them up next to each other, were just fighting each other and the greys on my design wall.  I just couldn't seem to get a layout that I liked.  I tried it without sashing, but this time I alternated the center brown blocks so there was at least some symmetry to the layout. I swear those browns looked almost identical in value when I was using them, but obviously one of them is significantly darker than the other.

Today I bit the bullet and decided that a rich, small-print brown with white would serve for the sashing strips.  Now I'm contemplating whether to add a gray border or not; I'm looking to make this a tad larger; right now it's 49 x 64; I'll probably take it up to 60 x 74, which will make a nice lap-sized quilt.

Have you ever started a quilt with pretty concrete notions and a good sense of confidence as to what you wanted, and had it "go south" on you?  I was determined to make this quilt from my stash, and use grey, brown and pink variations.    I found fat quarters, a few solids, some scraps, and some minimal yardage.  The block pattern is from Creative Sewlutions; it's Dee Moore's "Dupont Circle". 

I keep trying to push my boundaries away from "safe" and "matchy-matchy".....I guess this is an example of an exercise that turned out "all right" but doesn't necessarily have me overwhelmed with delight......but I'm happy I was able to rescue it and it will make a nice lap napping quilt for someone.

Have a good day....sometimes you just have to keep on keeping on.....these blocks aren't sitting in a drawer anymore!  That's a good thing....


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Some Post-Christmas Projects

Yesterday was such a quiet day, I decided it would be nice to sew a little before I started in on dinner for Guy and me.  I was able to finish up two projects that are gifts (these didn't require wrapping or mailing).

I had made a Christmas block for our quilt guild exchange, but got sick and didn't go.  Instead, I turned it into a pillow for my neighbor, Vickie.  The colors match the quilt I made for her last Christmas.  I think it's a pretty cheerful little house decoration:

I had some scraps left from Tracey's Christmas tree skirt, so I did a disappearing nine-patch table topper.  I think this is going to be another gift for will go perfectly on her coffee table and match her new d├ęcor.

I started putting together some scrappy "little monkeys" and snowball blocks early last year.  I just kept plugging away at them and finally got a 7 x 7 baby quilt finished.  My baby quilt supply is sadly lacking right now (well, I'm happy that so many new babies got quilts this year---7 in all), but I always like to keep a supply on hand.  This was made from dress scraps from the 40s and 50s, mixed in with some of my 30s/40s reproduction fabrics.  It's pretty cheerful, don't you think?

I so rarely use plain white anymore....I love the crispness of it.  This will make a sweet addition to my
"new baby" collection for future gift-giving.

It feels good to accomplish something concrete so soon after Christmas; what with my cold and just the anticipation of the holidays, I found it hard to concentrate on much in my quilt room over the last few weeks.  Now I'm sort of on a roll to see what other UFOs I can finish before the New Year. 

Hope you all had a blessed holiday with family and friends.  Stay warm.......and just for fun, here's a photo of the sweet baby girl who has captured our hearts this year...our newest granddaughter, Paije.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Twisting Around on a Monday....

I decided to take a 1/2-day off from my work on Esther's quilt yesterday and try my hand at a technique that has fascinated me:  the Twister template.  We finished this quilt for one of our clients and I thought a Christmas table runner might be nice.  I've detailed what I did below and thought you might like some comments on my experience.

I picked out some fat quarters that were in my Christmas "box of goodies" that didn't marry too well with anything else I had (I couldn't figure out any particular patterns for them), and I made the basic "grid" of 6 across/4 down, with 4-inch borders, using the sample pattern included with the Template.

 The colors look pretty dull in this photo, but the golds are rich, the green and red stripe is nice, and I thought the multi-colored stripe was interesting.  I added a Christmas beige for contrast. I added the 4-inch border from some border scraps I had left from a previous project.

I got out the Midi-Twister ruler that I bought a few weeks ago.  This ruler uses 6-1/2 inch blocks to end with 4 1/4-inch blocks.  The Midi-Twister is heavy-weight, marked plastic, with round fixed ball feet, that rests securely on the cutting mat, and raises the template a few millimeters above the fabric.  It doesn't shift like lightweight template plastics that you might cut out yourself, and I'm sure it's infinitely safer for your fingers.

An hour or so of (mostly careful) cutting and sewing, and I ended up with this:

Now I need to add a gold border, and get my hubby to get it quilted.  I thought I would share some "lessons learned" with you.

1.  Since I didn't have much in the way of directions, I found a few tutorials on YouTube and used them to think about how to organize my basic block layout.  I settled on a modified diagonal design with 4 fabrics in a a 6 x 4 grid.  I wish I had substituted a bright red for the "blah" cream....this really doesn't say "Christmas" to me unless you get pretty close to it.  The tutorials did a good job of emphasizing how to organize the blocks after they were cut....which is critical to keep the "twisting" pattern, and not so easy to figure out if you mix the blocks up after cutting them.

2.  I was halfway through cutting when I decided to add some spray starch to my basic fabric grid.  I used Maryellen's Best Press and  I wish I had done it earlier.  It kept the fabric much more stable and less prone to modest wrinkling along the seams.

3.  I believe that a rotating cutting mat might be useful here.  I could get three cuts down pretty well using my left hand (I'm left-handed), but had to shift the cutter to my right hand for the last cut. That is always a somewhat risky move.......

4.  I switched from a 45-mm rotary cutter to a 60-mm blade after the first row was cut.  The 60-mm blade had enough height to avoid getting caught on the raised template surface.  The 45-mm blade housing kept bumping into the template and my hand would swerve...that did not make for a "pretty" cut block......

5.  I will have to think about doing another one of these.  It was fun, and fairly interesting to see how my design would come out, but I haven't quite got tons of enthusiasm for sewing a fairly substantial piecing effort together, cutting it apart, and then sewing it again, plus the waste material is about 30% or so...not that I'm complaining--I knew that.  I also read one blogger's comments that she had so much trouble cutting with her rotary cutter around the template that she drew in pencil and then cut everything out with scissors.  Seems to defeat the cost of the raised template for me.

I would be happy to hear some other's comments about doing a Twister quilt, or using a Twister template.  Here's a sneak peak at Esther's "Woodlands" quilt...the design is from Modern Quilts Illustrated #2.....I'm almost done with the more long seam to sew, pressing, and borders.

Hopefully I'll have photos to share tomorrow.  Have a fun-day Monday!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Playing Around......or "Monday Fun Day"......

I decided today was a good day to play in my sewing room.  I gave myself "permission" to forget about my "must do" list and did some fun things.
When we were in Richmond this weekend, Tracey told me that Watson, their cat, was very disappointed when they moved him off of the "baby quilt" that she bought from me for a little nephew that's due pretty soon.  I've made lots of quilts for Tracey, but I decided that Watson needed his own...and I knew I had some kitty fabric somewhere.  So this morning, I went digging around in my stash and here's the result:

 We've been around Watson so long that I think it's time we did something nice for him.....he's a pretty cool cat.  Here's a picture of him I took a few months ago in Paper Artist---he deserves his own quilt, don't you think?

Tracey and I had a fun time shopping on Saturday at Quilting Adventures in Richmond. I will probably live to regret this, but I decided to start gathering up fabrics for Bonnie Hunter's annual mystery, which starts around Thanksgiving.  Her theme this year is Celtic Solstice, and you can find all the information about it at

Bonnie used these paint chips to  guide her selections:

The addition of the shamrock fabric is totally mine.....but this fabric is definitely going to find its way into my quilt.  I want to do this quilt primarily in batiks, but I've decided that solids, mottles, and hand-dyes are allowed in, as long as they play well with others.  Here's what I've assembled so far. 

I really like the thought of using primary colors in a quilt for a change.  The only time I tend to stay this bold is when I am doing a children's or baby quilt, and I can imagine that this color palette will be fun to work with if the weather turns dreary in December.  I bought a few 1/2-yard cuts of fabric in Richmond, as well as a few fat quarters, and this morning I started pulling fabrics.  Who KNEW I had so much solid yellow and yellow batik?

I've found a home for these in a storage box, and I can't wait for the first clue to be released on November 29th.  "Easy Street" from last winter's challenge has finally found a home with my niece in Los Angeles......about time. 

Have a great week.....take some time to play.......Kathy

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Overdue for an Update!

Wow, I haven't posted on my blog in 7 months.  It's not that I haven't been's that I got a smart phone....guess where all my photos have been.  And I've been to lazy to transfer them to my computer and/or learn how to access them from the Cloud.

Time to fix that.

First of all, here is a look at some of my most recent work.  I've gotten into the holiday spirit (early) since Tracey asked me to make here a tree skirt to match her new furniture.  She added a really nice blue to her palate of muted red and greens and I found just the right fabric.  The primary fabric is "Winter Birds" from Timeless Treasures; it was nice working with grays and blues as well as traditional Christmas fabrics on this.

Here's a sweet little Christmas baby quilt from a pre-printed panel and some sashings.  Looks perfect for Paige, don't you think?

I also dug out a Christmas block I won in an exchange several years ago; it is now a soft little pillow for Christmas decorating:

I've got a queen-size quilt started for my girlfriend, Esther.  It is taking shape but it was fun to get "distracted" by some early holiday pieces.

Hope you have a great Halloween tonight....don't let the goblins get you! (I made this pillowcase for my nephew Nicky in Los Angeles, just for a fun "treat")........

See you soon(er).......Kathy

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A March Finish....and other assorted Quilt Trivia..

Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I've done a post.  I've been working, just not very good at sharing this month.  Plus, we did get in a bit of a vacation when we drove up to Lancaster for the AQS show.

I finished up the Amish Roman Stripes quilt for my client in Winchester and delivered it two weeks ago.  I forgot to take a picture of the whole quilt, but here's a segment showing some of the quilting.  We did a "modified Baptist Fan" on it:

I tried a two-color binding for the first time; it was a little more time-consuming than I thought, but the end result was worth it; burgundy binding on the front, and a royal blue on the back, so the reverse is completely monochromatic,

I finally made my decisions for sashing and finishing on my "Sew Red for Women" sampler quilt.  Guy quilted some simple ivy leaves on it, and I think it's very cheerful:

Of course, we all know this should have been done in February; I'll probably never make another quilt that screams "Valentine's Day" like this one.....

Now I'm working on a baby quilt for some friends, using blue and green batiks.  Almost have all the blocks done for this, but I've got to replace one set of blocks here:

I'm sure you can see that the pale blue batiks just don't make it here; even Guy was "uh, honey, this looks good but there's something wrong with those blocks."  Do you ever forge ahead on piecing, just knowing in your heart that it's not going to work?  Probably just my Irish stubborness.  However, replacement blocks won't take too long, and this top should be finished today.

Check back later this week....Easy Street is completely quilted, bindings are cut, and once I gather up enough strength to wrestle it around sewing the binding on, it will be another finish.

Have a wonderful Easter weekend....we're just happy there's No Snow!!!!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Design Wall Monday

I'm linking up with Judy at Patchwork Times for Design Wall Monday.  I've been working this weekend on a commission quilt.  I was asked to do an Amish Roman Stripe in a double bed size.  After reviewing a lot of my books, I actually got into EQ7 and was able to come up with a design and coloration that my client approved.

Here's where I am so far.  I've got three more rows to piece, and then decide on layout and assemble my rows and borders. 

I'm using Moda Bella Solids, and boy, do I like working with them.  They have such a nice hand.  The "neutral" fabric is a deep wine, and while I have a five-color gradation in the stripe, I'm making a few subtle substitutions in the colors as I piece them.

This is one of those projects where I'm glad I made several sample blocks, because I had a choice of about three different piecing options, and the one I chose gives me the least fabric waste, and also does a great job of controlling the bias edging on the solid triangle.

Once I'm finished with this top, I'll try and get back to this:

This design is called "Sparkle" and it's in the Fons & Porter Easy Quilts Spring 2013 issue.  It's by Lee over at Freshly Pieced.  Her version is in solids and white, but I'm doing mine in Batiks and a tone-on-tone white.  It's a fun and rather easy block, just a variation on a Rail Fence.

It's a beautiful day here today, but cold.  Perfect for a day in the sewing room.  Have a wonderful week.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Linky Party Tuesday....

Good morning!  It's beautiful here today....almost 50 deg., and of course we're back on the road soon for some appointments in Northern Virginia, but I'm hooking up with Connie at Freemotion by the River for Linky Party Tuesday.

Here are a few of the things that were on my design wall this weekend:

I've got eleven blocks done for the "Sew Red for Women" year-long "sampler" quilt.  Just waiting for block 12 to be released.  I substituted one block (3rd down on the left) for one of the published blocks, and I'm pretty happy with the result. Connie supplied a great tutorial for that, so I  shamelessly stole it.  Of course, I'll have some shifting around to do to get the best layout, but I must admit, working with these reds, pinks, and white always cheers me up.  I found this fabric to use for sashing at Patchwork Plus the other day:

Pink and red polka dots.  What's not to love?

I got a few more Scrappy Trip Around the World blocks done.  I think I'm aiming for 20; I have 12 finished:

I can see that I'm going to have to swap out a few blocks; that one in the middle top is just too dark compared to everything else.  Sigh....even scrappy has to have some order for me.

I've finished the longest (middle) row of Easy Street; only 3 rows to finish.  This is starting to look achievable, but I still have some assembly to do.....maybe I'll be able to take a photo by the weekend.

Our son and DIL want a "cherry blossom" themed wall hanging for their guest bedroom.  Since they have finally found a house, I decided to get back to work on this.  I have a sashiko panel done, and an idea that involves 3-dimensional cherry blossoms.  This week I played with my "Kanzashi 5-petal flower maker."  Here's the result:

This was just fun to do.  I'm not real big on "gadgets", but this will probably give me what I want.  I tried to do 5-pointed origami flowers, but they weren't working for me.  Don't you love the subtle shade gradiations in that fabric?  I have no idea where I got it, but I have enough to do 5 or 6 flowers.  This project is still definitely a "work in progress", but it's fun to be creative, get out of the box, and just do some designing on my own.

Have a great day today.  Kathy

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

W.I.P. Wednesday - Work in Progress

There's a little bit of "frozen rain" falling around here; and it's still so dark I think I forgot to go to bed, but since I've been up since 5:30, I thought I'd share what I've been working on this week.  I'm hooking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced for Work-in-Progress Wednesday.

I got my "Stacked" quilt finished yesterday; handed it off to Guy about noon; and he had it quilted by 3:00.  It still needs to be trimmed; I found a pretty pastel multi-batik in my stash, so that's going to be the binding.
I love the random leaf pattern he used in the quilting:

Here's an idea of what the whole quilt looks like....yes, I was too lazy to put it up on the wall:

I got sucked into the current "Scrappy Trip Around the World" block mania.  So now I guess I've got another UFO started:

I'm trying to keep a black square of some print or other going through the middle of each block....we'll see how this works out.  I must admit, it's easy to get hooked.  This is the tub of fabrics I'm working from.....all 2 1/2-inch strips:

I started working on the "Sew Red for Women" blocks again.  I've made 7 of the 11 that have been published so far.  The January block (number 12) got postponed for a while.....I took it as a sign that I have time to get the other 4 done so I will be caught up.  I think these will look just right for a February Valentine's quilt, don't you?

And, of course, "Easy Street" keeps calling me.  Can you believe that the makings for 23 15-inch blocks all fit in this bin:

OK, time for juice and a piece of toast.  I'm off to play piano accompaniment for Stonewall High School's production of "Side by Side by Sondheim"....three more morning rehearsals and performances Friday and's been a busy week.  Stay safe out there,


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday Sewing!....Some Catching Up to Do

Well,  I can't believe it's been over a month since I posted on my blog.  That's what working on a Bonnie Hunter Mystery Quilt can do for you.  I'll avoid filling you in on all the drama in between, and just give you a peek at where I am so far.

I kept up very well with all the weekly "assignments", so when we got to the last two clues, it was easy to start piecing blocks and setting blocks together.  I've been working slowly, but am happy to report that the time I took to trim and press has paid off.  The blocks are going together pretty well.

I've got a little over one-third of this pieced now.  I'm just being a bit of a tortoise on this one.  It may be called "Easy Street" but at over 2,000 pieces, I figure I can just take my time.

I did get a chance to haul out my batiks a week or so ago.  On my shopping trip with Nancy in December, I had a moment of weakness and bought some gorgeous Island Batiks in pastels.  I found a nice Weeks Ringle pattern in the Modern Quilts magazine, "Stacked", which lent itself wonderfully to these pieces:

Weeks recommends pressing seams open, which is not something I usually do.  The first row kept giving me fits.  If I pressed with my regular iron, it kept catching on the adjacent seams and twisting them.  I used my little Clover iron, but it just doesn't always generate enough heat to give a firm line.  Then I grabbed my "presser ham".  I bought one of these about a year ago, to help me shape corners and curves in purses and bags.  It worked beautifully:

The seam to be pressed stays in the center of the "ham", and the adjacent seams fall away to the side.  Here's what a pressed row looks like:

The next three rows were easy to press pretty quickly.  Just a hint you might want to try.

Well, I've got a few more things "in the loop" but haven't gotten any photos yet.  It feels good to get "back on track" with my sewing after the hoopla of Christmas and a bit of a cold I had this week.  Have a great weekend....time to go watch a little football!